Friday, February 27, 2009

Simple Joy

"As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease." Genesis 8:22

"My lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.

11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land." Song of Solomon 2:10-12

Yesterday a huge winter storm rolled into town. We've had winter storms before this winter, but this one was pretty nasty-it was blowing horrifically and it was near white-out conditions sometimes. So we stayed home last night instead of going to the first night of a conference we are going to at church this weekend. Instead we curled up in front of the computer and watched the church service live on the Internet- isn't technology a wonderful thing!

But what keeps on making me smile these days is knowing that the days of snowstorms are almost past, and that spring is on the way. It has to be, because the Bible says right there in Genesis that as long as the earth endures, the seasons will also. Hooray! About a month ago I was given a whole bunch of tulip and daffodil bulbs, and it was recommended that I try forcing them, so that I would have flowers in my home. So I followed instruction and planted the bulbs, and in the last two days, two of the tulips have opened up. Oh! They're so beautiful and so full of the reminder of God's promises. Every time I look at a tulip I am reminded of the wonder of God's creation. Of the miracles of planting a seed and reaping a harvest. It's truly miraculous that this ugly brown bulbous thing that I planted in the soil has sprouted forth a beautiful yellow flower. There's a very light scent around my kitchen sink, where the tulips are right now, and it just gives me such joy... I spend a lot of time there, and I spend a lot of time talking to God there, so it seems more than appropriate that as I spend time with God, I am also enjoying the scents and the beauty of the spring to come.

Isn't God's creation wonderful?

"The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.

17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter." Psalm 74:16-17

**P.S. I'll be taking an extended weekend this weekend, and I will not be blogging on Saturday. God Bless, and I'll see you on Monday.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Search of Unity

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him," 1 Colossians 1:17-19

"After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body." Ephesians 5:29,30

We are one body. The church is one body, and Christ is the head. Let's think about this "body" for a minute, because I think the fact that the church is described as a body says a lot about how the church should be. A human body is a very unique creation. There are so many various parts and pieces, and yet, they all work together to make the body function. Every piece, every bone, muscle, tendon, and organ are integral to having the body work at it's best. Yet these parts are very, very different. Toe bones are completely different from the pituitary gland. The ear is completely different from the large intestine, and so on. The point is that each and every part is unique unto itself and performs a different function. Now let's think again about that body of Christ.

Let's think about the fact that there are some churches who focus on helping the poor and needy. There are some churches who are seeker-friendly, trying to reach out to everyman. There are those churches who are full of the quiet ones, who are quietly reverent in prayer and meditation. There are churches who are very blessed musically, and churches who are very blessed with a whole congregation of young people aching for Jesus. There are churches who are primarily filled with the elder generation, praising God with hymns and the King James Bible, and there are churches whose primary focus is kids, and sharing Jesus in videos and music. I could go on all day about the different kinds of churches there are, but the point is that we are all different, yet important. We are all different parts of the body, but we are all necessary to making the body function. No one church, no one group of people is "the" group of people who are the body of Christ. Together, all the churches make up one body, yet we are not working together as a body, and that is a shame.

I remember growing up, witnessing to my friends at school, because I was under the impression that if they weren't going to my church, they weren't going to go to heaven. It's no wonder they would get angry with me every time I talked about it. Because they were going to churches, but they were different, and somehow I was lead to believe that only our church was the right church. Every once in a while I think about that and I pray that my zealousness did not turn them away from God for forever. The thing to remember, and the important thing to realize is that we all worship the same God. Sometimes, our worship may be different, sometimes, even the way we dress may be different, but that doesn't make one church wrong and one church right, it simply makes them different, and right for the people who attend that church.

Just imagine what The Church could accomplish if we could take off our blinders and work together. Just imagine what a single community would be like if the four churches within would work together for the common purpose of saving souls. The problem is that we get caught up in all the legalities of our churches. We get stuck on the fact that theses are our rules and laws we adhere to, but the other church has a different set of rules. We get stuck on the idea that our way is the best way, and because that church doesn't tell their young women to wear skirts, they're missing the boat to heaven. And that's just not so. I was reading in Isaiah yesterday, and I read these verses, and my heart just broke, because it's so true.

"The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men." Isaiah 29:13

We get so focused on the rules that we don't see the big picture. And even worse, we focus on everyone else's adherence to the rules, and not even our own. We talk behind their backs because someone saw them put out a cigarette but in the parking lot. We gossip about so-and-so being seen coming out of a bar last weekend. We shake our heads in shame because that young couple got married and allowed dancing at their wedding. When really, we should be looking at ourselves, at our hearts, and see if we are where God wants us to be.

As I have been opening up more and more to God and what He wants from me, one thing has become very clear to me, and that is that He works on different people in completely different ways. Just as our churches are different parts of the body, within, we as individual people are even more different- we are the cells and the atoms that make up the body part, and each one, while a part of the whole, is different. So when God calls my brother in Christ to stop drinking completely, that may not mean the same for my sister on the other side of the room who is having a glass of wine with her dinner. God may call another woman to grow her hair long and put on a head covering, because those actions will mean something to her and those around her. At the same time, God may call another woman to let her hair loose and dance with abandon before Him. Are any of these things wrong? Of course not, but they are different, and we have become a people where "different" may confuse us or scare us even.

The different body parts of the body of Christ are different! Yet we all work together for the common good! I have had the wonderful pleasure as of late to get to know people from all different walks of faith, but they are all full of the love of Jesus and that is what is the important part. The system, the list of rules that helps them get in a frame of mind to love God, is important to them, and that is what matters. I can open up my Bible and find dozens of verses that tell me that I am where I am, that I am to be at home taking care of the household. At the exact same time, I can also open up my Bible and read a dozen verses that tell me to "go into all the world." So which one is right? Is one more right because it's in the New Testament? Is one more right because it's what the rest of my church family believes? I happen to think they are both right, and that during the different seasons of my life, there will be times to be at home, and there will be times to travel the world, sharing God's Love. I think there are seasons in my life where I will read Proverbs 31 and want, more than anything to be that perfect wife of noble character. And at the same time, there will be seasons where I feel more like Deborah, where I'm ready to take charge and assert myself for a greater body of people than just my family.

I have to tell you, I applaud everyone I ever come across who shares their faith and why they believe the way they believe. I love hearing about all the wonderful things God does for these people as a result of their obedience to what He is telling them. God does reward obedience, and when God is telling you to turn off that TV, the reward from God is so much greater than the reward of finding out which person wins that contest. When God is telling you to trust Him with your finances, the rewards are so beyond money and having your bills taken care of. When God is telling you to put down the fairy tales and pick up His Word instead, you know there is some fantastic nourishment in the Word that you are going to be reading. When God tells you to trust Him with how many children you are going to have, you know that he's got heaps of blessings for you because he knows your heart and knows that it takes such a precious and special person to raise all those wonderful blessings. And when God tells you that you are to abstain from marriage and children, you can know that he has something very special in mind for you, because God's Word says it is true!

