Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Money Matters

"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

This morning when I logged on to the Presidential Prayer Team to see how to pray for President Obama, I was awakened by a warning about our dollar. The dollar of the United States has been the standard to which all other economies are based. Countries borrow and lend, buy and sell, all based on our dollar. According to what I read this morning, our status as the economy of choice could very quickly be coming to an end. The speculation at this time is that if the US economy continues in its downward spiral, it won't take long at all for China or Japan to take over as the world leader for finance...

Let me just point out why this is something we don't want to have happen. There is something about the American dollar leading the way... there is something very important about the American dollar being the dollar to which all others are measured. And that is the four words imprinted on every piece of paper money in the United States "In God We Trust". I think that much of our country, and much of the world has forgotten about these words that are a part of every financial transaction that takes place with our country.

See, if we allow another country to lead the way in a global economy, we are no longer following "In God We Trust", we are following man. The United States has, for so long, been in a status of favor when it comes to money. There's a reason our dollar goes so far- there's a reason that we can buy goods so inexpensively, it's because our dollar is the dollar by which all other are measured. God favors us by blessing our dollar, by making it work harder than any other currency out there.

Yet the time is growing short for the American dollar, unless we pray for God's Will to be done in the financial sector. I also think this verse above is growing more important each and every day. It says right there that the Lord God Almighty says "The gold and silver are mine." We need to remember that. The gold and the silver belong to God. He made them, and he gave them to us to use for the purpose of commerce. Many years ago, the United States dollar was backed by gold. Our country had gold reserves, and the paper dollars represented all that gold that was locked up for safe-keeping. Our dollar is no longer backed by gold, however, I think the idea and the premise is still the same. If the gold belongs to God, and our dollar is backed by gold, it would do us well to remember that, because that means that all we have, all the dollars in the United States treasury belong to God Almighty.

Let's put it this way. Where our dollar was once backed by gold, now, every penny produced by the United States mint is backed by God. Every penny that says "In God We Trust" is backed by the one who has favored this nation from its very beginnings. The mere idea that another currency could surpass the currency backed by the One who created everything is mind boggling. It shows me exactly how far out of favor this country has fallen. Fallen, indeed. I think this is a very serious warning, and that we as followers of Christ should get on our knees and spend some serious time praying about it. We need to ask forgiveness for our evil ways, and we need to intercede on behalf of a nation that has lost its way. If it is the currency of God that is faltering in the economic world, there is something seriously wrong with the world we live in, and it needs our prayers so badly. God wants to hear from His children- hear that we still love Him, that we hold His ideals as the standard by which we live.

I really sense this is a time of urgency for us, and we need to pray mightily for the economy of the United States. We need to pray for wisdom for our President and his team of people that make the financial decisions. Most importantly, we need to pray for this country to turn from her wicked ways and follow the one and true God. We need to turn away from our man-made idols and our man-made mantras, ideals, and doctrine. God is the only answer, and we need to intercede on behalf of those who don't know how to intercede.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Putting Pieces Together

"Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42They all ate and were satisfied, 43and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand." Mark 6:41-44

Can I ask a question today? Maybe not even a real question, but more of a what-if question. In the book of Mark, Jesus feeds a multitude out of nothing twice. The first time he feeds five-thousand, the second time he feeds four-thousand, and both times there were leftovers. As I read this above, I thought about these twelve baskets of leftover pieces of bread and fish, and the most absurd thought came to me- what if those pieces were put back together? What if they took all those pieces that were remaining and assembled them back into fish and loaves- how many more loaves and how many more fish would they have than the two and five they started with?

Talk about incorrect math! Talk about something completely illogical, and yet, except for the actual reassembling of the loaves and fishes, that's really what happened. There is something completely illogical- yet wonderful about God multiplying the loaves and fishes. It's something that is also completely impossible for man to do on his own. Yet with God's help, all things are possible! Jesus started with five loaves of bread and two fish, and in the end, after five-thousand men had eaten, there was more leftover than when they started.

I'm expecting the exact same thing from God. As one by one pieces of our lives are broken off and consumed, the pieces that are left are going to be more than what we began with. The pieces that are being broken off right now are the pieces that are a distraction- the pieces that are taking our focus away from God. When all is said and done, when the bad pieces are finished being removed, what remains is going to be gathered together, and there is going to be so much more there than when we first began. He who began a good work in us will see it to completion.

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

I'm excited! And as each piece is being broken off and cast away, we are getting closer to God, as what remains are the parts that will best be used to glorify Him. I can't wait to see the final picture when all the pieces are put back together- the final reassembly is going to be awesome!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." Proverbs 27:1

"If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Matthew 6:30

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:14

Yesterday I took a little time to catch up on one of my favorite TV shows. It's a reality show (meaning someone gets eliminated each week), and the mentor on the show turned to the cast and said: "Work like there's no tomorrow, because for one of you, there isn't."

It made me laugh and smile, and really, it totally cracked me up the way he said it. It sounded so profound, yet it was absolutely true for the group of people staring back at him. Then it totally got me thinking about the concept of tomorrow, and what scripture has to say about it. I found these verse above, and each one just made me nod my head in agreement, and I realize how glad I am that I am not worried about tomorrow! I truly am not worried in the least because I know there are plans, I know that God will take care of my precious children- they are so much more precious than sparrows. So much more.

As I sit down with my Bible every day and read scripture after scripture about God's provision, I know He follows through on His promises, and I know He's going to take care of our family. And He already is! Just like that, all those people who asked about Andy's job yesterday also asked about what kind of odd jobs he does. So we told them, and while they may not have anything for him to do, each of those people has a whole network of friends and co-workers who may have a need that Andy can meet. How cool is that? That's not all either- in the last few months, when Andy was working and we didn't know a lay-off was imminent, we were able to pay off some of our debts- poof, monthly expenses gone, just like that. Last week Thursday and Friday I really had it on my heart to share how we expect God to provide, and how we plan to not just sit around and wait for Him to bless us- that we will do what we can as well.

I am so confident in God's provision that all these verse about not worrying about tomorrow are coursing through my veins. God will take care of each and every need- and I don't need to worry about them. I could- I could sit here and figure out the finances and see how poorly we actually stand for long term and I could get really stressed and worried. Except the Bible says "do not worry" and stress is simply a means for the devil to come into our household and stir up trouble. So I don't stress, and I don't worry. I have complete faith in the God who loves us so much. The God who will not give us a rock when I ask for a loaf.

I want to share two very small means of provision that happened in just the last few days. I figure if I keep sharing- even the smallest stuff, that it will continue to bolster and reinforce my faith- and maybe it will help someone else. Last week I made the decision to sell our home school health books that I'd ordered. We really don't like them- used them a few times, but really don't like the program. I listed them online, and didn't receive any response. Meanwhile, I've been reading a lot about boosting our health with vitamin D3 to avoid the flu this season, and I really wanted to order some vitamins for the whole family. Yet, knowing how things are shaking up, I couldn't decide if ordering the vitamins was a wise use of our limited resources. I was thinking about ordering them when an e-mail popped up in my inbox. Did I still have the 4th grade health books? Sure enough, the sale of those books was just enough to pay for the vitamins, so I didn't have to wonder any longer if it was a wise purchase.

Then on Saturday I took Abigail to Old Navy to pick out some new clothes. She had a gift card to spend, and has been in need of new pants. We walk in the door where a big sign is touting the great clearance event going on. As we walk down the aisle towards the kids section, I look to my right and see these bright and colorful women's shirts and a sign that reads $4. Seriously? I looked at the shirts- the price tag did not say $4 but the sign sure did. I looked around and saw other racks that said the same thing! Just last week I was talking about how I wished I had a few new things for my wardrobe. What I really was wanting was a few new summery tops to wear to church. We get really toasty on stage with the worship team at church, so sweaters and warm tops are out. Just like that- I had four new tops that only cost me $12. I couldn't have done that well if I'd gone to a thrift store. And if I'd gone to one of my favorite stores like I wanted, I could have bought half a shirt for that- maybe. God put the desire on Abigail's heart to go spend her gift card on that particular day for a reason. How fun is that to think that God did that just so that He could bless me with some fun new tops that I really wanted!

