Monday, August 31, 2009

Everything We Need

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 1 Peter 1:3

Yesterday at church, Pastor shared this verse with us while we was talking to us about faith and virtue. He kind of lost me for a little while after he shared this verse, because I kept reading it over and over- to make sure it was saying what it was actually saying. I mean, look at it!

"His divine power has given us EVERYTHING we need..."

Everything we need for life, and to live a Godly life has already been given to us! For so long, it seems we heard so many messages in churches and from other people about how we're human, and we're meant to fail. But that it was okay, because there is grace, so when we fail, we can just ask forgiveness and start over again. Of course, we can do that, anytime we stumble, God forgives us and we can try again, but I can't help but wonder if we're just making it too hard on ourselves. If we have already been given everything we need to live that Godly life, it shouldn't be so hard, and it should really just be a matter of changing the way we think.

There is a catch though, and it's right there at the very beginning of the verse. It's His divine power that gives us everything we need, and that power is straight from the Holy Spirit.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

It tells us right there in Acts that when we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that we also receive power-that is the divine power being talked about in our verse today from 2 Peter. So many Christians seem to be afraid of the baptism of the Holy Spirit these days... I was baptised in the Holy Spirit when I was 11 years old, which, oddly enough, was two years BEFORE I was even baptised in water. But I received the Holy Spirit at camp that year, and really, it wasn't until recently that I've begun realizing that there is more to what I received over 20 years ago than simply speaking in tongues. (Yikes. Did I really just write 20 years ago?)

Yes, speaking in tongues is part of receiving the Holy Spirit, but it's all the other things, it's the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that just makes life so much easier. Really! Go back to our verse that says that the power gives us everything we need to live in Godliness. When I am about to do something that maybe I shouldn't, let me tell you, the Holy Spirit speaks up loud and clear, and I know that I am not to do or say what I was going to. And reading the Bible... I'm sure I'm mucking this all up, but reading the Bible has gotten different lately. I've started praying before I read the Bible. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but my usual procedure used to be that I'd sit down with the Bible, flop it open, read something, and then pray afterwards, basically thanking God for His Word. Now, I sit down, and before I even open the Bible, I bow my head and I pray. I ask for guidance, and I ask the Holy Spirit to make what I read real to me, and to show me what I need to be shown. And I thank Him in advance for His precious Words. Then I open my Bible, and every single time- it speaks to me. Just as it did yesterday when I opened up to 2 Peter 1:3.

There is more to our verse than just the part where we find out we have everything we need through the Holy Spirit. It also says that everything we need comes through our knowledge of Him. And there's only one way to get that knowledge- and that is by spending time in our Bibles. I feel like a broken record these days as I just feel like I need to encourage everyone that we are in a season of revelation and the Word. When I open my Bible, which I've read many times in my life, it seems like I find something new every day! How can it be new? I've read it already, several times, in several translations. And yet, there it is. The Holy Spirit brings the words to life and the leap right off the page and straight into my soul. It's just incredible.

So take encouragement this morning. And open up your Bible- let it speak to you. Let that precious Holy Spirit talk to you, ask Him to reveal Himself in His precious Words today. You won't be disappointed, and you'll be even closer to that Godly life which we are all striving towards.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thinking Beyond The Box

For a Saturday bonus, I thought I'd share a song. I've kind of gotten away from Saturday postings, simply because it's a family day, and I try to focus on that. But this morning I woke up singing a song.

So I looked up the song, and looked up a copy of the lyrics, and I have to tell you, I was simply shocked. Because this song is extremely powerful- it's simply laced with the Spirit and full of meaning. The surprise? It's from a popular Disney movie.

So humor me, give this song a listen- I'm including the imagery, because actually, some of that is really fitting as well. But if the imagery takes away from you, close your eyes and give it a listen.

And here are the lyrics:

And the spirit of life

Oh, oh, iyo
Mamela [Listen]
Oh, oh, iyo

And a voice
With the fear of a child

Oh, oh, iyo
Oh, mamela [Listen]
Oh, oh, iyo

Ubukhosi bo khokho [Throne of the ancestors]
We ndodana ye sizwe sonke [Oh, son of the nation)]

There's no mountain too great
Oh, oh, iyo
Hear these words and have faith
Oh, oh, iyo
Have faith

Hela hey mamela [Hey, listen]

He lives in you
He lives in me
He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you

And then I thought of this verse this morning:

"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." John 14:10

The same God who dwells in me, dwells in you. When you see your reflection, you see God looking back at you- and we see God in everything around us. God's reflection is everywhere- it's in the water, the trees, and the sky. Think about that as you go about your day. As you walk past random people while you go about your business- do they have the same God dwelling inside them? God sure wants it to be that way. God created each and every one of us to be in His image.

"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26

How are you going to reflect God's image today? Remember, God speaks to us all the time- sometimes through people, things or the circumstances around us. Sometimes He speaks to us through dreams, or sometimes, even a Disney cartoon. Think about that as you go about your day. What is God saying to you?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Canning Season

"For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10

I don't know about you, but lately I've been finding that God will bring certain verses to mind just when I need them. This verse came to mind a few days ago.

My mom had called me up and mentioned to me that her pear tree was ripe and ready to pick. It was kind of a gloomy rainy day, and I have been having an off week, and I really didn't feel like going and picking the pears. Then I thought about it a little, and then this verse came to mind, and I thought, well, I guess I better go pick some pears. Our whole family loves pears, so the kids and I headed over and did some picking. And then I had a large bushel of pears in my garage.

I got busy doing something, and once again I thought that I really didn't want to deal with those pears. I've been busy trying to finalize some things for the school year and keeping up with the housework, and I know that it's a lot of work to can pears. But that same verse was there, and I just was reminded about how delicious those canned pears are- especially in the dead of winter alongside a piece of french toast or waffles. I reluctantly decided to can some of the pears. A funny thing happened then, as I was cleaning up the kitchen, getting out what I needed and preparing for the task of canning pears, I started feeling a little perky. In fact, if I could whistle, I bet I would have been whistling while I worked. I tackled those pears with gusto and remembered that I really did enjoy the process of canning and putting food by! I enjoyed it so much that when I went to sleep that night, I was playing the process in my mind, thinking about the next day and how I would get up, get my work done and get right back to canning those pears.

Well, I woke up yesterday morning, and did just that, and I now have 24 quarts of pears put up and ready to feed my family through the winter. And even though I did all this work to get it that way, I couldn't help but feel incredibly blessed by the bounty. Even now, I can look over and see these jars that need to be washed and then carried to the basement shelves, and I just feel like God went above and beyond in blessing us with these pears this year. I am just so thankful! And then! I decided I needed to check the tomato plants, and while I was out, I uncovered a literal pile of tomatoes. My tomatoes this year are not faring well because of the sporadic rainfall, so they are cracking and they have spots that need to be cut off, and while I could lament this development, it actually works in our favor, because that makes these tomatoes perfect for using in salsa! I dug out a recipe I've been meaning to try and discovered that between my pantry and my garden, I had absolutely every ingredient, so I quickly put together and canned a small batch of salsa yesterday too! Isn't God awesome!

