Friday, August 29, 2008

Bring It On!

Heart & Soul is going to take an early weekend here this week. :-) I'm off recharging my batteries this weekend, getting in-depth with God and telling him to "bring it on!"

May you be wonderfully blessed this Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You Gotta Want It!

"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus." Matthew 14:25-29

Sometimes when I am reading a passage in the Bible an idea will come to me. A thought about that particular verse or chapter that never occurred to me before. Okay, maybe that happens quite frequently. Still, as many times at it does, it always surprises me, each and every time. Today while I was reading in Matthew, something struck me about these verses. This is the exchange with the disciples where Jesus is walking on water, and for a brief moment, Peter does too. That's so exciting to just think of-isn't it? The mere idea of walking on water? It just doesn't happen. Yet I imagine that walking on water has to be one of the most comfortable things... imagine having every footstep cushioned by waves of water!

But notice something here in these verses. Peter spoke first. He was the one who reached out to Jesus first and said "ask me to come to you!" Jesus did not initiate the contact, he didn't say "Hey Peter, you can do this too if you just believe." Instead Peter saw Jesus, and wanted what he was doing. He wanted to experience what Jesus was experiencing and called out to Him.

It is exactly the same way with us. God is there at all times, within shouting distance. And he wants, more than anything, to have a relationship with us, to have us place our faith in Him, but we need to make the first move, and the first call. We need to pick up the phone and dial heaven and say "okay, God, I want what you've got." And just like Jesus said to Peter in the boat, God will say to us, "Come." And He will give us all that we desire and so much more. But before we can experience God and all he has for us, we gotta want it first. We have to find that desire, that spark that tells us we want so much more. Then all we have to do is tell God that we're ready for Him. We're ready for him to bring it on, and before we know it, we, too, can experience our own forms of walking on water.

"But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" Matthew 14: 30,31

I think these verses deserve a look too. It's interesting to me that Peter became afraid. Why? Why did he doubt what he was doing and become afraid? I could see looking at myself walking on water and being in a state of disbelief, but fear? It's only water, after all. But maybe for Peter, the water was one of his "trouble areas". Maybe he didn't swim so good, or maybe growing up he saw someone swept out to sea to be drowned. We don't know, but we do know that we all have our own form of Peter's Water. We all have a talent or a gift that we just aren't sure about using don't we? I can imagine that if I were blessed with a real gift for something like healing I would be afraid. I would be afraid of what that meant for me. And maybe that's what Peter was thinking of. He loved his Jesus and his God, and he was taking a great leap of faith and getting out of that boat to follow Jesus to whatever end. But at that moment, that reality filtered in and maybe he wondered what that would really mean for Peter. What would that mean for his daily life? His family and friends?

When you draw closer to God, sometimes things change, and that's what can be scary. It can be scary to think that every step that draws you closer to God draws you away from something else. We get so comfortable with our lives and our daily routines that to think about changing that up is magnificent and scary. What if the people we consider our friends now don't understand the new us and stop spending time with us? That is a possibility, but there is one thing that we can cling to, and that is Jesus. We can look ahead and focus on Him and make the choice to not doubt. We can follow our faith wherever it takes us. And that could certainly be exciting!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Looking For A Door

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." Revelation 3:7-8

So yesterday after my rather pathetic morning devotion, the kids and I went out and ran around and did some errands. Since I'm going to be having some extra free time on my hands in the time to come (for now) we spent some time in the fabric store looking for fabric, and by golly, if I'm not finally going to get around to teaching myself how to quilt. I've wanted to do it for so long, and yesterday I just felt that it was time to invest in the fabric I needed. Surprisingly, the kids and I had a great time going through bolts of fabric, looking for the right shades and colors and textures. They would both offer to hold different bolts together to see how they looked, and who knew that we could find such joy playing with fabric. As we looked around we were simply surrounded by yards and yards of color and texture. Each bolt had to be carefully examined by my eight-year old, and I suspect it won't be long before she actually takes interest in fabric arts of some kind. But as I gazed upon the walls of color before me I thought to myself that man may have made this fabric, but it was God who put all those colors on the earth in the first place. It was God who inspired a people to weave fabric in such a way to make that first plaid, or to dye a fabric in such a way to make a batik. By the time we left that store, fabric in hand, I was feeling much better, and so blessed by being allowed to live in a world of such wondrous color.

As we drove home later on, the kids played quietly in the backseat, and I just took a bit of time to be thinking and praying, and the verse above totally came to mind. When a door closes, it is always God's doing, and when He closes a door, it means He has another one for us to go through. That is such an exciting thought! I think about when Andy and I used to work with the high school on the musical. We so enjoyed that experience, but it came to be just too much for the family- it took far more time away from the kids than we liked, so we stopped doing it. It was so hard to make that decision! But then when we didn't have that time invested in the musical, we found we had the time and ability to do other things. We were able to do more within the church for one. We were able to sign Abigail up for dance classes, which she's been thoroughly enjoying, and we've gotten involved in her dance school and with the people there. None of that would have been possible while we were involved with the musical. When that door shut on us, the new ones that opened were so rewarding.

And so as I look at the door that has quietly been shut to us, I look ahead and wonder when that new fuzzy door is going to come into focus. For God has something for us- something exciting and new. I have found that dwelling on the newly shut door could only lead to bitterness and bad feelings on my part, so I will make the choice to not dwell. Instead, I will continue on with the other tasks before me and wait patiently for the new opportunity to show itself. It will come, of that I have no doubt. I have a God who shuts doors that no one else can shut, and can open doors that no one else can open. And when He opens a door, no one can shut it other than Him. Now that is a great comfort to think on, and it fills me with excitement and energy. I am so thankful for the verses that come to mind just when I need them the most.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One of Those Days

"because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?" Hebrews 13:5-6

It's early in the morning, and I am already having one of those days. One of those days where I just seem to find everything wrong with the world. My kids are already unpleasant, I have housework to do that is unpleasant, my allergies are acting up today and making me unpleasant, and my e-mails this morning have been unpleasant. I would honestly love nothing more than to crawl back into bed and start today over. It's days like this where I need to read these verses in Hebrews over and over to myself, and remind myself that not every day is going to be wonderful and full of revelation.

I've been disappointed this morning, I guess. There's no better word for it, and I really don't care to go into details. However. Have you ever made a deal with God? Maybe a deal isn't quite the word I'm looking for. See, I was working on something that I thought God had wanted me to work on. But now I'm confused about it. And at one point, I said to God that if this wasn't where he wanted me to be, then this particular project would go away. And now it has, I guess, and where does that leave me? I guess I'm sitting here expecting to hear that voice in my head, to give me clear direction, and it's not there. :-) It would be too easy if that voice were there I suppose. Just when you think you have things figured out, a loophole comes at you out of nowhere.

