Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Open Up Our Hearts

"The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.

12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom." Deuteronomy 28:11-13

I've had this song in my head for a good 24 hours now. It just kind of popped in, I guess. I fell asleep with it running through my head, woke up in the middle of the night with it there, and then woke up this morning with it going on still. It's a good one, even though there are only a few words to it. It's just so true, and it's wonderful mantra to have stuck in your head.

As I was lying in my bed last night I was thinking about this song, the fact that I was singing it over and over again, and I just had a mental picture of it being "my song". I had a picture of myself walking through the woods, dancing and singing this song to God. I had a picture of myself singing it as I worked the garden, and I had a picture of singing it as I did my daily housework.

This verse above is just so full of imagery- imagine an open Heaven, where everything we could possibly need is just there. It's just that it's not impossible with God, and I love thinking about that. At first, when I read verses like this, I am reminded of His Provision, and that He always provides, and He most certainly does, but I want more than just God's provision and stuff. I want God. I want to know Him! I want to know what God wants me to do, and I want to be an obedient servant. And I want an open heart, that I won't disregard anything He has to show me or tell me. And I don't want to be afraid anymore. I don't want to be afraid that getting closer to Him is going to cost me something important, which is always what reigns me in. I know that I know that that's the enemy trying to keep me from that intimacy which I crave, but at the same time...

So I'm going to keep this song with me today. And these verses in Deuteronomy, and as I go about my day, I am just going to dwell. I have a morning to myself- the first in a few weeks, and I'm going to spend some time talking to God and asking what He has for me today.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sharing, Even In Lean Times

10"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.

11John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Luke 3:10-11

Last night as I was driving home from church, the radio station I was listening to went to a little spot where a man from an organization in Africa talked for a little bit. I didn't catch the specifics, what organization he was from, or who he was, unfortunately. But he was talking about a great blessing that they were experiencing, specifically a delivery of food. He was so delighted and excited to share with the listeners that they had just received into their possession a large container holding 250,000 meals. He then shared about these meals. They were small containers, about the size of a Reader's Digest magazine, that held rice, vitamins, dried vegetables, minerals and seasonings, and you add water to it and one meal would feed six people. He couldn't wait to start distributing these meals to the people of Liberia, where he was. In addition, he was really excited to share that they had also received about four containers worth of dried beans, and they would be distributing those as well.

And as I listened to this man talk about how wonderful it was to receive these food items, and how he couldn't wait to share them with the hungry people who need it, I just felt horribly embarrassed I guess. Even though I was the only one in the van listening. When Andy is laid off, I really hold back when it comes to grocery shopping, I buy what we need, and a few things for the kids, but for us, it's bare bones shopping and cooking. Yet, when I look in my freezer and pantry, we could feed our family, if we really needed to, we could feed our family easily for a month, at least. It might not be the most tastiest food, or the biggest variety, but we could do it. And I thought about how, even though we are in our lean times, we are truly blessed in every way. We have more than we need, yet there are people in this world who literally have nothing.

I am reminded of a book I read not too long ago that I still think about. It was called "What The World Eats" and there were photos and dialogue with people from all around the world. I still think about that mother in Africa, who was taken with a photo of a week's worth of food for her family, and that week's worth of food was nothing more than a small bag of beans, some seasonings, and a few meager looking vegetables, oh, and I think some corn or wheat- some grain that they pulverize to make a rough bread. How is it, that in this day and age of technology and excess that there are still whole groups of people starving to death? That 250,000 meals in a container ship should be so much more than that.

And so this morning, I'm just praying for... an awareness I guess. An eye-opening to what truly is going on around me. I want those opportunities to share and give, but first they need to present themselves, and I need to see a solution. I can't share what we don't have, but I want to be able to share what we do have. So may God open my eyes to the need around me. May He provide opportunities to share His love, and may He open my eyes to what needs to be shared. We have so much, and so many have so little, and that's just not right.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bad Yeast

"When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

7They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread."

8Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Matthew 16:5-12

My daily Bible reading has taken me much longer than I thought it would, but I've finally reached the gospels. The last few days I read the book of Matthew and half of Mark, and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Matthew. In particular, reading it straight through like I did, I caught some of the relational dynamics between Jesus and his disciples. The passage I posted above had me laughing pretty good the other day, because after spending so much time with Jesus and helping him do miracles and receiving many of his teachings, the disciples still didn't quite understand everything. In this particular instance, they had just finished feeding four-thousand people, they'd been part of a huge miracle, and I have to think that they were still in the "afterglow" of the whole thing. And then Jesus tells them to beware the yeast of the Sadducees and Pharisees.

Now, these twelve men know that Jesus talks in parables, and here they are, they'd just been part of something spectacular, and Jesus gives them a warning, and can't you just picture these men sitting in the boat discussing this? And the end result they come up with is that Jesus is annoyed with them because they forgot to bring bread? They just watched him break seven loaves to feed four thousand, and they thought he wanted bread. In the words of Bugs Bunny, what a bunch of maroons! Jesus is incredulous at their interpretation of what he said to them, and I can just see the exasperation on His face as they miss his point entirely.

So what was His point? He was comparing the teachings of the Sadducees and Pharisees to yeast. Yeast is mentioned several times in the Bible to describe teachings and influence- both good and bad. In this case, it was bad influence. Yeast is an incredible organism which multiplies rapidly. It feeds on sugars and expands very quickly. With proper feeding, a single yeast organism can multiply into the thousands in no time at all. By saying that the teachings of the Sadducees and Pharisees were like yeast, he was saying that those bad teachings will spread quickly if not nipped in the bud. All it takes is one person to hear the words of the false teachers and believe them to be right. Then that one person shares that with another and another, and so on. Before you know it, an entire community has taken the bad teachings for gospel, because the yeast was fed and spread.

In the same way, taking those teachings into ourselves can be dangerous. If we open ourselves up to bad influence and negative influences, how long before those influences actually become an influence? We do need to be wary of what we're taking in, we need to be careful of the movies and books and tv shows and websites we open ourselves up to, because the devil will use anything he can to try and scatter his bad yeast. This doesn't mean that we need to lock ourselves in a box, but it does mean that we need to be on guard. If we're watching a tv show, and something doesn't sit right about it, we need to turn it off. If we're watching a movie- even if we're at the theater and we paid for it, we need to walk out and get away from it. We need to be on guard against those things which will cause us to become unclean in the eyes of God.

"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' " Matthew 15:17-20

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Give Me Your Eyes

Time for another song.

This was us before Jesus came into our lives:

" 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'

10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed." Isaiah 6:9,10

Then Jesus came into our lives and opened our eyes and ears, but really, how open are they?

"Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." John 9:39

Some of us have not come into our eyes and ears yet. Some of us are still so focused on the inside and what is going on inside that we are blind to what is going around us. We are deaf to all the people around us whose souls are crying out for help. We don't hear them and we don't see them, we're so focused on our selves.