We've been having a tight year, and normally, when Andy works there is plenty of extra for using to stock up the pantry and freezer for when he is not working, and this year it just hasn't been like that. Every once in a while, if I dwell on it, that would worry me, except I have faith in a God who has said that He will provide for our every need. So I know that He knows the state of my pantry and freezer- and I can completely rest in Him. Yet at the same time, the verse in 2 Thessalonians keeps rolling through my head- "He who shall not work, shall not eat." If I just sit around and let the garden go to waste, and let other produce go to waste, God's not going to reward my slothful behavior by providing. You reap what you so, and so even on the days I may not feel like it, when God places a bounty of fruit in my lap, I need to do what I can to preserve it and put it up- I love to think that He is providing in advance.

I want to think on that for a minute. A normal year for us has us feasting in the time when Andy is working, and then we scale back when he is on unemployment. We know this, after many years of going through the same thing, we can look ahead and know what's coming. I can do what I can to stock the freezer and pantry for the lean weeks to come, but with this bounty of pears coming in this year, I really have a feeling of peace for what's to come. I can't help but wonder if those pears in abundance are a sign to us that God isn't just going to provide enough to help us scrape by- but He's going to provide abundance. Abundance in ways we could have never thought of.

"When he struck the rock, water gushed out,
and streams flowed abundantly. " Psalm 78:20

God is a God of abundance, and I gaze across my kitchen and see the abundance of pears and salsa (knowing full well there is more coming of both!) I can't help but chuckle and wonder what God is up to next. I can't wait to share what that is.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Last night at church we were so remarkably blessed. Unexpectedly too, I might add. We had a pair of guest speakers at church- two pastors from Tanzania, Africa, and they just simply shared their hearts. I was caught up right away in their exuberance and their love for Jesus. Truly, it was remarkable, because they totally wore their hearts on their sleeves. One of the Pastors shared this verse above, and he got so excited!

What I was thinking the whole time is where is our passion? Where is our exuberance and our love for Jesus showing on our sleeves? These men were visiting America for the first time, and while I'm certain they're enjoying the sights and the people they've been meeting, you could just tell that they cared more for sharing the love of Jesus than anything else on their agenda. I don't really know much about either of them, but I just got such a sense that it didn't matter in the least what troubles they encountered in their journey of life- they know that they have an Almighty God who is with them in every trouble. They both shared such powerful messages, yet it was so right in line with so many of the messages that we've been hearing the last few months.

Because you know what? We all worship the same God. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter where we are, and what we look like. I felt that kinship last night in these two brothers from Tanzania. When Pastor Charles shared this verse and talked about troubles coming our way- he said it with such a smile on his face, because he knew the next part! He knew that Jesus would tell us that troubles are coming our way- but to be of good cheer! Good cheer! When was the last time we had trouble headed our way and we were cheerful? Why should we be cheerful? Well, we need to finish the verse:

"I have overcome the world."

Jesus has already defeated the darkness, and we win! So when troubles come our way, we should be joyful and cheerful because, golly, won't it be exciting to see the results? If we know that God wins every single time, then we certainly should be joyful- because I'll tell you, I can't wait to see how it turns out! I cannot wait to see how God is going to use the current state of the economy for His Glory! That's going to be some kind of remarkable testimony- because the economic situation is worldwide! There will be a global testimony about how God took care of the economies, and His people, whom He loves so much.

I pray that as these two men make their mark here on American soil, that their exuberance and their joy will be contagious. May it seep into the very ground where they walk, and may all those who tread where they have been catch that joy and that love for God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Blessings And Joy

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:4-5

I saw this verse this morning, and I thought it so appropriate for a Warfare Wednesday post. It's good to be reminded that all those who have accepted Jesus as their savior are part of one body. We are all related in one way or another, and we should work together for the benefit of the body, and of our body's creator. This week, I happen to think that we should work together for the common purpose of blessing our President.

President Obama and his family are on vacation right now, and I'm sure it's a much needed vacation. And as I read that they were on vacation, I just couldn't help but smile. I imagine his daughters don't get much daddy time, and here they have a whole week to spend with him. This week, for a short while, maybe they get a little break from the zoo that being the first family puts them in, and I just pray with all my heart that God blesses their time together immensely. May they treasure their family moments, and may God just make them much more spectacular this week.

"Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you." Psalm 116:7

And may God bless them with that all-elusive rest. May they feel rested and rejuvenated, and may the family feel at peace while they are away together. And may God make Himself real to the first family this week, may they know that they know that God is very real and present in their lives, and may they hear His Voice and see His touch in all that they do. May the Joy of the Lord overtake them and fill them with great joy and happiness, and sweeten their time together even more.

Finally, I pray Isaiah 11:2 into President Obama, God give him the wisdom he needs to turn this country's eyes back towards Godly desires and Godly things.

"The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD" Isaiah 11:2

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

God Just Wants Us To Love Him

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart." Deuteronomy 6:4-6

How many of us walk around saying that we love God. I think most of us. It's easy, we say we love God, we love to worship Him, we love going to church. But do we really love God? Really?

Is God more important than the football game that starts at noon?

Is God more important than checking your Facebook status? How about all those little Facebook games and quizzes that eat your precious time?

Is God more important than fishing at the lake?

Is God more important than catching the latest episode of Deadliest Catch, CSI or House?

Is God more important than reading the latest book in that fantasy series?

Is God more important than catching up on the news headlines?

Is God more important than going shopping to buy the latest craft gizmo that everyone says is a must-have?

These are all really tough questions, because the truth is that we're just not there yet! But God wants it so much! When we find ourselves with some extra time in the day what do we do? Honestly, if most of you are like me, you find your way to the computer to look something up or check your Facebook news feed. Check your e-mail just one more time. Or check out your farm town, which starts out as just a second or two, but before you know it, an entire hour has passed, and you have other things to do.

Meanwhile, God is there. He sees you finish the task at hand, He sees you glance at your Bible on the way to the computer, and then He waits. He waits in anticipation, as He knows that you intend to just sit down for a second and then you'll spend some time with Him. But time ticks, you click on a few more things, and just like that, your free time is over and the Bible still sits where it was before. God's anticipation has long since waned, and He's gone back to waiting, with a shake of His head, because He knows what He wants to say to you. He wants to spend time with you so badly, but you just can't seem to find that time. And even though you've just spent a couple of hours wasting your time on stupid things, God is patient, and waits for the day that you make the move towards Him.

We just can't say that we love God when it's more important for us to sit down at the computer and check our e-mail. Truly. What does it say to God when I have some spare time to spend with Him, and instead I choose to spend it moving crops around on my farmtown, or worse, whacking other mobsters on mafia wars. Really?

I had a God dream last night... one of the things that I've noticed about God dreams, for myself, is that when I have one, I wake from it almost right away. That gives me some time to think on it for a minute, whisper a prayer about it, etc, before drifting back off to sleep. The thing about last night's dream though is that it didn't make any sense to me at all. In fact, I'd actually discarded it as a God dream, thinking that a noise had woken me suddenly. Until I started typing this morning. God works in mysterious ways.

In my dream, my husband was having an affair. (See, I said it didn't make any sense!) The thing was, that instead of going berserk or being all psycho on him, we discussed the matter, we were working things out, and were completely calm and rational while trying to figure out how to deal with the situation. I was definitely hurting and saddened by the situation, but I wasn't angry in the least. (Again, doesn't make sense!)It really was a strange dream. But now that I've been talking about spending time with God, I totally see where the dream was going.