God will provide for all our needs- and even some of our wants as well. I wouldn't call the vitamins or the new tops needs- but God put them there all the same. He's an awesome God! And He knows exactly what our tomorrow will bring- there is no need for me and my family to worry about our tomorrows. So today I will focus on my today. I have school to get to with the kids, and I have bread to bake, and maybe some chard to harvest. I have a house to clean, and de-germ, and you know what? I'm looking forward to the day. I'm looking forward to seeing what God is going to do today because even though today has enough troubles of its own- it also has plenty of opportunity for God to rain down blessings.

I like that thought- what a great way to start a Monday morning.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Act of Doing

"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." Acts 2:4

"But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. " Acts 28:5

Today's thoughts tie in directly with yesterday's thoughts. Kind of a continuation, if you will. Yesterday I shared my heart and how the joy of the Lord is going to make this trial we're about to undertake a piece of cake, but there is something that goes along with it that I think is very important. It's all well and good to have the right attitude, but there is also the part where we need to see what we have to physically do. I shared these two verses here because in both cases, people were not just sitting waiting for God or some kind of magic to take over.

In the first verse, we are at Pentecost, and we see that all of the people there were filled with the Holy Ghost. The verse doesn't stop there. These people don't just receive the Holy Ghost and then sit back and wait for the Spirit to do His thing. Instead, what do they do? They open their mouths and begin to speak. They speak the words that the Spirit places inside of them- they had to physically act to receive the blessing of speaking in tongues. If they just sat there, and did absolutely nothing, waiting for the Holy Spirit to do the talking, they never would have received the blessing and the gift that they did receive.

Then we look on further in Acts to Paul- here is another example of action. While Paul is gathering firewood, a poisonous snake attaches itself to Paul's arm. Now, Paul does know that God will protect him, and that the snake will not actually harm him, but does he wait for God to remove that snake? Of course not? Paul took action himself and shook the snake off.

Both of these are just two of the many examples in scripture where an action was required. I wanted to share this morning, that we don't intend to just sit around and expect that God is going to bless us. We are not going to just sit around and do nothing. Instead, we are going to wait on the Lord, and when a situation feels like it needs action, we'll take action. For us, at least right now, it feels like the action we really need to take at the moment is to ground ourselves in His Word. As much as possible, we need to take in the precious words that are life-giving.

So often you talk to someone and they talk about how God has called them to certain roles in life. I remember as a teenager, going to camp, and meeting all these people who really felt they were being called to be missionaries or youth pastors. But then when it came time for the serious stuff at camp- the Bible study and the prayer time, they didn't want to participate. Or did so grudgingly. Pastoring- youth, children, or otherwise requires knowledge of the scripture. It also requires education. If God were to call me to be a Pastor, there is no doubt that I'd be diving into that Word, and seeking out an education from an accredited Bible school. Sitting around,waiting to "magically" become a Pastor just isn't going to happen. That calling on my life from God would require action from me- the action to fulfill the calling. The action to undertake the Bible study and the Bible schooling.

For us, at this time, that action (at least on my end, as for now anyway) is with proper stewardship. It's very interesting that all year anyway, we've already been working on this- it's just going to get a little more scrutinized. It's been lean around here anyways, so we've already been reigning in the extra purchases. Even the kids have been getting into the act- and they've been so helpful by not asking for treasures every time we go out or go shopping for a few things. Every single purchase, every single dollar I spend gets scrutinized. Do we really need that grocery item? No, I just would like to try it- then it goes back. Do we really need to buy a new DVD for the kids to watch? Hardly, we have plenty already, and with a DVR, we can keep an eye out for movies on TV that we can watch with them. Do I really need some new clothing? Oh man, let me tell you... I want so much to be able to round out my wardrobe, but the facts are that I have clothes, they're in great shape and have plenty of wear in them- they are just not new and trendy. It would hardly be good stewardship though if I dash off and buy a few things but I don't pay my energy bill .

While the stewardship is important on a practical sense, it's also important in a spiritual sense, because it has really helped changed our mindset on things and stuff. Stuff is just stuff. Really, all the things we have in our home is just stuff- it has absolutely no implications on our eternal life. Whether or not I get a few new designer shirts has no effect whatsoever on my eternity in heaven. In fact, when I think about that, and think about how much I'd love to go to Macy's and pick out a few things to treat myself, I can't help but think of all the people who would be better helped by the same money I would spend. Do I need those clothes? Absolutely not. The money would be much better spent if I gave it to a missionary or made a donation to Heifer International and bought a poor family important sustenance. Those are the things that matter, and I'm so thrilled that my kids are even learning this. If they don't have every movie or video game they want, life goes on! They make do with what they have, and choose to spend what they do have as wisely as possible.

I like to call it the act of doing. If we just sat around, waiting for God to bless us, I think we'd miss our opportunity. Instead, we will do. We will act when we hear His voice, and will do so with a joyful heart. That's really what God wants from us, He wants us to be able to hear Him when He speaks, and He wants us to follow through on what He tells us. If He tells us we are to be in a season of studying the Word, we need to do that- and not just sit around and wait for the Bible to magically place itself in our heads. We need to read it to know and understand it. We need to read it to be able to follow through on all the things the Bible tells us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Amazing Peace of God

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

How crazy can our world get in just a few days time? Oh, it take mere minutes for normalcy to swiftly descend into uncertainty or chaos. All it takes is a few words from a boss, those words that say we've done what we can, but we need to shut down until after the 1st of the year.

While you're thinking about those words, think about being my husband, hearing those words at 6:00 in the morning, wanting nothing more than to call home, but he doesn't because he's thoughtful and doesn't want to wake me to deliver bad news. So instead he sat and stewed on it for a few hours before calling.

Then he did call me, and while that uncertainty and chaos was standing right there at the door, I tell you, I smiled at them, and politely closed the door in their face. When Andy told me yesterday morning that he had about a week left of work for the year, it was like I already knew that. It was like I knew it was coming, and all I could do was smile and accept it. I'll tell you exactly what it was, it was the Peace of God taking over completely. It wasn't that long ago I would have been freaking out at this point. In fact, I'll tell you it was exactly two years ago that I was freaking out at this point. Andy's company was running out of work, so he took another job to get us through winter. It was the worst job Andy's ever worked. He was treated poorly, paid poorly, and hated every minute of it. Yet we both thought that he was doing what God wanted him to be doing- providing for his family.

This time, we're not going to be so hasty.

Somehow, I knew that announcement was coming, and somehow, when Andy told me that, I felt a ripple of joy run through me from top to bottom. The best thing I could compare it to is finding out that you're actually pregnant. That day when you finally take the test, the line shows up, and a wave of joy sweeps through you- but at the same time there is great trepidation, because your whole world is going to change as a result of this new child coming into your life. Fear mixes a little with the joy, but there's nothing you can do about it now except pray about it, and experience all the ups and downs that come with being pregnant.

Really, it's exactly like that.

Andy always has down time every year, but usually it's after Christmas. Usually, about this time every year I start stocking up the pantry and freezer to prepare us for eating from the pantry and freezer as much as possible. I can certainly look around me and see that we are not prepared for his lay off time, but honestly? It really doesn't do me any good to dwell on the fact that Andy could very well come home from work next Tuesday and not go back until 2010. If I sit and dwell on all that is wrong with this scenario, I may very well miss out on whatever exciting thing God has planned for us. And that's what's giving me great joy about this whole situation.