*sigh*. All things will work out. I don't want to leave this out here today in such a melancholy fashion, so I will post a few verses that I will be thinking on today, because they lift me up a bit and give me encouragement. Encouragement to take this challenge head on and wait and see what God has next for me.

"great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve." Jeremiah 32:19

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

"And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ," Ephesians 1:9

"for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:13

Monday, August 25, 2008

Love Your Enemies!

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" Matthew 5:43-47

Yikes! In the past few weeks I've written about loving our neighbors, loving our community, and even loving ourselves, but this one... this one is a bit more tricky isn't it! As I think about this, I can say that I am thankful that I live in a place and a time where the word 'enemy' has a different meaning. In other countries and in other times, enemy could truly mean someone who wants us dead. Someone who truly hates us and wishes for an opportunity to cause harm. I am truly blessed and fortunate to live in a time and place where enemy is something much milder.

But do I really have enemies? The dictionary defines it as 'one who is antagonistic to another; one who seeks to overthrow, injure, or confound an opponent.' Hmm. I guess for me, the best I can say about having an enemy is that an enemy, I suppose, would be the people that I just don't get along with.

I guess when I think about it, I don't really have that much to say about this. I think it's pretty obvious, and is summed up in Jesus' words that we should love our enemies, or we are no better than pagans and tax collectors. But I guess when I think about people who are my "enemy", I think about my specific behavior about them and towards them. How do I show love to someone whom I really don't care to spend any time with? Well, I can start with my actions and my words. Instead of complaining about that person to whomever will listen, I can catch my gossiping tongue and still it. When I see them coming towards me at the grocery store, instead of dashing down another aisle to avoid them, I can greet them with a smile and ask about their day. Instead of viewing everything that person does with scorn and criticism, I can look for the positive and maybe take the time to compliment them on that one positive thing.

The thing about loving your enemies is that it isn't so much about trying to change them into something they aren't, it's about changing yourself. That can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes. And while there will always be people who we don't particularly like or get along with, as children of God, we do need to find ways to get along. That person may never be your best, closest friend, but when you can take that step and make an effort, God notices that. Loving your enemies is probably the toughest of them all, yet if we're truly to be Christ-like and loving, then we need to be an example in all areas. Loving your enemies starts within, and thankfully, we can ask God for help with that. We can ask him to help change our mindsets and help us to love the impossible person. And even better, we can ask God to bless that person mightily. I don't know about you, but I want to be better than a tax collector and a pagan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Importance of Daily Time

"Give us today our daily bread" Matthew 6:11

I guess I've often wondered about the need for daily time with God. First of all, that's tough to do. It's tough to find time every single day to spend with God, whether that be reading the Bible, in prayer, listening to worshipful music, or just meditating and thinking on His words to me. Sometimes I'll get lazy, and I don't spend that extra time with Him, that time in prayer. And you know what? I notice it. I find that when I am taking the time to spend those few moments with God, that life just goes so much better. It's when I step away and take a break or take a few days and not give it my all that the real challenges come up, or I find myself more crabby and irritable.

The fact is, Jesus told us so long ago exactly what we needed. That we need that time with God each and every day. Right here, in The Lord's Prayer, found in Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus tells us that we need our daily bread. That bread is Himself. Jesus is all we need, he is our nourishment, our everything, and when we have Him as the focus of our lives, everything goes so much better. I think it's worth noting here and pointing out that it does specifically say here, "Daily Bread" not weekly, not occasional, but daily-meaning each and every day.

I do notice greatly when my daily time wanes. When I spend that daily time with God and my Bible, then my day-to-day activities just hold so much more joy in them. I spend time in the garden and I am marvelled by the miracle of nature and how God causes things to grow from seed. When my quiet time slips, that garden is a chore, something to be tended. It does make a difference, but I"ll tell you, it doesn't take much for that daily time to slip. It's very, very easy to find excuses not to, because there are already never enough hours in the day. Yet I have to keep reminding myself that the rest of my day will go so much better, will be so much more productive, if I just give those first few minutes to Him. Because when I'm not taking my time with Him, life just isn't as grand as it is when I do take that time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

All Things Come From Him

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32

Yesterday I took my kids shopping for school clothes. I really had a great time. Abigail is at that age where she's decided she likes trying on clothes, and her taste is very interesting, so I love walking in a store with her, seeing what she picks, and then letting her try them on. She has fun with it! And yesterday, as Zander and I were sitting on a cushion waiting for her, I thought about how blessed we are to be able to do such a thing. It may seem trivial to some, it's only clothing after all, but it's something that Abigail and I can do together that we both enjoy immensely. She's growing so fast! And I want to treasure and cherish every moment with her- especially the moments where she is having a good time.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you would know that one of the things I've always lamented has been my furniture. Every once in a while I just get fed up with how it looks and it's really old, so I just get discouraged about having people over. At first, I just gave that yucky feeling to God and asked him to take it away. Then a temporary solution presented itself in the form of slipcovers and coverings, and I could live with the furniture for a while. But lately... that yucky feeling came back. As we had our group over one night, and I watched the couch sink as three people sat on it, I just knew we had to do something... surely God wanted our guests in our home to be comfortable? Not feel like they're being eaten by a giant old sofa from the seventies.

So I started looking for furniture. I couldn't believe how expensive a set of new furniture was going to be, and I just kept looking, yet thinking to myself that when the time came to buy the furniture, God was going to make sure we had the money for it. I've been looking most of the summer, actually, and then one day something caught my eye. There was a couch listed in an add for an unbelievable price. It's back-to-school and back-to-college time, so no doubt, many of the retailers have cheap furniture available for dorm rooms. But this one looked nicer- and it looked long enough! So the day it went on sale, the kids and I zipped out of the house early in the morning to snag one. I was so excited, because I was going to come home with a new couch!

Then we got to the store, and wouldn't you know it. They were out- the shipment of them hadn't come in in time for the sale, but if I wanted, I could take a rain check. I was bummed. I looked the display over though, and thought it looked really dorm-ish. It was lower to the ground than a normal sofa, but it would easily seat three or four people-and that's what mattered to me. I didn't take a rain check, and instead, we dashed to another location.

Yes, of course, that store didn't have the couch either. We went home, and I was feeling pretty bummed about having to ask our friends to sit on that ratty old couch for another week. Then last week I was driving through Appleton when I saw another location. I really, rally wanted to turn into the parking lot and see if they had my couch. But something kept me from doing so. It was as if my spirit was wrestling with itself. One part of me really wanted to go see if they had that couch, another part of me was saying that if I did that I'd regret it big time. So we drove home, and in a strange turn of events, I decided to look on Craigslist to see if there was any furniture for sale in my area.

Of course, you can see where this story would be going, and to make a long story short, I found not just a couch on craigslist, but an entire living room set for a ridiculous price. We picked it up last week Saturday, and you would never know that this set had been used. Never. It looks completely brand new and it fits perfectly in our smaller living room. It's wonderful! Every time I walk into the living room I just have to smile, because God provided the most perfect furniture. When I tried to take matters into my own hands, it didn't work out, time and time again. God had something better in mind for me, and slowly but surely, my living room is turning into a gathering space that I can be proud of and be comfortable in, rather than embarrassed and apologetic.