When I choose to sit down at the computer or the TV or in front of a book instead of spending time with God, I am having an affair. I am cheating on my beloved. When I choose to spend my precious few morning minutes with the Wall Street Journal instead of God, I am cheating on my God. When I go throughout my day and week moving from frivolous thing to frivolous thing, I am creating an even bigger chasm in my relationship with God. And while I'm doing this, my God is being hurt and saddened, and for what? Really, think about that, for what? Is my farm town farm really going to affect me eternally? If I didn't check in on my message boards today, the earth really would keep moving.

What I remember feeling in my dream was incredible patience on my end. Like I was waiting for Andy to stop his bad behavior, but while I was waiting I was just going to be patient and wait. And that's exactly what God is doing. God is waiting and being patient, and He's watching us. And when the moment finally comes, when the moment comes where we turn to Him and say "you know what, this has got to stop" then he will exude that patience and love. He will turn to us and work with us to stop the behavior that is hindering our relationship.

God just wants us! He wants to love on us, and He wants us to love Him in return. He wants our hearts, our souls, and our minds- He wants a real relationship with us. A relationship that we can't nurture if we aren't willing to put in the time.

You know, I can't help but add this little bit, because it's something that I've just noticed about people's behavior. I am getting to the point where I can tell when someone is not spending enough time with God. (I do mean people that are close to me- not just complete strangers.) It's amazing to watch someone who walks with God start to become frazzled, they get anxious or stressed or even short with those around them. You can ask what's going on and they'll give you a long list of things going wonky in their life, but it really all comes down to that one thing. When I can gently ask them if they're spending their quiet time with God. The answer is almost always a resounding silence, followed by excuses for busy-ness. That's usually my cue to pray for that person, and I can only hope that they decide to make the time to spend with God, because that always seems to be the cure.

Really, if you're spending time with God each and every day, the everyday stresses and obstacles just seem so trivial and so much smaller. The more time you spend with God, the more you become transformed to think more like God, and you start to think more on an eternal scale. Those computer games are a blip compared to eternity- so why bother. The horse races are a blip compared to eternity- so why does it really matter who won?

I'm not saying this all to say that God doesn't want us to have fun. I believe with all my heart that He wants us to enjoy life, and sometimes that can be through computers, TV, movies and newspapers and such. But it's making those things a priority every day when we can't even squeeze God in where they are a problem. The kids and I will start the school year next week. I would be an awful teacher, and probably ruin them if I let them just play video games instead of doing their schoolwork. But a video game here and there may not be such a bad thing, in fact, it may be helpful to break up their school day with some time where they don't have to think as hard, or where they can just relax.

God loves us. God loves me. He is my beloved, and I am His.

"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.

5 Strengthen me with raisins,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.

6 His left arm is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me." Song of Solomon 2:3-6

I wouldn't tell my husband that I don't want to spend time with him because I'd rather be sitting at my computer playing solitaire. I would choose to shut off the computer and spend time with him. Why would I do any less for my God? I pray that He can help me be mindful of my time. I pray for all those who are reading this with me this morning, because I know we all could use help in this area. May God bless each and every one of you, and may he show you gently where it is that you should edit to spend time with Him. He is worth it. He is worth every second of every day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reality Check-Up

I think that our household is in need of a tune-up. Way back in January, we took a challenge to not complain. And we succeeded quite well at it. In fact, I would say we carried that right through until oh, about the middle of July or so. But lately, I've noticed the complaining has started to creep back a little bit. Shame on us.

So this morning, I turned back to Philippians 2:14-16, and then decided to look it up in the Amplified Bible, to get some fresh perspective on it.

14"Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves],

15That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guiltless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world,

16Holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may have something of which exultantly to rejoice and glory in that I did not run my race in vain or spend my labor to no purpose." Philippians 2:14-16 (AMP)

Do ALL things without grumbling and complaining. Complaining really acheives nothing, all it does is give voice to the concerns that may or may not be rolling around in your head. And you know what that does? That feeds your doubt. When you find yourself doubting a decision you've made, if you're like me, you just kind of keep it to yourself. But then maybe the opportunity will come up in conversation and you are able to voice your doubt (say, with your spouse) and then, where your spouse has been totally pleased with a decision, they now have the same doubt, and right there, the devil is rubbing his hands together thinking to himself that he now has something to work with.

I refuse to let that happen. I fully intend to keep my eyes focused on my God and my precious Heavenly Father who has laid my path before me. I will not allow complaining to leave my lips, to feed other peoples concerns and doubts, and I will look for the silver lining in every situation. Every. Situation.

I feel like I have to share a bit here to clarify what I am saying, because it's not coming out of nowhere. We recently made the decision to stay living in our current home for the time being. We know that God placed the desire in our hearts to move to our beloved Valley, but we also know that it is not quite time for that move yet, we've learned that, we've learned that we will need to be patient. And when the time comes, God has the perfect place for us, and I am trusting in Him completely for that. So over the course of a week or so, the situation completely presented itself to stay right where we are until spring. Honestly, it was a situation that only God could have presented, and I really was in awe as I watched someone else follow through and be obedient to God and a prompting in their heart. A decision was made to stay here until spring, and I will tell you, as soon as we made that decision, as soon as we signed the line on the short-term lease I felt such an amazing peace. I knew that God had this plan for us, and I have been comfortably resting in this decision, and so looking forward to seeing God's Perfect Plan play out for us.

The devil, however, wants us to think that we've made a bad decision. He wants us to think that we should have made a different choice, and he's really making it easy to think that way, to be honest. The way different things have played out just over the last week and a half have really made us want to think that we've made the wrong decisions, and the devil wants us to second-guess God's plans for us, and I also know that the devil would love nothing more than to see us discard God's plan and go with our own plan.

But I will stand firm.

"But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15

You know what I know? I know that our household, our family, belongs to God. And I know that the devil would love to see us flounder and crack, and I know that he is going to try everything he's got to come at us. Except that everything the devil's got is nothing compared to everything that we've got. We've got an Amazing God! We've got the Holy Spirit dwelling within us guiding our every step, our every move, our every thought, and we've got angels, sent from heaven, guarding us at every corner. We've got the precious blood of Jesus flowing within us, and the devil just has no chance. That doesn't mean he won't try, but it does mean that we have nothing to be afraid of.

"The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. " Psalm 9:9,10

We have the ultimate Helper, and we will remain steadfast, and keep our gaze on Him.

"My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:2

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Birthdays and Birthday Gifts

Today my little girl is nine years old! And as I woke up and said good morning to her, I couldn't help but think about how awesome God is, and how I see that every day in my daughter.

It's truly amazing to look at the world through the eyes of a child.

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:11

Even better, is viewing God through the eyes of a child. Especially my children. They are growing so much in the Lord these days, that it's just remarkable to see. I love reading these words that Jesus said when I think about my children, because it reminds me that God loves me even more than I love my children- and that says an awful lot. It also reminds me to read the verses just before these ones.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11:9,10

As the days and weeks have led up to Abigail's birthday, she's had the list in mind. And every once in a while, she would tell Andy or I a few of the things on her list. And as her parents, and knowing how much joy the things on her birthday list will bring to her, we've done our best to come up with a few of the things on her list. Or, in the case of a few of them, we've taken the liberty to pick up something better- something she won't expect. Why do we do that? Because we love our daughter, and we want to make her happy by giving her the desires of her heart. For a child, these desires often come in the form of playthings and toys, and we're perfectly happy to acquiesce when we can.