We are all different! But we are all beautiful and wonderful in the unique way that God created us. The rules and the regulations, the legalism if you will, is not what is important. It's not important how others perceive us either, what is important is how God perceive us, how God perceives our heart. Each one of us has a different part to play out in the body of Christ, and instead of fighting with each other over who is right, I really feel that God is calling on us to reach out to each other and work together for the sake of the world who so desperately needs Jesus.

I'm ready to play my part, how about you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Give Thanks

"Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39

Loving your neighbor as yourself includes our leadership. No matter what your original thoughts have been about our new president, he is still one of God's children, and as such, he deserves the same consideration and love as our friends and family. Let's give thanks this week for President Obama. He has a job that few people would even want, let alone do well. This week he took his first international trip to Canada to meet with the prime minister there. Imagine how exciting that must have been for the first time, to travel to meet with a foreign dignitary! I am thankful for a president who represents our nation well, and I pray for wisdom for him as he continues to travel throughout the globe. For other presidential prayer needs, please check out what the Presidential Prayer Team is thankful for this week.

In that regard, this week I feel that we should focus some prayer time on other world leaders. I know it's a fairly broad group of people, but every nation, every country has a leader of some kind. I'm going to take the time this week, as I go about my day, to pray for different countries and their leaders. How am I going to do that? Well, often, as I'm at my computer or watching TV or even grocery shopping, I'll see something that reminds me of another country. A flag or a blurb on the news about something in another nation. At that moment, I'm going to focus on that country and ask God to bless those leaders and give them wisdom. Our world sorely needs wisdom right now, and also revelation. I am going to pray for God to give these leaders revelation, ask him to show himself to them and make his presence known in their lives and in their decision making processes.

It all comes full circle, as the rest of the world watches America to see what we do first. Let's continue in fervent prayer for our nation to turn back to morality and what is right and good and pure in God's eyes. Let us return to our roots of "One nation, under God" and may the world see us do it and follow the example we set before them so that one day it will be "One world, under God". Nothing is impossible with God.

"You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.; Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 16-18

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Ministry: Part Two

"She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life." Proverbs 31:12

"She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue. " Proverbs 31:16

"The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1

The other day I shared how I need to keep being reminded (gently, of course) that my ministry is right here in my home. Over the last few days though, I was again reminded, that my ministry is not just to my children and taking care of the home I live in. And to me, this is probably the most difficult one to remember, and that is that my ministry is also to my husband. It can be so easy to get so wrapped up in the children and cleaning, and taking care of the day to day that I forget that my husband is a vital part of what God has for me as my ministry. See, I can remember that God is always doing a work in me, and that He's working on me for one reason or another, but it's easy to forget that he's also working on Andy. And it's even easier to forget sometimes that as the head of the household, he likely has a harder time of it. Particularly when I'm probably contributing to his problems by complaining or whining.

But there are a few things that I've been working on to help better honor my husband. The number one thing that I've been working on for some time is that I try to never speak something bad about my husband. Whether it's chatting online or talking with a person, I make the conscious effort to not join in the constant stream of "husband bashing" that the rest of the world seems to find acceptable. If I have a complaint with him, I take it to him, not to the neighbors or family or strangers on a bulletin board. Because I believe that every time I speak something poorly of him to another person, that other person will believe what I say as the truth, and that one person may look at him differently, and think him less than he is. And yes, that can be very hard sometimes. Instead, when I am involved in a conversation where women are talking about their husbands, I will either walk away and do something else, or I will interject my saying something good about Andy. I'll mention how he recently built me a new bookcase, or cleaned the van for me, or spent several hours on the floor playing cars with Zander. It's amazing how that just quiets everybody.

The facts are that Andy is a great dad and a great husband, and God put him where he is for a reason. As his wife, his partner and help meet, it's my job, and my ministry to run his household smoothly for him to make his life easier, and it's also my ministry to help lift him up. When he's having a rough day, I know when the perfect moment is to send Abigail to him for some snuggle time, or to share a dream I had, just something to raise his spirits. Another important part of my ministry to my husband is to be in God's Word. As a stay-at-home mom, I have much more opportunity to pick up my Bible than my working husband does. By staying open to what God has to say every day, I never know when what He says to me may be specifically for my husband. As he is out working or trying to save the world, I have the time to be at home, doing my work, and talking to God on his behalf. And that's a really important part of my ministry, to pray for my husband daily. I never know what kind of challenges or attacks he may encounter while out in the world, and it's my job to keep him at the forefront of my mind, and pray often and fervently. I believe that's one of the reasons God gave women the ability to multi-task, otherwise we'd never get anything done! Instead, I can fold eight loads of laundry and put them away, all while interceding and chatting with God.

See, as God's been working on me, how much more is He working on my husband? My ministry is to try and make God's work a little easier, to help keep my husband's spirit open to what the Holy Spirit has for him. I can't do that if I'm complaining and tearing him down all the time. When he walks in the door after a long day at work, the last thing he wants to hear is all the problems we had during the day. Sure, he wants to know what went on, but it would be so easy for me to work myself up into a lather with all the bad that may have gone on- the news alone could fuel that one! Instead, we focus on the good. We talk about the kids, and what they accomplished today, we talk about something I read in the Bible, or an e-mail from someone. We focus on the good, and try really hard to not give voice to the bad.

I know in my heart of hearts that God has plans for my husband. And I suspect they are big ones. I suspect that all these years of getting used to him traveling for work are not for naught, and I just pray that God will continue to work on me so that I can help him to get where he needs to be. And I pray that he will continue to be open to what God has to say to him, and that he will be obedient to every word. I also pray for the wisdom that is needed to help him be obedient, and that I will not be a stumbling block. Rather, I pray for the knowledge and wisdom to continue to build him up and encourage, and not to tear him down.

"Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
is my lover among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

4 He has taken me to the banquet hall,
and his banner over me is love." Song of Solomon 2:3,4

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dreams And Greens

"Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe." Ezekiel 2:9,10

"And he said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel." 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.

3 Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth." Ezekiel 3:1-3

Over the last several months, I've had a bit of a recurring theme with some dreams. The first dream was before Christmas even, and it was a dream that I walked out to the garden when it should have been dead and gone, yet there it was, loaded with lettuce and ripe tomatoes- a garden in full bloom, while everything else around it was in the throes of winter death. I woke from that dream and my heart leaped for joy. Andy's lay-off time was coming, and I understood that dream to mean that we would find provision through the winter months when he wasn't working.

Then I had another dream sometime in January. I had a dream that we decided to go camping with friends in the middle of winter. On the way to out campground we took a detour and came upon a garden, full of lush produce. We could help ourselves to as many tomatoes as we could carry, and we could fill our baskets with carrots and lettuce, and it was such a wonderful thing to behold in the middle of winter. We all found such joy in this garden that we'd found. Again, I woke from this dream, and I saw provision, I felt like God was reminding me that we had us under His protection and that we were going to be okay. It also made me smile that in the dream we brought along our closest friends, and I prayed heartily that God would honor that dream and provide for our friends as well.

But then the other day I had a third dream, and I have to say that it's making me think on the dreams as a whole. And while they may have meant one thing, at the time they were signs of encouragement for the provision to come, I think that now, they may have also meant an entirely different thing to come. This doesn't mean my original interpretations were incorrect, but it is very,very interesting to see how God can bring to mind dreams of the past and give them a whole new meaning.