God does provide all things. Of that, I have no doubt. Just sometimes we get impatient waiting for what He has planned for us. God loves us and wants us to be happy, he wants us to have the desires of our heart. I am so grateful and thankful for his provision in our life so far. I pray that he continues to bless us, and that he also blesses those who come into our home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When Something Is Not Quite Right

"By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life." Psalm 42:8

When I read this verse just a few minutes ago it struck a chord with me. I'm tired this morning. I have not been sleeping the best for the last several weeks, lying awake until all hours, waking early to one random thing or another, that kind of thing. But this verse just reminded me of something. It wasn't that long ago that I would wake up in the night with a song in my head. And not just any random song- a worship or praise song most likely. For a while it would drive me nuts- particularly the more powerful ones, because I'd wake to use the bathroom or something, and then have a hard time going back to sleep.

Lately, I've been missing that. And this verse reminded me that maybe I'm not spending enough time with God these days. "At night his song is with me." I haven't noticed that so much as of late. And maybe I've been missing that a bit, maybe that would be one of the reasons I'm not sleeping so well at night. At any rate, I guess it will never hurt to spend more time with God, or thinking on Him.

You know what I notice about music specifically? It's been a long time since I was a "music person." I used to be that girl who always had music playing. Always! I had a rather large CD collection, and there was always something playing. I always had music on in the car, and it was just something I always had going on. Then I had kids. :-) And when there was music, it was kid-friendly fun stuff, and when there wasn't music it was blessedly quiet. I learned to enjoy the quiet times so much. I still love that. I love it when no electronics are on, no music is playing and the house is completely quiet and peaceful. Yet. Lately I've been re-discovering music. Since I've volunteered to help hunt down new music for church, I listen to quite a bit. Some of it, not so good, some of it fantastic. And although at first I have to listen with a critical ear to see if it's something playable or not, after that, I can simply enjoy the music. We've found some new favorite CD's, and I'll tell you. I can be having the most stressed-out Sunday afternoon, and Andy will pop in one of those CD's and it's like a soothing balm. Almost instantly the stress goes away and I can enjoy the tasks before me. I've had to play the drumset a few times this summer. I don't particularly like playing the drumset- I much prefer playing percussion. But Andy pulls up one of those songs and I start playing along, and before you know it, I'm worshipping God with a pair of sticks.

Music is a powerful thing, and I have to think that if I'm not feeling like I'm sleeping well at night, then the "Lord's Song" is not rightly there like it should be. Not because he's taken it away, but because I've maybe lost a little focus. I need to think and pray on this, see what this means for me today. God wants to be part of everything- even my sleep, and I need to let Him in order for that to happen.

I just love it when I read a verse in the Bible that is clearly meant for me on that particular day. I love His Living Word and all the treasures stored up inside it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Love Yourself First

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:18

"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31

I've mentioned verses like this a lot here on my blog. Loving my neighbor seems to be an ongoing battle, and every time I think I'm doing okay, a new challenge comes along. But what I sometimes fail to remember is that there is a second part to this verse. Not only does it say to love your neighbor, it says love your neighbor AS yourself. We need to love our neighbors, but we also need to love ourselves, and in the context I'm reading these verses... we need to love ourselves first, before we can give that love away to others.

Love ourselves? What on earth does that mean? What does it mean to love myself? To me it means I can be happy with myself just the way I am. I don't have low self-esteem because I stopped criticizing myself long ago. I stopped looking at myself with a critical eye. So instead of seeing all the flaws and faults I just see myself. We can learn from that. When we look at other people those flaws and faults often jump out at us first. We can learn to stop looking for those, to stop being critical of everyone we come across and instead see the beautiful person inside of them.

It also means to some extent that physically we do our best to take care of our bodies. We try to eat right, and sometimes that simply means the actual act of eating. Skipping meals or eating cake instead of breakfast is not taking care of one's body. We need to love our bodies and want to take care of them! I certainly don't mean suddenly going on a diet or giving up sweets, I simply mean making wise choices. We also don't become gluttonous, inhaling every morsel of food we see, we show restraint, because we love ourselves and we want to be around when our children are having children. We exercise as we need to, giving our body some necessary growth and energy to be ready for the next task in front of us.

Loving yourself can certainly be harder than even loving your worst enemy. It's been said that "we are our own worst enemy." Yet it needs to come first. We can't learn to love the world around us if we can't love ourselves first.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

That's The Way It Is

"He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:12

Isn't it? This one sentence really sums it all up. If we know Jesus, if we've invited him to be apart of our lives, we have eternal life with him in heaven. We have a life here on earth that is blessed, that is meant to prepare us for that life of eternity. But if we don't know Jesus, if we haven't invited him into being a part of our lives... we are faced with an eternity of death. We don't have life. That's a scary thought!

When I think about death and dying, the more I get to know Jesus, the less I fear the process myself. I still fear death, as a mother of small children, I fear the idea of leaving them without a mother. I fear the idea of leaving my husband without his wife and helpmeet. But I don't fear the process anymore, the actual act of dying. Because I know what that will mean for me. It will mean that I will get to go to heaven. I will get to see that glorious place that has been so carefully prepared for me! But if I didn't have Jesus in my life, and if I didn't know that he is my Savior, I think I would still be terrified of dying.

Eternal life and living forever is so mind-boggling to me. The idea of infinity and forever is simply a concept that is difficult to grasp- it means there will be no end! It means that we will live as citizens of heaven until the end of time- of which there is none! That's just crazy to think about! Right now we live day to day... I wonder what "days" are like in heaven? Are there days? How are they measured? Are there nights? And do people in heaven sleep at night? Or is there no need for sleep? You know what's exciting for me to think of? What will me role be in heaven? What will I be doing to contribute to that society? I think of all the talents I possess here on earth- there are quite a few things I do well, I just don't do them all the time. Will one of those talents be needed in heaven? Or will I learn something new- or is there something I have yet to discover here on earth as a talent? It's kind of exciting to think along those lines!

Last weekend we all went for a drive through a few communities we'd never been in before. AS we drove through each one, we commented about how the town looked to us, and one of the things we discussed was how exciting it would be to start over. Imagine the thrill of moving to a whole new community where you know no-one and starting over with everything. Yes, it sounds scary- but at the same time, it's exciting! And while we're pretty certain that we're not going anywhere for some time, we can apply the same thoughts to the transition in life that we experience when we invite Jesus in. When we bring him into our hearts and lives, it's just like starting over! It's just like beginning a whole new adventure. There may be a few nervous moments along the way, but the reality is that each and every step along the way is brand new and exciting. When Jesus comes into our lives he fills it with meaning and purpose, and we can see the world around us through a whole new set of eyes!