Is it not the same with God and His children? Really. Doesn't God want His children to be happy and have the desires of their heart? I really think that it is just that simple. I think sometimes we just don't think to ask God for something because we think it makes us selfish... but I just don't think it's wrong to desire something that we think will bring us joy. God wants us to be happy, He wants us to experience joy each and every day, and it's not wrong to have things and stuff that bring us joy- as long as we remember who really gave us those things, and as long as we don't place those things on a pedestal and let them take the place of God.

And just as with kids, sometimes we maybe ask God for things that we don't know we don't really want. I find with my kids, sometimes they ask for toys that are really not as neat as they think- or they ask for something that I know they won't really like so much in a few days. As well as I know my kids, God knows us even better. So sometimes, when God says no, it's because He does know better. He knows that even though we desire that thing right now, in a few weeks, the newness will wear off and that thing will just sit unused and unwanted.

God loves His children so much more than I could ever love my own children. And that's remarkable. God is awesome today! And every day! But this morning as I watch my little lady blossom before my very eyes, it seems to take on an extra special meaning today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Afghanistan

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

This week, as we continue to pray for President Obama, it seems fitting that we should include prayers for the country of Afghanistan. Tomorrow, the citizens of Afghanistan head to the polls to elect a president- and in the recent weeks, fighting in the country has picked up quite a bit. The attacks by the Taliban are an attempt to keep people from going to the polls to work, and it's a tactic that may very well work. The Afghan government is so concerned about voter turnout, that they're asking the media in the country to stop reporting about violence for several hours- in an effort to get people to leave their homes and cast their all-important votes.

We need to pray for continued diligence and wisdom for the American soldiers that are on Afghanistan soil- as well as abundant protection. The US presence there is not a waste- it is important and vital to helping the Afghanistan people defeat the Taliban, who seeks to rule with a horrendous iron fist.

I was just reading an article the other day about schools in Afghanistan. It's only been a few years now that girls have been allowed to go to school in Afghanistan, yet they still need to adhere to the country's ideals that the girls and boys should be separate. So the boys go to more traditional schools, and the girls get the leftovers. The girls get to go to schools in roughly assembled tents. They are squeezed in, because so many girls want to go to school- and finding Afghan women to teach all these girls is also presenting a challenge. At the same time, every time these girls go to school, they are putting their very lives in danger, as they are frequent targets for Taliban attacks. Can you imagine wanting to get an education so badly that each and every day you're willing to put your life on the line for it?

God loves the Afghan people. I pray that He changes the hearts of those preparing attacks for election day. I pray that he gives the citizens courage to step out and vote, and that He protects them as they go along their way. I pray that a peace will spread through the country, and that the people will be able to celebrate the freedom of voting for their president. I also pray that God will give President Obama continued wisdom when dealing with Afghanistan.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God Has Plans For Us

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Over the last week, this Bible verse keeps coming up over and over again. It has come up in church services, books I've been reading, and even websites I've pulled up. I almost feel as though God's trying to drive it in big time, reminding me that no matter what, He knows what's coming next. Every time I see this verse, I read it, then I read it again, slowly. And in my mind, I picture a man speaking these words to me, and it has such a calming effect on me. It makes me smile.

Just think about it. We spend so much of this life planning for the future. When we are young, we go to school and learn, learn, learn so that we can go to college. Then, when we are in college we are learning some more so that we can get a career. Once we get into the work force it's usually a series of jobs, a progression into better and better positions, and the whole time we're working,we're setting money aside, preparing for marriage, kids, home buying, and eventually retirement. Whew! And then (lucky us) we get to start the process all over again by having children, and needing to have them prepared for each stage of life. It's a crazy cycle, and so many times, I think we get so focused on the future, so focused on the planning ahead that we forget that we don't have to drive ourselves crazy with all this planning. Sure, proper planning is important, but it doesn't have to be so focused- it doesn't have to drive everything we do!

Instead, we can rest and relax some, knowing that God is in charge. It is such a comfort to know that especially when our plans don't turn out as we expect. As I continue to read this verse though, my favorite part happens to be the part where it says that God's plans are not to harm us, but rather, to PROSPER us. Just for giggles, I looked up the word prosper in the dictionary, and it says that prosper means "to succeed in an enterprise or activity, especially :to achieve economic success." Or, "to become strong and flourishing". As I read those definitions, it doesn't say anything about floundering first. It simply says to succeed or become strong. It doesn't say "after much trial and error, then you succeed or become strong".

God's plans are to prosper us, give us hope, and give us a future. I love reading that over and over, because the more I read it, the more I say it to myself, the more it builds up my faith for the future. The more I hear this "God Voice" saying that He has plans for prosperity, the more I actually believe what it is saying to me! And I do believe it! I believe wholeheartedly that God has plans to prosper us, because if he didn't, he wouldn't place all these desires in us to give that prosperity away. There are so many ministries that we would love to support, people who we would love to bless with a little something, and charities who are near and dear to our hearts- but first we need the prosperity to do so.

"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever." 1 Chronicles 28:9

God knows the desires of our hearts, and He also knows what the future holds for us. Just thinking on that, just dwelling on those different verses fills me with all sorts of joy, and it makes me want to run around and tell everyone that God has great plans for us! The best part of all this is that those verses in the Bible are not just meant for me! They are meant for all of His children! I believe that the time is coming when it is no longer going to be the Christians who are poor and struggling. Instead, we as Christians are going to be favored and prospered, and we are going to be able to help those who need it- and also be able to show them the love of Christ while we help them.

We are in for an exciting ride, and the devil would love it if I would just sit here and dwell on the past, and dwell on the present, and dwell on the potential bad that the future might hold. Instead, every time I start thinking in a negative light, I think about God telling me "I know the plans I have for you." And all those negative thoughts just fly out the window. I'm looking forward to seeing what God's plans are.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How To Get More Out Of Worship

"Your procession has come into view, O God,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.

25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the maidens playing tambourines.

26 Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel." Psalm 68:24-26

"These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the LORD after the ark came to rest there." 1 Chronicles 6:31

I've been debating doing this post for a very long time. Every time I think about doing it, something else comes up, or I get caught up in knowing exactly the right words to say what it is in my heart to say. I still doubt I have the right words, but I've decided that I'm just going to go for it, because I think there are so many misconceptions about having a "good worship experience". I know we all know what I'm talking about, do any of these comments seem familiar?

"It just seemed the worship team had a hard time getting into it this morning."

" Boy, that worship leader was really on this morning!"

"I just didn't feel like worshiping today."

I have learned something about the worship experience over the last several months, and that is that corporate worship- the act of gathering and worshiping together cannot possibly be a solo activity. There is no one person responsible for making or breaking the worship, every person present can affect the direction a worship service will take. But before I talk about the group dynamic, let's talk a little about the individual components.