And it's so easy to do that. *Smile* I myself am a home-body. I love being at home, and while I am not a fan of winter, I love that winter weather keeps me at home. Given the right set of circumstances, I could very easily be that little hermit who never comes out of her shell. And I'll tell you, sometimes the very last thing I want to do is start up a conversation with a neighbor. I like my peace and quiet! But I do start up those conversations. Because my eyes and ears have been opened and I know that my neighbors need God, and I can't be an example for Him if I shut myself in my little bubble and never come out. It's hard sometimes- it can be hard enough talking to someone I know, let alone a complete stranger.

I remember when I was young going for a walk with my mom, and she would always (always!) smile and say hi to people when we passed them. That must have made some kind of impression on me, because it wasn't that long ago that I was on my own walk with my kids and it was amazing how many people would just walk on by without so much as a glance in our direction. We were on the same piece of sidewalk and they would just go on about their business. Really? We can't even smile and say hi anymore? Now, I can see where being on the busy streets of a major city that might not be such a practical idea, but this is small town America, and people have forgotten how to simply say hi. Even at the grocery store, you go to check out and they just start doing their work, checking your stuff, not everyone greets you.

I guess it has to start with that greeting- a simple hi or hello. We hear mention every once in a while about street evangelism and witnessing, and I cannot imagine how hard that must be in a world where people don't even say hi! It seems to me that in order to get to that point, you need to start somewhere, and you start by saying hi. And as you pass the same people day after day, you start to add a little more "Good to see you," or "beautiful day isn't it?" And maybe that will open up to more conversations down the road. But we have to start somewhere, and we can't do it alone. So today's song is more than appropriate as Brandon Heath sings "give me your eyes so I can see." What don't we see as we're out and about? I want my eyes to be opened. I can't share my Jesus if I can't see who to share with.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:4

Abigail has really been getting into astronomy this year at school. They've been studying the planets and learning about outer space and the space program, and it's just been wonderful to see her really take to it and want to learn more. As a result, in the past week, together we've been spending time exploring the NASA website and the NASA channel on our Skyangel. It was pretty remarkable to sit with my daughter and watch the astronauts in space do a spacewalk while we were watching live. And so this week, with space on the brain in our household, it seems only fitting that we spend some time praying for the astronauts in space right now. They are scheduled to undock from the space station today and will return home on Saturday. Let's pray for their continued safety in all their activities and that the space shuttle returns home without any incidences or troubles. I was Abigail's exact age and in third grade when I was interested in space, and that was the year the Challenger exploded. With prayer, our children don't need to experience that disaster in their lifetimes.

On the Presidential front, we will continue to pray for wisdom and guidance for the president and his team of advisers. President Obama also recently announced the creation of a Food Safety Working Group, which is a subject near and dear to my foodie heart. Let's pray for wisdom for this new group of people, that they can establish reasonable guidelines for food safety, and that they will be easily implemented all across the board. Let's pray that the guidelines will be such that even the smallest of businesses will be able to comply with little detriment to their business.

Last night President Obama addressed the nation for the second time in his Presidency (64 days in by the way). Let's give thanks for this president's willingness to take issues before the country that elected him our commander-in-chief, and pray that he will continue to be as forthcoming with his plans and his agenda. Today the president is meeting with members of the Democratic congress over his proposed budget. Let's pray for a peaceful resolution to their differences, and pray for wisdom for the whole situation. Let us pray that they will look to God for the answers, and not man, as man will always fail, and God is the only answer for a struggling economy.

For other prayer needs, and to sign up for weekly e-mail updates, check out The Presidential Prayer Team.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Incredible Memory

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." Psalm 23:2

Last night, as I lay in bed almost asleep, I was thinking, and praying a little bit. For the past few weeks I've been tired. With a cold and other things keeping me from getting a good nights rest, I'm just tired of waking in the morning- looking forward to going back to bed. And last night I was just kind repeating Psalm 23:1 to myself about not wanting, and then I started rolling out the rest of the Psalm. The whole thing. I recited it in my mind, oh, about a dozen times or so, and then I thought about how incredible it was that I was remembering this Psalm.

Psalm 23 was the very first thing I ever memorized from the Bible. I was seven years old, and I had to memorize it to earn a music badge for the girls group I was in. I worked very hard at it, memorized it, and here I am, twenty-some years later and I still remember the entire thing. That's rather remarkable to me, because it's not something I dwell on very often. It's not like every once in a while I think to myself that I should recall Psalm 23, because I don't. But when it comes up every once in a while, it always makes me smile, because it's as if I have those verses written right on the wall of my brain, I just remember it so well. And last night, after repeating it a few times, I have to say that I fell into a very deep, very peaceful slumber. This morning I woke up as if I had been led beside green pastures and still waters, because for the first time in several weeks I do feel refreshed this morning.

Something that we've been learning a lot in church lately has been the importance of learning our scripture- committing it to memory so that we can pray the verses that are in the Bible. I'll admit, despite the fact that I memorized a whole lot of Bible verses in my youth, there are actually very few that I can recite and remember. 1 Corinthians 13 is one chapter I know, as well as Psalm 23. Beyond that... well, I know I know more, but not off the clear top of my head. Last night, I really think that I needed to spend some time dwelling on Psalm 23. I thought about every single verse as I rattled it off, and thought about what it could possibly mean for me today. The one that stuck out the most for me last night was leading me to green pastures and still waters, because that just sounded so peaceful and restful- like a much needed vacation.

This also makes me think harder about helping my children commit verses to memory. I still remember the entire 23rd Psalm from when I was in second grade! Next year when we do our homeschooling, we'll definitely be doing a Bible class, but where I previously may have discarded the idea of verse memorization, I'm thinking we'll make that more important. And emphasize it somehow. I recall, growing up, having to have a verse memorized each Sunday for Sunday School class. No one ever really memorized it. There were two or three of us who could memorize quickly when we arrived in the morning. We'd scramble to learn it quick, and then we would be the ones to recite it and then the other kids would kind of go off whatever we recited. But about ten minutes later the verses were forgotten and we'd moved on.

So I'll be thinking about this. I know of the importance of memorizing the Bible, but before, it just didn't seem practical. Last night, it showed itself practical for me, in more than one way. I would love to know if there are any memorization tips out there. Whether for a soon-to-be homeschooling family, for children, or for an adult, I would love to hear them! In the meantime though, here is the 23rd Psalm as I have it memorized, in all it's King James splendor.

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." Psalm 23 (KJV)

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Lord Is My Shepherd

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

"THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack." Psalm 23:1 (Amp)

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. " Psalm 23:1 (KJV)

"The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need." Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

"You, LORD, are my shepherd.

I will never be in need." Psalm 23:1 (CEV)

I love reading a simple verse in many different translations. For me, that usually reinforces what the verse is trying to say to me- and sometimes it brings out a whole different aspect that I didn't consider before. We've come to that time of year again where faith can sometimes clash with what I can physically see in front of me. Andy is on the verge of going back to work- the weather is warming up, the ground is softening, and we know that means that any day he can get that phone call- but any day can still be a few weeks from now, and when I look at the status of the checkbook, that day can't come soon enough. I have to remind myself that God always takes care of us. If I look back here on the blog to the same time the past two years I can read what God has already done for us, and if He's done it before, He'll certainly do it again.

