Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Way In The Desert

"This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

Last night as I lay in bed not sleeping, I was thinking and praying on a few things. I'd had a few troubling dreams the past few nights about specific people, and when that happens, I usually just spend time praying for those people. I spent a lot of time yesterday praying for someone who I haven't even seen or heard from in about six years, but all day long, I just felt compelled to pray for this person. Crazy, but true.

One of the things that I was thinking about last night as I wasn't sleeping was the current state our country is in. I was thinking about how the kids and I will start school back up next week, and for the next month or so we will be immersed in the realities of the Revolutionary War. I was almost crying as I lay there last night, as I thought about where this country began. I just... last night I just was weeping for the country that seems to be fading. When we read the accounts and the stories of how the US started as a country of freedom... I just don't understand how we got where we are today. People fled Europe and England because King James was telling them where and how to worship- and it extended further than that. The King was trying to dictate every area of their lives- there was no freedom. And these precious people risked their lives to try and start over, to try and find a life where they could worship God as they pleased. The Revolutionary War was fought because these settlers and landowners in the colonies saw that King James was trying to make America a new England. He was taxing them and imposing his laws from across the ocean.

The patriots fought for freedom from tyranny and rules. And look how far we've fallen. The American people have forgotten where we began. The American people have forgotten what it looks like to live in a country where the government has control of everything. We want our government to give us jobs, money, health care, housing, food, insurance...we think we're entitled, and we want our government to give it to us while we sit on the sofa and give ourselves diabetes and heart disease.

May God forgive us for our apathy and for our sense of entitlement! I think if some of those patriots of old saw us today, they would not know that they were looking at the United States of America. I've been reading biographies of George Washington- now there was a man who was favored by God! He was a great man, full of ideas and ideals, and he thanked God for his successes. He didn't think he was entitled to his land or to being a leader in a new country. He worked hard in his youth to get to where he got in his adult life. He worked hard, and he talked to God. Nothing was assumed, and nothing was taken for granted. Freedom was so, so incredibly precious to President Washington. As was fairness, and a concern for all people.

I realize I did my Warfare Wednesday post yesterday, but as we close on 2009 and look ahead to 2010, I just feel so deeply that anyone and everyone who has a relationship with God needs to spend some time on their knees, thanking God for this beautiful country we are blessed to live in, and we need to ask forgiveness for our current state of mind. If the people would only pray, I believe a way will be made in the desert. If the people would pray, I believe that God would show His favor on this country once again, and would make a path where there seems to be no path. If the people would pray, I believe that we will see this new thing that God is doing. If the people will pray, we will see the streams in the wasteland- and know that those streams are full of living water.

If the people would pray, God would make a way.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

I thought this verse was perfect this morning to accompany our weekly reminder to pray for President Obama. Normally, with Warfare Wednesday, there is always some other issue or need that comes to mind that I pray for as well, but this week, I just really feel that we need to focus on praying for our president and the new year ahead. The president addressed the nation a few days ago, and he was so... somber. I imagine that his first year in office has not gone at all like he had expected or planned. I just want to pray for peace for him, and continued protection for him and his family. Regardless of the politics involved, no matter who is the president, we should be praying for protection for them. I can't imagine being in a position where I know, with absolute certainty, that there are people out there plotting to kill me. Being the president comes with that risk, and it could very well be our prayers of protection that keep those plots from coming to fruition.

But maybe you're reading this and you live elsewhere in the world. Would you please consider praying for President Obama as well? God hears the voices of ALL his children- not just the ones living on American soil. And more than that, if you do live elsewhere and consider yourself a citizen of a different country than I, then take Warfare Wednesday and use that time to pray for your own president, and your own governmental leaders. The part I just wrote about being a target at all times holds true with most countries in the world today, sadly. And just think how much better this world would be if the leaders of our countries turned to God for wisdom and understanding! A global God revolution could start right here with us, as we pray from week to week for the leaders of our small world.

And what do you know, something else to pray about after all.

Dear God, this morning as I lift up the Obama family for your divine protection, I also want to pray for governmental leaders as a whole. May you give them peace this morning, and may you give them wisdom and Godly understanding. May the world know Your love and Your peace. Specifically, I pray for the leaders of the troubled parts of the world right now. I pray for Israel, and I pray for Iran, Iraq and Yemen. I pray for China, North Korea, and the Philippines. I pray for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I pray for Honduras, Venezuela and Cuba. Protect the people in these troubled countries. Give them hearts for You, and may they rise up and pray for their own leaders and their countries, and may a global revival sweep through these nations and bring a peace that can only come from God. For Love has already come, and may it prove steadfast.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It All Comes From Him

"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so." Genesis 1:29-30

"He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:" Psalm 104:13,14

The snow has been really interesting this year. I don't think it's looked the same way twice, and I really think that's God talking to us, telling us that He is always doing something new and different and exciting. The first snow that we had this year came crazy early- at the beginning of October. Then it got warmer out for a while, and then, with practically no warning, we got a dumping of over a foot of wet fluffy snow. That's stuck around for the most part, but then a few days ago we got another layer of snow, this one was light and dry, it shoveled and swept up easily. This snow was followed by rain and sleet, and then more cold temperatures that froze it all up nicely. Then more snow fell, and it got foggy, and the combination of rainy/snowy/foggy gave everything a glittery white sheen. The trees looked like someone had spray painted every single branch. It was just lovely. It got windy yesterday though, and blew the light layer of snow off, and now the snow outside looks like a field of meringue. It's got a crust and a sheen, and it's quite pretty to look at.

And as I think about that snow, which I personally don't care for, I am reminded that the snow comes from God. God designed each snowflake to be different, and they sit somewhere in the heavens, sitting in a big storehouse, just waiting to be dropped on the earth at precisely the right moment. Think about that for a second. Those first flakes don't fall until God tells them to fall.

"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail, " Job 38:22

Every once in a while, I think we just need to be reminded that everything around us, everything we see, touch, smell, hear, and experience comes from God. God designed every blade of grass, every grain of sand, and every drop of water. That's pretty humbling to think of. To think that God created plants that grow from seed- and it is up to Him, whether or not they grow and produce. With my gardening adventures there have been so many times where a planted seed fails because I didn't tend it quite right. I am only a human being- a fragile being who can't even manage to get a single plant to grow right. Yet God created every wondrous variety on this planet we call home.

You know what I've never done and I aim to change this year? I've never prayed for my garden. Maybe that sounds a little crazy, and that could be why I've never done it. But I've never prayed blessings over the seeds that I plant. I've never prayed for the rain to nourish my plants- I've simply taken it upon myself to reach for the house, or try and figure out the right fertilizer for my soil. I do wonder what would happen if I blessed the seeds I plant. It says right there at the beginning of Genesis that God gave man every seed-bearing plant to bear fruit. If they've already been given to me, it seems to me that I need to figure out how to pray for my plants so that they grow and bear abundant fruit.

That makes me smile this morning, to think of the green and newness of spring. Right now it is so cold out, and everything is under a blanket of snow and ice. But, this too shall pass, and before we know it, spring will come forth and soften the ground and warm the air.

"Be glad, O people of Zion,
rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you
the autumn rains in righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before." Joel 2:23

I will rejoice, and be glad!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Week Of Rest

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

I love this week ahead of me. It is the rare week in the year, where we focus on rest. Oh, I have a house to clean and daily chores to do, but we don't have any obligations, no activities, and nothing planned for the week. It's a week of rest. It's a week where the kids can do as they like, as long as they are considerate of each other, and the whole household gets some down time before the new year rolls in.