In this third dream, we were living in a house with yellow walls. It was winter outside, and we had family visiting us. We were all getting ready to sit down to dinner, which I was preparing, when I opened up my Bible and found salad greens in it. We ate the salad greens for dinner as a salad, although there was family who refused to eat the greens from my Bible, and all of us who partook were filled with joy and were amazed at the miracle which God had provided for us.

Let me first say that the family refusing to eat the greens did have meaning, which I won't go into, but I will say that the matter has been under considerable prayer, and I will continue to do so with urgency.

But those salad greens coming out of the Bible. Again, my first thought on waking and thinking on the dream was of the provision that God has been doing all along, and I shared this with Andy, and we went about our day (yesterday.) And then right smack dab in the middle of worship it came to me that my dream was so much more than just provision. It was an opportunity and a season coming. And I was instantly reminded of these verses above in Ezekiel about the scroll. And I'll admit, that a complete meaning and understanding is escaping me, but I do know this: the scroll in this instance is the living, breathing Word of God. And I think this is to mean a whole new manner of digesting God's Word, a season of intense hunger for His Word and taking it in as much as I possibly can. That as I open up His Word, it is going to overflow, and I am going to take it in, and it is going to fill me.

And yet, there is also a choice there. Because I can choose to eat of God's Word, or I can choose to let it pass me by. Let's talk about eating. Eating is necessary, it's how we take food in, which nourishes and sustains our physical bodies. In addition, it helps sustain our spirits, because when we are not taking in the right nutrients, systems get wacky and our emotions can be affected. Eating is necessary for life. Yet, it is also a choice what we put in our mouths. Do I eat that slice of chocolate cake for breakfast? Or do I opt for the bowl of oatmeal with raisins. Do I snack on candy and ice cream all day long, or do I reach for the apples or a handful of almonds. If I eat junk, my body will react accordingly, sickness will be rampant, my energy will wane, and I open myself up to all sort of who-knows-what. But by maintaining a healthy diet, I keep my body in working order and in check.

Wow. I've mentioned before that I've been fasting from reading fiction. And I'll readily admit that I miss it. The only fiction I've been reading is while I sit at Abigail's dance class one night a week. Other than that, if I am in the mood to read, I've been reading the Bible, and I've been learning so much, and I'm still eager for more. And I've been looking forward to reaching the end of my Bible reading so that I can really dive back into some great books... but I'm thinking that this also serves as a warning, that I need to watch what I'm reading. And just like with food, a sweet treat or dessert is okay every once in a while, but as the main course all the time, my spiritual side will suffer and will not be able to resist the attacks of the enemy.

All this from a few dreams about lettuce. God truly does speak in mysterious ways! Sometimes God's Word is sweet and wonderful and full of joy, and sometimes the Truth that is God's Word is bitter and harsh, and sits in the stomach like lead. Yet it is the truth, and I need to take in the good with the not-so-good.

"Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: "Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land."

9So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." 10I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." Revelation 10:8-11

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Love Really Is The Answer

"The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:9-10

I have just a few quick thoughts this morning as it's just the kids and I, and I'd like to spend some time with them this morning and not be in front of my computer. I've had many thoughts swimming through my head the last few weeks with all sorts of things to blog about. I've been in Proverbs the last two days, and so many of those have jumped out. Yet, when I come to sit down to blog, all these thoughts either evade me or come at once. It seems I need a journal to journal, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, this morning I jumped on here and I always read the verse of the day. Sometimes they really catch my attention, and this morning was one of those mornings. One of the thoughts I've been dwelling on and talking to God about is all the different rules and laws and whatnot that are in the Bible. I mean, if a person strives to follow every single rule that was presented in the Bible at one time or another, a person would go mad, or it would literally be impossible. And I have been slowly wrapping my thoughts around what I'm thinking of, and looking up the verses to understand what I am thinking. But this verse today just takes care of a whole bunch of thoughts at once, because once again, it comes down to love. If you look at the Ten Commandments, love is at the heart of each and every one of them. Because if you love, it won't cross your mind to murder someone. If you love, adultery won't be a temptation. If you are a loving person, you won't covet, and you won't dishonor your parents. If you open yourself up to God's Love, then there really should be no reason why the Ten Commandments should be hard to keep.

If you love God, you'll want to remember the Sabbath, I know I look forward to Sunday's and going to church, sometimes twice in one day. I'm going to go off on a bunny trail on this one. I'm thinking specifically of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It's been a while since I've read them, but I clearly remember a scene where Laura is complaining to Pa that it was Sunday, and she wanted to do something, and Pa told her to be grateful the rules weren't as strict as when he was a kid, and simply had to sit and do nothing all day long, because to do anything was considered work, and it broke the rule about keeping the Sabbath. Now I'm sure that there are those who would love to go into the details about the specific Sabbath, but for me, it's all about attitude. See, when I get up Sunday morning, I get excited, because it is Sunday, and I get to go to church and worship God and spend time in His Presence with a fellowship of believers. And sometimes, I just want that so much, we go back again in the evening for a second service. Then, later in the week, I look forward to going back to church again on Wednesday, because I just know that He's got something more to tell me. And I'll tell you, if all I could do was sit on a bench all day long on Sunday, it would be a wonderful thing to do if I was doing it while in the Presence of God. I could sit on a bench for days if it meant being in His Presence.

And it all comes back to that love. I love God so much, that I could treat every day as a Sabbath if I had no other cares to tend to. I love being filled with His Love and sharing that love with other people. It all comes down to love. If we can love our God, our family, our friends, our neighbors, and ourselves, it seems that everything else will just fall into place.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Friday, February 20, 2009

Seasons of Change

"My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.

2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore." Psalm 131

I finished up my reading in the Psalms yesterday, and this particular chapter stuck out to me. It just spoke of great contentment, particularly verse two. "But I have stilled and quieted my soul." Now doesn't that just sound so peaceful and contended? Let's talk about a weaned child for a minute, because I have to tell you, I initially thought that stilled and contended would mean a nursing child- have you ever seen a child who has just finished nursing? They have such a look of contentedness on their faces. But these verses talk about a weaned child with it's mother. Prior to weaning, a child gets their food and nourishment from their mother's breast. It's also a time of closeness and bonding. So a weaned child is a child who is no longer feeding at their mother's breast, they are no longer receiving their nourishment direct from the source, and yet... yet that child is still content. And I like to think that this verse is talking about a child crawling right up into their mother's lap for a snuggle. That physical nourishment isn't there anymore, but there is something incredibly comforting and peaceful about just being in the presence of their mother.

Even at five years old, my son can be at preschool for just three hours, and by the time those three hours are up, he's ready to be back at home with Mommy. Even if we aren't actively doing something together, he's in perfect peace and contentedness simply being in Mommy's presence.

And now this verse makes perfect sense.