I have to tell you though, this year there is something different in my spirit. Yes, I can look at the numbers, and I can look at the calendar, and I know that there are deadlines and due dates. In the past, all those things would add up and I would get stressed and filled with anxiety and overall, I have to say, at this time of year Andy and I are up to our necks in concern over our situation. This year though, I know that I know that I know that God comes through for us every time. The right opportunities will come along for Andy to make a few bucks just when we need them. And as a result, I'm not stressed about it- not in the least, which is an interesting place to be. But I've been keeping Psalm 23:1 close to my heart, and that really and truly helps. Each version that I read just bolsters the one I read before it. My particular favorite this morning is the Contemporary English Version, "You, Lord, are my shepherd, I will never be in need." Never be in need, I love reading that.

I have complete faith that the phone call will come exactly when God wants it to come. I am also incredibly thankful this morning for the peace that I have about the whole situation. We will rely on God's timing, for his timing is always perfect.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Giving It All I've Got

Here's another Fun Song Friday. Although I didn't intend to just post a song on Friday, here it is. It's taken a whole week to not have something else jump out to be posted.

"I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart." Jeremiah 24:7

Well, I just had about four paragraphs written here about how I had a stare-down with a pair of pants. And I just deleted it because it was a lot of trivial details to get to one main point. And that point is that over the last few months, how I've been feeling has been an awful lot like today's song. Some of the things that God has been working with me on has felt a lot like chaos, but then at the same time, it does feel like peace. I feel almost as if I've been crashing through walls, as all the walls I've built up over the many, many years of life have fallen, one at a time. One in particular, regarding the pants, was pride. I was very prideful (didn't know I was prideful) about looking nice when at church- especially on the worship team. But the day I put on a pair of jeans (grudgingly, mind you) to wear to church I had the biggest breakthrough yet. God doesn't care what I wear to church, the people around me don't care what I wear to church, but my pride told me I needed to look nice. I can worship in a nice dress or in a pair of jeans, and what is on the outside is not what matters, what matters is on the inside.

What matters is that I worship God with all my heart. It matters that I love God with everything I've got. And sometimes, in the process walls have to come crashing down so that God can get through. It's those moments that feel chaotic, but they're so worth it in the end, because what comes after the crash is intense peace and joy. When we ask for more, He gives us more, it's just that sometime we need to make more room for God, and something else needs to go.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Discernment Of Fruit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

One of the things that Andy and I have heard often over the past several months is people asking how to know if something is from God or not. When something new comes along, it's easy to be cautious, because the last thing we want as Christians is to be tricked into being part of the devil's plans. And last night we were discussing this very thing in the late hours, we know many people who have expressed concern over past months and whether the direction we are following is truly from God. I have to say for one, I love that, because it shows that they do care, and that they want the same thing we want- what God wants. I mean, how do I know that the different Pastors and preachers we've been listening too are telling the truth?

I read these verses this morning and it was one of those light bulb moments, because how do I know a preacher is telling me the truth and is not just rattling off the miles of scripture he has memorized? I can tell by looking beyond the words and the scripture that he is sharing. A non-Christian can memorize the Bible and spit out verse after verse, that's not hard to do. But a real man of God, a person with a real heart for God and the truth will show more signs of God than just a litany of verses- they will bear fruit. I can look at a preacher's life, I can watch them interact with people, and that fruit will be glaringly obvious. I will be able to see the kindness, the patience and the love. Instead of rattling of criticism of others, they will show love and and gentleness, and faithfulness as they pray for others.

Think of an apple tree. When we go to the apple orchard every fall to pick apples, you don't have to hunt the tree for apples. They are glaringly obvious and all over the tree- the fruit is in abundant supply. Pear trees are the same way, the fruit doesn't hide behind the leaves, or produce just a few fruits- the trees, if properly cared for, tend to be loaded with fruit, and very plentiful. So too is a man of God who can be looked up to. The fruit of the Spirit is a wonderful gift that God gave us so that we can see Him in those around us. It also gives us something to aspire to, an example to follow.

I just love thinking about that. I love thinking that maybe someday, the fruit that God is working on inside of me will be glaringly obvious to all those around me. Just as someone walks past an apple tree and knows it's an apple tree, someone will walk past me and say "hey, she's got God."

"...for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Education Edition

"let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance-" Proverbs 1:5

Over the past few weeks, President Obama has been sharing with the nation his plans for the education system in the United States. We need to pray for this in a mighty way. We need to pray for wisdom for the plans he makes, and that God's Will will be done in all areas of education. We need to pray that the good plans will be implemented swiftly, and the plans that run contrary to God's plans will die a swift death. I think we especially need to pray that President Obama will see the value in all the schools that continue to teach Biblical values, and will protect them. Our Education Secretary is Arne Duncan, and we definitely need to keep him in our prayers too. Some of the biggest decisions facing our country today fall right in the lap of Mr. Duncan, and we need to spend some serious time asking God to guide the decisions made by the Department of Education.

I think it's very apropo this week that my mind is on the education system. We need to pray for it, badly. It's broken, and that's very obvious to me in recent days. There is something really and truly wrong with our country's education system, and it's on every level. There are problems with the youngest preschool and head start systems- my son's preschool is the very example of that, as tomorrow is his last day of school, two months before the school year is actually over. And I look ahead to college... I thought they were expensive when I was looking at schools! There is something seriously wrong when more and more money is being spent across the board, and the quality of education is going down. And while we've made the choice to home school our children next year, we are very blessed that we can make that choice. What about all the millions of children in the education system for whom that isn't an option? We need to pray for the quality of the education available to all children be improved, and we need to pray for their safety. We need to pray barriers of protection around our schools and universities, no child should have to fear for their life while in an institute of learning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quiet Waters

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever." Psalm 23

Last night around the dinner hour, I was called away for an emergency meeting at Zander's preschool. It wasn't good news, as the state has ordered the preschool to close this week due to some weird random license issue that doesn't even apply. Everyone was pretty upset at this meeting, understandably, and the whole time I'm thinking about how much Zander has loved going to preschool, and how much he has grown up while there- the little things he's learned. Like last week, I offered him something to eat and instead of his normal turning up the nose or being a little boy about it, he very politely just said "no thank you." Barring a miracle or an intervention of some kind, it looks like this will unexpectedly be Zander's last week at preschool- missing out on a full two months. I was so saddened last night, and I was also upset about it. It just isn't fair, to be honest. It's not fair to all those kids who enjoy preschool every day. It's certainly not fair to the parents who have entrusted their children's kindergarten readiness to this program, and it's especially not fair to the sweet woman who runs the program. She's done nothing wrong and is being threatened with charges and fines and losing her teaching license. The whole thing is just awful and surreal.

So last night, I was lying in bed, tired from the day, but I wasn't sleeping, because I just couldn't stop thinking about this, and I was talking to God a lot about it, asking him to intervene and make it right. And he very well may do that. But while I was lying there, I had almost a sense of warmth about me, and my thoughts stilled and then I thought, there must be a reason for this. God always has a reason. And while in my mind I conjured up all sorts of scenarios where it is better that Zander is not at preschool, the reality is that I don't have a clue what the reason could be, but there is a reason. And I trust God with that. I trust that God has a reason for what is going on. Once I thought on that for a little while, I told God that I was okay with that, that it was his reasoning, his plan, and whatever his plan was, I was going to reconcile my heart to that.