First, there's the worship team. This team is whatever group of musicians and singers your body has in place for worship. Sometimes it's simply a keyboardist and a singer. Sometimes it's just one person, sometimes it's a full out band, sometimes it's even a lone singer and a CD background. These are all valid "worship teams", and really should be regarded as such. As worship team members, we are considered the front lines- and think about the task the worship team has in front of them. In most services, worship leads off the service. So it's the worship teams job to take the congregations thoughts and minds off their problems, outside lives and plans after service, and turn those minds towards God and praising and worshiping Him. In order to lead a whole group of people into a state of worship, the worship team itself has to be able to focus on God first. Sometimes this can be so hard! There can be a major distraction going on in that person's life, or you can simply be suffering from a lack of sleep the night before. But when the moment comes, when the appointed time of worship arrives, it's amazing how a simple "Praise Jesus" under your breath can totally clear your mind of distraction and bring God to the forefront.

Then there is the congregation, which, while you may think that they are separate from the worship team, really aren't. The congregation, whether they know it or not are also part of the worship team. The group of people making the music may be leading the whole group into the act of worship, but it's the congregation who makes up the bulk of the worship team. How about that? Did you know that you were part of the worship team? And I have to tell you, while the musicians and the singers love being on the worship team, many times, they wish they could just be a part of the congregational worship team, because worship is even sweeter when you are not focused on a sheet of music.

But how does this all help a person "get more" out of worship? We've already established that each person has a role on the worship team-whether they are an active musician or the congregation, but did you know that these two groups of people have a huge impact on each other? Let's give an example. Let's say our worship leader has had a long week at work and is just simply tired, they haven't been sleeping well, and getting through Sunday morning service is going to be a trial. But they prepare themselves, step on stage to lead, welcome everyone, smile, say a little prayer perhaps, and then the music fires up. They start singing, and the music and the praise to God erases the rough week, and with eyes closed, they begin to worship God with all their heart. But then they open their eyes, and they see the congregation talking amongst each other, sitting with their arms crossed, or otherwise being distracted. Maybe there's some people singing along, but that's all they are doing is singing along, not full out worshiping. The worship leader then can become distracted, wondering if they're doing something wrong, and just like that the worship is broken and seems to just drag along the rest of the morning.

Here is another scenario. We have the same tired worship leader. This time, they start praising God with a smile on their face, eyes towards heaven, ready to spend some time praising and worshiping God. This time though, when they look at the crowd, they see praise and worship in full. They see smiles, they see hands lifted towards heaven, praising God. And the worship leader feels encouraged, they feel bolstered and fires off into one of those memorable worship services.

"The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him." Exodus 15:2

"I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips." Psalm 34:1

"I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good." Psalm 54:6

When I, as a congregation member, walk into church with an attitude of "I don't really want to be here", my attitude can totally affect how the rest of the service is going to go- both for myself, and for those around me! The worship team as a whole, including the congregation, feeds off of each other, and subsequently can build up the atmosphere of worship when everyone participates fully. So do you want to get more out of worship? Participate! When I am on the worship team, and I am up front, seeing the congregation, nothing boosts my spirit more than seeing response from the crowd. And then, because I have just seen the smiles and the joy on that one persons face, I become even more worshipful, and then someone else sees how I've become more worshipful, and they become more worshipful, and then someone else sees that person, and it just goes back and forth and on and on! The real key to getting more out of worship is to check life at the door and come into church ready to spend some time with God.

Because really, with all that is going on in the outside world, wouldn't it be such a blessing if you could just set it aside for a few hours? Dwelling on your problems and issues isn't going to change them, but dwelling on God and focusing on God may very well give you the answers you need to take care of that problem head-on when you walk out the church doors.

"But You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]." Psalm 22:3 (AMP)

If God dwells in the praises of His people, it seems to me that we should all want to be there. So I have a challenge for everyone this morning. The next time you find yourself in a worship service, try going full out. Try worshiping and praising God with all your heart, no matter what is going on outside the church walls.

In fact, because we know that God inhabits the praises of his people, the next time you find yourself in a time of crisis, try putting on some worship music and praising God. Grab a worship CD- or if you don't have any, fire up the Internet and check out some worship music on Youtube- there's tons of it available. We've started doing that in our household. Several times over the last few months we've been in a situation that, quite frankly, bit the big one. What I found was that as I stewed and mulled over the yucky situation, I was feeling worse and worse as the day went on. Thank God for worship CDS! Both times, I made my way to the CD player and filled the house with praise. Before long I was singing along, the kids were dancing, and we were celebrating the joy of the Lord instead of dwelling on an enemy attack. And you know what? We still had situations to deal with, but instead of dwelling on the negative, I became focused on God, and before anything had been done, I was able to thank God for getting us through the situations at hand, and I actually found myself looking forward to seeing how the situations would resolve.

Praise indeed, can be a soothing balm to any situation. And whether you are at church in a corporate situation, or at home alone in your living room, I strongly suggest that when times get tough, you give praise and joy a try. After all, what have you really got to lose?

"Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed." Psalm 103:1-6

Friday, August 14, 2009

For Us, With Us, AND In Us

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

If we have God in all aspects of our lives, how can we ever lose? Truly, if we have God with us, in us and for us, how can we even think that maybe we're losing at times? Of course, it happens. Things go wrong, bad things happen, and we feel like maybe God has forgotten about us.

But do you ever have those bad times, and then you look back at those bad times and you see exactly how those bad things changed or shaped other events? Here's an example for you from my own life. Back in June, we needed massive repairs on my van. It wasn't an option, we had to do it, and in doing so, we spent an entire month's worth of salary. Subsequently, we spent a good deal of July catching up on the bills we couldn't pay in June. Even now, it's August, and we're still cleaning up after not being able to pay any bills in June. Yet, had the van not broken down, we'd be sitting just fine financially. And here's where I see exactly where God's hand was in it all.

Because in this time, God has also stirred up our hearts to move, and had we had the financial means to do so, we would have simply picked a place and moved already. But because things have been tight, we've been very selective, trying to find the best bang for our buck, and trying to find the right place that God has had for us. And ultimately, what it comes down to is that while our hearts are ready to move, God isn't ready for us to move, and so we are staying where we are planted until spring. While part of us is already checked out and moved on, there is a part of us that is relieved that we've made this decision- but to be honest, this decision would not have been made if the finances were in place to do otherwise. We likely would have settled for a temporary solution just to be on our way to where our hearts already want to be.

So did God cause our van to need repairs? Who knows, but I do know that where and when the van actually died couldn't have worked out better for us. I also can look and see where having us really scrutinize each and every penny that we've spent this summer has been a benefit- nothing un-necessary has been purchased, and we've been making do with what we have.

I can also take a lot of faith and hope from the events of this summer. I know that God is with us, in us, and for us, and as we encounter a few mountains that need to be overcome, we can take great courage and great faith in knowing that God has His Hand in everything, and we can also know that ALL THINGS will work together for good.

"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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lessons From White Buffalo

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." Genesis 1:31

"There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you." Deuteronomy 12:7

I've been busy getting ready for the coming school year! I've been assembling everything we need for Abigail's year of fourth grade, and it's really been fun getting familiar with the curriculum and seeing just how much she is going to learn this year. Her focus this year is going to be American History up to the Civil War, and this means learning a lot about Native Americans. As I've been preparing myself and familiarizing myself with her curriculum, I've been reading the books that she will be reading, and one in particular, taught me something I have long suspected.