The biggest thing this week I think is going to be spending some extra time in my Bible. And talking to God. The year in front of us is going to be full of change, and things are going to get radically different in a very short amount of time, and I want to be prepared for that. We'll have some adjusting to do, and I want to make absolute certain that all those adjustments are things that God wants us to be doing.

And yet, it's also so much more than that. I want to make sure that while we're waiting, while we're resting and waiting on what's next, that we're still praising. That while we're waiting for what God has planned next for us, that we continue to be joyful and full of praise, with every breath that we take. Christmas may be behind us already, but I want to take this overflowing joy with me each and every day. And the love. Oh, the love. I want to make sure, that as much as I am physically possible, that I keep the love of God fresh and present, and that it goes before me as I go. If I had to look back at this last year and pick out one thing that I've learned and will take with me for forever, it is the love of the Father. His love is never-ending and all-encompassing, and so, so precious.

So this morning, I am also praying that you will experience great rest this week. That you will feel refreshed and energized and that you will know the love of God that brings you that much needed rest. I pray that while we are all waiting, that we will continue to praise Him with every move we make, every step we take, and every breath that we make. Because He is so worthy of all our praise. I will praise Him while I wait, and I will thank Him for every moment that He gives me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Christmas Edition

"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6-7

This morning I want to pray in so many directions. My heart is just being pulled in a few places this morning, so bear with me, as I think they all need to come out this Christmas week.

First, I am continuing to lift the first family in my prayers. I was thinking of them last night and praying that they would have a relaxing and joyful Christmas together. I read that they are going to Hawaii, and I pray that they are totally blessed by the trip- and more importantly by the time together. And I pray more fervently for their protection. I was actually thinking about Michelle Obama, and the first daughters, Malia and Sasha. I was thinking about how every day their husband or father heads off to work and there's a very real chance, every single day, that he could end up in peril at some point during the day. And I just had to pray for peace for the family, because I can't imagine lying in bed at night fearful that my Daddy might not come home from his trip. You know they always have that reminder- as they have their secret service guards with them at all times- those guards are there for a reason. For some reason I was thinking of President Kennedy, and I just spent some time praying that this presidency would not end in the same way. May God protect this family in all areas of their lives.

This morning, I'm also thinking about all the people around the world who celebrate Christmas- and who may very well be doing it alone this year. I pray that they don't feel as if they are alone- or even better, that an invitation to join someone be extended in their direction. Being alone for holidays can feel very lonely indeed. But it doesn't have to. I pray that all those people who are celebrating the birth of Christ alone will feel His presence with them throughout the day. That despite the lack of human companionship, that they will be surrounded by the presence of God and the joy that comes from Christmas. I also am praying for the safety of those who are celebrating Christmas in an area of the world where that may be a danger to them. Let no calamity befall any of God's precious children during this holy holiday. May their celebrations take place, and may they be a witness to those around them who don't know the love of the Father.

I also want to pray for all the soldiers and servicement who are serving abroad, away from their families this Christmas. Also for their families. As they make their brief phone calls or web-cam visits with loved ones, may God make that time especially sweet for them. I so appreciate the military men and women who are sacrificing to keep our freedom intact. May their families have joyful holidays at home, and may God put up a barrier of protection around each and every one of our soldiers serving in a troubled area. No one should get that phone call or doorbell ring for Christmas- may this be an incident-free holiday all over the globe.

And while we're praying for people overseas, I want to also pray for the Missionaries and humanitarian relief workers who are somewhere in the world, trying to bring Christmas to an undeveloped area. I can't help but think of Darfur when I think of Christmas, and I think of all those refugees STILL in need of aid and assistance- and those people who work tirelessly to try and bring that help. May God bless their sacrifice doubly. May God keep the missionaries safe this Christmas season- may they be able to celebrate Christmas with abundance and may they be able to share that love with the people they are trying to reach.

And finally this morning, I am praying for you. Yes, you. I am praying for my blessed visitors who stop by from time to time and read these words that I write. God has blessed me and my family so, so incredibly much this Christmas season. I feel more blessed than I truly thought possible, and I am praying for God to extend those blessings to you, to His precious children. May each and every one of you know fully, the love that He has for you. May your Christmas be wonderful and bright- whether you are with friends, family, or spending the day working, or at home alone. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, and that as a child of God, that you are never truly alone. God loves you, and I do too.

Be blessed my Heart & Soul readers- you are cherished and precious children of God, and He wants you to know that this Christmas. He sent His beloved son just for you- so that He could spend eternity with you as a companion. You are a companion of God! Enjoy your Christmas, I'll be taking a few days break from blogging, but know that my prayers are ongoing, and His love never ceases.

Oh Holy Night (Full Version) - For more funny movies, click here

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let's Celebrate!

"[The Shepherds and the Angels] And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:8-11

In the last three weeks, I have heard more people complain about celebrating Christmas then ever. I don't know if it's the not-so-good year of 2009 finally catching up to people or what, but so many friends, acquaintances, and random people as of late have been talking about "getting back to the reason for the season." In not such a... joyous way, I guess. I've been hearing things like people aren't buying gifts for anyone because they want to focus on the real meaning of Christmas, and I've seen people choose to not decorate because they just want to focus on Jesus instead of the... "trappings" of Christmas.

And that's all well and good, I suppose. I mean, if people need to step back and just spend time with God this Christmas, that's between them and God, but what I don't like is for someone to tell me that by me picking out a few gifts to give, that I'm caving to the world's pressure of what Christmas is. That it's not about the gifts or the decorations. And while even Mr. Grinch says that Christmas isn't about the presents and the lights and the strings. Well, I say that Christmas is ALL about gifts! Jesus was the greatest gift of all from the greatest Daddy of all to His children that He loves so dearly. What better way can we remind ourselves of the gift of Christmas than by sharing our love through the act of gift-giving.

And the decorations! You know, we were going to scale back on the decorations this year ourselves. We just ran out of time this year, actually, but then we started getting them out and putting them up, and we just kept on going. The thing is, every time I walk into my house I see Christmas everywhere, and it makes me smile. Every single decoration that is only up for a few weeks is part of the reminder OF the reason for the season. Every house on the street that is lit up with strings of lights is a reminder of the gift of Jesus. Even Santa is a reminder that giving gifts is one of the greatest acts of love a person can do.

The angel brought good news of great joy! How better can we honor and remember the greatest gift for all mankind than by CELEBRATING. By gathering with friends and family, and celebrating together the joy that is for all people! Christmas is not a time to be serious and solemn and withdrawn, it is a time for love- to give love and to receive love. We did a study on love languages once upon a time, and I find it amusing that the same people who agree that gift giving is a major love language, are the same people who say we shouldn't be giving so many gifts at Christmas time.

And maybe we're just in the minority. We've never bought a gift to give to someone because we had the mindset that "we have to give a gift". We give gifts because we love. Andy and I both had the same results from the love language study- gift giving was one of our top two languages for both of us. And so every single gift we give is something that we've purchased or made or thought of because we thought of the very person who the gift is for. The mere process of picking out a gift can also be a great opportunity to pray for someone too! As we think about the gifts we want to give, and maybe are looking for something for a specific person, that's a great opportunity to think of that person, and say a few prayers for them.

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7

This verse is often used for offerings and tithes, but I think it's also very applicable here as well. God loves a cheerful giver- and we can give someone the smallest gift, but if it's given with a cheerful heart and with love, it can be as meaningful as the most expensive and important gifts.