Instantly, the turmoil I was feeling inside quieted, I felt peaceful, and while I am still sad about the whole thing, and my heart is breaking for all those involved, I feel like I have been led beside those quiet waters. I woke up this morning and went straight to Psalm 23 and it just felt so right for how I feel this morning. I'm certainly not done praying about this situation, but we are preparing for what we need to prepare for. Zander seems okay with the idea that this could be his last week at preschool, and I pray that all the kids have taken the news as easily and are not upset about it. I'm going to constantly wonder what God's purpose here is, and the truth is, I may never know, but that's okay. I don't need to know, and I don't need to keep asking God to tell me the truth about what is going on. Because I trust in him completely, and all things work together for the good of those who believe in him.

"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

Monday, March 16, 2009

God Loves Me

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12

See that? I am one of God's chosen people. I just know it. And here's why:

"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 2:11,12

Spring has sprung indeed. And I feel so overjoyed about the sunshine and melting snow. Yesterday I took some precious time, pulled out a chair, and sat out on the patio, in my socks, in the sunshine, just soaking up the rays. Oh, it felt so good, so amazing, and I just felt so blessed. I just know that God brought spring just for me. He knew how happy it would make me to experience warming sunshine. He's been watching, seeing my son walk to the window everyday and ask sadly if it was spring. The last two days he's spent a lot of time outside, just being a five-year old boy and enjoying the fresh air. The next few days are going to be even nicer- God is so Great!

With a song in my heart and on my face today, I will rejoice in all of God's wondrous creation.

"The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;" Psalm 24:1

Saturday, March 14, 2009

To Be Like Him

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

Often times, when we're talking about becoming more like God, we're talking about how we're learning to be more Christ-like for our heavenly future. I know I've said as much, and have thought the same way, that life is a great journey to prepare us for what is beyond. Only... I've been challenged lately with the idea that life's journey is not to prepare us for heaven. Sure, that's part of it, but what if, what if our journeys are to prepare us, really, for "on earth as it is in heaven." As I read this verse above, I can't help but notice that it doesn't talk about the ever-increasing glory in tandem with the afterlife. It's talking about the here and now. It's talking about us physically, here on earth, being filled with God's Glory- and as such, our faces even reflect that glory to all those on the outside. Wow! That even now, as I sit here this morning, I am in the process of transformation, which comes from God, but is through the Spirit who is also God.

Yesterday I was out shopping by myself, and I heard a song on the radio that just made me think about what Jesus would think if he was walking among us today. I could just picture him, walking with tears in his eyes as there is so much hurt and pain around him. And what I thought, when I caught that picture in my head of Jesus weeping over our world today, what I thought was that I want to be like Jesus. I want to see the hurt and pain around me, and I want to be able to help with it. I want God to use me to release people from their pain and hurt, but first, I have to be able to see it and feel it myself. It's the compassion that sometimes I think I'm missing. Oh, I'm not missing it all the time. Lately... lately I've turned into such a sap- I'll watch a sappy movie and be moved to tears so easily, or I'll see a news story, like the other day with all the shootings, and I just wanted to sit here and sob with sadness for all those hurting. So I know that compassion is opening up. I don't look at someone at the grocery store and think bad thoughts so much anymore, instead I wonder quietly about their circumstances.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Jesus came so that we can have life to the full- and one, I don't think he was talking only about life eternal in heaven. And two, I don't think we're living life very fully. A full life would be one without suffering and sickness. A full life would be the one where we spend every waking moment fully enrobed in His Glory- walking in God's Presence day in and day out. THAT is a full life and the life I want. I want that life- the one where it is "on earth as it is in heaven." let's just think about that statement for a minute. It's part of The Lord's Prayer, which just about everyone knows, and I can't help but read that and see so much more than the recitation that it's become.

"your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. " Matthew 6:10

On earth as it is in heaven. There is no sickness and pain in heaven. There is no sadness, there is no disease, no cancer, no heart troubles, no colds or flus. There is no depression, and there definitely is no poverty either. So why are we so riddled with it? Why is there so much disease and sickness and depression and poverty. I think it's because we're missing the boat of fullness. We're missing that full life that Jesus prepared for us. The twelve apostles lived it for a time, Paul lived it for a time, and every once in a while, throughout history, there is someone who rose to the task and found fullness and fulfillment in God. I think the time has come though, for more than just one person to take on that task. The time has come for the church, the bride to take off the veil and live in the fullness and the glory that we were meant to live in. It's time to surrender to God and stop with all the infighting and the accusing and the questioning each other as to the proper procedure. Who cares? Really, does it really matter that much if the ushers move from front to back or side to side? And yes, that is exactly the type of detail that is breaking apart churches today.

Almost every day lately it seems as if God is challenging some kind of ideal or idea that I've upheld as the right way to do things, and I feel like I could write a whole book today if I just kept on going! So I'll close today with a teaser, because just a few weeks ago, I was challenged with pants, and next week, I think I'll share just how a pair of jeans and I had a stare down, as I wrestled with a pre-conceived notion I had. Of course, God won, and I'll talk more about that next week. I think I left enough to think on for one day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fun Tunes Friday

Since I'm still not feeling the best, I thought I'd kick off something that I've been meaning to do. Lately, there's a lot of music out there that has been speaking to me. In fact, just today, there were about four songs in the row on the radio that I thought would make a great discussion for the blog. And since I recently discovered how to put a Youtube video on my blog... well, here is the first one: "Closer" by Jars of Clay

In particular, the part of the chorus where he is singing "I don't understand why we can't get close enough" really is where my heart seems to be these days. I can't seem to get enough, and it's really a strange place to be in, because it wasn't that long ago where I had the idea that Sunday morning church, once a week was plenty. Now I'm wishing we had church services more often if you can believe it! Our conference weekends are the absolute best because we get three or four days in a row of church and spending time in His Presence. I absolutely love the fact that we have a church service on Wednesday, it really chases away those mid-week blahs, and I feel so recharged after our Wednesday service. I do feel like I can't get close enough, and I guess that's not a terrible place to be in.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday

"The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife." 1 Corinthians 7:4

Today I am thankful for my husband. I am especially thankful because he is not working today, as strange as that may sound. Because he is not working, this morning I was able to crawl back into bed, and I can take the entire day to focus my energies on getting well. I am thankful that I have a husband who tackles the household with gusto, and ensures me that he will manage. That's a pretty great thing to be thankful for, and with God's help, I will be back to normal blogging tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Warfare Wednesday!