I have always thought that Native Americans are very spiritual people, and in the book Vostaas: White Buffalo's Story of Plains Indian Life, I learned exactly what the Indians take on God was when white men first came over- here is an excerpt from the book.

Worship of God, known to the Indians as the Great Spirit, was an everyday, common way of living. The early Plains Indians tried to live with God all the time. They believed God was in everything. All the earth was a holy place. Therefore, everything on the earth, under it, or above it, was sacred. They believed that they were always in the presence of God. All of the Plains Indians people prayed to God for His help in anything they dud, in every move they made. They believed God was merciful and that He loved His people. They sang songs to God in praise of Him. They carried out ceremonies and dances in His honor. They thanked Him every day. There was no Sunday on the Indian calendar of seasons. Every day was God's day.

Wow! He goes on to talk in the book about how when the preachers and missionaries came in, they worked very hard to try and get the Indians to attend church on Sundays and cease a lot of their own worship because it was strange to their way of thinking.

Here we are, nearly 2010, and a lot of the things I've been reading lately or studying have involved the art of being in God's presence more than just on Sunday. People here are talking about these things like they are new- like it's some new idea to spend time daily with God. And here I learn that thousands of years ago, the indigenous Native Americans were already doing that very thing- and were encouraged to stop!

I can't help but wonder what else we could learn from the old forms of Native American worship. We certainly know they danced in their worship, and that is a form of worship that is very slowly working it's way back into the church thankfully. I think about the Plains Indians of long ago, and I think I can imagine what it would be like to wake every single day thanking God for His beautiful creation. I get a glimpse of that life every year when we go camping, and I wake each morning smack dab in the middle of the wilderness.

As I go back and read that excerpt again, I wonder how life would be enhanced by applying some of that same spirituality today. What would it be like to spend every day believing that I am in the very presence of God. Because I am, you know. I don't just spend time with God on Sunday mornings, I know that God is present in my life always, but what about actually knowing that and focusing on that? Would that change anything? Would that change the way I spend my day? I think it might. I think that if I behaved each and every day as if God were present with me that I would be more conscious of wasting time. I'll be that there was no such thing as wasted time for the Native Americans. On the rare occasion that they got to sit and rest, I'll bet that they spent that time resting and in quiet reflection, reflecting on all that God had done for them.

I pray that the spirituality of the Native Americans, that spirit of being in God's Presence all the time has not been truly forgotten. Perhaps it lies dormant in some, but I pray that a great awakening takes place, and that people truly realize that we are all children of God. That we are to rejoice in all that God has blessed us with each and every day- and not just on the days we go to church. That, to me, sounds like a great life well worth living.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1:11-12

We really need to pray for our country!

This week I've started pre-reading some of Abigail's schoolbooks for the coming year. She'll be studying US History from the beginning to the Civil War, and as I'm getting into some of it, the Hand of God on so much that went on in this country is amazing! Yet here we are, hundreds of years later, and if those same people who worked so hard to get to America saw the same country today, I imagine they wouldn't recognize a thing.

And as the issue of healthcare reform continues to take center stage, it seems our country becomes more and more divided, with every passing minute. There is so much... bad stuff surrounding this reform, it's driving that divisive wedge deeper and deeper, and it's causing even the best of person to scream out in frustration and curse the opposition. Everyone is complaining, and if there's one thing I've come to realize over time is that complaining doesn't achieve anything. All it does is bring those negative feelings back to the surface over and over again. Every time I decide to complain about something to someone else, it stirs up those feelings of anger and hate and frustration- so if I repeat that over and over to people throughout my day, what is that doing to myself? It's filling my day with a constant reminder of anger and rage and frustration... not exactly a good frame of mind to be in.

So I've made a decision for myself- I'm not reading or listening to the debate and controversies surrounding the healthcare hoopla. Instead, I'm choosing to pray about it. There is no sense stirring myself up over and over in a negative way by going from headline to headline. Instead, I am choosing to pray for peace and for wise decisions. And for a release from the fear that this nation is gripped in.

Don't you feel that? Everyone is afraid right now! I hardly ever hear or take part in a conversation among neighbors where the economy is not being discussed, it has everyone in a vice grip, and everytime someone else decides to live by fear, the devil is rejoicing.

But God has a better way, God is not a God of fear and warmongering, He is a God of peace and understanding. When the election of 2008 was finally over, so many people thought our country would begin a long process of healing from the divisiveness that came out during the election. The devil clearly doesn't have any interest in healing or in unity. And so, it really comes down to this, it comes down to fervent prayer for our nations and leaders, because only God can heal the wounds that are running deeper and deeper. Only God can bring this country back together.

And perhaps the right man for the job has the office right now, only he doesn't know that he really is the one that God will use in a mighty way. And I pray just that. I pray that God will bless President Obama abundantly, that He will raise up Godly men and women to surround the President with prayers and with good counsel. I pray that the divisiveness in this nation ends now, and that we stop being a nation of fear and hate, but of love and acceptance. When President Obama ran for office, his slogan was "Change", and I confess with my spirit that it is indeed time for change, it's time for the Winds of Change to sweep across this land and heal the hurt and the discord, and bring us back together under the same notions of love and acceptance and freedom that this country was founded upon.

I also pray this morning that the citizens of this country will stop speaking poison into the air, and instead speak words of grace and words of encouragement to one another. I pray that the people of this country will truly be blessed "under one God" and be indivisible. Liberty and Justice will prevail, and the true beauty of this nation will not succumb to the evil that is trying to consume it. For the real beauty of the United States of America is her people. It's the people in this country that make this nation shine, and I pray that they will realize that Americans all over the world will speak in one voice- the voice of love for all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some Notes About Fasting

"Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." Daniel 1:11-17

My recent fasting experience was completely eye-opening in more ways than one, and I thought it more than appropriate to talk about it, and share what I learned about fasting food directly. Because let me tell you, fasting food is a whole different ball of wax than fasting something else. In the past, I have fasted TV for 30 days, and I also fasted reading anything other than my Bible for a period of time. Both were challenging in their own right, but in both those cases, I developed some wonderful new habits. When I fasted TV, I realized that TV and the shows I watch are not as important as they seemed. If I missed a few episodes of something, my world wasn't going to come to an end. I learned that it's okay to spend time in the evening doing things other than watching TV, and overall, my crutch- my habit of watching a lot of television was completely broken. I watch so little now, it's wonderful! Fasting the fiction reading was also eye-opening, because I became aware of just how often I sit down to read something. I am back to enjoying reading fiction or magazines, or the occasional cookbook, but now, I am more conscious in my mind when I've been into something far too long, and I need to pick up my Bible instead. I notice when a day goes by and I haven't read my Bible. This is a very good thing.