I think the whole point of what I'm trying to say this morning is that while it seems that this year especially, so many people are saying that it's important to focus on the meaning of Christmas, that you can focus AND celebrate. I think that when God looks down at his children and sees them full of joy and happiness during the Christmas season, that He is just thrilled. How could He not? Think about a parent giving that one gift to their child that the child really wanted. If I gave THE gift to my child and they didn't jump up and down and express their joy, I think I'd be a disappointed parent. It's okay to jump up and down for joy for Christmas! It's okay to celebrate and make merry and give gifts! Jesus truly is the reason for the season- and He wants to celebrate with us!

Psalm 145:9 says that The Lord is good to all! Let's remember that and be joyous this Christmas season- and most importantly, let's SHARE that joy this Christmas. It seems that there are so many who could use it this year. Joy isn't the gifts and the celebrating and the merriness, but joy causes them all to happen anyway. Love and joy. That's what it's all about.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It All Began With Love

"Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." Matthew 1:19-25

Last night I spent the evening watching The Nativity Story, and really, really enjoyed it. It was a wonderful retelling of the birth of Jesus, and I really think it captured some unique elements about the relationship between Mary and Joseph that Scripture only alludes to. The verses above tell us that Joseph was a righteous man- and in those days, in those times, men would select a young woman for their wife, and approach the family to ask permission to marry their daughter. Then, if permission was granted, they were married, and called husband and wife, but the girl still lived at home and the couple had to remain pure for one full year. After that year passed, the couple then consummated the marriage and she moved into his home. This explains a lot of what these verse above are saying. Mary was pregnant with Jesus after they'd been declared husband and wife, but before their year was up. Joseph had a huge decision to make.

On one hand, he knows the child isn't his. He doesn't believe Mary's story about a messenger from God appearing to her. If he still keeps her as his wife, they will become a public disgrace, because obviously, they couldn't keep their vows to remain pure for the full year. Joseph had made up his mind to quietly divorce her, and then the angel speaks to him in a dream. Joseph's follows what the angel says, and keeps Mary as his wife. Now they are both under public disgrace, but they both believe they are doing the right thing.

Something that this movie really conveyed to me last night was what they could both have possibly been thinking. They were both told that this child would be the Messiah, and daily they were surrounded by the cruelties of King Herod and the Romans. Families had to work so hard to get enough money to pay their taxes, or the young women in their family would be taken away to "work off" the taxes. People were killed for no reason, and life just wasn't good for the people of Israel. Both Mary and Joseph saw this baby as an opportunity for their people. Their love for their people was the first act of love in this story. They both were willing to do whatever it took to see their people freed from the tyranny of Rome- even suffer public disgrace.

The second act of love comes as the story continues. As Joseph and Mary find themselves married, expecting a baby, while they really hardly know each other. Now imagine that they have to go on a journey together. A census is called to be taken, and Joseph must travel to his hometown- and take his new family with him for the census. Any journey in those days was difficult, and to make it with a pregnant woman makes it very hazardous indeed. They make this journey together- and just think of the conversations they must have had! In a time where most people began their married life not knowing each other so well, these two had a unique opportunity to really get to know each other. Joseph's acts of love for his new wife are just amazing to think about. All that he did, all the burdens he took on his shoulders, for the love of this new wife- and for this child- are an example that we all should remember.

Jesus was an act of love all by Himself. God with us- Jesus was love from God for all mankind- destined to save each and every one of us from eternal torment. It just seems so fitting to understand that as God so loved us and sent His Son for us, that this child was brought into this world surrounded by love. He was guarded in the womb by two young people who so loved their people that they were willing to bear any shame to carry this child to life. And then He was brought into this world by two people who also so loved each other, and who loved Him before He even took his first breath as an infant.

Love. It's all we need this Christmas season- it's how Christmas began after all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Treasures Of The Heart

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19

"Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart." Luke 2:51

Wouldn't it be nice to be a little more like Mary? I love it when I'm reading about Jesus, and I get to these two particular verses. It's the treasures and the thoughts that belong to a mom. Only, in this case, all Mary could do was treasure these things in her heart. As she spent time with the wise men who came bearing gifts, all she could do was watch and take it all in. What was she really going to do? Was she going to go running out in town, telling everyone she saw about how these three stately people came and gave her son such precious gifts? All she could do was watch and take it all in. And then someday, I'm sure, when the time was right, she shared what happened with Jesus himself.

I know how she felt, at least a little bit. This week has been a remarkable week for us- our household is just, well, it feels like we've been bathed in the Christmas spirit. We're just so joyful and enjoying our time together. We received a second Christmas tree this week from someone who didn't want it anymore. Oh, it is such a beautiful tree! We originally were going to just put it away and decide what to do with it next year, but we just felt it had to go up. So Andy fiddled with lights for several hours, and while he did that Abigail just purposed in her heart to make enough decorations to put on that tree. We all worked together, and made a paper chain garland, snowflakes out of coffee filters, paper wreaths, and plenty of other paper ornaments imagined in my daughters head. We made candy canes of beads and pipe cleaners, and Abigail made a giant construction paper heart to tuck into the branches. And while someone else could walk in and declare it the tackiest tree ever, I have to disagree. I treasure this tree this year, because, to me, it shows that my kids understand Christmas and the love of God for them.

I just know that as the time goes by, and we can look back and reflect on Christmases past, that this year is going to stand out big time, because this Christmas, God has shown us so much love. As each little symbol of love falls onto our family, I gather it up and I treasure it in my heart, because it fills me with so much joy and love, and the need to share. I can't wait to tell the stories of this Christmas season, of how God has placed blessing upon blessing on us. Some blessings may be small blessings to mans eye- but they are blessings just the same, and I am just overwhelmed by the goodness that God has shown us. Just this morning, the mail lady dropped off a package that contained Christmas gifts for the family- and I don't even know who they are from! The goodness of God abounds, and I want to share it with everyone I can. `Tis the season for sharing the love of God with everyone I can.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Continuous Prayer

"At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over." Daniel 10:2-3

You know that feeling, where you've been praying about something for forever, it seems, and you just start to feel like it's not making a difference? I get there sometimes. We'll be praying about making a decision or making a change and seeking the opportunity to make that change, yet the answers just don't seem to be coming. And we can get discouraged, and our minds will come up with the idea that, hey, the answer must be no, so we stop praying about it. Or we'll resign ourselves to the idea that some prayers simply go unanswered.

Except the fact is that there is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. God hears every single one of our prayers. When those thoughts or feelings come to me, I almost always turn to Daniel, chapter 10, to read about when an answered prayer took some time, because it is such an encouragement, such a reminder that God does hear our prayers and answer. At the beginning of the chapter, Daniel begins praying about a vision he has had, seeking God for the answer. When he has no immediate answer, he turns to fasting, and meditation for three weeks time. And look what happened. His fasting and continuous prayer made a difference!

"Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come." Daniel 10:12-14

Daniel's words were heard immediately by God, and this angel was sent to Daniel to deliver the answer to Daniel's visions. Along the way though, the devil intercepted the angel and blocked his path for a full 21 days. I believe that it was Daniel's continuous prayers and fasting that sent Michael to assist this angel. God continued to hear Daniel's cry and sent help to overcome the enemy who blocked the answer.