I know I choose to have life. I choose to let Jesus be a part of my life- whatever that entails. I want to know what it's like to participate in something as exciting as forever! Won't you come along with me?

Monday, August 18, 2008

When You Are In Need...

"When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

16 "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

17 And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." 2 Kings 6:15-17

Yesterday at church we had a guest speaker since our Pastor was on vacation. The message he gave was excellent! And I also really think that it was something that most of us needed to hear. He was talking about the prophet Elisha yesterday and using him as an example for our everyday lives. What I especially liked about him using Elisha as an example is that Elisha was a great man of God! God allowed many, many miracles and wonders to be performed through Elisha, and it can be daunting to see the works of a great man and try to compare our own lives to his. Our everyday humdrum can hardly compare to the things Elisha experienced. Yet there are great lessons to be learned there!

Look at the verses I posted above today. Elisha, the servant he was with, and city they lived in was in danger. They were under attack, and were under-armed for a fair fight. The servant did exactly what most of us would do when trouble advances- he panicked. Isn't that right? That's exactly what we do when trouble finds us, we immediately begin panicking, trying to figure out a way out of that trouble, and it causes us undue stress and anxiety. But what did Elisha do? Elisha prayed. Elisha saw the trouble before him, and before he could even think to panic, he told his servant to not fear and then he prayed, having complete faith in his God to get him through.

I know it's easier said than done, but just think about how much easier life would be if we didn't allow fear and panic to set in. Imagine how wonderful it would be to not allow stress and anxiety to cause such complications! The world tells us to panic and to be stressed, but right here the Bible shows us a way out of normal worldly trouble. Despite what we may think, God really doesn't want us to worry or be under stress. He wants us to be dependant on him though, and sometimes it takes a great stress or trouble to help us to become more reliant on him. Each time a new set of circumstances comes upon us we have a new opportunity to do it right. We have an opportunity to follow Elisha's example and pray first. Before we even begin to think of how we'll solve our problem we need to pray. When we pray first, we are opening up our mind to the possibilities that God might have for us as a way out of the trouble. By praying first, maybe God will present to us an incredibly easy solution that we would have never thought of before. Or maybe God will simply make the trouble go away.

The next time trouble comes your way, just try thinking of Elisha first. Think to yourself "what would Elisha do?" And you'll have your first answer- he would pray. He would ask his God for help and allow him the opportunity to answer. I am so thankful that we have God's word to help us through the worldly troubles that seek to distract us from Him.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Special Note about Today

"Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9

So if you've pulled up this blog today, I'm going to do something a little different and ask you for a bit of a favor today. I know it's Saturday, and we're all busy doing this and that, but there's something special and different going on today in this great country of ours.

This week I've been watching the Olympics, and I've been watching all the athletes take part in their competitions, and more than once I've heard the American athletes talk about how proud they are to represent their nation. I heard one basketball player who normally plays professionally talk about how he simply got goosebumps when given his red, white and blue jersey. It has been exciting to watch, and seeing the displays of patriotism has actually been a little moving.

But what is going on today is an event in the great city of Washington DC, specifically at the National Mall. There is a great gathering taking place there today hosted by an organization called The Call, and what they are doing is gathering to pray. They are gathering to pray for this country, to pray for a nation torn in half by politics. They are gathering to pray for peace in our country from within, for the two sides of the nation to no longer be divided, but to come together in the interest of peace and prosperity. It is an election year, and a heated one at that, and I think it's very important that we all take some time to pray for our country, for unity and healing before the real divisiveness really starts. Perhaps if we turn to God now, and ask for his blessings upon our nation at this time, we can see an election process happen peacefully. God wants us to ask for his intervention, so that's what we are going to do.

What I am asking from you today is just a few minutes of your time to pray specifically for our country. People are angry and hurting and they need our prayers. The Call gathering is going to be taking place specifically between 10:00am and 10:00pm, so know that when you take your few minutes to pray, your voice will be added to the voices of thousands and God will hear that. And if you're checking into this blog and it's not during that window of time, that's okay. Pray anyways, our country can certainly use it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Say Goodbye To Selfishness

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:14-15

This is kind of along the veins of what I think I have been rolling with most of this week, and I think this sums most of it up in one idea: we need to get rid of selfishness. We are selfish people by nature- we're born being selfish. A new baby wants Mommy all the time- regardless what Mommy is doing. As the child grows, they need to learn to share their toys- there is seldom a child who is willing to share right off the bat. They need to learn to share. In the same way, we as adults need to learn to share. Sometimes this can be so hard!

A great example for us right now is our time. :-) With Andy working out of town, he is gone Monday through Friday, and he doesn't get home until late on Fridays. So that gives him just two days to spend with the family, and we have gotten a bit selfish and possessive of that time. Understandably, we have had to cut back on our weekend activities, it's just not possible to give everyone the time that they want. But we've had to choose to make the conscious effort to share our time together. It could have been real easy to cancel our small group for the summer and tell everyone that we really needed our Sunday to spend as a family. It would have been so easy. Instead, we decided to follow what God wanted and not be selfish. We've kept our house open on most Sundays for anyone who wants to come. I'll admit, come late Saturday, or sometimes Sunday afternoon when I'm cleaning yet again, I'll think to myself how much easier it would be to cancel. But I set aside those selfish thoughts, and each and every week we're rewarded with some fantastic time with the people God has put in our lives.

In today's time, it's easy to be selfish. Society makes it easy by telling us that we deserve this and we deserve that. We deserve to be pampered, we deserve time off, we deserve to get everything we want in life, and when we don't get what we want, it's okay to have a pity party.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:1-5

It's important for us to stop focusing on ourselves and our selfish desires. By turning our minds and our hearts towards heaven, we're taking that first step to be rid of selfishness. Instead of thinking about what I can do to be recognized, I need to think about what I can do to recognize God. What can I do for Him? And we need to think about other people, and how we can help them. Can we afford to sacrifice a few hours next weekend to help someone move? Or help someone with a home improvement project? I know people who are very selfless. They are the first ones to volunteer when someone needs help. I love that, and it's an example to follow- and follow willingly. Because God will bless that. God will bless you for your willingness to let go of your selfish nature. He will replace that selfishness with compassion and love and a caring heart, and I know I can always use more of that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Should We Stay or Go?

"He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." Mark 16:15

Sometimes as Christians it's easy to get excited and think you are meant to be doing something great. I know I have posted on here many times that Andy and I are "just waiting." For years we've been willing to go anywhere if God would send us. We've been completely open to the possibility of serving Him by going to another country, another state, another culture. And honestly, for the most part, we just figured it was a matter of time before we ended up doing something crazy.