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut." Revelation 3:7-8

God is about to open up a door for us that n o one can shut. He is shutting a door with Andy's work for a reason- we both see that. And I am so excited to see how God provides for us- because I know He will! He has promised in His Word that He will provide all our needs, according to HIS riches! I believe exactly what this verse says, because I have a God who is rich beyond measure, and when He provides for our needs, I expect He will provide abundance.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

He really already has! In the last few weeks, we have had a few different people give us apples. Just because. We love apples, and while most of them have not been good for eating, they've made the best pies and crisps and breads and applesauce- and we've been loving the abundance. A few weeks before that, we picked and canned an abundance of pears- as I live and breathe, while I prepped pears for canning, God was multiplying them in my basket, because we canned way more than we harvested. I totally know that God can do so much more than just provide apples and pears- I know that God is going to bless us completely!

One of the things that is going to be done during this time is we're going to be drawing closer to God, and seeking out what He would have us do. Normally, when Andy has time off every year, he has plans! He's busy working with high schools or remodeling some one's house. This is catching us unawares, and he is going to have plenty of time to spend with God. God's provision, we expect is going to come through those unexpected phone calls about things that Andy can do for people. But we're also expecting supernatural provision. I'm expecting that when I walk out to the garden and harvest my chard for the freezer, there's going to end up being far more in the freezer than what I've harvested. I expect that the bucket of rice I have in the pantry will not empty, no matter how much I scoop out of it. And I expect that God is going to put people in our lives to provide what we need exactly when we need it. God's already done that! As a simple example, Abigail needs new pants. She was recently given a gift card for Old Navy, so we're going to go this weekend and pick out a few new pairs of pants for her.

God's going to provide each and every thing we need, and while we're trusting, we're seeking, because He's got plans for us. He's got big plans that even we can't begin to imagine. He's got doors for us to step through that we haven't even seen yet, and we're going to go through them quickly. I can't wait to come back here and share exactly what God is doing. I can't wait to have that week where every day, I pop on here and tell about yet another thing that God has provided for us. In fact, I expect that tomorrow I will have something to share- I'm just that full of peace about this whole situation.

For the first time ever, we are approaching Andy's lay-off time filled with joy, gladness, and expectation. We are trusting completely in God, and because of that trust and the faith that we are finding within, God is blessing us already with His wonderful peace. God is just so awesome! I hope you'll stick around for the ride to come- because it's going to be a great one!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

Oh, am I in the mood to pray today! I read this verse and I couldn't help but think that, indeed, our country has been suffering. Our country has really been experiencing pain and troubles from our economic situation. It says right here in Romans that we should rejoice in that suffering- isn't that exciting!? It is exciting! I can tell you, I feel it right down to my bones, when I really think about it, deep down, when I think about all the trials we have been facing as a nation, how exciting will it be to see how we come out of it? How exciting will it be to see this country return once more to the arms of the Father who brought this country into existence in the first place! It's going to be exciting and remarkable, and while it is terribly difficult to rejoice in trials- I am going to practice being joyful anyway.

This week, while we are praying for President Obama, we can also add the leaders of the world to our prayer list. This week there is a Climate Change Summit at UN Headquarters in New York. While this summit is going on, President Obama is taking advantage of all the world leaders being in town, and meeting with many of them about situations around the globe. I can tell you that world leaders have got their eye on America and President Obama. They want to see how we're going to rebound from our economic despair. They want to see how we're going to respond to threats against democracy from around the globe. Let us pray this week for wisdom for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. May God give them the wisdom they need when meeting with all these world leaders.

Let us also pray for protection for these leaders as they meet to discuss climate change.

Once the climate change summit is over, President Obama will then direct his attention to the economy. An economic summit is scheduled in Philadelphia for the end of this week, where many world leaders will also be in attendance. I just pray with all my heart that God would show up at these economic meetings. May He make His presence known, and may He influence Godly decisions regarding the current global economy. May these leaders see that turning to God is the solution that would solve everything. May they see that God truly is in control.

As we're praying this morning for world leaders, I also feel that we should still be lifting up the nation of Honduras in our prayers. You may remember we began praying for this country a few months back, when the president-who-would-be-dictator was ousted peaceably. Things are coming to a head this week with this ousted president having returned to the country, but is hiding within the Brazilian embassy. Let us pray for peace for this tiny country who only wants democracy and freedom for her people. May God protect the citizens, and may this situation resolve itself peacefully.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Child's Prayer

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:16

A few weeks ago, the kids and I were discussing an upcoming conference in October. They asked if we were going to stay at a hotel again, because that makes the whole experience so great and wonderful for all of us. I told them that we'd see, and I explained to them that we weren't sure that we'd have the extra money to be able to stay in a hotel this time again. They understood that completely, but were a little disappointed. We were driving at the time, and got to our destination. Before I climbed out of the van, I turned to them and said "we'll just have to pray about it." And climbed out. The kids got out, ran around to take my hands and we started walking. Zander suddenly says "done." So I looked at him puzzled, and he says that he wanted to start praying for the extra dollars right away. And then Abigail asked if we could pray for that when we're praying every day for our school day.

So we have done that. Every day last week, the kids prayed that the extra money would come so that we could stay in a hotel. And of course, you know I'm not just telling this to tell a cute story about kids praying- the fact is that God totally answered their prayers. Extra money has come in from a few sources- sources that God provided in advance, and my kids now understand that God answers their prayers. What an amazing and incredible lesson in faith for my kids!

I have to admit, I am amazed, actually. And I'm so thankful. Yes, I'm thankful because our hotel stay is now possible, but really, I'm more thankful because God answered my children's prayers. That is awesome, and important, because I want them to know that God does answer the prayers of his children. When I asked them yesterday what we should pray about for the day, they were both quiet- God had answered their big one already. Abigail quietly spoke up then and said that we should pray that Daddy will be able to keep working. I said a big amen to that and then we prayed about it together. Just as God answered their prayers about the extra money, I know that God will answer their prayers about Daddy working. Their faith is being expanded, even at such a young age. Kids know that God is faithful- and when they see it actually work, it's almost like an everyday occurrence. Where I was excited to show the kids the checks that totalled the amount we needed, they looked at them kind of like "yeah, okay, of course that happened- can we have a cookie now?" It was so matter-of-fact, and it reminds me that I want to have that kind of faith.

I want to have the faith that when I ask my Daddy for something, He hears me and will provide the solution I'm looking for. I want that child-like faith that when things go wrong, that light is always at the end of the tunnel, showing the way out. The faith of a child is incredible and to see it boosted this week for my kids sure is awesome. I can't wait to see what God does with the faith that is growing inside of them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Heart Refinement

"The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,
But the LORD tests the hearts." Proverbs 17:3

"He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the LORD
An offering in righteousness. " Malachi 3:3

Change is always a scary proposition. And sometimes it's terribly difficult, but there IS a reason. I find these references in scripture to metal refinement eerily accurate. Refinement of metal is done by fire. A lump of gold goes in the fire to be melted. In the process, impurities can be removed, and then all that is left is the pure gold- but there's no other way to remove the impurities. It must be cast into the fire to be refined.

And sometimes, when we're going through change, seeking God and seeking His Righteousness for our lives, refinement takes place. I see it happening crystal clear right now in my life. I see the process underway, as things that have been important to me in the past have been growing less important all the time. Like this computer that I'm sitting at, and my blogging. While I still maintain this blog on a very regular basis, all the rest of them are suffering from a lack of updating. And where I once felt a strong desire to blog, I'm finding that desire to be less and less all the time. It was once important to me, but let's take a walk through some of that blogging, shall we?