I think this is so important to read and try to understand, because we know the devil is the devourer and a thief. And more than anything, he would love to steal the answers to our prayers. The devil wants us to think that God doesn't care and that God doesn't answer all our prayers. While I can try to imagine what would have happened had Daniel stopped praying and fasting, I probably can't imagine the reality. The messenger sent to him needed help from another angel to get past the devil, had Daniel stopped praying, would the messenger simply have turned back? Or would the messenger have been held up to the point of Daniel's end? No one knows, but I do know this, that this is the perfect example of an answer to prayer sometimes taking some time. And that we shouldn't stop praying about something simply because we've uttered the prayer once. Continuous prayer may very well bring us the answers we seek sooner than if we'd simply prayed and walked away.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." 1 John 5:14

"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 1 Peter 3:12

God hears our prayers every single time. He also answers them. Sometimes those answers are held up by something that we simply can't see with our human eyes. That's when we continue to pray, that's when we turn to our Bible and be encouraged by the passages that tell us the truth- instead of listening to the lies of the devil.

God loves us, and He hears our prayers- and oh, how He loves to hear our prayers. I imagine there can't be such a thing as too much prayer, as God loves to hear the voices of His children. And that's what you are- His beloved child.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Warfare Wednesday: Praying For The Economy

"There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." Acts 4:34-35

President Obama has been making a few speeches and a few decisions about the economy this week. We need to continue praying for wisdom for him in this area, because it's a big one. I don't know anyone who isn't at least a little concerned about the impact of our troubled economy. It affects jobs and prices and, well, everything.

As all this talk is going on about improving the economy, I can't help but think about all the people at home, or at work, listening to these speeches, wondering when it's actually going to help them? As they look at their Christmas decorations, and then look at their children, wondering how on earth they are going to be able to tuck a few presents under their tree. I've heard more than once in the last few days how depression is highest this time of year, and while I suppose I can understand it to some extent, I think we just need to step it up and pray that depression off of our country. Sure, it may be sad to think of not being able to give Christmas gifts, but even the fictional bad guy Grinch understood that Christmas is not just about presents.

I guess as I'm praying for the president and his staff this morning, I can't help but pray that people all over our country will experience their own Christmas miracles this year. That somehow in the next few days that something amazing and wonderful would happen that would encourage them, and show them that God loves them- and that love would chase away all manners of depression. Even as far up as the white house. I am sure that President Obama spends many hours not sleeping, tossing and turning, wondering where he is going to find the answers to our nations troubles. I pray protection over him, and I pray that he will turn to God for the answers that only God can give. Love will right this nations wrongs.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God With Us

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23

God with us. I love just thinking on that simple phrase. Jesus was born and come to earth so that God could be with us. God wanted to be with us. Up until that time, God wasn't with us- He wasn't with man. God had to be separated from us because of our evil ways and the bad choice made way back in Eden. In order for God to visit with man, it could only be done deep within a labyrinth of thick curtains, so as to protect man from dying from the glory of God.

"Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. 32 Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. 33 Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the Testimony behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. " Exodus 26:31-33

Only the high priest was allowed to be in the presence of God- and only then, after much purification and preparation. But God sent His beloved son to us so to tear away that curtain- to tear away the great chasm that stood between God and man, and to atone for all of our sins. Every single one of our sins has been bought and paid for, and now God is with us all the time. And He is good, all the time.

The devil would have us think otherwise. He would have us think that God is only good sometimes- that He's only good when things are going perfectly right and wonderful. I have to say, that it is my experience that God is good all the time, but really, it's the low times when we notice more often that God is so good. And honestly, this may be where I totally messed up. When Andy was doing very well at work, and money wasn't a concern, we would thank God for our blessings, but we wouldn't notice the small blessings. We would completely miss the little things that God would put in our lives just for us. And even the big blessings, they were great, but we maybe didn't give God the thanks that we should have. Or the glory for the abundance we had for a time.

But now, in our time of drought, God's blessings are evident each and every day- sometimes several times a day. It is a blessing this morning, that the coldest day of the week happens to be the one day that we don't go anywhere. It is a real blessing that yesterday Andy and I felt inspired to clean up the house and put up Christmas decorations- it looks so clean and festive and joyous in our home. Last weekend was an incredible blessing, as Andy's willingness to volunteer led to a paid weekend away for the family, and the kids got to swim in a swimming pool to their hearts content. And I got to simply rest and relax and spend time thanking God for all my blessings. Even this morning, the kids are celebrating Christmas break from school by pulling out all the stops when it comes to play time- watching them and listening to them is pure joy- and such a blessing.

All these little things that we just miss when things are going so wonderful. And while I'm certainly ready for things to be wonderful again, I am very careful when I'm talking to God about that. Because what I don't want is for everything to perk up and take a turn for wonderful, and then forget where we've been. Someone asked me not to long ago, if money was no object, what would the difference be in my life? It actually made me a little nervous to think of that, because if money were no object, if it wasn't an issue, I would want, more than anything to stay where we are with our focus on Him, and to use that money where He would have us to use it. The thing is, right now I know what it is like to be in need- and even though we're in that place ourselves, the crazy thing is that my heart is breaking for others who don't have the support systems in place to help them through. Or the people around the world who get by on just a few morsels of food a week. It brings me to certain tears thinking of that.

So as we roll into Christmas, it is my prayer that I will stay mindful of "God with us". And that is my prayer for you as well. That you will experience the fullness of "God with us" and that your Christmas season will be blessed and bright. Not because of some big glamorous gift or some unexpected endowment, but because God loves you so. I pray that you will know that love so much more this year than you ever have before-and that it stays with you, on into 2010 and beyond. Because God truly is with us, now, and forever.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leaping For Joy

"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." Luke 1:41-44

I've been thinking about this passage on and off for the last few weeks. I've been thinking about baby John, leaping in the womb when he is near the mother of Jesus. I'm thinking about every day, and how sometimes it seems like we are drawn to particular people for no apparent reason. Did you ever think about that? When you are in a crowded room of people, what is it that draws you to particular people? Or, what is it that keeps people on your mind?

"All the believers were one in heart and mind." Acts 4:32

All the believers were one in heart and mind. I believe that holds true to this day. I think that when we ask Jesus to become our Lord and Savior, something happens to us that automatically links us up with other believers. Believers in Christ share a heart and a mind with the One who loves us the most. I have experienced walking into church and seeing a friend, and I can literally feel my spirit leap for joy upon seeing them. Especially when we've been gone for a week or we haven't seen someone in a while. Once we become a believer in Christ, our spirit takes on a whole new personality- it craves fellowship. More than anything, it craves fellowship with God. It craves that time with God, the time we spend in His Presence- most often when we're in a setting of worship. Then it goes a little further, because while we can spend time with God when we're on our own- there is something that is so much more sweeter about spending time with God when you are with fellow believers. And here's why that is:

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

When we gather with our fellow believers, Jesus is there also. Our spirits leap for joy in anticipation of spending time with our precious Savior.

It's not even two weeks till Christmas, and I'm thinking about all those people who are out there who don't know the love of God in their life yet. I'm thinking about all those people who have a hole that only God can fill. They want to experience what it is like to have their hearts leap for joy, so they spend their lives trying to fill that hole with as many experiences as they can. As Christmas is upon us, they spend these few weeks shopping for gifts, receiving gifts, thinking that giving the perfect gift can be the answer. When really, the answer is for them to receive the greatest gift of all.

The gift of everlasting life, given only by the one who loves us so.

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

With Praise

"Praise the LORD!

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. " Psalm 106:1

"Praise the LORD!