But then the last several weeks I've really been opening my eyes to what's around me. I looked at all our unsaved neighbors and wondered what would happen to them if we moved away and someone not-so-great moved in. I watched this past weekend as thousands of community members and neighbors gathered to celebrate together, and I wondered how many of them have met Jesus. It can't be that many, because I don't think any of the churches in the area are burgeoning at the moment.

And then it was as if a lightning bolt exploded. God doesn't want me and my family to move to some remote country and minister to the natives. He wants us to minister right here. Right where we are planted. When God chooses to uproot us and plant us elsewhere, we will cheerfully and gladly go. But to sit here and wait isn't doing anyone any good. God wants us to bloom where we are planted. He wants us to lead as an example. He wants us to exude His love for everyone in the community. He doesn't just want us to be Christian in name, but in spirit and being. He wants our everyday daily lives to serve as an example.

What does that mean? Does that mean we're to stop and pray for every person we meet? Are we to set up shop on the street corner professing His word for all to hear? I don't think so. At least not in this time and place for us. He wants us to just be good. No, really. He wants us to smile and say hi when we walk past someone on the street. He wants us to hold doors open for people, and he wants us to greet our neighbors with love and compassion. He wants us to help those who are less fortunate right here in our community, he wants us to assist the elderly people in our neighborhood, without giving a thought to compensation of any kind. And of course, he wants us to pray for them all. He wants us to serve as an example- to be more Christ-like to our neighbors than we have been. We have to make our neighbors want to know why we are different. Because that will come, and then the door will be open and we can share with them the Jesus that resides in our hearts.

And I have to say this. While I really believe that all signs point to this being for Andy and I specifically today, it can certainly apply to all of us. God may call some of us to serve him by traveling or going to another nation, but right here and right now, God wants us all to serve where we are. We make such a big deal sometimes about finding the right place to serve within the church. It's important to remember that sometimes an area of service is not within the confines of the church walls. When you choose to do your all for God, you can do your all for God, regardless of where you are right now. You can volunteer for a service organization, and if you're doing it to the best of your ability, God can use that. You can check up on that elderly neighbor from time to time, and God can use that. Simply walking across the street and asking how someone is doing, with genuine interest, is serving God when it is done with His eyes. When we stop and look around, and try and see the world around us with Jesus' eyes, everything changes, and everything becomes an opportunity to share his love.

"Go into all the world." How can we go into the world if we are not comfortable in our own communities? We need to start right here at home first. And that's a fact.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stop Looking In!

"But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

12 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." Exodus 3:11-12

Okay, here it is today. Here is what has been on my mind for so long, and I have a shortened time this morning, so I'll try to keep it quick. We need to stop spending so much time looking in and analyzing ourselves, and start looking outward. There are so many, so many times where I hear Christians talk about how "we aren't worthy" and "we're just sinners, we don't deserve it." Sure, they're right. But. It shouldn't be dwelled upon, and that shouldn't be our mindset. We get so focused on ourselves! We read books and follow programs that instruct us to look deep within ourselves and see what is in there. And what we always see is inadequacy. No wonder we all have problems with self-esteem! While these things may have good motives, trying to get us to be more mindful of what we say and do, when they cause us to shrink back and declare that "we're not worthy" it's missed the mark.

Look at Moses above. That's exactly what he said to God "Who am I?" Why would God ask me to do this task, I am a nobody, why would I lead a people. And what did God say? Notice he didn't even really answered the question. Instead, he changed the subject and gave Moses something else to focus on. God said "I will be with you." And that right there is the answer. When we're looking inward, focusing on ourselves, and quite frankly, how much we may suck, we're doing exactly what the enemy wants us to do. Instead, we need to change our focus entirely. We need to stop analyzing our very being, our personalities and our weaknesses, and instead focus on HIM. He will be with us always. He clearly doesn't care about our weaknesses, as God already sent his son to die for you and me. We need to turn away from the introspection and feeling bad and sorry for ourselves and we need to rejoice, because we have a God who loves us just the way we are. We will never be worthy of His love, but that is not something to dwell on. What we need to dwell on is the love itself. God says that we "are precious in his sight". It's time that we believe that and move on from all the introspection.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Minding The Body

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19,20

Honor God with your body. I suppose that could take on so many meanings, depending on the person who is reading it, couldn't it. Everyone has their own struggles that they deal with, I won't even list the possibilities, but you can, instead, make it your own.

It really makes you think, doesn't it. It says right here that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. And from what we know of the Holy Spirit, that means that he is God, and that God is residing in our bodies. For real. When I just think of that, it scares me a little bit, but it also inspires me.

For the most part, over the last few years, I've really improved my..."self" for lack of a better word. I've started paying more attention to what I'm actually doing every day. I feel bad when I spend an entire day doing nothing- I just feel yucky and gross, like I totally wasted a day that I'll never get back. So one thing that I have done is paid more attention to what I am actually doing every day. As a stay at home mom, it sure could be easy to sit around and watch tv or surf the internet most of my days. But then I look around and my house is always trashed and there's always laundry waiting to be done, and kids clamoring for attention. So I don't sit around as much anymore. That's made such a difference to me. If someone called and said they were popping over, I could have the house presentable in just a short while, because I spend more time cleaning and keeping the dirt away. The laundry will never, ever totally go away, so I just make the most of doing it when I can. There are rare moments where I look around, decide the housework is not necessary and I allow a little time with a book or a project. But for the most part, God has really helped me to be mindful of what I'm doing. By focusing on Him and asking for His help, I no longer feel like a sloth.

This serves several purposes. One being that my house, my home is presentable for company, should company appear. Another being that after my husband is gone all week working hard, he doesn't have to come home on the weekend and spend it cleaning. And the third purpose it serves is to keep me active. I'm simply not a big exercise girl. I enjoy walking to get somewhere, and I don't mind working out- in fact, I really like step aerobics and weight training. But I simply don't have time for those things in my life right now. And I know, and God knows, that being active is key to being healthy. So He's blessed me with purpose. In the wintertime I get cold very easily. And when I've been doing something on the computer, I know I've been sitting too long when I start to get chilly. Rather than covering up with a blanket, I get up and do something. I do dishes, laundry, scrub a bathroom, or find a project that requires movement. When I move, I warm up, and even better, something gets done. I'm honoring God with my body by not sitting around all day long. I try and keep busy, and I am mindful of how what I am doing can bring honor to God- or not. Does my work online bring glory to God? I have no idea, I can only pray that it does, but I need to be mindful of how much time I spend sitting in this chair.