I am content, like a weaned child, to simply be in His presence. For a while there, I think I was in a season of seeking. I wanted and needed more, because our situation at the time was not feeding my soul at all, and I was actively reading books and watching GodTV and really crying out for more because I was so hungry for more. I was in a season of feeding constantly, just as a child does when they are growing. When a child is growing they will eat everything in sight and still want more. But then when they seem to have caught up with their growing bodies (and of course, we notice that their clothes suddenly don't fit), the eating slows, and they are content to just eat their three meals a day and maybe a snack. I am now in that season. I am content with simply being in His presence. I don't need those big bad revelations or the big buffets to fill me up. If God wants to do more, I'm certainly not going to complain, but I am just in a period where I just love being in His Presence.

"I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me." Do you know how easy it is to do the opposite? We could spend our time just dwelling on what we don't know. We could spend every waking moment researching the Bible and other books written, trying to find answers that we just don't know, and that's all great and everything, but what is the point? God is the only one with all the answers, and sometimes, they're just not for us to know. If He wants us to know the answers, He will reveal them in His timing, but if I go to God over and over demanding answers from him, why did we have to go through that trial? Why? Why? Why? I just have to ask myself, what purpose would the answer serve? Because ultimately, aren't trials meant to grow us? And would I be disappointed if I asked God why I had to go through something, and then he turns and says "why, so you could grow, of course." I have to suspect that I would be mightily disappointed with that answer.

"who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1:5-7

So instead, I will wait on Him. If He has answers to reveal to me, wonderful. If not, wonderful. I will instead, concern my energies and my focus on Him, and simply being in His wonderful presence. Really, do I need anything more? If I never have another answer to a question ever again, I can put my hope in the Lord and rest in Him and His glorious presence. Oh, I have no doubt that I'm not done learning. I will always be learning more from Him, and as I need to know things, they will come. Life is one big long process of learning how to be a citizen of Heaven, and I have no doubt that I have a long way to go yet.

And think of this too, think of the example I can be for my children by being in this season of contentment. Where previously they may have had the examples of me complaining,of questioning why and questioning my elders and really, kind of being defiant with my attitude maybe. That's not the best example, I know. But instead, now my son walks out to the dining room and sees me reading my Bible, and asks why I'm reading my Bible. My children hear Andy and I discussing all the wonderful things that God is doing for us and is telling us, and they hear about all the good things. They hear us talking good things about other people, not the bad things. And they hear us discussing hopes and dreams for the future with the caveat that we're open to God's Will and whatever He wants for us, not just what we, the physical person wants. That's huge! And we're teaching them to be open to God's Will, simply by being an example. In the days to come, I want to share about how my children have been opened to receiving God's Will, not just for them, but for the entire family. It's been truly amazing to watch God work through their little hearts.

God is amazing, and my children are amazing, and as a parent, it's something truly special to see God at work in them.

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe." Ephesians 1:18-19

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Ministry

"'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." Acts 2:17

The other day, when I posted about battling laziness, a great discussion happened in the comments, and I woke this morning feeling like I needed to bring it out onto the blog. We were talking about remembering where our missionfield is, and where, as homemakers, our ministry is. It can be so easy for myself to get caught up in the idea that I need to have a ministry somewhere. Whether it be serving in some capacity at church, or thinking that God may have bigger plans to be his servant in the world. We talk a lot at church about preparing to go into the ministry, and we're constantly in a state of learning, learning the tools that God has for us to serve. Except that a lot of times, I leave those type of services almost sad, because I don't receive the revelation that so many do. Then I come home, and spend time with God or spend time with my kids, and I can almost hear God laughing at me and saying "this is your ministry." And then it's like, well, of course it is, I knew that.

My minstry right now is my children. Oh, sure, I'm part of the worship team at church, so yes, I am serving in an area of ministry. But that big bad ministry, that "thing" for which we're all preparing for is right under the roof of my own home, in the two little beings that have been placed in my care. At first thought, that may not seem like much, because caring for my children isn't particularly difficult, in fact, most days it's just a pure joy to me. Yet, every once in a while, something comes out with one of my kids that makes me realize just how big of a deal it really is to raise these kids in the way that God wants them to be raised.

I started off with the verse I did today, because the other day, my son had a dream. I won't share the dream, because to be honest, it won't make any sense to my readers. However, it was clearly a dream for him that came from God. First, because he felt he needed to tell me about it, and that's something he just doesn't do. And secondly, because it was amazing how well his dream tied right into something our Pastor said in his sermon last Sunday- something that Zander did not hear because he was in kids church. At first, when he told me his dream I smiled at him and hugged him and sent him off to play, because it wasn't until later, as I was thinking about him that it occurred to me what his dream really was. I really just dwelled on it for awhile, and shared it with Andy later as well, because the heart and soul of his dream told me clearly that God has plans for this young man. Big plans, and I almost feel overwhelmed to be charged with his upbringing. Am I going to raise him in the way God wants him raised? And then I think about Abigail, and I hope so much that we haven't messed up with her already...

Anyway, the entire point here is to encourage all those parents who are stay-at-home parents. Do not give in to that despair that you don't feel like you're being given a shot at ministry. You have a very, very important one right now. You are charged with raising a generation that is going to do wonderful things for God. That is your ministry, and the season you are in right now. There may come a time for this season to draw to a close, and then you will begin a new one, maybe with another ministry elsewhere, maybe in a big way. But in the here, and in the now, your ministry is sound asleep in the other room, or playing quietly, or riding on a school bus. Thank God for this wonderful ministry that we have been given, may He give us the tools we need to be successful, and may our hearts stay focused on Him and His desires for our littlle ones.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." Proverbs 21:1

Here is our weekly reminder to keep President Obama in our prayers. It is so important to keep that in mind. I think, as Christians, that one of the many reasons the previous presidency was so riddled with problems is because we, as followers of Christ, fell asleep on the job. We let President Bush down and God down by not praying for him enough. So with this new president, I'm really feeling a strong sense of urgency to keep the prayers up for him and his family. In addition, this week, let's remember to pray also for Vice President Biden as well. He may not be in the news as often as the president, but as second in command, he needs Godly protection and guidance as well. May God Bless these men who are willing to serve their country, and may He show His Presence in their lives and in their decision-making process. May they turn to God for the answers in times of need. For specific prayer requests from out nation's capital, be sure to check out The Presidential Prayer Team. Our prayers are effective, and are not going to waste!

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16

As well this week, my heart is weeping for the residents of Australia who have been devastated by wildfires, or bushfires as they are calling them there. At last count, the death toll is up to 200, with many more still missing, and feared dead. There are also still fires raging across parts of the country, and firefighters are collapsing from exhaustion. I cannot imagine what the people of that country are going through, I pray that God may give them peace and that he will show his love and compassion, and that they will know the source of that love. May God give the firefighters the supernatural energy they need to battle the blazes, and may there be no more loss of life. Let it rain, Dear Lord, let it rain on that country that is full of grief right now. May your rain be a soothing balm to a parched land- both physically and spiritually. Comfort those who have lost loved ones, and restore hope to those who have lost it.