I will praise the LORD with my whole heart,
In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation." Psalm 111:1

I've been very slowly getting into reading a new book that's been on my shelf for a while. It's a fictional book, and it's taken a while to start taking off. It's a fictional account of what might of happened when the angel Lucifer fell from heaven and became the enemy of all, and last night I was really, really struck by something as I read what I read. (Keeping in mind, this is fiction.) Picture this: An angel walks across the room of his home and picks up an instrument. He starts to play this musical instrument, and the whole time, all he can think about as he plays a few notes on this instrument, is whether or not his playing was pleasing to God. He randomly picked up the instrument and started praising God right there in the comfort of his home. His whole reason for playing that instrument was to praise God- it wasn't to please himself, and it wasn't to show off or anything. It was for the express purpose of praising God.

While he was playing and praising with love in his heart for God, God showed up and let him know that the music pleased Him. And as the Glory of God entered the room, the angel became overwhelmed by the presence of God and fell to his face and trembled at the beauty and the glory of God.

I read that part of the book a few times last night, because I was so struck by what to this angel was a simple every day act of playing the instrument- yet he did it for the sole purpose of praising God. And it made me think about me and my days.

Do I praise God with everything I do? When my hands set forth to do something, is it with praise on my mind? Or is it because I have something that needs to be done? Then do I do that something grudgingly? I think of the everyday mundane tasks that I do- the dishes, the cleaning, the laundry, the child-rearing, and I have to say, I don't think that I truly do all these things with praising God in mind! Now, I'll often take the time that I am doing housework and spend that talking to God. When I do dishes, I'm talking to God non-stop, and folding laundry is pretty much the same. But when was the last time I woke up in the morning and said something like "may these hand bring God glory and praise today." I confess, it's been awhile.

Maybe it's because I've been thinking like the writer of Ecclesiastes.

"Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:11

Sometimes everything does seem meaningless. I can spend an entire day working my tail off, cleaning my home to perfection, but what does it really matter? In less than a day it can be in such disarray, and then I need to start all over again. Talk about pointless! But I happen to think that the pointless and meaningless part comes in when I do it all without God. This morning, all I can think about, to be honest, is how different everything could be if I tried to keep myself in the mindset of praising God in all that I do. If I were in a perpetual state of praise, I imagine my day would go much smoother. If I set forth to spend my day praising God with all that I do- I think I would be more likely to do, rather than spend my day wasting away at the computer yet again. And then there are also all these wonderful verse in the Bible that set my heart on fire!

"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. " Revelation 22:12-13

Just thinking about that has me so excited, because there is another thing that I have had on my mind as of late. (And I really apologize, because I feel like this post is a bit disjointed today, and not making sense.)

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

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:26-28

God made man for a reason. God made you and God made me for something specific, and I can't help but think that it was for so much more than simply washing dishes and cleaning toilets. While I could go on speculating to some greater purpose, I actually think it's much more simpler than that. I think it's because before I was born, God already loved me. When God first decided to make man, He thought of me specifically and thought to himself that I was going to be someone that He would love and cherish. And you know what? He thought the exact same thing about you. He thought about how much He was going to love watching you grow and how much He was going to enjoy watching you draw closer to Him. I think that God created you and simply out of love.

That's why I want to learn to praise Him in all that I do. Because if I have a God who loves me this much, to even create me and call me into being, I want to learn how to praise Him for every day that I have. In all that I do, I want to give Him praise, because He is so worthy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Praying For Your Husband

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

The other day I posted about praying for my children, and tucked within that post I also mentioned the idea of praying for future spouses. I had someone shoot me a little e-mail that basically said that was something they had never even thought of before- the idea of praying for someone that you would meet in the future.

That simply made me smile, because now that I'm thinking about it, it is just so true. Whether you are a parent praying for the future spouses for your children, or if you're a single adult- wondering when love will strike true. As a single adult, probably one of the absolute best things you could start doing right now is to start praying for your spouse. They're out there somewhere, waiting for the right moment when you'll be brought together. How cool is that? How cool is it to think that you are praying for the person that you will spend the rest of your life with?

It's also so incredibly important too, to continue praying as life goes on. I think that sometimes young marrieds forget that. They spend time as a young adult praying for that special person to come into their life, and then when they finally do- the prayers stop. Yet we see right here in Proverbs that we should be praying for our spouse all the days of our lives. It should be our charge to ourselves that we pray for our mate daily. We should pray prayers of protection, we should pray prayers of safety and prayers for wisdom and guidance. As a woman, I find myself often praying that my husband would receive revelation and guidance from God. Many of the household decisions we make come down to him, and I have to trust that He is hearing from God when it comes to these important matters.

What's interesting about this, is that as I am praying for him to receive the answers, I can actually feel a burden lifting off of me. I am at home every day, caring for and raising our children, so all the matters of the household really fall to me. I am the one who physically takes care of things while my husband is out on the world working to pay the bills. A lot of decisions I make because it affects our day-to-day, but the big decisions, we make those together. And they can really weigh on me and affect my day. Like the decision to move. I weighed that decision of whether or not to move for months- and it really affected me. I was thinking about it all the time, and then when I finally started praying about it, and then talked to Andy about it, the ownership of that decision transferred to him. Because he is a man of faith, and I trust that he spends time with God daily, I know that the answers for our family will likely come to him and he will know what is best for us. It's so wonderful how this partnership works, because once I was free of that worry, I could focus on what was more important to me and running the household daily. Stress can be such a terrible thing!

I keep that in mind when things begin to weigh me down in my thoughts. Often times, that really just means that I need to talk to God about it, and then I need to talk to my husband about it. Then we can both be praying on something and thinking about something. I think way back before we had Zander in our lives. Abigail was not-quite-three, and I had a burning sense that I wanted another child. As anyone who's made this decision knows that it is a very serious one- the decision to bring a child into this world usually changes everything. I prayed about this one for quite some time, and then felt the time was right to mention it to Andy. He promised to think and pray on it, and it really didn't take long for God to assure him that this was the right thing- and not long afterwards we were blessed with the most wonderful little boy who will someday do great things for the Kingdom of God. And while we're at a point now in our family where we think our family is where it needs to be, if someday, God tells Andy that there are to be more little ones... (well, actually Andy may argue with God about that one for a while)... then I'm sure my husband will heed the words of God. But that all comes back to me praying for my husband. I pray for him daily, and I trust that he spends time with God daily, and so I have an assurance, a comfort, that if Andy were to ever come to some important decision that those decisions are from the Lord, and that many a prayer has been uttered about it.

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

I think as long as I'm talking about this verse today, that I also need to take it another direction. We can easily see how praying for your husband all the days of our lives benefits both people in a marriage situation. But what about the very words that come out of your mouth? Maybe they're words that you use when you're with your girlfriends, commiserating about the crazy things your husband does. Or maybe they are words that come out of your mouth directly to your husband. Our words can have such power- such meaning when it comes to another person.

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live" Deuteronomy 30:19

I have a post for the near future about the affect that blessings and curses can have on someone. But for today, I just want to dip my toe in and say that as Godly wives, we really need to watch what we say about and to our husbands. When we call them names, we're really cursing them and calling them that which they are not. And how many times can you say those bad names before your husband actually starts to believe them? Think about it. I'm homeschooling my children and I see it firsthand almost daily. When I praise Zander for his math work and tell him he is so smart and does a great job, he works hard and diligently, and proudly. When we have a bad day and I tell him he is being naughty and needs to pay more attention then he squirms in his seat and his math suddenly becomes "too hard" for him. I have learned very, very quickly that praising my son- that telling him good things gets far more accomplished than telling him things that can affect the way he thinks about himself.