I've also improved my diet greatly, and subsequently, my families diet. We've always eaten with a mind towards health, but there was far too much of the bad stuff. A donut run happened every Saturday morning, and come late morning, we'd all feel like we needed a nap. God showed me a few things about blood sugar, and before long, we were cutting out those donuts, and now our Saturday's are much more productive. We still do donuts every once in a while, but more as a treat than a regular occurrence. We've cut out most all preservatives from our diet as well, and I have to tell you that overall as a family we feel much better. Zander hasn't had an asthma attack in a few years, and when both kids get sick they recover much faster than before. God recently led me to discover that meat preservatives were causing migraines in my body. I have been blessedly migraine free ever since then, and I'm loving that! I'm loving God for showing me that! By honoring God with my body, He is showing me things that will help my body to perform better and to feel better. Most recently I have felt like I needed to reduce my dairy consumption. I've cut it out almost completely, and for the first time in years, I have my usual late summer allergies, but they're little more than an annoyance. I haven't had to take pills to function, and I'm certain now that eating a lot of dairy has made the allergies worse over the years.

God gave me the Holy Spirit to help guide me in my daily life, and I follow what he tells me all the time. When I feel like I'm having a lazy day and I need to do something, the Spirit fills me with the motivation to get something done. Most recently, I think He's working with me on sleep. I've been sleeping so poorly, but I've been functioning well throughout the day regardless (maybe with a little coffee help sometimes.) I really think that the Spirit is telling me that I've been getting too much sleep. By honoring God with my body in the first place, each time I feel the Spirit guiding me towards a more healthy routine, it's easier to hear and pay attention to. When I first made that decision to not be lazy anymore, the Spirit filled me up with motivation and has helped me to make wise decisions ever since. I need to pay attention to this new message I'm getting about sleep. With the return of school, less sleep is a certainty. I've always been a sleeper though- 9 hours was the perfect amount of sleep for me. But if I can get away with less sleep and still feel fine throughout the day, imagine how much more I could accomplish! Imagine how much more time I'll have to spend with God if I can just let go of one more hour of sleep time.

I want to honor God with absolutely every facet of my body. I want to keep the bad out and let the good in- in every way. As the verse says above, I am not my own, and I pray that God will continue to work with me. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide me towards the choices I need to make, and that they will benefit not just myself, but my family and those around me as well.

Monday, August 11, 2008

One We Can Cry Out To

"Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer." Psalm 4:1

Stress? We all experience moments of stress. I don't know anyone at all who doesn't, at times, experience the burden of stress. Stress can come at us out of nowhere, and we all have different things that cause us stress. Kids can cause stress, simply be being annoying sometimes. Money certainly causes stress, simply by its nature that there never seems to be enough. Time causes stress for the same reason- we're always up against deadlines and running out of time. Family, marriage, and pets can cause stress. Jobs cause stress, homes cause stress, neighbors cause stress. Really- what doesn't cause stress?

Thankfully, we have one to turn to in times of great stress. It happens to the best of us, all the sudden we find our fuse is very short and that every little thing is making us crazy. We feel confined and squeezed and pressed and stretched in too many directions to count. But God can save us from that feeling. God can lay his hand on our shoulders and give us the peace that passes understanding. He can help us through that time of stress, if we simply call to him and allow him to answer us. Our God is a great God, and a God full of compassion and love. When he sees us struggling, he wants to help us, but most often, he wants us to want his help. And he wants us to know that our help came from him. I remember a song from many years ago that had lyrics that went "my help comes from the Lord, the ruler of everything." Our help comes from the Lord.

Sometimes God answers our cries for help through our struggles by giving us the strength to make it through. And sometimes, God answers our cries by sending someone to us to physically help. Sometimes, we can find ourselves in the midst of miraculous help, as an angel may protect us from harm. Sometimes the help we seek is in the form of encouragement, and God gives us that by revealing words to us in the Bible. There are many ways that God could help us through out stress- but first we need to humble ourselves before him and ask for help. We need to swallow our human pride and admit that we need his help. The best part is that he will answer without fail. He will answer every single time that we call to him. God loves you and me and he wants to help us through out stressful times. Maybe it's time that we let him.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

More Than A Sparrow

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6,7

God knows the number of hairs on my head at all times! And when you have super long hair and pull out a full brush full every time you brush or shower, you know that's a tough job. I can't imagine keeping up with the number of hairs I have on my head. Yet God does. He knows everything about me- he knows every physical scar I have on my body, and he knows all those internal scars as well. He knows my heart too- my loves, my passions and my desires, he knows them all and he knows them well.

God knows how many birds are in the sky as well- he keeps an eye on them. I think of my fish tank. I love my fish tank, I have so much fun playing with it and watching the fish and keeping track of their behaviors. I daresay that fishkeeping has become a bit of a hobby. Yet, because they are fish, and always moving and always procreating, I have no idea how many fish I have in my tank. I can't even hazard a guess, really. I have no idea how many fish I have in my little community, yet my God knows how many people are in my community. And not only that, he knows how many people are in the world- in each and every community. Even better, he knows each and every person and their hearts. He knows that guy that lives in that strange house down the street. He knows that family, even though they keep moving from town to town. He even knows that young lady who's in protective custody- he knows her real name and her real heart, who she really is, not who she's pretending to be.

God knows us, and more importantly, He wants us to know Him. He wants us to know Him more, and each and every day we have an opportunity to know Him more. Every day when we wake up we have the opportunity to make a decision to get closer to God today. That's what he wants from us, that's what we wants for us. I guess I look at it like this: there is this God out there who knows the number of hairs on my head. That's actually kind of an intimate thought if you really think about it. The least I can do is get to know Him better. And I do too, as each day I watch for those opportunities where God wants to show me something, wants me to see something new. I love those days. I love those days of simply looking outside, smelling the fresh air and thanking God for such a beautiful day. I love how He shows me the miracle of life each and every day with my gardens. It never ceases to amaze me that one tiny seed can produce a bounty of vegetables. And the variety of vegetables available! That God could think of each and every one amazes me.

And each and every day my children amaze me. Watching these little people grow and blossom is truly an amazing process, and as much as I love and adore them, how much more does God love them. How much more does He love all of us? He is a God of love, and wants us to know that love. Will you let Him love you today? I know I will. I know I'll make that choice. But even more so, I want Him to let His love show through me. May His love radiate from my very being and catch onto everyone I know today. God is great, and it's a wonderful day!

Friday, August 08, 2008


"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." John 16:13

Do you listen?

I mean, do you really listen? Do you ever feel that need to do something, yet you don't and then you find out that you really should have? Way back at the beginning of the year, I was having a conversation with my brother and sister-in-law about my niece and some strange behavior that she was exhibiting. We talked about it for awhile, they left, and then for like three days I really felt like I needed to call them up and tell them to take my niece to the doctor. I had dreams about taking her to the doctor, and more than once I picked up the phone to call, or started an e-mail. But then I stopped, thinking that I was just being meddlesome and a know-it-all, and I really didn't want to worry anyone just because "I saw this on TV once" type of thing, you know? And of course, you know where this is going. Several weeks later, my niece was finally taken to a doctor, and sure enough, the precious little girl had type one diabetes, and had been exhibiting the symptoms for quite a while. I felt awful! I felt horrible, because in retrospect, I knew exactly what the problem was, and I also knew that the Spirit was telling me what was wrong with her. I was just letting my earthly brain and fears get in the way of listening to what God was trying to convey to me. I was ignoring that "feeling" that I should do something. Thank God she got to a doctor in time, and thank God that she's managing incredibly well with the disease so far.