When I think about something to write on my food blog, it's a process. It begins with an idea to cook something. Grocery shopping usually takes place, followed by the cooking process- which can take a while sometimes. This is followed by the plating and food-styling (as much as I do anyway) and the photo shoot. Then I mosey over to the computer upload and edit photos, and then begin the process of blogging about the recipe. It really is time consuming! And where it has been a labor of love, more so these days, it's just something I don't want to take the time to do. God has placed more important desires in my heart. This blog continues because the process is so very different- it starts with my Bible, or Bible Gateway, and a few verses of scripture. Usually there is praying involved, and then I sit down, verse in hand and begin to share what God is telling me about this verse today. In the process of blogging, I'm spending time with Him, or encouraging others to love Him- it's a very good use of time.

Yet I am missing my blogging. I'm missing the connections I've made over the many years I've been doing it. At the same time though, if God is refining me and taking me to a new place, with new purpose and new ideas, I think it's kind of exciting. I could rationalize the food blogging all I want- I can say that if someone looks on my food blog, it might lead them here where they could learn how much God loves them. But the reality is, that I just don't think that many people interested in my food blog, click over to this blog. There is no rationalization in the refining process- there's no room for it. So I've been blogging a lot less, and will continue on that path unless God tells me to stop it altogether.

The refining process can be painful... it's going through fire after all. Sometimes it's our trials and struggles that we go through that are refining us, molding us and shaping us into the perfect beings that God wants us to be. It can be incredibly painful, but as we're going through the purification process, as the impurities are removed one by one, we can keep our eyes on Him. We can know that when the process is done, we will be more like Him, and shaped and molded into what He wants.

So I think this morning. I think about the refining process, and I think about going through fire, and I think the whole process is totally worth it, but it also makes me want to take a look inside. It makes me want to examine my heart myself. Is there anything in there that I can take care of myself? Is there anything I can remove and spare myself the painful procedure to come? Is there something in there that is taking up too much of my time? Does my heart drift towards places it doesn't belong? And what am I putting into my heart? Am I reading something that is feeding my soul something I don't want in there? Am I spending time watching something on TV, online, or at the movie theater that is not uplifting to my soul?

It's interesting, as I know I've been going through a refining process for a while, and I think about my reading choices. I am an avid reader- I read a lot of books of many different genres, but lately, I've had to put so many books down, or quite frankly, not even pick up a lot of books. While reading is purely for enjoyment, as I read, if I'm reading something unwholesome, or against Godly principles, you can be sure that the devil is filing that away to bring out sometime. TV is the same way. There was a show we started last year that we really enjoyed- it wasn't on a regular mainstream channel, but the actors were ones that we really enjoy watching, and the story of the drama was very fast-paced and very well written. We probably watched about seven or eight episodes of it, enjoying it, before something started nudging at me. In the back of my mind, I could see where some of the story lines were leading some of the main characters into a situation of adultery. And where this show started out fairly innocuous as far as innuendos and such go, I could totally see where the plot was headed. So we simply stopped watching it. I don't even know if it's still on, to tell the truth, but we saw ahead what was going to happen, and that we didn't want to take that into our minds, and we turned it off.

Even now, I have the first episode of a new season of Survivor on the DVR, and I'm really waffling about watching it. I'm trying to decide if I should watch it- is watching the suffering of these people- the fighting and the bickering and the tribal dynamics something that lifts me up or brings me down? Right now, I'm leaning towards deletion.

The refining process. It's ongoing, and it seems there's always something to be worked on or removed. I can say that it's easier to just let the process happen. Once I realize what is going on, it's kind of one of those deals where I lift up my hands and say "whatever you think, God"- almost in exasperation, but it's easier to give in than to fight it, and deal with the struggle. So as the process is ongoing, I pray that I will see when change is necessary and that I will not resist that change that is so natural to resist. I am His and He is mine, and He just wants what is best for me and for my family.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Seeking Approval

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

My children are so incredibly well behaved. I can brag about that, because they just are. When people ask what we use as a form of punishment these days, all I can do is smile and shrug, because we truly need no punishment, and haven't for years. Our frown and disapproval is all the punishment our children need to keep from misbehaving again. Children are born with an innate need to receive their parent's approval. Many children get that, right from birth, and it shows in the loving and nurturing relationships they have with their parents and those around them. Some children do not get that approval, and those are the ones that books and movies are made about- the cautionary tales about a young man still seeking his father's approval after all these years. I've been thinking about the approval of a parent these days, and I can't help but wonder if for some, if it is a blocking stone in their relationship with God.

The thought first came to me a few weeks ago, as I watched my children worship on a Sunday night. Since I'm up front with the worship team, and Andy's usually in the sound booth, the kids are instructed to participate in worship, but pretty much they're on their own Sunday evenings. We can both keep an eye on them though, and it is so amazing to see these two little people (my two favorite little people in the whole world, I might add), worshiping with all their heart. Every once in a while though, Zander will catch me looking his way, and he'll stop what he's doing. He'll come closer to me then, and do whatever it was he was doing again, to make sure that I was able to see him. Of course, I smile at him, and he goes away satisfied that I've witnessed his worship. A few weeks ago he did this though, and my thought to myself was that it was a shame that he interrupted his worship to come show me, because I know he was worshiping with all his heart, and that God was totally loving that. Granted, my son is a little young for the path my thought is taking this morning, but couldn't it be the same way with us sometimes?

I'm just thinking out loud here, but when something great happens in life, there is usually a short list of people who get a phone call about it. Or when something bad happens, the short list is along the same lines. Usually, parents are on that short list. And they should be, please don't misinterpret what I'm saying at all. I think Andy and I have very good relationships with our respective sets of parents. But some of us, I think, go through life living our stages of life wondering if our parents will approve. Except I think that's misdirected approval, actually.

I think that like a new babe, like a young child we all are still desperately seeking approval, only for some of us, we think that approval should come from our earthly parents. What we're missing is that the internal drive for approval is for the approval that only our Heavenly Father can give. It's actually the approval of our Almighty God that we seek, not the earthly approval of our physical parents. As my son comes running over by me, and I give him my approval, in his mind, that's just as great as if God Himself smiled at him. How cool is that!?

In my search through the Bible to back up these thoughts, I found some verses in Matthew 6 that give some hints to our Father's approval. Read the whole chapter if you desire, but here are some key points.

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." Matthew 6:1

"Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:4

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14,15

"and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:17

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

As I read all these verses, I can't help but see a daddy saying to his child, "do a good job, and you'll get a reward." So the child behaves, because they want the reward, but not only do they want their reward, they want their daddy's approval. When kids get special rewards or awards at school, they don't throw them in the garbage on their way out the door. They carefully pack them in their backpacks to bring them home and show them to their parents. The award is not enough- they want the approval of a parent to go with it.

If we follow verse 33, we'll gain the approval of our Daddy. Seek first God, and His kingdom and His righteousness, and ALL these things will be given to us. We will be given everything we need, want, and desire- including that approval that we all have needed since the day we were born. When I worship, when I praise God, I'm certainly not doing it with any thought to those around me. In the same way, I don't worship thinking, how would my parents want me to worship, what would they think. That's just silly to me. I know that my parents want me to worship God in whatever way God wants me to worship.

I think most parents are the same way. I know sometimes a big deal is made when a child chooses a church affiliation different than what their parents chose. But I think deep down, I think that while most parents may be disappointed at first, on the inside, the parents really are thrilled, they're simply thrilled that their child has chosen a path that, while may be different, is still a path to God. I think every parent wants their child to love God with all they've got. I know with my children, I have three desires for them- the 3 H's. Happiness, health, and heaven. As long as they've got all three, whatever path they take to get their is great by me. They don't need my approval for their choices, they need God's approval.

And that's all that really matters. God's Approval is more than gold, and should be the approval that we earnestly seek.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Don't Lose Heart

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

Troubles and trials can really get us down. They can suck our focus away from everything else that is important. And, oh, do I know how that goes!