Think of the husband who tackles a do-it-yourself project that they maybe shouldn't be tackling. (Ladies, we've all been there- right?) He begins the project with gusto- intent on saving some money by doing it himself, and as it goes on, errors are made, and after a while, he is surrounded by a mess and no clue how to fix that. How do we approach that ladies? Usually, we say some choice words about making poor decisions, complain about the mess, and get a wee bit angry. I know this is easier said than done, but what if we took a second and counted to ten first. While we're counting, we say a quick prayer, asking God for a measure of grace, and then we approach our husbands with honey.

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. " Proverbs 16:24

Instead of cursing their bad decisions, we encourage them. Maybe offer to help- offer to run to the library to find a book on this particular repair. I know often times when I approach a problem like this, all we can do in the end is laugh about the mess. But admittedly, more often than not, I'm the angry wife in this scenario- wishing that my husband had listened to me in the first place.

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

All the days of our life. This is so important on so many levels. In our prayers, in the physical, with our words, and in our thoughts. The more we remember this and consult with God daily, the more difficult of a time we give the devil, who really just wants to see marriages break up. Let's make a decision to thwart those evil schemes, and to approach the role of a wife in a Godly manner.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." 1 Kings 17:3

That's exactly what happened in the book of 1 Kings. Elijah prayed to God that it would not rain- and it didn't rain or dew for a full three years- until Elijah prayed again and let the rains fall.

The power of a praying man is immeasurable!

So we will continue to pray for President Obama this week, because I believe that God hears our prayers for our president and for our nation- and for the nations around us. This week I really think we need to pray for wisdom for President Obama. He has been discussing potential programs for bringing our economy out of it's troubles, and I just really feel that we need to pray that he makes the right decisions- that he makes Godly decisions. God has the answers. God knows exactly what steps need to be made to right the wrongs that have been going on- I pray that President Obama will seek Godly wisdom and will hear every word.

As long as we're praying for economic wisdom for the president, I think we should also pray for our neighbors, communities, friends and families who are struggling at this time. There are so many struggling- I know we are, but we have the one thing that makes a difference, we have a faith in Jehovah Jireh- the God who provides. We also have great peace that all will be well, and I just pray that over all the people who are struggling and hurting so much because of money woes.

As we've been reading our American history for school, there was a time when life was simpler. Money truly was scarce, but people had the means to support themselves. They learned trades, they tended livestock and raised crops- and whatever they needed they had to source it for themselves. Money really wasn't an issue. People didn't sit up all night by the fire wondering where they were going to turn to scrounge up a few bucks. They simply didn't. Instead, they would bow their heads and thank God for all that He had provided for them. They would thank God for the one-room cabins that felt like a palace to them. When an animal was slaughtered or hunted- no part of that animal was wasted, and so that time of year was such a joyous time as one animal became many meals to last through the winter. A fur became a coat or warm slippers. Animal tallow became the much needed candles, or was used in the soap making process.

My, how our country has changed. Now, I'm not against change at all- not in the least. I think God has graced this country with so much innovation and knowledge of how to do things- it's wonderful! But what has changed that is not good is the mindset. We work so hard day in and day out- but for what? For money. We work our tails off to make a few bucks, because we need money in this world to survive- to provide basic needs for our families. And instead of being thankful for what we have, we look at what our neighbors have and we want what they have too.

May God bless this country with grace- for we have fallen so. May Jehovah Jireh provide this Christmas season in a way that only He can. That's what I'm waiting for! I literally cannot wait to hear the stories of families being blessed in ways that only God could put together.

And I think, as I look out my window and see this incredible blanket of snow that God has laid upon the ground, I think that time is upon us. God has His hand in all things, and I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I'm like a child at Christmas, eager to see what has been so carefully hidden away.

Because every single one of us has a Heavenly Father who loves us so much. May His love shine like no other in the weeks ahead and bless this country in a way that only God can do.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Thoughts On Praying For Children

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:13-14

When the kids were in public school, these verses above from Matthew were often tucked within my prayers. I would pray almost daily that God would keep them safe and happy, and that they would be a light to those around them. When I was praying for safety, part of me was praying for physical safety, but I think more than that, I was praying for spiritual and mental safety. I prayed often about the influence of others on my kids minds- especially Abigail who frequently found herself in the company of older kids. I very clearly remember how kids like to show off all the naughty things they know, and I would pray that Abigail wouldn't listen to these types of things, that she would stay the sweet little girl who loves Jesus with all her heart.

I'm afraid that as they've been at home with me know, I think I've been praying these things a little less than I should. I do pray for my children daily, but I was thinking about this the other day and was reminded that every day there are new opportunities for them to learn things they shouldn't be learning. I am thankful that I was reminded that these prayers are still so important, that their little minds and hearts be guarded and kept full of the light of Jesus.

There are other things though, that I have been praying for regarding my children.

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Luke 2:52

I've been praying that my kids would find good friends lately. Especially Abigail. The one thing that I know she misses about public school is the friendships. Not specific friendships, I don't think, it seemed like every month she had a new best friend, but just the friends around her- she's such a social little girl. Mostly though, her best friends as of late have been her little brother and her younger cousin- who is Zander's age. These are friendships that will last a lifetime for her- but I have been praying for some real girl friends for her. She is getting to the age where those friendships will form and they will stick, and they will be fast friends for years, and I've been praying for that for her. I think I'm beginning to see the fruit of those prayers. There is a little girl who's been coming to church more and more that is her age, and they've been having a good time getting to know each other more and more. And at dance classes, Abigail seems to be coming more out of her shyness and spending time with the girls chatting before and after class, and of course, hanging out at recitals and such. I am so excited to see where God takes these new friendships for her. And I am also reminded of his blessed abundance, because I've been praying for one friend- for a girlfriend, and all the sudden there are several. God is so good!

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." 2 Peter 3:18

And as I've been praying for my children, and just being more aware of time going by, I've also made a startling realization. That somewhere out there, there is a mom raising up a little boy who is going to be my son-in-law some day. And somewhere out there, there is a mom raising up a little girl who is going to be my daughter-in-law someday. Even now, my children are being shaped to become a part of those families, just as those little ones are being shaped to be a part of my family. Someday these people are going to come into our lives, and my job is going to be to love them. So I've been praying for them. I have no idea who they might be, or where they might be, but God certainly knows, and I know He hears my prayers for these precious children who my heart already loves, but may not meet for dozens of years yet. I pray that God will protect them and their hearts as they grow, and that He will be very real to them- that they will have the hearts to match my children's hearts for God. I imagine these prayers will get even more fervent and more serious as I watch my children grow, and they enter into the ages where temptations away from God will be even more present in their lives.