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it." Isaiah 45:8

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Battling The Sloth

"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." 2 Chronicles 15:7

There are some days where all I really want to do is do nothing. Really. There are just some days where I would love nothing more than to check my e-mail, do some blogging, and then curl up with a great book and a long-simmering pot of stew or soup on the stove. But do you know what happens when Mom takes a day off? It's not good. The last time I was really sick, I was out for several days, and I swear it took weeks for the house to recover. If I don't keep on it, its amazing how the mess just seems to expand and explode! I can thoroughly dust one day, and a few days later I'm looking in amazement as there is a fresh new layer, waiting to be wiped off. If I don't keep on the bathrooms, they quickly get stinky and dirty and it takes very little time for a layer of mildew to start growing. These things just need to be maintained all the time.

And I'm back to the idea that some days, I really don't want to do anything. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've gotten back into an exercise routine. I do it three mornings a week while Zander is at preschool, and I really don't enjoy it. I've kept it up, and yet... this morning I was sitting here, feeling like I didn't get enough sleep, and I can't help but think that it would be nice to take a morning for myself. And just like that, it could be so easy to just shut down, and I know, I know with all I've got that it's the enemy teasing me. It's the devil dangling that carrot of slothfulness in front of my nose, and by golly, I want to resist it! Then, I read this Bible verse this morning, and it was like an IV was placed in my arm. Thank God for that! Thank God for His Word that gives me the words I need to read at just the right time. Thank God for His unfailing love that looks down with compassion and sees those days when I just need a boost!

You know, sometimes it's easy to forget that God really does care about my every day. Sure there may be grand plans down the road, but in the here and now, my ministry is right here at home, and God knows that, and I can ask Him for help, even when it comes to the mundane housework. I know my house is never going to be perfect, and that there is always going to be more laundry to do, but it is God who gives me the strength and the energy to get up every single morning and start anew and fresh. For me, it's also about that time with Him though. Because what am I doing while I'm doing the mundane? I'm praying. When I'm putting away laundry or vacuuming or doing dishes, my mind doesn't have to be on a task I've done thousands of time, so I spend that time with God, talking to Him, telling Him about my plans, thanking Him for my family and for new friends. If I were caught up in a book or watching something, my mind would be focused on that, and not on God. So it's a win-win situation for God, really. If He helps me out by giving me the energy I need to get my work done, He's also giving me the time to focus on Him. Isn't that just fun to think on?

"She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. " Proverbs 31:27

As tempting as that bread of idleness may be sometimes, I choose to leave it alone. I choose, instead, the Bread of Life.

"For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." John 6:33

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Importance of Remembering

"When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." John 6:5-14

A few weeks ago at church our Pastor was gone, ministering elsewhere, and we had another elder in the church deliver the Sunday morning message. He did a fantastic job, so much so, that it's been over a week and I'm still thinking on the things he said. One of the things he talked on was the feeding of the five-thousand that Jesus did. He talked about some of the details, like how the people divided up into groups, and how the twelve disciples handed out all the food to all the people, and how long did we think it actually took to break and serve all the food that was handed out? It had to have taken some time, yet when all was said and done, a truly amazing miracle had taken place, and the disciples had taken an active part in it. I point out that bit about them taking an active part in the miracle, because it's amazing to read the Bible, and see that right after they left this crowd of people, it seems the disciples had forgotten what they had just witnessed and participated in. Not even a few hours after they watched God feed a multitude with a few loaves of bread and two fish, and they were already forgetting what they had witnessed.

"When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." John 6:16-20

Just like that, just a few hours later, the disciples were afraid of a storm, and afraid of Jesus walking on the water. Why? Just a few hours earlier they had seen Jesus perform an amazing miracle- in fact, they helped him do it. Yet, just like that, the wonder of that miracle escaped them and they reacted to their natural surroundings and forgot their faith.

It's the exact same way with us, and why it is so important for us to remember the things that God has done for us. We can be going along good, when the devil decides to poke a big stick at us, and we fear that stick, so we start running, and we pray to be delivered from that stick, and we pray with urgency and fear, because we don't want to be taken over. And sometimes this can go on for a long time (days, weeks, months, even years.), but then something stirs inside of us and it's like "oh,yeah, by the way, devil, that stick can't hurt me." Poof, it's gone, and we remember that with God before us, who can be against us.

So that's just one of the many reasons why we read our Bible's over and over. And that's why we tell stories of what God has done in the past, we're reinforcing our faith for the future. We're building that faith so that when the adversary does rise up, he have that faith built right in to know that God is always the victor. Always. It's like The Little Engine That Could. The more we tell our stories of faith, the more they become part of our very being. Just as that little engine told himself "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, " over and over, which eventually turned into "I know I can, I know I can, I know I can." I know I can, because I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. And more importantly, I know God can, and God will, every single time.

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength. " Philippians 4:13

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Whisper

"The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 1 Kings 19:11-13

I have never heard God actually speak to me. I know it's possible, because I know people who talk to God all the time. Yet, I do mention from time to time how God tells me things, and God has told me things. He talks to me through my Bible, through my conscience/feelings via the Holy Spirit, through other people, through my Pastor, through my situations, and sometimes through my children. (Sometimes through the children in a big way!) But I've never had that voice in my head that I thought was what it would be like to have God actually talk to me.

I've been reading my Bible front to back since the fifth of January. Our church did a corporate fast, and for myself, I chose to fast from reading anything other than the Bible- which is a huge deal for me. Anyone who knows me knows I always have my nose in several books and magazines at the same time. Leading up to the fast, I was praying about what I should fast, and God gently showed me how much time I was spending reading- but not reading His Word. I would maybe read a chapter in the morning, maybe just a few verses, but I could easily spend an hour reading a book during my lunch time. So for the ten day fast, I started in Genesis and anytime I felt like reading, I picked up my Bible. Once the fast was done, I decided to keep going, so every day at lunch time, instead of reading my books or flipping through a magazine, I'm reading the Bible, and even reading at the fast pace that I am, I catch so many wonderful things that I may have just not noticed before.

Like today's passage. Today's passage leaped off the page in a big way several weeks ago. I was reading, and when I got to "after the fire came a gentle whisper" I froze solid. If I'd have been standing, I would have had to sit. I'd always assumed that if God chose to talk to me with a voice, that it would be deep and booming, and full of authority and command. But this gentle whisper... I instantly was taken back to a day late last summer where I was lazing about in bed. It was one of those decadent mornings where the kids were already up, but I was taking my time rolling out of bed, and dozing in and out. When I swear, I heard an audible male voice whisper right in my right ear "Erika." Was all it was, but it made me sit up straight and tall, and open my eyes big and wide. I glanced around, but saw no one, thought about how Andy was working out of town and not home, and maybe this was God's way of saying I should get up. And as I thought about it some more, getting dressed, I wondered if God was trying to help me out and if unexpected company was dropping in, so I spent that morning cleaning the house up a bit, and over time, generally forgot about that whisper.

And now, after reading that passage in 1 Kings 19, I am filled with regret and sadness that I did not recognize that whisper for what it was. What would God have told me had I recognized His voice and His gentle whisper and simply said "Yes, Lord." Instead I was so focused on the natural and the now, that I looked around, looking for a physical answer to the voice I'd heard. It didn't come from my head- that much I know, and I can still hear that whisper plain as day. What if I'd responded how I should have, with that "Yes, Lord" or "Here I Am"?