Today we're going to spend some time focusing on Mrs. Obama. This week she is stepping out in her role of First Lady for the first time, as she travels to visit with military families. Pray for enhanced protection for her as she travels for the first time away from home and family. We'll also continue to pray for wisdom and guidance for President Obama. Yesterday, I saw a bit on MSNBC about how some American's are losing confidence in our new president. My heart just immediately went out to him, his family, and his staff, because he's only been in office a short while-fifty days to be specific. No doubt, the economic climate is affecting the people in general, but that is not the kind of encouragement a new president wants to hear. Let's pray that God will fill him with the confidence he needs to tackle his job each and every day, and that he will make the right decisions to take this country where God wants it to go. For other Presidential prayer needs, be sure and check out the Presidential Prayer Team.

I also feel we need to pray this week for shooting victims. What is going on this week? Let's pray for the state of Alabama, specifically, Geneva and Coffee counties, as a man went on a shooting spree yesterday, killing ten people- many of which were his family. Let's pray for peace and comfort for the communities and all those affected. In addition, let's pray for the community of Maryville, Illinois. This past Sunday a gunman opened fire in the First Baptist Church, killing the pastor, and stabbing two others, including himself. That church is going to need some serious prayers for healing to move forward. Let's pray that God's love will just fill that congregation and that a unifying spirit will come upon them, and they will be able to move forward.

As I am typing this out this morning, my heart is just breaking further, as the news is sharing about yet another school shooting- this time in the country of Germany. A teenager this morning opened fire at his former high school in Winnenden, killing sixteen people before police shot and killed the teenager. Oh, that school is going to need so much love... let's pray for comfort and healing and just a deep wave of God's love to embrace all those students, teachers, family, and community members. Let's pray that this...this spirit of death and destruction that is taking these young people over be banished and overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. May God spread his protection especially around schools in the weeks to come, that there would be no copycat behavior or intent. May the Holy Spirit infuse his protection in our schools- not just in our country, but around the world, where students go to learn, to better themselves and gain knowledge. Students should not have to fear for their lives to get an education. May God's peace fill students all over the world, so they won't have to be afraid to go to classes.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:14

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Troubled Times...

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," 1 Peter 3:15

Isn't this a fantastic piece of advice? And it's more than appropriate today as well. Absolutely everyone is all doom and gloom about finances and money. You pull up at the gas station and everyone there is talking about how the prices of gas keep going up. While you're waiting in line at the grocery store you hear several different conversations about money, and everyone is concerned. I guess that my thoughts go in several different directions here, but the first one would be that it doesn't really pay to join in with the doom and gloom conversations. The thing is, despite how horrible the economy may look, and despite the troubled times on the outside, on the inside, Jesus is my Lord, and I know everything will be all right. I know that my God is above the economies of this world, and as long as I place my trust in Him, and not the dollar, I'm a step ahead of everyone else.

So when people ask, (and you know they will), and you find yourself in a conversation about finances, you can gently share your hope with them. When that co-worker asks why you aren't worried about losing your job, you have an opportunity to share your faith. Just being in a good mood can be a testimony of your faith. Just walk through a busy grocery store right now- everyone has a frown on their face, they're analyzing prices, and grumbling about spending money, and are just in an overall bad mood. Then you walk in, you put a smile on your face, and find joy in the simple things. A can of tomato sauce is on sale- yippee! You find some beautiful produce- God made such wonderful fruits and vegetables, and as you head to the check-out, you can be thankful that you've stuck to your grocery list. Then on the way out, as you load up your car with bags of groceries, you can still be smiling, and thankful for God's provision, and the ability to purchase all these groceries. Someone will notice. That checker who checks you out each week will remember you- the smiley shopper, and you never know when an important conversation will ensue.

I try really hard to not pay much attention to the news these days. I'll pay a little attention, because I don't think ignorance is a good thing, but it does my spirit no good to spend a lot of time reading the news and all the negative things it holds. The more negative stuff you put in, the more negative stuff will come out, so I try really hard to keep the negative to a minimum, and just let the good stuff in. As that good stuff goes in, it will reflect on the outside as I carry myself from task to task throughout the day, and I just can't help but think that I will never know when that positive attitude will reflect in just the right way on someone.

I think it's important though to keep the second part of this verse in mind as well. Share your faith with gentleness and respect. This means that you don't get on a high horse. You don't point out the fact that "I have something you don't have." It's a gentle mention, a simple reply that you think your God is bigger than the banking system. And sometimes, that's the only mention you get, but that one mention... you just don't know when that gentle answer about your faith is going to grab hold, and that person is going to want to know more.

When the current worldview is full of disaster and gloom, that positive attitude, and faith in God can make all the difference- to both you and those around you.

Monday, March 09, 2009

It's Not Because Of Me

"who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." 2 Timothy 1:9

I read this verse today, and it really struck a chord. I think it's very good and important reminder that we are called to a life in Christ because of God, not because of anything we do ourselves. I can talk here a lot about working on a breakthrough or trying my hardest to live righteously, and that's good to some degree, but it really isn't about me and the things I do. I can try to live as perfectly as I can, but I will fail each and every time, unless God is there with me. It is through Him and through Him alone that I can live that holy life. All the good works or deeds I could do is nothing without God. As I heard at church yesterday, I am not saved because of my good works, but I do my good works because I am saved. Because I have the love and grace of God flowing in me, I want to do those good works. I want to help those in need, because God's love fills me with compassion, and God moves me to help them. It's not the other way around.

"If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. " 1 Corinthians 13:3

All the good works and deeds I could possibly do would get me nowhere, it is through God, and through Jesus Christ alone that I am saved and called to live that holy life. Grace alone will save me, and thank God for that, because as a person, I can never be perfect. But I can certainly try, knowing that I can't reach that perfection until I am not of this world, I can still try to live as perfect of a life as possible while I'm here.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Teaching On The Brain

"Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:19

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

"Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.

2 I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching." Proverbs 4:1,2

So today I thought I'd share about the proof that God can change anyone's heart. Because he recently did a big work in Andy and I. I've been thinking about blogging about it, but this was one of those decisions that we needed to talk to other people about it, before I just randomly blogged about it. But the proof is in the pudding here, my dear friends, because has changed our hearts in a very big way- and only God could do it.

First though, if you're curious, here are a couple of old blog posts where I shared my original viewpoint on schooling:

Be Careful

Stars And Schools

Seasons change though, and God has done a complete 360 on Andy and I. It's amazing, because if you talked with either of us, back in September, our thoughts on schooling at home, we'd launch into an amazing lecture about how our children belong in public school, and how wonderful it is for our kids. Equally amazing, is how around Christmas time, a great big fat idea was plopped into my head and God completely caused it to explode. After much prayer, and consideration, and really seeking God hard as to what he wants us to do, we are 100% confident that God wants us to homeschool our children. It's incredible to actually say that, because it wasn't that long ago that we were uber-critical of those who did homeschool, and we were so confident that public school was the way to go. This doesn't mean that we were wrong- but it does mean that we are entering a new season, a new time, and the new season is that our children will stay at home with me all year round.