I know what it's like to get that bill in the mail, the one that says power will be shut off by such and such a date if not paid. I know what it's like to have rent due in just a few days, and the checkbook has a negative balance. I certainly wish I knew then what I know now. Because when I think about those times, when I think about those countless times I would spend an entire day fretting about the money situation... what good did it really do me? What good did it do me to sit and spend the entire day focused on that dollar amount, wondering where we were going to get the money? I can tell you with absolute certainty that it did me absolutely no good. In fact, I think it harmed me and the relationship I have with those around me. Those days, those times where I was so focused on where the money was going to come from, that I lost focus of what was important. I became short and irritated with the kids. I was distant when Andy would come home from work. The housework even slacked off, because I was spending time at the computer, trying to find a way to "get rich quick" or somehow rob Peter to pay Paul. But most importantly, I lost focus on God.

Oh, I was in communication with God all right. About every ten minutes or so, a prayer would emit from the top of my head. "Oh God, please make this work. Please fix this and help us to find the money somewhere." It was almost like a distress signal, ongoing and non-stop. In the midst of my distraction though, I wasn't spending time with Him like I should have. Jesus told us exactly what we should do when we are troubled and worried, but because I was so focused on our problems, I didn't listen to what he had to say.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

And what was Mary doing?

"She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said." Luke 10:39

If I had only taken the time to spend with the Lord, things would have been so much better. Who knows what kind of peace and comfort I could have found in the arms of The One who has so much to give me! All that time I spent focused on my troubles, all that wasted effort worrying and fretting, when I could have just bowed my head and focused on what was truly important instead.

"If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation." Psalm 91:9-16

God is the answer to all of our troubles! If we take the time to spend the time with him, who knows that answers he may show us in our quiet time. When we purpose to glorify and praise God first, our worries can simply melt away! I'm not necessarily talking about some miraculous solution. In the case of money, it could simply be an idea- I remember several years ago, with an old company, Andy spent a good deal of the summer unemployed. He was barely working- certainly not enough to pay our bills. We were two months and then some behind on our rent, and while we were so thankful for a patient and understanding landlord, we really needed to be able to pay him the back rent. I spent some time praying and talking to God about the situation, and a short while later I was going through my e-mail inbox and deleting old e-mails. Lo and behold I came upon a form to fill out that had been e-mailed to us to share with anyone who needed it. This form was basically a request for assistance for expenses. I printed it off, filled it out, and a few days later we were able to pay our landlord.

I have to confess, I also struggled with being able to pay our rent at that time. Here we had money, and while it was intended to pay bills, there was a big part of me that wanted to take a portion of it and go buy groceries and other things we needed. While I pondered that idea, that thought of only paying part of the back rent, the idea came to us to have a rummage sale. So we paid our rent, and then prepared and proceeded to have a rummage sale. That rummage sale more than paid for groceries and needed items. Looking back on it now, I can completely see God's intervention. I can see that he drew me to my e-mail inbox to find that form. And I can totally see how he dropped the idea of the rummage sale into our heads. God works like that! And when we give him a portion of our time, when we become like Mary and focus on Him, and hearing what He has to say, He loves on us and gives us those random ideas to help us through a situation.

I'm using the situation of money here because I think it's so common, and I think everyone goes through money woes at one time or another. But as I'm thinking about all these things, and writing them down, you could certainly insert any other trouble in its place. You could insert job woes, co-worker situations, family rifts, or a physical need that's causing stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are not tools of God! They are tools of the devil! And he loves it so much when we allow those troubles to cause us stress and anxiety. The more stress we allow, the more the devil sends our way, because he thrives in that kind of atmosphere. I can't help but think and wonder how much less stress and anxiety we would see in our communities today if we took an opposite approach. What it, upon the first sign of trouble, we headed to our knees in thanksgiving instead? What if, when you hear the news of being laid off, you fell to your knees and thanked God for the opportunity to do something new and exciting? What if we praised God for our troubles instead of letting them fester?

Once upon a time Andy's unemployment time was such a time of stress for us. Being in seasonal work, it's inevitable that every year he spends time collecting unemployment and doing odd jobs to try and make ends meet. But you know what happens when Andy isn't working? He is available for other things! He is home to spend time with the kids. He is home to help a friend who is doing a remodeling project. He is home to go put some time in on our church building, sprucing it up, or making repairs. As much as we don't like the financial pinch of that time, by golly, we are so thankful that he has the opportunities he has during that time off!

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. " 1 Peter 5:7

I realize that all this sounds good in theory, but in practice, is much harder to accomplish. But really, what have we all got to lose by not trying? We're already stressed out, losing heart, and full of anxiety, and our problems are still there! Let's make an effort to spend that time with Him, the one who cares for us! Let's cast our anxiety and worries on Him, and focus our efforts on praising and thanking Him. He may have the very answers we need to take our worries away. The next time you find yourself dwelling on a troublesome situation, getting angrier or more worried by the second, try turning to the one who cares for you! Walk straight to your CD player and put on some joyful praise music. Or go to Youtube and type in Praise and Worship music if you don't have any CD's. You will find plenty to choose from. Let the music wash over you and soothe you, and then spend some time talking to God, sharing your troubles with Him. He may very well answer you, but at the very least, you will find your strength renewed.

"He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40: 29-31

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Warfare Wednesday, Continuing To Pray

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." James 3:13

God has not forgotten our troubled nation.

God loves America, and all the beautiful people who live here. This is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is still a country where freedom is cherished and available to all.

This song this morning makes me look around, look at the world around me, and wonder what God has planned yet? God still has great plans for this country, It was God who allowed Barack Obama to be elected president, and I can't wait to see how God uses this man to show His glory.

Yet we still need to pray, we need to pray more than ever, as there is trouble within our country. There is unrest and people are not happy, nor are they afraid to share that they are unhappy. We need, more than ever, to continue to pray for President Obama- to pray for wisdom and understanding. And to pray for safety and protection, for the President, and for his beautiful family. We also need to remember to pray for Vice President Biden and his family. We may not see the vice president as often on the news or in the papers, but he still needs our prayers of wisdom and protection just as often.

And we really need to pray for our congressmen and women. We need to pray for our senators, and locally, we need to pray for the governors of our individual states, as I don't think there is any state in the union that isn't facing budget issues this year.

We need to be thankful, too. We need to remember to thank God for this beautiful country we live in, and thank Him for the freedoms that so many have fought for us to keep. It is amazing to live in a place where we can disagree with others, but where we can still work together to find a solution, and not have to fear for our lives.

And so today, I will continue to pray. I will continue to pray for our president, that God may bless him richly, and I thank God for his willingness to serve our country. I will continue to pray for our elected leaders, that God may continue to protect them, and protect our nation. And I will thank God for this country and for the freedoms we've been blessed with.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Elijah And The Spirit

"As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart." 2 Kings 2:11

I always remember this being one of our Bible stories in Sunday School. It was always a really cool story, and we still hear about it often- about Elijah being a person who didn't actually die, who was just caught up in a chariot of fire and taken to heaven. That's still cool! There is so much mystery that surrounds the process of death- the only people who actually know what that process is can't actually tell us about it because they're not with us anymore. My thoughts this morning though aren't about death or dying, but they're about Elijah and his mysterious actions. There were other men with Elijah and Elisha who saw what had happened, but suggested that they go look for Elijah, here is what they said.

"Look," they said, "we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley." 2 Kings 2:16

If you read that verse, it doesn't sound very urgent or surprised. It doesn't sound as though these men thought it strange at all that Elijah would be picked up by the Spirit and dropped off somewhere else. Lo, and behold, this must have been a regular occurrence, because if we go all the way back to 1 Kings, chapter 18, we see another reference to it.