"And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!" "Here I am," he replied." Genesis 46:2

"In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered." Acts 9:10

I've been dwelling on this ever since. I've certainly apologized to God for my stubborn human-ness, and I've asked Him to give me another chance. At the same time though, I have to confess, that actually hearing the voice of God is a step that frightens me a bit. Am I really ready for that? Only God can know, and when He thinks I'm ready, He'll speak again. And I am so thankful for the one whisper I did have. Of all the people in the world, he chose to whisper to me, and that is something amazing to think of.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pruning, A Hard Reality

"I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.

2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.

3 "Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.

4 What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?" Isaiah 5:1-4

I woke up this morning thinking about grapevines and pruning. And tomatoes and pruning. I love tomatoes, especially growing them and it's amazing how a life lesson will fit in so beautifully today with what is on my mind.

See, last year, for the first time, I started growing tomatoes completely from seed. It was a complete learning experience for me, because I also started with heirloom tomatoes. When you go to the local nurseries and buy established plants, usually they're not heirlooms- which means they are more like tomato plants than tomato vines. I grew tomato vines. As each seed burst forth into seedlings I became increasingly excited. I watched and tended each plant carefully as they sprouted and grew and then really started to grow. When they were almost two feet tall, it finally warmed up enough to plant them into the garden, so I did that. And then watched with joy as each plant stretched out towards the sun as if in a race and continued to grow. I had to add to the trellises, they grew so tall and lush! But there was one thing I didn't do. I didn't prune my tomato plants at all. My reasoning was that I had such a small garden and only so much room for tomatoes, that all the branches that could bear fruit should, and there was my downfall. Oh, I had tomatoes all right, but I had so many more green ones. And I had so many blossoms simply fall off because that one main tomato stem with just one root system could not pull enough nutrients out of the soil to sustain so many branches on the one plant. I didn't prune, and as a result, my plants suffered, as often times the energy the plant had was sent to sickly branches, or worse- to branches without a lick of fruit on it.

I learned a very valuable lesson that pruning is absolutely necessary for good growth, and I suspect the very same thing with grapevines. It's the same for fruit and nut trees- good pruning ensures the absolute best growth. What is completely ironic, and now I see God's hand in everything is that the same time I was learning my lesson about pruning tomatoes, I was learning a lesson about pruning in my life. In our life, actually, because we learned about pruning as a family. God wanted to do something new, something great for us, and wanted us to bear the best fruit possible, but He saw a need to trim away some branches that were using valuable energy that could be diverted elsewhere. God placed in us a desire to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and there were fruitless branches that were holding us back from bearing that fruit.

Don't let anyone ever fool you into thinking that pruning is easy. Because the branches that were needing to be pruned were the church we were in, and after building the friendships and relationships over the years, it was so incredibly hard to realize that God wanted us to be elsewhere. What we didn't expect was how hard and painful it was actually going to be. While one part of us was excited to move on and find the Spirit-driven church that God had for us, the other part of us was trying to cling to the relationships we'd established there. And it hurt over the first few weeks after we'd left, seeing people who were our friends look the other way when we saw them. We'd made different choices in our life that they didn't understand, and to them, we'd basically said that they weren't good enough for us. And while that isn't true in the least, what is true is that God was doing some serious pruning. How would it be for us to go on to a Spirit led and driven church, and then get together with our friends and share all the wonderful things that God would do in us? I'll tell you exactly how, they wouldn't understand, and they would become alarmed, and concerned for us, and without even realizing it, the devil would try to use our closest friends to change our path.

I would be lying if I said it has gotten easier. I mean, it has in some regard, because we have chosen to wish nothing but the best for our friends and our old church community. We pray for them often, and have nothing but love for them. And at the same time, we're slowly forging new friendships and new beginnings- friendships that will encourage and support the new growth that God is doing in us.

The verses above in Isaiah reminded me that growing good fruit takes work. You can plant the choicest vines, create the ideal atmosphere, but unless you give that fruit the pruning it needs, and the fertilizing it needs, the produce from it is going to falter. The vines need care and proper attention. And fertilizer- oh, that wonderful fertilizer which comes from the Holy Spirit and encourages the blossoms to swell with beautiful fruit. And while at times, the pruning can be painful, the results at the end will be completely worth it. The new fruit will come, and will be even juicier and greater than the fruit was before. God knows exactly what he is doing when it is time to prune. Rest in Him and let the Master Gardener do what He does best, let Him tend His garden and His vineyard.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:1-4

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Courage For Change

"Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 (Amplified)

I've been talking to God a lot lately about my little blog here. And not just this blog, but all my other ones as well. See, they take time to do, and there are many days where I just wonder if it's too much, and maybe I should cut back. And in the months ahead, we're going to be seeing changes in our household and in our daily routine (more to come on that in the months ahead, I promise) and I've been trying to reconcile the time I spend blogging with the time I spend doing other things. Do I spend enough time with my children? Husband? Doing housework (well, there's never enough time for that one), spending time with God... we're just always revolving around time, and I guess I came to it a few weeks back where I kind of looked at God and said, you know, if you want me to cut back, I'll do it. I'll miss it, but I'll do it. Then I sort of fretted about God telling me to cut back, you know?


Except God had a very different answer for me. "Blog more." Is what he said, and not just blog more, but "Blog the Truth." While at first I was thrilled with continuing my blogging, I suddenly became nervous. Because while I have always blogged the truth here at Heart & Soul, a lot of the times it's been watered down. I've worried about causing offense to someone, or worried that I'd say the wrong thing and hurt someone unintentionally. And actually, as I go through some of my archives, and my older posts, I can see how far I've come from where I began. It's truly stunning to look back at one of the first series' I did on the names of God. Then, I was learning the names of God, what they meant and how they came to be, and now... now I actually use them! When I pray, I use those precious names of God and I love just dwelling in the presence of Elohim or Adonai. Just thinking about Jehovah Shalom fills me with the peace that passes all understanding.

There's more here than what I think I'm saying, and please bear with me as I get this all straight today. Because God's been working on me big time on breaking free, and I'm really struggling with it. I've been trying to let go of past embarrassments, but you don't realize how hard it is until you realize exactly what's holding you back. A few weeks ago, I learned what it was that was holding me back, and that is my past. I grew up in a church, with Christian friends...only, I guess they weren't the best friends. We were friends and all at church, but once we got to school, we never mingled. And there was something else, all my friends wouldn't let God in. We would get God hardcore at conferences and camps, and while I would take the opportunity to step out and worship, they wouldn't... and at first I didn't let that bother me. But then the talk started, and romantic attractions became very real to me, and I think that somehow I connected "getting with God" with "not getting the boy." And overall, it really held me back from any real experiences with God I might have had as a teenager. Who knows what cute boy might be watching! Now, you would think that wouldn't matter to me anymore, with me being very blessed in a happy marriage, but I guess it still does, just on a different level.