But that experience really made me open my eyes, my ears, and my heart a little more to God. I asked God to forgive me for not listening, and asked Him to help me learn to rely on Him and the Spirit to guide me. Not too long after that, I had another experience. A dream about a young man we know. It woke me, because it was so real and so sudden, and something that was uncharacteristic about this person. I really felt like I needed to pray for that person, so I did, for some time. I think my prayers were well-timed, and ever since then, this young man has been on both mine and Andy's hearts as someone to pray for. God has great things for him, he just doesn't know it yet.

It's the Holy Spirit who we can rely on to help guide us, and sometimes, He is there when He is least expected. There has been more than once where I have had a sense of unease about something. Maybe something as simple as I was going to make an off-hand comment about something. But before I could even open my mouth to say something, I felt like I should just be quiet, and then later it is revealed that my off-hand comment could have been very offensive to someone.

Or like last week. As I was lying in our tent one night, I was drifting off to sleep- you know, that happy place where you are content to lie there, and you know that sleep is just seconds away, when all the sudden my heart literally started pounding and there was this extreme urgency for me to pray. I had no clue... no idea what was going on, or what I was even being asked to pray for, but by golly if I didn't just start praying right then and there. I was scared awake so badly that I prayed for a good long time. I still have no idea what I was praying for, or for whom, but by golly, I had a few words with God that night, I can only hope that my prayers had the effect the Spirit was hoping for.

See, the Spirit is our helper. He's that nudging, that prompting to move forward. Or he's that voice of reason, of caution, to hold back and think on that longer. He will only guide us into the truth, that we can be certain of. The Spirit is full of truth and care and love, and when we welcome His presence into our lives, He will only serve to help us. He becomes a part of us, and the more we rely on His guidance, and follow what He asks us to do (like in the instance of crazy praying!) , the easier it becomes to hear His voice and see what He sees. The more we allow the Spirit to have a say in what we do, the easier those decisions become. It becomes more clear to us which is the choice that God would have us make. The more we rely on the Spirit, the more we get to see through His pair of glasses and see all the unspoken dangers before us. He will help us to navigate around and through them.

I pray each and every day that the Spirit will help me to be the person that God wants me to be. That the Spirit will guide my every move and every decision that I make. That as I am about to make that online purchase, he will stay my finger before I click confirm. That as I am tempted to make large purchases that He will help me to decide whether or not that purchase is a necessity and to not think too hastily. The Holy Spirit is such a wonderful helper, I am so thankful for His presence in my life. May he continue to work in me and my family, and may he continue to make his presence well-known to each and every person who walks through our door.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

It Is Not Our Job

"For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us." Isaiah 33:22

It is the very first part of this verse that caught my eye today. "For the Lord is our judge," God is our judge, not our neighbor, not our spouse, parent, pastor or physician. I think that we all forget that from time to time. We think to ourselves "what will people think" and we worry about that. We dwell on that. Sometimes, we dwell on that a lot. This is an excellent reminder that the only one who truly matters is our God in Heaven. If we are doing something for Him, we need to do it with all our might and with the best of our ability. Let's say that I am in charge of "coffee and sweets" time after church, basically the social time. Every week I make the coffee and pick up a pastry of some kind from the grocery store to have with that coffee. What would I serve every week? Would I head to the day-old baked goods and pick up a few packages of sub-par sweet rolls simply because they're inexpensive? Or would I head to the bakery counter and demand several dozen of their finest wares? To me, the choice is simple. But it's how I make that choice, and not the choice itself.

What would I do if Jesus himself showed up at our church service? What would I serve him? Would I serve him stale coffee that had been reheated and day-old donuts that were lying around? If I looked up and saw that Jesus was at our social hour, you can bet that I'd be putting out the finest. I would brew up a pot of the freshest coffee, and I would pull out the fancy bakery goods in all their splendor. I would serve the best I had to offer because Jesus deserves the best. I would choose the best that I could afford- and maybe that would be the day-old donuts, but it would be the spirit of the offering, the spirit of "this is my best for my Lord" not "this is cheap and sitting around, lets give this to Him". God is the only one who is going to judge our results- I wouldn't be making coffee and pastry for Iron Chef judges, I'd be making it for Jesus. And the same attitude should be held each and every week. When I am serving my brothers and sisters in Christ, and our visitors coffee and pastry- who am I serving?

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:34-40

No matter what we are doing, we need to do it as if we were serving our Lord, and not just another person. When we teach Sunday School, we need to do it as if young seven-year-old Jesus were in the room. When we make coffee, we need to make it as if we were going to serve Jesus himself, and not just do "enough". When we sing or play the piano, we need to sing or play our heart out each and every time, because we're singing and playing to Our God, and He deserves our best each and every time, and it really and truly doesn' t matter what anyone else thinks or says. When we scrub the bathrooms, we need to do a full and complete job, as if Jesus himself were going to do the inspection, and not just do a "good enough" job for now. I can't imagine how mortified I would be if I was standing in the seat of judgement and heard something like this: "Erika, you did well serving by cleaning the church all those years. But that one week... that one week you didn't do such a thorough job, and you left a few spiderwebs in the ladies room. And a visitor came that week, and they are terribly afraid of spiders, and they left that church and never went back. Your laziness caused one of my daughters to flee the church forever." I already know that moment of judgement is going to be tough one for us all, but the one thing I don't want to hear is that I didn't do enough because I was too worried about what other people think.

At the same time (and I know this one is getting long today), we also need to remember that it is not our job to judge either. Ever. I've written before about careful criticism, and being cautious about squelching the little faith someone has, and there's no quicker way to do this than to serve as judge for another human being. We need to remember that every person has their own individual walk with God, and that all our paths are different. We are all at different stages on our walk, and it is not our job to look over at someone struggling with an obstacle and declare that they must not have enough faith to overcome. But what we can do is pray for them, we can encourage them to hop on over that obstacle. We can offer support and encouragement and prayers, and when we start looking at others through those eyes, we'll be much better off. Imagine that we are all on a huge gameboard. We all started the moment we said "I DO" to God. The finish line is when we die and join Him in heaven. But along the way, each of us have our own path that we follow step by step. We all have different obstacles, and they all come at different times. Where one persons toughest challenges may be towards the beginning of their journey, another person's may not come until the end. But we can look over the playing field and see how everyone is doing and we can cheer each other on. We can pray and encourage, and when someone just gives up we can give them our hand and pick them back up.