And, even better, we're all totally looking forward to it. God placed the desire in our hearts to teach our children, where before, if you asked me, I was all about not having enough patience or the will to do it, and now, well, fall can't get here fast enough. God also placed a desire in our children's hearts to stay home with us. It wasn't that long ago that I was trying to convince my brother and sister-in-law that my niece would love preschool, and now, that very niece totally inspired both my kids to want to try doing homechool. It's amazing to look back on a situation and see where God laid all the pieces to the puzzle. Equally interesting, is that while the whole homeschool experience will have fantastic spiritual benefits, what our eyes were opened up to was the mere fact that our daughter is bored in school and is not learning at her full potential. When she is spending seven hours a day at school, and comes home and shows me all the drawings she had time to do... well, something isn't right.

For me, it ultimately came to one day I simply asked the kids their thoughts about homeschooling. We discussed it, and they were really intrigued and were open to try it. Not an hour later, I sat down with my Bible and read the story of Moses's mother.

"Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water." Exodus 2:9-10

I thought about this woman and about how little time she spent with her son, and it just came to me that she did not waste a precious second of the three years that she likely had Moses with her. She probably kept him until he was weaned, and then gave her to Pharaoh's daughter. And I thought to myself about about all the time that is being wasted with school. Abigail probably spends at least half her day either playing or doodling or reading because she has nothing else to do. And then she comes home from school, does the busy-work they call homework, does the required at home reading, because an hour or so during the school day isn't enough, and then it's time to wind the day down, only to begin again the next day. There's just something that is broken with this system, and it was as if I read that passage in the Bible and God told me that I can correct this problem.

I am so blessed that I have a husband who works hard so that I can stay at home to be with my children. Yet next year, Zander would go to school full time, and I would be home doing... what? So instead of seeking a job or finding a hobby to occupy my time, I'll be filling my time with my children. We will learn together, and we will grow together. It's going to be so exciting, and I am also grateful that God placed this desire on our hearts when He did. Timing wise, halfway through the school year, it's given me plenty of time to research curriculum and talk to other homeschooler and really figure out what we want to do. Abigail will finish third grade and Zander will finish preschool and then we will move forward together.

Where part of me was also worried about finding the energy to school two children along with keeping everything else taken care of, I also know that God has steered us in this direction. He has given us this task of taking care of our children's education, and he will provide all the resources we need. He will provide the funds we need to order curriculum and all the supplies we need. He will provide the desire to learn in the children, and he will provide the energy I need to keep going every day. He is our source, our ever-present help, and He will see us through on this task that he has laid before us.

"Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.

14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil men." Proverbs 4:13-14

Friday, March 06, 2009

Thankful For The Small Things

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

"that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever." Psalm 30:12

I think that sometimes I get so caught up in the big things, in focusing on the big things, that I forget about the small things. Sometimes, it's the smallest, trivial things that simply bring the biggest burst of joy. So I thought today I would do something a little different and make a list of things that I am thankful for. When life hands you lemons, and you feel like things are going awry, listing the blessings that God has given you can do so much to lift the doldrums.

-I am thankful that God blessed us with a home that has forced air heat. Truly, it makes me happy every morning to wake, stand in front of the vent by the sink and have that blast of warm air blowing over my bare toes. It's a fantastic way to start the day.

-I am incredibly thankful for the slowly melting snow. We're not out of the woods yet as far as winter goes, but it gives me a great burst of hope that spring is finally on the way.

-I am thankful for tulips. The tulip bulbs that I have forced and are spread around my home are absolutely stunning, and fragrant, and are a daily reminder of God's blessings.

- I am thankful for sprouting seeds that will eventually go in the garden, they are a reminder of God's constant provision.

-Speaking of provision, God provided for us this week by giving me a speaking engagement for which I was paid, and God is also providing more odd jobs for Andy while he is laid off. Praise God! I am so thankful that he does supply our every need.

-I am so thankful for my children... words just can't express how they fill my hearts with joy each and every day.

-I am thankful for our church family, for the fact that spending time at church means that I am literally surrounded by God's love. May God bless each and every one of those people, I love them all!

-I am thankful for my husband, who sees that God's provision is not coming in the form of a magic check. He is thankful for the work that comes to him, and knows that God has provided each and every opportunity.

-I am thankful for God's Word. Every day, I look forward with anticipation to sitting down and diving in. And every day I read something that gives me a boost. Now I just need to remember to write down those verses that speak to me.

-I am thankful for technology- specifically, the internet.

-I am thankful for the energy that God supplies me with daily. I would never have a successful day otherwise. He fills me with all the energy I need, and then some.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Bunny Trail! Children In Church

Scroll down if you're looking for today's regular verse and blog post. :-) I just really thought that this article I read just now needed to be shared and discussed.

Should Your Child Be In Church?

While I can't say that I agree entirely with this article, nor with some of the comments afterwards, it does make me pause and reflect on what we've done. I agree with those who say that children's church programs should not be babysitting programs at all. If your children are going to go off to their own services- they had better be learning about God and the Bible and not just coloring or watching Veggie Tales movies. But there is something to be said about your children learning from a very young age how to behave in a church setting.

We had Abigail in the adult church with us until she was four years old. Our children's church programs then started at three, but she really wasn't interested in going, and she really behaved well. We would take a small backpack with picture books, crayons, quiet toys in it, and she would content herself through service by sitting quietly with her backpack and listening. With Zander, we had him in the adult service until he was 3 1/2, and with him,the only reason he went to class in the first place was because there was a special summer program where he would be with his big sister, so he was excited to do something with her. But again with him, he sat quietly in church until it was done, and on the rare occassion that he would get upset about something, I would take him out until he calmed down.

I have no idea how much my children actually absorbed from the messages they heard, but I do know this. They learned how to sit quietly and behave in God's House. They can sit through a two hour service and not make a peep, and I really think that's because we "trained" them at a young age. They got to see how mom and dad behaved in that kind of situation, and then learn how to behave in the same way. Now my children go to their children's church classes, and I wouldn't change that for the world because they're learning so much more on their level than I think they could learn in the regular church service. I have to say that I agree completely though with the idea that nurseries aren't really necessary. They can be helpful, and I think how our church does it is best, the nursery is available, and if you as a parent want to sit in there with your child, that's great. There's a TV in there so the service can still be on, and you can still be part of the service. But there's no dumping off your kids for play time while you go worship- and I think that's one of the important things.

I think this past weekend was the perfect example of how it worked for us. Saturday we had the kids at church with us all day long- and they were fantastic. In fact, people came up to us and later, saw our kids, and asked where they were during church. They were shocked to hear that they sat through all three (long) services, and no one heard a sound from them. Kids will behave if given the chance to learn how to behave.

So what do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? What's worked for you?

With Two Hands

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

"Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!" Psalm 66:20

There's a new song out on the radio these days that at first, I thought was a little strange. And then I actually paid attention to the words. It's called "Two Hands" and it's by Jars Of Clay. Here's a snippet of the lyrics:

"I use one hand to pull closer
The other to push you away
If I had two hands doing the same thing
Lifted high, lifted high "

The first time I really listened, I got shivers, because it's just so true! How often do we reach out, we say more God, more, but then when more starts happening, we push back. Oh no, God, not that, I didn't mean that, or I don't want that one. Or we'll be lukewarm, I'll do this much God, but don't ask for all of me. But as I listened to this song, an incredible sense of peace came over me when I thought about the concept of lifting up both hands and just saying, okay, whatever God, you're in charge.