One of the many things I've been learning about and working on and I have mentioned it a few times here is that God speaks to me in dreams. It doesn't happen every night, or regularly, but every once in a while I have a very vivid dream that wakes me when it's over. I'm familiar with the sensation now of waking from those dreams, and I immediately pray and ask God to bring meaning to me, and sometimes I go back to sleep,and sometimes, I think on the dream and pray about it for awhile. I admit that I have a whole slew of dreams that I don't have meanings for yet, but on this particular day, I had a dream that I was really looking forward to going to see a speaker at church. I was beyond excited for the whole experience, and even more excited when I got there and found one of my best guy friends there too. Except that worship started, and I began worshipping, and then this friend walked right up behind me and wrapped his arms around me. I was so distracted, I couldn't worship anymore, but there was an added element that I kind of liked what he was doing-I didn't fight the distraction, and as a result I missed out on what the speaker said. Then I switched to a different scene where I was trying to cook dinner for the kids, and this same person came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me. Once again, I liked it, it was warm and comforting, and something I wanted, but it was distracting me from preparing dinner, and I totally ruined dinner because of the distraction.

All this to say that I'm still not there, I've still not broken free from being concerned about what other people think of me. It's getting better, but I'm just not there yet, and as long as this is out there weighing on me, I feel like I'm missing out. So... yes, back to my original point. God has been working on me a lot on boldness, and while I'm not all there, I am going to begin by putting all I've got right here. I'm going to share words that come to me while I'm reading my Bible. I'm going to share those profound verses that speak volumes at the strangest times, and I'm going to do my best to not put a spin on what I share, but I'm also not going to sugar coat what I say. I'm going to talk about dreams more often, because it's what God is working with me on, and it's frustrating sometimes to not share them- even when I don't always know their meanings. God is doing a new thing in me- and I need to share it.

I'm also going to do a lot more within the world of "Bible Blogging". I mentioned yesterday that there are so many bloggers out there- and you know what the best part of that is? We're all different! Now, granted, some of the Bible bloggers can be bad bloggers, I guess, but there is so much good out there! I love that I can connect with women (and men) who maybe worship in a different way than I do- but still worship the same God. And not only that, we're connecting around the globe, and it gives completely new meaning to "Go ye into all the world." Because I can, right from my very own living room. I'm going to spend time visiting and encouraging other bloggers, because we all have the same goal and purpose- to win those valuable souls. My Wartime Wednesday event is a seedling that I'm hoping will take root and spread like the dickens, because imagine if we all worked together towards that common goal... watch for changes in the sidebar as I add precious bloggers and ministries that I value or support.

And all of this came about because I decided to start blogging my daily devotions. I needed a form of accountability, and blogging became it. As long as I was blogging the Bible daily, I was reading the Bible daily. And now... well, let's just say that I don't need my blog to keep my nose in His Word. I can't get enough these days, and I'm constantly asking Him to show me more. And I pray with all my heart that I can rise to the occasion and do what He has asked of me.

The new thing is springing forth, and I will give it heed. I will let it spring, and I will say yes, and I will enter the door that is in front of me.

"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. 8I 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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Warfare Wednesday!

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." Jeremiah 29:12

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel," Ephesians 6:19

"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." Colossians 4:3

Welcome to Warfare Wednesday! Have you been praying for our president? This week, let's keep him and his family in our prayers, as they have been spending time addressing the nation. They're traveling, talking to people and communities, trying to offer encouragement on our struggling economy. I just cannot imagine how daunting of a task that must be for them. Pray for wisdom for the president and for his assembled leadership, may they guide this country the way it needs to go, and may he present real hope to the people, and not a false hope or a band-aid.

According to The Presidential Prayer Team, we should also be praying for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg had surgery last week for pancreatic cancer. Let's trust in God for a healing of her body and a swift recovery.

In addition to our country's leadership this morning, I want to pray for a rather unique group of people... this week I've really been inspired by the words of fellow bloggers. I read as God used a blogger's story to completely touch another person who had been struggling, and honestly, it was the first time where I saw that indeed, God can and will use this wonderful blogosphere to reach out. There are so many people out there blogging God's Word, and I just really feel led to pray for this unique group of people as a whole. We've become such an internet world, that I have to think that when someone is down and out and struggling, they're going to turn to their computer. I frequently find that I receive blog traffic by people doing google searches on subjects like "trusting in God", "finding faith" and "listening to the Holy Spirit." This is just an area where I really think that God is going to use all these people to affect some change. Think about it! It wasn't that long ago that when someone was having a rough time, they had to find the courage to walk or drive to a local church and seek guidance there. Now they can turn on their computer, do a google search, and in a matter of seconds, they're reading encouragement from God's Word. It's incredible!

So this morning, in addition to praying for our leadership, I want to pray for all the bloggers who are blogging the Bible. May God give them wisdom in their words, and may God lead those who are hurting to the right words that they need. May the words that we put on our blog pages be laced with God's love and the power of the Holy Spirit, and may those who read it feel those very things leaping off the page.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are You Yeasty?

"He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Matthew 13:33

Have you ever made bread from scratch? I do it all the time, and every time I make a new batch of bread, I marvel at the simplicity of it. Simply flour, salt, water and yeast are needed to make a great loaf of bread. There is usually a large amount of flour, and just a touch of yeast, because yeast grows and expands throughout the bread process. When you knead your dough, you're giving it the love it needs to expand- essentially, you're giving it a massage, your twisting and stretching and pulling, making it so that the dough will expand and take in air without exploding or turning to mush. You're also distributing the yeast, so it goes all throughout the dough. Then you set your dough aside to rest for a while, and the magic happens while it is resting. The dough expands, it can double it's size and then some, as the yeast begins to work. As the yeast eats the sugars in the dough, it releases the gases that are necessary for the dough to expand. Also, while the dough is feeding and expelling gas, it's also breeding and expanding. It multiplies fast, and if kept at an ideal, warmish temperature, that yeast will expand quickly and fill the bread with yeast flavor and the gasses necessary to rise.

So when I read in my Bible that the Kingdom of God is like yeast, I can totally understand, relate, and pray that I can maintain the correct temperature. Think of it. When someone becomes saved for the first time, they take in that yeast from Heaven. It permeates them, it puffs them up and fills them. If they feed it properly, with regular church attendance, Bible reading, and prayer, that yeast will grow and expand, and with proper care and attention, perhaps they will end up sharing that yeast. Sharing yeast is easy. All it takes is one little portion of dough to go from one ball of dough to another to share the yeast. In fact, sourdough is made with a yeast concoction that is fed in a particular way, and can last for decades if properly taken care of. It's kind of fun to think that as Christians, we're walking around sharing lumps of dough, and with the right attention, any one or more of those lumps of dough can turn into something so much more.

But sometimes, yeast isn't fed properly, and the dough doesn't do what it should. If, for example, your dough is too hot, it will kill the yeast, and you'll end up with a misshapen lump of hard flour as your end result. And there is something that Jesus mentioned specifically that I think deserves a little more attention, and that is that the woman worked the yeast into the dough. It took work and diligence. A great loaf of bread is not a quick task. It takes a long time to knead dough to the perfect consistency. So sometimes, as we're sharing the Kingdom of God with those around us, it's going to take a little work. It's going to take some diligence in prayer, and perseverance on our part. And we can also take heart if the yeast doesn't activate in someone right away.