Something that I've been keeping in mind as I pray for my kids is that God doesn't mind when I get specific. My prayers go far beyond a simple "God bless" and really in-depth sometimes. Many of my conversations with God go really far as far as sharing my hopes and dreams and fears for my children. And I think the more I talk to God about it, the more He eases those fears and reminds me that they have been entrusted into my care for a time, and that when they are under my care or older and grown out my care, the one constant they will have is the truth and knowledge that God loves them, and that He cares for them so much more than even I ever could. That is the most important thing to me. I watch with such delight when their prayers are answered, and as we discuss the wonderful world that God created in school, they just know that God is so much bigger than any obstacle they can ever face. I pray daily that they will know this always, that they will always turn to Him when they are in doubt.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

I can't wait to see the supernatural people that God is shaping them to be. It's going to be one exciting ride, and I trust God completely that they will take the paths that He has laid before them. While I may ask them sometimes what they'd like to be when they grow up, I'm very, very careful to never tell them that they are going to be something specific. What they are to do with their lives will be between them and God. I will help them pray about their decisions that lie ahead, and if God gives me answers for them, I will share them, but my will and God's will may not be the same thing. I give that all to Him, and as their journey of life continues, I know that He will set a course before each of them, and that course will be the right one- the one that has been designed just for them, before they were even born.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Land of Plenty

"In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty." Psalm 37:19

"You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed" Joel 2:26

I feel like a broken record this morning. In a good way. I feel like every other day I'm logging on here to share yet again, how God is just blessing us. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't share, but then I remember that the whole purpose, the whole point of being blessed is so that you can bless others. And sometimes, that blessing comes through a testimony. Testimony is such an important thing- it increases our faith, measure by measure. Every time we hear how God blesses someone, it increases the amount of faith that we have so that we might also receive what God has for us. I like to think that God has a whole storehouse just for my family. He's got this huge cavern full of blessings and one by one he just keeps reaching in and pulling something out and dropping it on us. When He does that, we thank Him for it, we praise Him for it, and we share it with others, so that they too, can unlock their heavenly storehouses. Then it seems that God smiles at that, and reaches into his bag-o-tricks and drops something else unexpected. Six days into December, and I feel like we've celebrated Christmas several times already!

But before I share what God did for us over our weekend, I want to share something that is even more precious to me- and that is a testimony from one of you- from one of my dear, precious readers. I feel so honored that someone who is reading this little blog thought to e-mail me and share with me how God blessed him recently. I won't share his words verbatim, but let me tell you a little bit. This young man, who we'll call Jay, wants to be such a blessing to his family. I'm not sure where Jay is from, but I do know that he has a heart for God, and a heart for honoring his family, and he's been struggling a little bit with that lately. Recently he was told to do something he didn't want to do, and he was going to do it anyway, even though it was going to be a sacrifice on his part. I believe that God saw this sacrifice of Jay, and his willingness to honor his family, because just before he was to leave to take care of this bit of business, another family member stepped in and the whole thing was taken care of. Just like that, God answered the prayers of Jay and gave him a different solution that took care of the problem which was weighing heavily on Jay's mind.

If you're reading this, please pray for Jay. He has such a passion for doing God's will, and is really struggling right now. Pray that God will bless him in a way that only God can do, and that through Jay, his family will see the light of Christ and will come to love and praise God as much as Jay does. Also, please pray for wisdom for Jay, as he's also dealing with taking care of some things that he needs direction and guidance for. I just know that God is going to honor Jay's heart and willingness to serve- and I can't wait to report back about all that God is doing in this young mans life.

We serve a God of plenty! And as I indicated last Friday, we serve a God who can give us so much more than we can even imagine- if we would only let Him! That right there is something that I think I am learning- to let God bless me. I've been working on that for a long time, and as I found out this weekend, I'm still learning! With the various seasons of unemployment that Andy's been going through over the years, I had to actually learn to say yes when someone offered help. Whether that help be in the form of money, food or clothing, it's sad to say, but once upon a time, I would turn down that help and insist we were okay. I was shown the error of my ways, and I've learned to accept the blessings that God lines up for us, but I have to admit that it's much easier to accept something like that when I know it's something we need. Like the clothing last week. We needed clothes for the kids, and I had no troubles at all letting this other family bless us, and I've since let them know how much of a blessing it truly was- so we all go blessed! They are blessed for the giving, and we are blessed for the receiving. I love that.

But what happens when God reaches into that storehouse and drops something on us that isn't expected, or that we didn't particularly need? I'm afraid I'm still failing at that.

Andy recently was gifted with a full weekend trip to go visit his family in North Carolina. At first, neither of us were eager about accepting such a gift. It just seemed... I don't know, superfluous maybe? Here we are, struggling to make ends meet, and Andy is going to go flitting off and spending a weekend away? Well, God showed us right away how this was a blessing.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." Isaiah 55:8

We were looking for bills to be paid, money for the back account, and God's answer was an all-expense paid trip to North Carolina. Does that make any sense? No. But it was a blessing just the same. Andy had a wonderful time connecting with his family, and I think the family had a wonderful time with him.

So did we learn from that? Oh, how quickly we forget those lessons we learn. (Can you see me rolling my eyes?) This weekend, while working at Abigail's production of the Nutcracker, Andy was handed a piece of paper with a hotel itinerary on it. He is going to help with another production this coming weekend, and they thought to give him a hotel for the weekend instead of making him drive back and forth. Our very first thought was excitement- how cool was this going to be! Our very next thought was how it isn't practical. How we really can't afford a weekend away, so Andy would likely go by himself.

Oh thank God for friends and their Godly wisdom. And their prayers as well. Yesterday it became all too clear that this was not just meant as a hotel stay to bless Andy so he didn't have to drive all weekend. It was meant for the whole family. While we're in the midst of our struggles and troubles, God is giving us a weekend getaway! A weekend where Andy gets to do the theater stuff he so loves doing, and the kids and I get to lounge around by a swimming pool for hours at a time! We also get to spend some time watching a ballet that we all enjoy watching already- and it's just a win-win weekend. We'll get to spend a weekend away, away from the hustle and bustle and the daily reminders that all is not as it should be. Does this blessing make any sense? Not really, not from a worldly point of view. All the same, it is a blessing, and God thought we should have it, so we will rejoice in Him and be glad. And we will be so, so thankful for this gift and for the gifts to come.

Because God will provide and meet all our needs every time. And sometimes, He just wants to give us something whimsical and fun, and I love that.

Friday, December 04, 2009

ALL We Ask

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

I was reading an article this morning that instantly spoke volumes to me, and really caused me to pause and think about my behavior. It says right here in Ephesians that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine... so why is it that we limit ourselves? The article I read was speaking directly about how we respond to our children. As my daughter's Christmas list grows longer and longer, who am I to tell her that it may just not happen this year? Instead, we should be talking to God about it- because He can certainly fill in the blanks with merely a thought.

I guess where I'm coming from is the idea that wanting things is selfish. I really struggle with that sometimes. You know, I have daydreams about walking into a place, filled with the glory of God and people just instantly start being healed of every disease and infirmity imaginable. While there is the big part of me and my faith that is getting to the place where I think that is totally possible, there is also the big part of me that says that is ridiculous- who am I to do those kinds of things. It's selfish and arrogant to be thinking that way.

And I think about a new home. One of these days we are going to move- we've extended our lease once while we consider our options. We've packed boxes and prepped most of the yard for moving out of here, and yet... Yet I can't help but think that maybe it's incorrect for me to be thinking that God is just going to drop the perfect place in our lap. Just last night I was thinking to myself, wondering if it's really okay for me to be asking God for the perfect place- I want the big house AND the big yard, and so far, it's been either one or the other. Or it's too far from where we want to be. Or the asking price is not where it needs to be. And then I think that maybe it just doesn't really matter- what if we're supposed to be thinking in the other direction and thinking that an apartment would be enough, as long as it was where God wants us to be.

Faith in conflict, that's what this is. I have faith that God is preparing the perfect place for us to move to, and He will reveal everything at just the perfect time. It's those earthly thoughts that get me every single time. If I think in terms of the world, we certainly don't belong in a big house with a big yard. Every time we start to even get a tiny bit close to our goal of owning a home, trouble comes crashing in and we start over back at the beginning of the process. By the worlds standards, we don't deserve a house, probably ever. But we are not of this world now, are we?