I think that's how I've been lately. It's been, okay God, I'll worship you with most of my heart, but I won't jump up and down or dance like a crazy person. It's just not dignified. Or God, I see these people over here rolling on the floor laughing, and that's great, I see that you're doing something special there, but please, don't let that be me. It's just not dignified to be caught up in a fit of laughter for twenty minutes. Please, God, do what you want, but let me stay respectable, let me appear normal.

A few weeks ago I posted about how I was struggling to overcome some fears, and while I've been praying on it, I confess it hasn't been a complete prayer. While I want to overcome the fears, I have been praying with those restrictions. But this past weekend... this past weekend I had the very breakthrough I was praying for, and I certainly didn't expect it. I guess the best I can say is that if you're praying for a breakthrough of some kind, God's going to do whatever it takes to give you that breakthrough. Whether it's filling you with the Spirit to the point where you just need to jump up and down in front of a church filled with people, or whether it's filling you with so much joy that you roll around on the floor for twenty minutes laughing, God's going to do what it takes. In fact, I think I would liken it to breaking a puppy. When you're training a new puppy to hold their bladder until they get outside, you work at it and work at it, and then suddenly, something just clicks with the puppy and they make it outside every single time.

I felt like I was broken- but a good broken. In just a few moments, I went from looking around and thinking about what others were thinking of me, to just praising God and not thinking about everyone else. And then I got really crazy, and I decided I didn't care who was watching me. I didn't care that there were dozens of people watching our service online. Nothing else mattered except worshiping God in whatever way seemed fit at the time. And I have to say, that I've been reflecting on this all week, because I do feel like I'm at a new level in my walk with God, and I would by lying if I said that didn't make me a little nervous. I broke through my fear this past weekend- what's going to be next?

In addition to breaking through the fear, I also came to the very conclusion that no matter what, I'll still praise Him. I will praise with two hands, and whatever He wants to do to me, I'm going to just let Him, because the end results will be so worth it. No more of this, do what you want to do... except that God. Please, not that. No, however He wants to use me will be exactly how I will be used, because God works in me to be used for His purpose, not my purpose.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

It's Wednesday again, and that means it's time to pray for President Obama and his staff. I have been really grateful for this reminder each week, because the awareness is growing in my mind that we need to pray for our President. How many times do we see mention of him on the web, in newsprint or on TV or radio? Every time he is mentioned, I feel an urge to fire off that quick prayer for him.

This week specifically, let's pray for President Obama, as the budget was released this past week, as well as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Office of Management and Budget Chairman Peter Orszag. In the tough economic times our country is facing, putting your stamp of approval or name on a budgetary process has to be a tough thing to do. Let's pray for wisdom in maintaining the budget, in keeping on task to reign in spending where it is needed. Let's also pray that these men will turn to God for answers and guidance when dealing with our nation's financial concerns.

One of the things that President Obama has declared that he will pursue is seeing the conditions in Darfur, Africa taken care of. Every time I think about Darfur and what is going on there, my heart just breaks for all those people affected and living in the refugee camps. May our President continue to follow the wave of compassion, and may he reach out strongly and right a very serious wrong. Every child is precious in God's sight, and may the refugees see and know that there is a God who loves them so much, and may he heal their sadness and their bodies.

Let's also pray for wisdom for President Obama as Commander-In-Chief. Let's pray for continued safety for the troops while they are serving, and wisdom for the officers in charge. Specifically, let's pray for the plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. Let's pray mightily that God will grow the Iraqi military and nation into a strong nation that can defend itself, while seeking God for answers and direction.

I think we also need to specifically pray for the economy this week. It seems that every day some major corporation is announcing job cuts, lay-offs, or bankruptcy. The world financial system as we know it is ceasing to function correctly, and only God is the answer to the troubles. Let's pray that God will touch those affected by the financial crisis in a way that they will know that He has acted on their behalf. Let's pray for financial peace, and the security that only God can provide.

"I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty. 8 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty. 9 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty." Haggai 2:7-9

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Let's Talk Nitty-Gritty

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:1-4

One thing I think that we tend to avoid talking about in the church body today is the enemy. We're so used to those warm fuzzies, and feeling good when we leave church on Sunday morning that we tend to just glaze over the parts about Satan. The thing is, though, if we aren't talking about him and his evil ways, how are we going to learn to recognize when he's trying to steal us from God? How are we going to know when those completely random thoughts are from the devil, trying to tempt us into doing something we shouldn't? I think it's important to talk about, and it's something very real, and something that I find is very important.

Have you ever just suddenly gotten angry? I mean, really angry? I have, more than once in the last few months. It's literally spontaneous anger. There was one day, not too long ago, where Andy went to church for a Saturday meeting while I stayed home with the kids. When he came home, he didn't tell me much about it, but the next day, other people did. I got so mad, literally furious and fuming that Andy didn't bother to tell me how he participated in that meeting. I was so mad, I was almost to the point of shaking-really. I kind of scolded him, then started doing some dishes to use the time to completely ignore him and fume. As I washed the dishes though, I felt something, I felt a nudging of the Holy Spirit, and right there, I knew. I knew that Satan was trying to find a way to creep in. He was using something completely trivial to try and wedge his way into our marriage. And it was almost working. I started praying while I did dishes, which is not an uncommon activity for me anyways, and by the time I was done with the washing, I was almost laughing. I mean, really, what came over me before? By that time, I'd calmed down and went to talk to Andy and things were back to normal between us.

I can tell you this, Satan wants our marriage. Big Time. Because it's really pathetic how I'll get really annoyed or mad and then just dwell on it. Andy will leave a pair of shoes on the living room floor, and instead of just picking them up and putting them away, I'll leave them and trip on them all day long and get more mad every time I see those shoes. Seriously. It's a pair of shoes, and it's driving me up the wall way more than you would think possible. It's the enemy, using anything he can to try and still, kill, or destroy. I'm finding though, that the more times he tries to come against us, it's easier to recognize, because his tactics don't change. The devil has one goal- and that is to steal, kill, or destroy in any way that he can. And when I recognize what is going on, I immediately put in some serious prayer time, banishing those evil spirits and thanking God for the marriage and family that I have, and praying for continued protection. I think this is so important, because Satan hates marriages, and wants them destroyed so badly, that we need to be on guard and spend time in fervent prayer for our marriages- and for the marriages of our loved ones.

Satan attacks in other ways too, and these are the really strange attacks. Those random thoughts to be naughty I guess, is a good way to put it. We have a casino nearby that we drive by all the time, and I'll admit that when I was newly 18 and it was legal for me to gamble, I went once or twice with a few friends. The hype wasn't worth it, and I found the whole experience less than satisfying, so I never had the desire to continue going. But a few weeks ago, I was driving by the casino and I had a fantastic urge to pull into the parking lot. My thoughts flew to ideas of putting a few quarters in a slot machine, pulling the lever, and coming home with a nice chunk of money. The idea had appeal! Yet I don't gamble, and even worse, it's Andy's layoff time, and every dollar needs to be accounted for. But wouldn't it be wonderful and a great boon to our household if I came home with a few hundred or even thousand extra dollars? Well, I didn't turn in, and the whole thing really puzzled me as I continued to drive by, but as I did, that feeling got less and less and before long it was gone. As I puzzled over it, it did come to me what I had just experienced, and I thanked the Holy Spirit for preventing me from doing something unrighteous. I haven't had that feeling again, even though I still drive past that casino. The evil tempter has struck and was trying to get me to do something that would only bring trouble. I would spend money I didn't have to spend, and then I'd have to either fess up to Andy or hide it from him... and I could just see the huge snowball of disaster had I done that one thing I was tempted to do.