One of the neatest aspects of yeast is that it can be removed and dried out, yet it will still be perfectly good to use. In those cases, the yeast just needs a little hydration to reactivate and come back to life. So when we encounter someone who maybe was living for God for a time, but clearly isn't anymore, we can water their dried yeast gently. We can drop words of faith into conversations with them. One time, one of those drops will catch, and that yeast will fire right back up again. One of the problems with us as Christians today is that we walk around worried that we are going to offend someone. We don't say what's on our mind because we're worried the other person is going to think us a Looney Toon. But what if that person is just waiting for the right word to make them realize that they are making a mistake? When we tiptoe on eggshells because we don't want to offend, we're not doing anyone any favors. If someone is dried up, they need to see that God matters. They need to hear how God has been faithful and has blessed you, and they need prayers from the faithful.

You know, this whole discussion of bread and yeast reminds me that I don't know anyone who would turn down the gift of bread. Really, if I baked up a loaf of homemade bread, I can't think of a single person who would tell me they don't like bread. Now, there are people who can't eat bread due to illness and diseases, but even they, when asked, will say the one thing they miss eating more than anything is bread. Bread is life, and if we look at the love of God like we look at a loaf of bread, why wouldn't we want to share it with everyone we know?

"But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:50-51

Monday, February 09, 2009

Tithing In Tough Times

"As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything." 2 Chronicles 31:5

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Malachi 3:10

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward" Matthew 10:42

One of my most-read blog entries is the one I did some time ago about tithing on unemployment. That was a tough lesson that Andy and I had to learn and go through, and I thought that maybe it was time to re-visit it a little bit. Now, I could probably give content here for weeks on tithing and giving and doing so joyfully, but today I want to just give a little bit of encouragement.

I know what it's like to not be able to put anything in the offering plate. I am definitely one of those cheerful givers, any little bit (or big bit) that I can give is reason for celebration. If I am putting an amount of money in the offering plate, it's because God has blessed me in some way so that I am able to give it. I love it when we can write a tithe check at church, because I know there are building repairs that need to be done, salaries to be paid, and other expenses that need to be taken care of. My tithe helps see those things done. And if those things are being taken care of, that's one less thing that our Pastor and his team need to focus their attentions on. It's really a win-win situation for all. So when I can't tithe, I'll readily admit that I feel like I'm failing my church in some reason. Except that I know that God sees my heart, and this is where we can all take heart in not being able to give sometimes.

Because we are not just Sunday morning pew-warmers. There is also the matter of our time. I did a post once upon a time about tithing my time, and giving God 24 minutes of my day, and I think that needs to be taken into consideration. So many times I see in church situations that the people who have the most willing hearts, are the people who have the least. So let's think about this. Let's say you spend several hours a week at church taking care of business-whether it be teaching a class, serving as an usher, or cleaning the toilets, God sees that. He sees your willing heart and your willingness to give of your time. And it's more than just the physical works, it's the heartfelt prayer. When you spend time in prayer, praying for your church and your church leaders, praying for the various needs in the church, God sees that too, and I know he smiles on that.

So I guess I'm saying this, sometimes, it just isn't possible to give. For Andy and I, we had a serious lesson in trusting God to learn, so God wanted us to tithe on our unemployment. But that doesn't mean that's for everyone to do. It's an individual thing, and if you're wondering if you should be tithing on the very little bit you have coming in, that's something you need to talk to God about. Because I know this, God is a God of love, and he wouldn't want your heat to be turned off on you while you were putting money in the offering plate instead of paying your bills. But when we aren't able to give, when that offering basket goes by and there literally is nothing to drop in, choose that moment to thank God for those who are able to give, ask God to bless their gifts, and ask God for other opportunities for you to give. Maybe that lady across the aisle could use some help getting out to her car today. Or maybe that man over there is having a hard time finding a job and could use some extra prayers.

God sees the heart, and I think if we can remember that, and think on that, we can remember to give cheerfully when the opportunity arises. And when we are unable, we can still be cheerful and ask God to show us what we can give. God is a God of love, and that doesn't change with the economy.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Honoring God With Your 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; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." Genesis 1:29

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Anyone who knows me knows that food is a major part of my life. I love food, I love everything about it. I love growing it, cooking with it, learning about it, and eating it, of course. One area that I haven't been too interested in until recently was the science of it. More and more though, I've been trying to learn all that I can about nutrition and what foods make the body tick, and in which ways. It's fascinating stuff, and God made our bodies so unique in every way. Digestion alone is such a complex process, and I often find myself wondering the whys- why did God make our bodies this way? And why is it so complicated to take care of them?

All the same, I've felt a drive to do a better job taking care of the body I have, and especially to take better care of my children's bodies. It says right there in 1 Corinthians that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and knowing that makes me want to do so much better. And for a while there, I think I was kind of slipping a bit. Exercise? Who needs that? I didn't really need to eat a balanced diet- did I? Some of the basic principles of a healthy body though are diet and exercise, and as I would reach at the grocery store for some of those less than healthy products, I would feel that... niggling in the back of my head. That feeling that I should not put this thing in my cart. And then there was my children. What am I teaching them when I just let them eat chicken nuggets, pizza, and hot dogs? I'm not teaching them a whole lot, am I? And I'm certainly not doing them any favors. It's easy for them to tell me the list of foods that they don't like, but what they don't know at their young ages is that taste is constantly developing. There is a reason the experts say to introduce new foods 15 times to babies- tastebuds are some of the most unique thing God developed in us. He gave us this incredible sense of bitterness to keep a young child from putting something poisonous and toxic in our mouths. Anytime I ever hear an adult talk about how much they dislike certain foods, I want to ask them how often they try eating such a thing. Even us grown adults can change our tastes, I know I have.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this post this morning. But because I've felt such a need to do a better job to take care of my body, I've trusted that those feelings were from God. I have started exercising again after a long time of just thinking about exercising. I'm slowly finding that my stamina is building back up, and I do feel much better now that I'm doing it three days a week. Eating wise, there are big changes coming to our household, I think. Some have already been a work-in-progress. God gave us such a wonderful variety of food, we should be eating accordingly. God gave us so many fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats to choose from, that there is no reason for us to eat garbage from a box. Really. God did not make preservatives and call it good. God did not press pork, chicken, and beef parts together, call it a hot dog, and tell us to eat it. And I guess, for me, when I say something like, it really doesn't matter, I'm telling God that he doesn't matter. It's so important that I teach my children that it does matter.

I can tell you that I hate the exercising. I really do. I hate that I'm devoting that 45 minutes in the morning to sweating and raising my heart rate. I haaaaaate it. But I know it's good for me, so I'll keep doing it. I can't think about what else I could be doing during that time, or I will get tempted to fail and stop doing it. I guess I'm of the mindset that this is the only body I'm going to get, and I need to take care of it the best way possible. I need to take care of it in a way that honors God. If I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, I'm not taking care of the temple if I'm putting garbage into it. In fact, by putting garbage in, I make it easier for the devil to attack with disease and illness. So I'm going to continue on this journey that God has laid before me, and I'm going to share the journey with my children. May God give me the perseverance and the patience to see this through.