"But now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' 12 I don't know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn't find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth. " 1 Kings 18:11

Now, I know that Elijah is referenced often as a great prophet and man of God but am I the only one who is simply in awe of this? That Elijah and the Spirit are so in tune with each other, that the Spirit will just pick him up and take him to where he needs to go? Yet as I read on, we also see that this great prophet and man of God also dealt with bouts of depression, and when he was dealing with these issues of depression, he was not working in tandem with the Spirit and in faith. When he goes through periods of depression, he has to make his journey the hard way- actually walking for the duration.

"Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God." 1 Kings 19:3-8

I think that Elijah is the perfect example of how important it is to hang onto our faith and to the joy of the Lord. Depression is a robber- it robs us of so much, including our ability to interact with the Spirit. As I'm reading these things about Elijah, I really don't think that the times he was caught up in the Spirit was a surprise to Elijah- I think he knew how to do it. I can't even begin to fathom what that entailed, but he knew the right way to approach God and be picked up and moved supernaturally. But the spirit of depression would come upon him heavily and it would rob him of that interaction with God. Where just the day before he could be picked up and moved, he now had to travel physically for forty days and nights.

Elijah is an example of how important it is to stay in God's Word, to stay rooted in the Bible, because that is where our protection is. Our protection is also called the Armor of God.

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:13-17

Elijah certainly could have used the shield of faith, as the devil knew that depression would do him in. Elijah curled up under a tree and begged to die- he needed some protection from that depression. Thankfully, we have what we need today to fend off any attack from the enemy. Where Elijah had to rely on himself and God and those around him, we have a mighty sword in the Holy Bible. The Bible will give us what we need to stand firm and resist the attacks of the enemy.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Wanna Be Like Mike!

"[Imitating Christ's Humility] If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Philippians 2:1-2

When I saw this verse pop up in the verse of the day box this morning, I read it, smiled, and went on with a few other things. Then I came back to it, read it again, and then I felt something stir a little bit, so I read it again, and then I saw what this verse was trying to say to me. That happens to me quite a bit when I'm reading my Bible. I'll read a passage and not understand at all what it is saying- and I think that's fairly normal for most people. Sometimes I'll move on, but sometimes, I'll just feel the need to re-read, sometimes several times, because I really want to understand what is written in God's Word for me. Sometimes an understanding will come to me, sometimes not, but I think the point here is that I keep trying. I think about my kids who read to me every day, sometimes they don't understand something, so we read it again slowly so they can take the time to process what they hear- most times that does the trick. Often times, when I'm reading my Bible, I need to take a child-like approach to it.

But this verse today really made me smile, because I think it's one of the things that actually has been frustrating my husband a little bit as of late. (I hope he doesn't mind if I blog about him today!) In Philippians, Paul is making a case for Christianity- and making a very good one at that. It makes me wonder how the world has gotten the way it is... let's think about Christianity as a whole, and the perception of it by those who are not. Often times, non-Christians see the negative. They see the strife within the church body, hear the gossip about church splits, or a pastor in disgrace. They see the poverty, the people who are struggling to make ends meet, but drop an offering in the basket every week, or they see the couple with the wayward teenager, pregnant and on drugs. Or they see those church people, who don't even glance their way, who walk around as if they are better than anyone else around them. Those are all really unappealing scenarios, and I can't say I blame anyone for staying away if that is what it means to be a Christian.

Our pastor said yesterday that for some people, the closest they will ever get to reading their Bible is what they read from us as a person. Think about that. The closest my neighbor may ever get to reading anything from God's Word is through their interaction with me and my family. It seems to me that we better start acting out what we read in God's Word! We better start displaying it for all to see! Paul is talking about that very thing- he's talking about the wonderful perks of following Jesus! When we become one with Christ- when we confess our sins and accept Jesus into our lives, we immediately get all the perks that go with it.

We get the magnanimous display of comfort from his love- the love of a father, that embraces us no matter what the circumstances around us. We get the fellowship with the Spirit- and what a wonderful fellowship that is! We can be in constant communication all day long, and the Spirit can be such a help when making a major decision. We get to experience tenderness as we look at those neighbor children through His eyes, as we see the potential of the life yet to be lived, or the compassion, as we watch that elderly neighbor struggle every morning to open the car door. Then there is the most precious and wonderful joy of the Lord.

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

It is the joy of the Lord that gets us through every trial that comes our way.

"but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

Every day is a new day of joy. Each and every morning, I rise out of bed and thank God for this new day, for a new opportunity to love my children and my husband. I thank God for the simple newness of the day, that it IS a whole new day, and we never know what each moment will bring until that moment is upon us. I think as a parent, a new day is the greatest source of joy. No matter how bad the previous day was, and no matter how early my kids decide to wake up, I can't help but smile and be filled with joy when I see their precious faces each and every day. Every single day! They wake up, excited for the new day ahead, and get busy straightaway with whatever toys, games, or books strike their fancy. It's this childlike joy that has gotten me hook, line, and sinker, because each and every day is just so awesome! Each day that we get to live could be a whole new opportunity to get to know God better.

It's this joy that has infected our household, and for that, we are so blessed and grateful. Because we've certainly had challenges try to come our way... but by golly, as we look at the challenges, it's almost like... well, it's like so what? Bring it on? Because any trials that come our way here on earth is so minor, so trivial, and such a drop in the bucket compared to the thought that we have an eternity to plan for. And even better, as the enemy sends trials our way, we know we will overcome them all through Christ, and then we will have a wonderful testimony on the other side! It almost makes me wonder why the devil even bothers, because we know that God wins every single time!

And so, as I read this verse from Paul, just one more time, it's like the dawning of a new era. It's like, the all new "keeping up with the Joneses", only we're not talking about stuff. We're talking about relationship with God. We're talking about positioning ourselves for the eternal reward. We're talking about all the peace and the joy that we have- only it's even better than stuff, because we can share! All the perks of following Jesus are not just for us to keep to ourselves- we're meant to share them. Like a giant never-ending candy basket that we can just continue sharing a piece at a time, until our neighbors make their own commitment and get their own basket, and then we work together, trying to share with everyone else. It's a wonderful cycle, and the rewards are so sweet.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Peace And Serenity

"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

Today is the day Americans call Patriot Day. Eight years ago, a terrible attack was led by un-Godly men on our soil, and thousands of people lost their lives that day. Like most people, I still remember that day so, so clearly. I remember sitting on the living room floor, playing with Abigail while the Today show blared in the background. Andy was hustling about, getting ready to leave for work. (Heh, how about that dear, once upon a time you didn't have to be at work until 9:00 in the morning!) We were celebrating out second wedding anniversary that day, and while we didn't have any specific plans, we were aware of the specialness of the day. I glanced at the TV and saw a live picture where an airplane had just hit the first tower. Andy was about to head out the door and I made him pause for a second and see it- we had just watched within a few days a documentary on History or Discovery about a pilot who had flown a small plane into the WTC tower many years ago. I made a comment to Andy about some schmuck doing it again- we both kind of chuckled and he headed out the door to go to work.

It didn't take long for the gravity of the situation to set in. The rest of my morning was spent trying to keep 1 year old Abigail happy playing on the floor while I just stared at the TV. Tears came more than once, and after a few phone calls to my husband at work, his whole office decided to take the rest of the day off. I remember how much more secure I felt having my husband at home with us. At the time, we were not attending church, but I remember having a serious desire to go to a church and spend time praying, but we didn't have a church to call home, and so we didn't go anywhere. I clearly remember the fear that was in my heart that day, and the days to come. I remember seeing the list of people who were on the airplanes, and seeing one couple in particular who had their two-year old daughter on the plane with them. As I held my one-year old, I could not imagine, holding her in my lap, knowing we were about to die in a horrific way.

What I can't imagine now, is walking around with that fear still in my heart. Thank God for His peace which passes all understanding!