But fasting food... can I just say that it was so much harder than I thought it would be? When I first determined that I would do a Daniel fast, I purposed to follow the Bible literally- vegetables and water. Then someone encouraged me and mentioned that in Hebrew, the root word for vegetable actually meant "from a seed" and when they'd done Daniel fasts before, it included grains and fruits. So I modified the vegetables just a touch. I permitted myself to eat vegetables, whole grains only (no bread, no flour), and fruit only as a condiment. (Think raisins in oatmeal, lime juice in a curry.) There were no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no sweets, no soda, no tea. At first, it was a fun challenge though. I have plenty of experience cooking vegetarian meals, I just needed to modify them further to be vegan, and I was sure I'd be fine. But then I read this verse in the Bible:

"But King David replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing." 1 Chronicles 21:24

In participating in the act of fasting, I was actually sacrificing my dependence on food to sustain me. I decided that in my act of fasting, it wasn't much of a sacrifice if I just swapped out cows milk for rice milk or butter for vegan butter. I needed to adhere to the veggie principle and rely on God to supply the energy I needed to get through a day, and after about the third day, I found an actual physical shift. By the third day of just vegetables and water, I have to admit I was feeling a touch shaky, and almost a little foggy- I just was having a tough time finding motivation to do anything, and that was where I found myself spending more time talking to God. I still had tasks to be done, I couldn't just shut down and fast, I also needed to be busy and I prayed that God would supply the energy I needed to get through each and every day. And after I prayed that, after I confessed my reliance on God, I physically felt better. I was no longer shaky, and I no longer felt foggy. In fact, other than the fact that my stomach pretty much never felt satiated, I would have never known that I was actually fasting.

And I began to delight in reading God's Word at meal time. In fact, I would sit down with my plate of vegetable something, and not even finish the small portion I'd served myself, because I ate as I read, and as I read, I just felt like reading the Word was filling me much more than the bowl of soup or salad was.

But the most interesting part of fasting came with the church experiences. I was sharing with someone else that I found much more open-ness on my part while I was fasting. When it came time to go to church, to worship corporately, I was more than ready and willing. I was almost desperate, and you know how when you go to church, worship starts, and sometimes it takes you a few songs to get into it? I was into it before the music even started! I walked in the building and I was already in worship mode. The worship felt more alive and vibrant, and I clung to every word that came out of the Pastor's mouth- it just seemed so much...more, I guess. And this open-ness and desperation carried over, even after the fast was done. My spirit has taken over, and I feel ready for worship, and I feel open to whatever God has to say to me almost all the time. It's different, that's the best way to describe it. It's like my spirit took notes during the fast, felt what it was like to be reliant on God, and has stayed in that frame of mind, even while my physical body moves on.

I also feel like I have to say that the last three days of the fast were definitely the hardest. My fast was for ten days, and by the eighth day, I was soooo over the vegetables. I didn't want to eat anymore! Just thinking about eating vegetables started making me nauseated, and me, the person who always thought I could swing a vegetarian lifestyle found out that I really desired the taste of a hamburger, or even a slice of cheese. And I battled those last three days. I can't tell you how many times I found myself wanting just one bite of something- and I would be sorely tempted. By the grace of God I resisted completely, and in fact, on the last day, I was so disgusted by the thought of eating vegetables, that the last day, I fasted completely, drinking just water, and eating two handfuls of air-popped butter and salt free popcorn (read:cardboard).

I would also be lying if I didn't report that day eleven was the sweetest day. I broke my fast with two eggs and blueberry pancakes, and they were so wonderful. And every bite of food I ate for the next few days, I just kept thanking God for his wondrous variety. I'm still thankful for food, for all the wonderful flavors that God has given me to put in my mouth each and every day.

And I think I learned a lot from my fasting experience. I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm dreading doing it again. It was so much harder than I thought it would be. But at the same time, the lessons I learned, the training of my spirit was so worth it, and I have to wonder what kind of results there will be from more fasting. What will my spirit learn next time? The fasting was worth it, and I definitely feel that my relationship with God is at a whole new level now, and I'm excited to see where that takes me.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6

I was filled indeed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

God Is SO Good!

"Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more." Mark 4:24 (NLT)

"For God speaks again and again,
though people do not recognize it." Job 33:14

I have learned so much in the last few days, that I think I'm still fully digesting all that God had to share with me. I will probably be piecing out a lot of it for months- and hopefully sharing what comes to the forefront of my mind. But this past weekend, spending it in The Glory just makes me want more! I am literally exhausted today! My body hurts in various places, I slept almost two hours later than I normally do, and I'm just lacking much motivation for doing anything. Yet if there was another service going on today at church, I would be at the door an hour early, I am just so hungry for more! And I'm hungry for the day it doesn't stop!

What I want to share with you this morning is a story about listening to God. Do you ever have those random ideas pop into your head? Something unexpected, and you wonder where the thought came from? Often times, that's from God. One of the things about being on the worship team at church is that I get the opportunity to do a lot of people watching. While I may not personally meet many of the people who come to our church for a conference weekend, I do feel like they're my family- I see them as they worship. I see them as their faces light up with joy, and I see them as some of them bare their sorrow. I often find myself praying blessings and joy over those ones. This weekend though, there was one person that caught my attention in a different way. I saw this person, and I instantly thought that I needed to give them money. Specifically, I needed to give this person $40. I thought on this thought for a minute, and thought about how much fun it would actually be to just bless someone with an unexpected gift of money. But then, I kind of dismissed the idea- I had no cash on me at the time, Andy had no cash either. I also kind of filed the idea away though, and thought to myself that if I went somewhere where there was an ATM, I would try and remember to get some cash.

Well wouldn't you know, as the weekend went on, and each session came and went, I felt more and more like I needed to give this person money! And finally, after the Saturday morning session, after feeling it so strongly earlier in the day, I purposed to find an ATM on our lunch break and take out the cash I needed.

Except that I was too late. That person had left to go home after the morning session. I felt so awful! I felt like I personally was responsible for robbing this person of a blessing that God had told me to give two days ago, and I so wished I would have just acted sooner. So instead, I gave the money to the kids to put in the offering. And then I prayed. And I prayed kinda hard, and I really apologized to God for not listening, because by that point, I knew that it was the Holy Spirit who put that idea of a gift of money into my head. And I prayed that God would bless that person anyway, despite my inability to act, and I also prayed that God would bring that person back for the next conference, so I could follow through on blessing them. I also prayed that God would not give up on me, and I totally prayed that He would give me another chance. What I didn't expect though was that the second chance would come right away and it would be as loud and crystal clear as it was.

Because that initial random idea I'd had to give a person $40 was nothing compared to how it felt the second time. I felt like my brain was going to explode when the second idea came to mind- I knew exactly who it was supposed to go to, and it was also much more than $40. There was also much more than this one time gift of money... I knew in my very heart that God wanted Andy and I to begin giving to this person on a regular basis. How crazy is that? Who does that? I mean really, think about it, we make monthly payments to pay bills, pay utilities, buy necessities, or pay someone for their services- you don't just randomly decide to give someone a monthly amount of money. But apparently we are going to do just that. *Insert huge grin here!*

Let me tell you how this one played out. We were at the tail end of worship when this exploding idea came into my head, and I tell you, we couldn't wrap it up fast enough. I made a beeline for Andy, told him what was up, got the okay, and literally ran to my purse. I could not write that check fast enough, and then I went to give it to the person that God laid on my heart. When I told them what we were going to do, I thought it was going to be an unexpected blessing to them... or was it? They lit up, and told me that they had been praying to God for the EXACT AMOUNT that my check was written for. We both were so excited at this turn of events! And I was beyond humbled that God used me- so quickly after I'd failed, to meet the desire of this person's heart. And I'm even more excited to follow through on the monthly commitment we've made, because this person is such a treasure, and I'm excited to see what God has in store for them.