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ," Philippians 3:20

I am a citizen of heaven! I am a child of heaven and a precious daughter of God. And God can do anything. He can do immeasurably more than even I can imagine- and I can imagine pretty big. So when these thoughts creep into my mind-these thoughts of inadequacy, of not deserving, and of having the wrong attitude, I just need to go back to the very beginning and go back to God. Instead of talking myself out of the incredible blessings that are just waiting to be showered on me, I need to talk to God and see what HE has to say about the matter.

When all is said and done- when the time comes, and our prayers are answered, and our dreams are realized, you know what's going to happen? We are going to be able to give all the glory to God. Someone won't be able to look at us and say "good for you, you've worked hard to get where you are", because we'll have not done it. Instead, someone will look at us, see where we are and how we've been blessed, and the only answer will be God. We will be a walking, living, breathing testimony to the glory and goodness of God, and we can't wait to share that.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Proof Positive

"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35

This verse today is totally correct- and my family is the proof of that today.

Andy is not working, and has been laid off since the end of September. He's been doing odd jobs here and there and collecting small unemployment benefits, and yet, it almost feels like he has been working. Oh, the money isn't coming in like we'd like to pay all the bills or to do our Christmas shopping, but you know what? We are not hungry, not even a little! And not only are we not hungry- but we have an abundance of food in our house. My pantry is full- and my freezer has such a wonderful assortment of fruits, veggies and meat in it. Shoot- we have lamb and duck in our freezer! Those are luxuries and abundance, yet they are there. I went shopping for Thanksgiving, and once Thanksgiving was done, I looked in my pantry and saw so much in there yet- after putting out such a feast of abundance, that there would still be abundance remaining just shows me how much God loves me and my family.

"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 1:14

I mentioned earlier this week how God blessed us with clothes for the kids. What I didn't mention was how abundant that blessing was! My daughter went from having a handful of clothes that sort of fit to a true closet full. And I mean full! My son also has a closet full and several pairs of pants that actually fit instead of dangling up over his ankles! It's such a testament to the goodness and love of God that He placed these people in our lives to bless us with such an awesome abundance. Last year at the end of the winter season I bought winter coats for this year, only when we pulled them out the other day, they ended up being too big- like a lot too big, so they will be set aside for next year. Guess what we found in the clothes? Yep- winter coats for both, along with complimenting hats and gloves for each as well. Truly, all we need for my kids for winter are boots and snowpants, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they just showed up one day- whether they appear on the front porch, or I find a great deal while out shopping that I just can't pass up. That's the goodness of God!

He loves us so much that he isn't just giving us the things we need- He's giving us a taste of His abundance. Honestly though, it's also more than just the abundance of the stuff we need- it's also an abundance of His Spirit. Right now, Andy could be home, he could be sitting at home with nothing to do, and he could be fretting about the weeks ahead. Christmas is coming, and honestly, we're getting to the point where we're going to have to have a talk with the kids and how the gifts just aren't going to be there this year like we wanted. Andy could be home fretting about that- getting more worried the more he dwelled on it, but you know what? He's not. He's busy working with Abigail's dance school, using the time he has off to help them put on the best Nutcracker they've ever done. And he's having a blast doing it. His mind is occupied on something, and if I know him, the joy of the Lord is with him, and it's bubbling over to the people he's working with. God is placing an abundance of joy in him that is bubbling over and into the HIGH SCHOOL that he is working at. Oh, if there is someplace that needs joy!

We're also experiencing that here at home. I don't know why, but this morning, I woke up and I thought, it feels like Christmas! Zander woke me with a huge snuggle and a kiss and a good morning mommy, and I've just been in a mood ever since. God is pouring out His Joy abundantly on our family, and it just is so nice. Nice maybe isn't the right word, but it is just so, so welcome. When we could be feeling the exact opposite, we have this joy, and the knowledge that it is from the Lord, and that He loves us this much.

An abundance of God's Goodness. I pray that the measure that He has poured out on my household this morning will pour out doubly on you who is reading this today. God loves you- you're his favorite, you know. And He wants you to have the same abundant joy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Warfare Wednesday

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20

This week as I continue to pray for President Obama, my thought are turning to the world around us. Specifically, this morning I am thinking about Afghanistan. Last night the president addressed the nation and spoke on this very thing. I'm not going to re-hash anything he said, and if you missed the speech, you can watch it online. The thing is, and what is in my heart is that we really need to pray for this campaign. There has been some success in Afghanistan, but the war effort there is going to increase- and praise God for that! I weep for the people of Afghanistan, that life there is so uncertain and full of terror each and every day. I am so thankful that our president has presented a plan to increase our efforts there, because if we don't fight for the freedom of the Afghan people, who will? And the Pakistani people who are living just next door... they are facing the very same and very real threats from the Taliban- who will fight for them?

I am so thankful to live in a free country, and each and every person everywhere deserves the very same thing. A persons a person-no matter where they live, and God loves each and every one. I pray that God will allow freedom to win- that these precious people living in Afghanistan and Pakistan will know freedom- that they will know what it's like to walk down the street to the store, and not fear for their lives each and every time. More than anything, I pray that they would know the love of the Father who loves them so.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


"and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away." Isaiah 35:10

Happy December! This is the month of joy and gladness, as we spend the next several weeks celebrating the birth of the King! It's a time to be joyful, and sometimes I've found that I really need to concentrate to feel joyful. If I let the world dictate what my mind dwells on, I'm quickly overcome by sadness and despair, but if I keep my mind focused on the joy of the Lord- joy is a constant state of being.

This verse today... it came to mind as I was thinking about joy and yesterday. We had a great day yesterday, we got back into school after a week off, and it definitely felt good to get back into learning mode- I think we all were ready for it. In between things, I spent time finishing up washing the Thanksgiving dishes, and doing laundry. Oh, so much laundry! It was pure joy to do the laundry and then spend part of the afternoon with the kids going through their closets. We were able to pull out all those things that don't really fit anymore, and fill them up with an abundance of clothing that does fit. God is so awesome to provide what we need when we need it- and then to provide it in such abundance is truly a miracle. I'm still smiling this morning about it, as I still have a few things of the kids to go through.

Oh yeah, back to the verse. As I was reading it, I couldn't help but wonder what it would feel like to have everlasting joy. What would it be like to always be full of joy? What would it be like to rejoice in everything? And then the next part gave me such encouragement- gladness and joy will overtake them. All I could think, as I read this verse was that I want to be overtaken. I want to be overtaken and I want to experience heavenly gladness and joy. Oh, do I want that all the time! I think I get glimpses of that, I get those times where I could probably be hit by a truck and I would find the good in it. But there are still those times that it is a struggle- those times where, I know I'm not as bad off as Job, but golly, it sure seems like things couldn't get any lower.

When I have those moments, when I have those times where I just feel like the world is pressing in and trying to rob me of my joy, then I know I'm not doing something right. In the most recent case, I wasn't spending any time in the Word. I can always tell when I am not diving in to my Bible- my outlook changes a touch. When I am not getting a regular diet of God's Word, the worldly diet tries to tell me that it knows better- that it's the better diet for me. Thank God for His Word, and also for the Holy Spirit that keeps me on track- that directs me to verses like this today that shows me such encouragement. It's the Holy Spirit that makes my Bible light up like a beacon when I have those few extra minutes, and I'm debating what to do. The Bible is my path to Zion, and as long as I stay on the path, the sorrow and the sighing will flee away.