It is not our job to judge. Ever.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Matthew 7:1

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Follow-Up

"All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal." Psalm 119:160

Today's verse is the perfect follow-up to yesterday's, because it specifically points out a few things about the Bible that are completely accurate. The first being that "all your words are true." I love seeing that, because it encourages me to keep reading. Notice it doesn't say that just some of the words in the Bible are true- and it doesn't say that "just the newer ones" or "just these ones" are true. The ALL are. There's something finite about that word all- it encompasses every syllable that was written in the Bible. Every single word was God-breathed, right down to every thee and thou in the King James Version.

And then there's the second part. "All your righteous laws are eternal". Check out that word! Eternal! That means forever and ever and then some! It also tells me that the Bible isn't just for us now- it's for us yesterday and it's for us tomorrow. We'll still be using the Bible well into our eighties and we'll still be using our Bible well after we've died and gone to Heaven. All of God's laws are eternal- they last forever, and they are for everyone as well. God's laws are not like the man-made laws where we make them and then a few years they become outdated and they need to be repealed. God's laws continue day after day and year after year and we can take comfort in that. In our worst of times, when we maybe have nothing else holding us together, we have God's Word, which is with us forever, and will help us to get through those tough times. It can be like a comfort blanket for a child, because simply reading God's words of love is enough to feel as though you are being wrapped up in a big cuddly blanket. Even on your darkest day, God's Word can bring you light.

"I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11

"Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law" Psalm 119:18

"Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you. " Psalm 119:91

"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

In His Word

"The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." Psalm 119:130

I liked reading this verse today. We had a discussion about this very thing this past week. We were all talking about the wonders of the Bible. And what do I mean by wonders? I mean how wonderful it is that there is always something in it You know how you can read a chapter in the Bible, or a few verses and you're like, Oh, that's nice, but it didn't totally speak to you or mean anything. Sometimes those times can be discouraging when you're trying to read your Bible the whole way through. But then! Then there's the times where the scripture literally comes to life and leaps off the page, searing it's words into your heart and your mind. Those times when you go why wasn't this verse here before? Why haven't I read this before? Those are the moments that keep me going back to the Bible for more!

That's one of the many ways we know that the Bible truly comes from God. It's timeless! We can read about Abraham and Moses thousands of years ago and still find application for our lives today. The Bible truly is God-breathed as it is alive and real and every day I become more and more eager to see what it has inside just for me.

I know that sometimes people can make a big deal out of the different translations of the Bible- I mean, which one really is the best one to read, and the answer to that is: whichever one suits you best. Growing up, I did all of my verse memorization in the King James Version for a time, so often when I think on a verse, in my head I'm rolling it around with a few thee's and thou's in it. Then I also spent some time in the New International Version, memorizing a few verses there, and enjoying reading the Bible in general more. Now? I really use several versions. The two hard versions of the Bible that I use the most are the New Living Bible and the New International Version, but I frequently find myself looking up a verse on Bible Gateway and then reading it in version after version, to see how it changes. Sometimes I do enjoy using the old fashioned KJV version, but then I also enjoy reading Shakespeare, so that language makes sense to me. The point here being that there is no one perfect fit- no one version that you must be reading. You may need to spend some time with a few different versions to see what is the best fit for you, and that's perfectly fine.

The entire point is to spend time in His Word. There are times where I really don't feel like reading my Bible at all. I can go several weeks or months without really feeling the inspiration to pick up my Bible. Usually at those times after a while, I realize that I really need to be back in His Word, and I'll go find myself a new Bible. Study Bible's can be fantastic for getting back into the Word, because they offer short little studies or longer more complicated ones. They make it easy to ease back into the practice of reading. Give it a try if you've been finding yourself void of Bible reading. Find a simple study Bible or even a few day study guide to help you get into the habit. The experts say that it takes 21 days to rid yourself of a habit or form a new one. Imagine how many Bible verses you could read if you started today by reading just four verses. Four verses in less than five minutes- that's 84 verses over a three week period of time. That's 84 words of wisdom from God Himself. That sounds like a great thing to me, and an easy one to start out with.

Now I need to get practical here and ask if you have a Bible. If you don't have a physical hard copy of the Bible and would like one, please send me an e-mail at and we'll get in touch to get you a Bible.

Monday, August 04, 2008

He Made It All

"This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:2-3

Well, we're back from our much-needed, and much-enjoyed vacation. To be honest, I'm simply not ready to get back to normal. That means I need to get a lot done, and I need to focus on events ahead- like the return of school! I'm having such a wonderful summer with my babies... I hate the thought of sending Abigail off to school again every day, and even worse- Zander is going to preschool this fall where he'll grow up on me. I hate that.

Anyway. This verse today is absolutely perfect for describing this past week. One of the best parts of the week was the night. Every night we had moon-less, clear skies, and once it finally got dark, we could look up in the sky and see more stars than you could ever see in a populated area. You could actually see all the constellations, and the Milky Way itself was thick with stars and clearly visible. It was amazing to look up at this sky and see the literal millions of stars and know that God created each and every one. Each and every one. And he put them into its exact place. Think about painting dots with a paintbrush and think about how long it could take to make 1 million dots. And then God kept going and made more and more! And the result is this amazing star-lit night sky.

I had the same amazing thoughts every day standing by the lagoon casting out my fishing pole. Sometimes I would catch fish, sometimes I wouldn't. But when I wasn't reeling something in I was busy watching turtles play in the water. Once there was a big snapping turtle getting close to my line, but more than once some small painter turtles thought they'd play tag with my bobber. They were just fun to watch them swim around like they had not a care in the world except figuring out what that neon yellow thing was floating in the water. Then you'd hear some running in the brush behind you followed by a splash, and you catch a glimpse of an otter making it's way through the water. He never came out in the open enough to see him playing, but every time we heard or saw another animal I thought about how God created each and every creature and gave it a purpose. We're so used to seeing animals in zoos and in cages that to see them in the wild actually doing what they're supposed to be doing is simply awe-inspiring. As we heard the wolves howling in the distance I thought about how wonderful it was that the wolf populations were doing so much better and I thanked God for creating such beautiful creatures- even though I wasn't seeing them.

I think that sometimes we simply forget that God made it all. There was one day that Abigail was swimming with Grandma and Zander and I were on the shore watching. Storm clouds were coming up in the distance, which meant that swimming was going to be cut short. Grandma would look at the clouds and tell them to shoo- "go away clouds, we don't want rain". My beautiful Zander then scolded Grandma for telling the clouds to go away "But God put those rain clouds there Grandma!" And that he did. We may never know the purpose for something that God created. I mean, mosquitoes? Come on already, surely we could do without those! But we can thank God for his wonderful creations and look at each creation with new eyes. We can look at the detail that went into creating twelve different kinds of woodpeckers who all live in the same forest. If God can create such wonders here on earth, how much more is it going to be in Heaven? Someday we'll find out, and in the meantime, I want to spend my time here on earth enjoying the earth and all of God's creations. I thank Him for all He has done and will continue to do- and may He keep my eyes open and focused where they need to be focused.