And really, the whole point of this story is to say that God is always speaking to us. Sometimes those random thoughts and ideas are not so random and strange- sometimes, it's God giving us that idea. And according to the book of Mark, the more we listen and pay attention, the more God will show to us- and that is an incredibly exciting thought. I am just so thankful this morning that God saw fit to use us in such an incredible way. God IS so good, all the time! And as he speaks to us again and again, I've been praying that I won't miss what He has to say. I am trusting that His Word is truth, and that I will hear what He has to say when He says it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Preparation For Eternity

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

I've been talking a lot here the last several months about love. Maybe not so much in the last few weeks, but there have definitely been posts about loving others- whether it's loving the unlovable, or learning to love your neighbor with God's love. It's been something I've been learning and discovering and today, as I read this verse, I was blasted with the reality of all this love.

It's meant for an eternity.

Just look at this Psalm, look at what it says: "ALL your righteous laws are ETERNAL". I'm thinking about this, thinking about the fact that all the righteous laws in God's Word are meant for eternity, and it kind of changes my perspective a little bit. I've often thought that these lessons on love that I've been learning have really just been something to move me forward in my relationship with God. And while it is doing that... that's not the reason for all the love lessons. The reason is to prepare myself for an eternity of loving.

Think about that! This means that as we move on to eternity, as we leave this earth and take our rightful places in heaven, that this love will continue. All this loving that we're doing here on earth is part of the ongoing learning process that will prepare us for our heavenly bodies and our heavenly homes. That's kinda cool!

And so this morning, as I prepare for our most awesome weekend away, I'm going to have Psalm 119:160 in my mind, and I'm going to be dwelling on it for awhile. Maybe a change in perspective will bring about something interesting. As I watch and observe people in the everyday, there are always new ways to show and share God's Love. May God keep my eyes and heart open, and may he totally bless the weekend ahead- not just for me, but for everyone. It's going to be a great one.

I'll be back on Monday- be blessed!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Warfare Wednesday!

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea," Psalm 46:1-2

It's actually a fairly quiet morning over on the Presidential Prayer Team website today! It's birthday week at the White House, as President Obama has turned 48 years old. May God bless him abundantly and give him a wonderful year ahead. I know we pray a lot here at Warfare Wednesday for Godly influence and wisdom, but I think it's also important that we pray for the president's happiness and well-being. On a paper level, I can totally disagree with a lot of the things that have been going on in Washington. But on a human, more personal level, President Obama is a child of God! God loves him, and Jesus died just for him! I wish him all the best as he looks ahead to his 48th year of life, and I pray that God will become very real to him in the year to come. Only God can make his job as President of The United States easier.

It's also August, so this morning, I think we should also pray for the school system in our country. It's just not going so well. With budget cuts across the board, schools are letting teachers go in record numbers, and class sizes are increasing as a result. The quality of education simply cannot improve under these conditions. While we've made the choice to school our children at home, so many people cannot make that choice, and those kids going to public school deserve the best education that they can get. Somewhere out there, God has a solution for improving the schools in our country. I pray that it comes to the forefront and that this coming school year is a good one for students all over the country. May they be safe in their learning environments, and may God bless the teachers who sacrifice so much to educate the children of this country.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Man vs. Devil: We Always Win!

"On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him." Job 2:1

How many times in conversations with other Christians have we heard about how someone is being attacked by the devil? I bet you've heard it a lot. A string of bad things happen, and you hear about how the devil is attacking, and prayers ensue for the bad stuff to come to an end. The other day though, I think I heard one of the more profound thoughts on this very statement, and I've been thinking on it ever since. If even the devil answers to God, are we really under attack from the devil?

"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." 12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Job 1:9-12

If you read any of the book of Job, it quickly becomes clear that the devil does nothing to Job without permission from God in the first place. So while the devil is the tormentor and the troublemaker, it was God who gave the devil permission to lay siege to Job in the first place. Huh. I really think there is something here that if we can just grab ahold of what the Bible is saying, we'll be onto one of the keys to a relationship with God- and a huge (and I mean huge!) faith booster. So I am going to think out loud this morning, and see if we can come to any kind of conclusion about this very unique relationship.

"For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." 1 John 3:20

One of the biggest things I think we can take away from Job is Job's relationship with God. God is up there in heaven, seated on the throne, when the angels and Satan come before Him. God knows Job inside and out- He knows Job better than Job knows himself, and I believe that when God says "See my servant Job?" He knows that no matter what Satan threw at Job, that Job's heart would stay true. God knew this. He knew this with absolute certainty.

"Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Job 1:8

Now let's think about Job. Let's think about the trials he begins to experience, simply because God gave the devil permission. Much of the book of Job is Job lamenting the situation he is in, and wondering why it seems as though God has forsaken him. Think about how much easier that time in his life would have been endured if he had known what we know- that God was bragging on him and knew that Job would stand firm in his faith. God was bragging on Job! God knew Job's heart so well, that he knew that no matter what the devil dished out, Job would stand firm in his love for God. Now lets think about ourselves:

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

Let's just think about this for a second. God loves us, God knows us- God knows our hearts better than we know them. And the devil needs to seek permission from God before he tries any kind of attack on us. So the more we seek God, the more we spend time in God's Word and in prayer and reflection, the more we get to know God better- the more established our relationship with God becomes. And we begin to draw closer. And then one day the devil realizes what's going on and says "hey God, I'm going to throw a little something their way." And God looks upon us, sees our heart, and knows that we will make it through whatever the devil has in his mind to dish out to us. So He gives permission- but just as he restricted the devil when it came to Job, he places restrictions on the devil, because God knows exactly where our breaking point would be, and He will never allow the devil to tempt us beyond what we can bear.

Not only that! If we read 1 Corinthians 10:13 correctly, it also says that God will provide a way out for us! It stands to reason that if God knows our hearts and knows exactly how much temptation we can handle- He also knows exactly what we need to get us out of that same temptation, and He will provide it for us.

So why does God allow the devil to tempt us in the first place? Well first of all, we've already established that God knows our hearts, and since He's probably been bragging on us, He knows that we can handle what the devil dishes out. But secondly, God allows things to happen to us to give us an opportunity to grow in our faith, and to learn to rely more on Him.

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven" Ecclesiastes 3:1

And if we really think on this, think about how excited you are when you emerge from a trial victorious? What do you do? You tell everyone you know about how God helped you through a trial. And every time you tell a story about how God helped you overcome, you're not only giving your own faith a boost- but you're giving your audience a faith boost. The more times I tell a story about how God provides for our needs, the more times I believe that He will indeed provide. And when I tell people how God met a particular need in a way that only God could, it helps to show them that it's okay to trust in Jehovah Jireh- our provider.

So as I'm thinking about certain trials we may be experiencing right now, I can't help but wonder what kind of conversations went on in heaven. I can take heart in knowing that God was probably bragging on us, talking about how we've grown so much in our faith. And I can also have complete faith that God will present our "out" when the perfect time arises- because God knows us and loves us and will not give us more than we can handle. Just thinking about this, gives me the biggest boost this morning! We will make it through whatever gets dished out to us, as long as we stand firm in our faith, and continue to seek God for the answers.