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

With the peace of God in my heart and my mind, the terrorists and their master will never win. In my heart and in my mind, it would be very easy to think about the events of that day, and be gripped with fear of some kind. I find I can even apply this in other areas. I'm often home alone in the evenings with the kids. It doesn't take much- some random noise outside- to get my heart beating a little faster, and my mind starts playing all kinds of tricks on me of potential doom. I find that when I take a minute though to pray, and thank God for his protection, that His peace immediately flows through me and I am calm and still once again. Not only do I rest in His peace and His protection, but I also rest in the fact that my help comes from the Lord!

I know that if something were to happen beyond our control that God is IN control. God knows where we are and exactly what we need. We've seen this firsthand before. We've seen as God sent angels to hold a wheel on our van as we careened down the highway at 75 miles and hour. We've seen as God sent a semi truck to block our way and protect us from the tornado that was passing by- and we had no idea about until we saw the horrendous path of destruction just five miles later. And we've seen more recently as we hit a deer head on with our van, and miraculously, no one was hurt- and the van, while cosmetically challenged, rolled away with no damage to the engine. Our help comes from the Lord in all situations.

My heart is filled with gratitude this morning. I am praying for those who are still being affected so terribly by the events eight years ago- I am praying that God's peace will wrap them up this morning and comfort them, and take away that stress and that pain of all those years ago. Yet my heart is filled with gratitude towards our God who sends His peace and His comfort daily, because without it, I would be lost. I lift up my eyes to the hills daily, and bask in the joy of the Lord, which is my strength, and my ever-present help in trouble.

Thank you God for this beautiful country we live in. May YOUR peace sweep the country this morning, may YOUR serenity fill the hearts of every man, woman,and child this morning as they remember that horrible day eight years ago. Bless this country once again, Dear God, and bless us all with your never-ending peace and joy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Women Who Minister

"SOON AFTERWARD, [Jesus] went on through towns and villages, preaching and bringing the good news (the Gospel) of the kingdom of God. And the Twelve [apostles] were with Him,

2And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled;

3And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager; and Susanna; and many others, who ministered to and provided for Him and them out of their property and personal belongings." Luke 8:1-3 (AMP)

This wasn't at all the passage I was going to blog about today. I had seeds on my mind, and I was headed further into Luke, chapter 8, to dig into some seed scattering. Interestingly enough, what I was looking for, wasn't actually there, but these first few verses in Luke 8 were. I read it through a few times to make sure it was saying what it was actually saying, and then I was intrigued and thought it would be good to share this morning.

I was reading through some old posts on this blog from about a year ago, and as I usually find when I read old blog posts, I wondered if I had actually written what I was reading. It sounds so much better when I go back and read them than when they first come out on the page. I had done a post about the mere fact that I am a woman, and I struggled with the idea of being a woman in service. I talked about Deborah, and the idea of waking up- you can read about it here. This morning though, as I read the beginning of Luke, I wonder why verse three in particular doesn't get more attention.

It says right there, in black and white, that these women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others, ministered. They traveled with Jesus, they ministered to Him, and I'm sure to others, and they also provided for him and others out of their own personal belongings. I'll bet it was more than that too- I am certain that these women served with all their heart too, preparing food, mending clothing, maybe cleaning up when they stayed at some one's house. You know they had to do that with all their heart and with hearts full of joy.

Just for kicks, I went to Miriam-Webster and looked up the meaning of the word "minister", here is what it says.

2 a : one officiating or assisting the officiant in church worship b : a clergyman especially of a Protestant communion
3 a : the superior of one of several religious orders —called also minister-general b : the assistant to the rector or the bursar of a Jesuit house
4 : a high officer of state entrusted with the management of a division of governmental activities
5 a : a diplomatic representative (as an ambassador) accredited to the court or seat of government of a foreign state b : a diplomatic representative ranking below an ambassador.

You know what I notice? Not one of these definitions mentions being a servant or lowly. All of the definitions of minister sound important- or high ranking, if you will. We see words like superior, high officer, a diplomat. It's verses like this that I think so many of us women need to see, we need to see that there are examples in the Bible of women in positions that are traditionally held by men. It's kind of like reading about the youth the other day- sometimes God calls the youth to speak to the elders of the church, and sometimes, He wants those elders to be women.

And so many women struggle with this. We see other places in the Bible that tell us to be a help meet to our husband, or we've been part of a community of believers who believe that women should be seen but not heard. I'll tell you, the exact same Jesus who works in the mightiest of men is the one and the same Jesus who dwells in me.

"For God does not show favoritism. " Romans 2:11

I, as a woman, have the same abilities and the same right to be a minister as my fellow brothers in Christ. God doesn't favor men over women, and I think more and more women are realizing this. I've noticed lately that while a lot of the speakers we see are men, that more and more, their wives are also standing up and speaking. It's so wonderful to see that, because women are just as important as men, and God can use them in the exact same way.

Sometimes though, we may find ourselves in a season of diaper-changing and toddler-wrangling, and that's okay too. But just because we're in that season for a time, doesn't mean that is to always be our season. God may very well call a woman to nursery duty for a time, but the same God may also call the same woman at another time to minister to adults.

I guess I just needed a reminder this morning. I needed to be reminded that being a woman does not exclude me from anything that God has for His people. Every once in a while, I find that I have my doubts, and the more I read in my Bible about other women ministering, the more my thoughts of inadequacy are chased away.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Congress Is Back In Session

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." James 1:22-24

Yesterday the kids and I took a break out of our school day to watch President Obama address the schoolchildren of the nation. It was a great, inspiring speech geared towards children, and I thought he did a wonderful job with it. As he spoke, I just kept talking to God about him, because I kept thinking to myself and wondering to myself how much this man could accomplish if he gave his life completely to God and God's Will. The president is a very eloquent man and delivers a speech beautifully and passionately- just think about how that same eloquence and passion could deliver a surrender to God! Wow- it would be incredible! I think the criticism this past week about the speech itself was an indication that we need to continue the fervent prayers for our country. The divisiveness continues in a horrible way, and only when we stop complaining and criticising every move can healing take place.

Yesterday, congress returned to the capital after a month-plus recess. We surely need to be praying for our elected leaders at this time. Most certainly, they are going to be tackling the issue of health care, and given the current state of the country, this could get very ugly in a very short amount of time. These leaders are going to need to be covered in our prayers- our prayers of protection and our prayers of blessing. They need to see the country through God's Eyes, and see exactly what needs to be done with health care to make it work for every man, woman and child. There is a solution out there- and God knows exactly what that solution is. By turning to God, and focusing on what God would have for this country, congress can reach a conclusion that will be amenable to all. I know it is possible- all things are possible through Christ. Our prayers of intercession- for God to intercede do make a difference, and we so need to continue our prayers in the time ahead.

God loves this country, He loves each and every one of us, and He wants to see us succeed. But He wants us to want His love. He wants us to want His will. And He wants to hear from us. He wants to hear our prayers for our country- and our agreement with each other. Our divided country can be united and wounds can be healed, but it's going to take our prayers to do that. Please pray with me today for our President and our congressional representatives.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Praying For Our Youth

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Twice in the last few months we have been blessed by being witness to youth in action. At our church a few weeks ago, the youth took over the Sunday morning service and just completely blessed the congregation. It was incredible to hear what God had been saying to these young people. This past weekend, while visiting family, we were completely blessed by another youth group, as they took over the worship service for the morning. Their worship was very powerful and more than once, I asked God to continue to bless that youth group.

What I thought of both times, is that so many times as adults, we look at our young people, and we simply see inexperience. I can't tell you how many times, growing up, I had adults look at me and simply say "well, you're young" in reference to any number of things. Yet, we need to remember that these young people are children of God too- and God loves them just as much as he loves the experienced adults.