I have heard of these attacks before, I just didn't expect to be on the receiving end of one. I've heard of otherwise Godly people suddenly desiring to kill themselves, or drive into a phone pole. I've heard of the serious desire to pull into that strip club or hop on the computer and look for adult web sites when no one else is around. When before, that person would never have thought to do such things. It's scary how Satan will use our thoughts to try and snag us! I find also that there are times where these attacks are more prevalent. Usually, when we're in a period of intense, fast and furious learning and taking in all we can, the devil tries even harder.

This past weekend is the perfect example. We spent so much time in God's presence and Monday morning when I woke up, I still was feeling the "afterglow" of a wonderful weekend. Satan wasted no time, because as I sat at the computer yesterday morning, he attacked physically. He planted some cold symptoms, which I continue to rebuke, and they continue to try to manifest. I have no time for sickness, and I am a child of God, my body is a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, and as such, sickness has no place in my body. Just writing that, I feel a shade less like I'm on the precipice of coming down with something. Yesterday morning I also was the beneficiary of a suddenly very stiff neck. Really, it was completely random, because I was just sitting here at the computer, I reached for my mouse, a normal activity and boom, my neck was stiff and sore and felt like I'd pulled it badly.

It was so tempting to take a lazy day. So tempting. After being gone all weekend, the house was in a state of serious disarray since it really was just a landing pad. The laundry piles up, and I also had a commitment last night to do a cooking presentation for a group of women last night. I don't know why, but Satan did not want me to honor that commitment! I came up with excuses all day long as to why I should stay home. It also took some real effort on my part to prepare for it. Thank God for His Word, because I pretty much didn't do a lot in the morning, and when I took the break for lunch, I sat down with Isaiah, and by the time I was done with lunch, I'd found some energy. God is great! My neck still hurt, and I felt on the verge of something, but by golly, I prepared for my meeting, threw in a load of laundry and started cleaning up a bit. I did honor my commitment last night and had a very nice time. I was nervous about it, but the presentation went fine, and we all spent some time chatting and visiting, and I'll tell you, I was very surprised that I was gone as long as I was.

So, what to do, and how to recognize these things. I mean, how did I know that the idea to turn into the casino wasn't an urging from God? What if he was going to use that as an opportunity to bless us? Well, first of all, while I do think that sometimes God will use a lottery ticket or such to bless someone, I happen to think that gambling is not a God-ordained activity. It's sinful to throw away God's provision, and I really don't think that God would ask me to sin in order to bless me. It's sinful to give into lust and pull into the parking lot of that adult bookstore. It's sinful to take one's life, it's sinful to steal, and it's sinful to try and cause harm to another person. God's not going to use an act of sin to produce an act of blessing.

I like to read Matthew chapter 4 these days, because it is an excellent reminder of why we read our Bible, and why we should be committing verses to memorization. Jesus was being tempted in a mighty way at a time when he was probably at his most vulnerable. What did He do to resist the devil? He quoted his scripture. He gave voice to God's Word which was inside of Him, and in the end, the devil lost and fled. I have to believe that eventually, those temptations will cease. The more I come against and pray against the evil desires that Satan tries to tempt me with, the more likely it is that he won't be back. One of these days, the devil is going to realize that he can't mess with our marriage, that we're not going anywhere and are going to honor our commitment of "til death do us part". But until that time, until the attacks cease, we are going to give special attention to praying for our marriage and doing the things that Satan really doesn't want us doing, like lifting each other up.

Everything we need to come against the devil is in God's Word. By spending time in it, by spending time each and every day putting more of those precious words into my soul, I am filling my thoughts with the thoughts of God- and eventually there will be no room for the devil to try and wedge his thoughts in. We also have our support systems. We have friends and family we can call if we need to. We can talk to our Pastor or an elder in the church if we're struggling. As a part of the body of Christ we need to be there for each other, and when someone is struggling, we need to make sure and pray for them, because every part of the body is integral and important. Every. Part. Of. The. Body. Is. Important. It's important that we don't let Satan have a single one of God's children.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Monday, March 02, 2009

It's A "Get To"

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

We just wrapped up spending three days in conference mode- spending pretty much every minute worshiping and praising God, and taking in some wonderful messages that God had for us. It really was a fantastic weekend, and there is a big part of me that is sad that we aren't going back to church tonight. I have to say, it's going to take some time to completely process everything we heard over the last few days, there really was some remarkable thought going into what we were hearing. I don't know how much I'll actually be sharing here... I just don't think I could do most of it justice, really. But this thought, this "get to" thought is one that will stick with me for a long time because it is such a basic thought, yet it's a mindset that I want to claim for my own, so I'm going to just keep repeating it over and over.

I'm just thinking about all the promises in the Bible, and we have always heard about the promises that we will experience if we seek God and follow his laws and direction... but the idea I heard this weekend is that we need to change our mindset about how we view all these promises. Take this verse above, "that you will be filled of all the fullness of God." The current mindset is of looking at it and thinking to myself that maybe someday I will reach that point, maybe someday I will get to the point of arriving there. Instead of looking at it wistfully though, as a maybe someday in the future, I should be looking at it as a sure thing. It's a "get to"; I will get to be filled with the fullness of God. Living for God and walking in his presence at all times is something I get to experience because I am His child. It's a "get to" for being a part of the body of Christ. I get to know the same God who knew Paul, simply because so many years ago I asked Jesus into my heart.

I am filled with the same Holy Spirit that has filled so many before me, and I get to bear the fruit of that Spirit. It's not a "maybe I'll bear fruit if I'm good enough." "Maybe if I can follow enough of God's rules I will get to the point where I'm good enough." No, the fact is that if I am saved, I have already done what needs to be done, and if I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I get to bear all the fruit. I get to.

Breaking a mindset can be a tough thing! Yet if I just change the way I think about things the tiniest bit, it can give me the confidence and the boldness I need to do the things that God wants me to do. Try it for yourself once, let's try "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Instead of saying I can, let's try the get to. "I get to do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Wow! The 'get to' is a declaration of anticipation, and I have to say, it's working for me.

I am definitely praying that this new mentality catches on like wildfire in our churches today. If we all stop seeing ourselves as not being worthy, we could change the world in spades. We are worthy! God knew each and every one of us before we were born, and He knew how we would be formed, and He knew that He would love us- in fact, He loved us before we were even a thought. He loved us so much, that He sent His only son to die for us, so that we get to spend all eternity in Heaven with Him.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16