The pastor who spoke this weekend reminded the congregation that where the youth goes, so goes the church- and isn't that so true? When the youth are pressing into God for more, it's contagious. Conversely, when the youth don't care, when they are attending church simply because they have to, the same is contagious, and apathy reigns for a time.

And so this morning, I simply want to put out a challenge to anyone reading this to pray for your youth. Pray for the youth of your own church- call your youth pastor if needs be and get some specific prayer concerns. But spend some time praying for the youth in the weeks to come. Maybe you'll be prompted to get specific, and pray for a specific youth, or maybe you'll pray for the group as a whole. But they really need to be covered in prayer- especially as school is in full session now. This year they will be tempted like never before- and it is our prayers that will keep them focused on God and their faith, and will enable them to share the love of God with their schoolmates. And the more of God's love they share, the more of those young people around them will want to know what they've got- and maybe those young people will come with them to youth group or church. And then those young people will find their own change in their lives, and their parents will want to know what is this awesomeness that has come upon their teenagers- and then they will check out the church themselves. It's a wonderful cycle, that we can spur on, simply with our prayers.

Let us remember to not look down on our youth simply because of their inexperience. God can use anyone- young or old, and He will use anyone.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Stepping Out In Faith

"So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

31"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "

32But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." Mark 5:24-34

I've been reading the references in the Bible to this specific miracle that Jesus did. It also happens to be in Matthew chapter 9, and Luke chapter 8, if anyone is so inclined. There are so many passages in the Bible that talk about the healings that Jesus did, but this one really strikes me as something special because of the incredible faith of this woman.

Let's think on her for a minute. She has been having issues of blood for twelve years. I don't know what that specifically means, but we can speculate that maybe it was a reproductive issue- maybe she was constantly having her period. Maybe she was a hemophiliac, where if she received a cut, it wouldn't stop bleeding for a very long time. Maybe it was a form of leukemia, or other cancer of the blood, or one of the many rare bleeding diseases Dr. House would find. We don't really know. But what we do know is that she suffered for twelve years from this problem. In those times, in those days, doctors did what they could, of course, but a disease of the type we're talking about would most likely result in some form of seclusion. I will bet you that this woman spent her entire time with this illness alone. I will bet that she lived alone, and that she didn't have any neighbors to check in on her. The lepers were always cast out of society to live in their own little colonies, and I'll bet this woman had similar restrictions- such as, no going out in public.

Yet here she was, in the streets, trying to reach Jesus. Just thinking about this, just thinking about the step of faith that she was taking in being out in public gives me goosebumps! This woman was not supposed to be there. At any moment, someone could recognize her, and then who knows what would have happened to her- death perhaps for putting a community at risk. Certainly there would be some sort of persecution. But she heard of this Jesus, and she heard that He healed the sick, and there was no way she was going to miss an opportunity to be free of the disease that had ruined her life. And then, not only did she go out in public, but she pressed in! She pressed into this crowd of people, not giving up, because she wanted to touch Jesus, because she knew that she would be healed if she could only touch him. I just want to pause for a minute, because think about what would have happened had she not been healed. I'm thinking going out in public was one thing, but pressing into the crowd- she would have been cast out, and likely stoned for sure. She was risking certain death, but she had such a great faith in this man they were calling Jesus to heal her, that she risked all to be well again.

This woman's faith was so great that when she did finally manage to touch the very edge of Jesus's cloak, Jesus felt it. He felt her faith and felt her draw the healing balm right out of him. She was healed instantly. At that moment, she could have ran home and no one would have known, but then she chose to share what had happened to her. When Jesus asked who touched him, she could have fled the scene, and no one would have really known, because so many people were pressing into Jesus. But she came forward. She trembled and knelt before Jesus, knowing full well that she could be punished for even being in public. She told Him what she had done, and He confirmed to her what she already knew- that she had been healed. Only this time, everyone around heard. Everyone there in the crowd knew that this woman had been healed of her issue of blood, and she now had a multitude of witnesses to back up what she already knew in her heart and mind. Imagine the testimonies afterwards for that one!

Every time I read this, in whichever book I read it in, I am so in awe of this woman's desperation. It really makes me wonder about the world we live in today. Every once in a while we will hear of a revival breaking out somewhere, or of a church where miracles happen sometimes, and one would think that upon hearing that, the natural progression would be to run towards the miraculous. If I had a terrible or terminal disease and I heard that there was a chance I could go to a particular church and come away healed- wouldn't I want to go? Yet people don't today! They don't run towards that healing because... Well, I don't know why they don't. Why don't they? I think it's because people don't realize what it is that they truly desire. People today are trying to fill their lives with so many things to keep them busy and happy, that they don't realize that the one thing that they are missing is the one thing that will fill them completely.

I will tell you, without having had a terrible disease like this woman had, I know what it is like to be close to Jesus. I know what it is like to live every day feeling completely fulfilled, because I've been pressing in for more of Jesus. And I'll tell you, I won't be satisfied with just a brush of the cloak- I want the full on encounter. I want the talk. I've noticed something too within myself. I've noticed a shift, a change of focus on what's important. It wasn't that long ago that a lot of our hopes and dreams were centered on stuff- on material possessions. We wanted a house, land, maybe a camper, an in-home theater space, things like that. And of course, we wanted all this stuff to go along with those things.

But right now? Where I sit, where I am in my spirit, I could care less if we ever see any of that. Honestly and truthfully, if it is to be that we never are able to buy a house, I don't have a problem with that. If we never have the land we want, that's okay too, because I am now focused on what really is important. I'm focused on God, and my relationship with God. And I'm focused on my family, and our relationships with each other and with God as a family. If God were to bless us with the ability to buy the things we want, I have to be honest, I wonder if we would be able to do it. There are so many people in this world suffering and hurting- children starving to death, and we want to spend thousands of dollars on four walls and a garage. There's just something not right about that to me right now. We've been experiencing our own financial crunch this year, but we're always able to find a little money under the couch cushions to go buy something for dinner. There are so many people who don't have that option, and it just breaks my heart completely. My children are happy and are well fed, and it brings tears to my eyes to think about the millions of mothers out there who have to put their children to bed with an empty stomach- and I wish, more than anything, that there was something I could do about it.

See, I've been pressing in for more of Jesus, and what is going on is that the things of this world are being pressed out. The things that the world tells me are important- aren't important. And the closer I get to Jesus, the more I start to think like Him, the more I see the hurt and the anguish.

We've been having a terrible year financially. I'm not going to sugar coat it, it's been terrible, the money has just not been there to do anything beyond pay basic bills! Yet if you ask us how we're doing, I will tell you every single time that we're doing wonderfully- and we wouldn't be lying. We're filled with the joy of the Lord! We're happy beyond measure, because our focus is not on our checkbook. We're not focused on money in the least. It comes in, we pay bills, and that's that. We don't dwell on the lack, because what good does it do? When we dwell on the negative, that's when we're letting the world tell us what we should be dwelling on. The world tells us that we should have so much in savings at one time. The world tells us that we should buy this, that, and the other thing in order to be happy. But greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world! We're focused on Jesus. We're stepping out in great faith this year, saying that God IS going to meet all our needs and be our Jehovah Jireh- be our provider. Because what other option is there? To think on what we don't have and aren't able to do? Instead, we'll focus on what we do have. We have each other, we have a roof over our heads, and we have three meals a day. But even better than that, we have a God who loves us. We have a God who knows our every need and will meet every need. We have a God who fills us with joy every single day, and I am so joyful this morning that it is a new day. I am joyful that I have a new opportunity to draw closer to him. And I am joyful that I'm about to go teach my children.

Whew. I wasn't going to mention much of that this morning. Yet there it is. I pray that everyone has a wonderful and joy-filled weekend. I don't think I'll have another chance to post this week, as we're headed out to Minneapolis for Labor Day weekend tomorrow. I'll be back Tuesday morning. Be blessed and full of joy! God is GREAT!