Friday, January 29, 2010

A Servant's Heart

"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" Mark 9:35

I am sure you know a servant. I don't mean a household servant- you know, a maid or cook or something like that, but one of those genuine people. One of those people who, if you said that you really needed a new sweater, they would give you the very one they are wearing- even if it was their only sweater. Those people who, no matter how full the calendar will make time to help you with a project- or give you materials for a project, despite actually needing them for their own project. The things is, as I read this verse this morning, I thought of the many servants that I know- and it just made me smile. I thought about these friends that we cherish so much, and I wish we had more opportunities to just spend time with them all, and bless them for being such servants. And then I thought, no wonder they'll be first in heaven- no wonder Jesus wants to spend eternity with them! Then my thinking took a turn towards the idea that we didn't just know one person like this- we know many, and I was thinking about that, pondering that, when it came to me. I'm MARRIED to one.

Lest you think that this is some kind of mushy gushy post about how wonderful my husband is, let me just say right off the bat that it seems this is headed more in the direction of a confession. (I mean, yes, my husband is wonderful and all...) The thing is, there have been many, many times when the fact that my husband has a servant's heart annoys the snot out of me. Sometimes his desire to help everyone around him can interfere with plans we may have at home. There are definitely times where dinner is ready, and I send the kids to tell him, and imagine that- Daddy is not to be found. Usually he makes his way back after a while from a neighbors house, where he helped move some furniture or helped diagnose a tree problem or some other crazy thing. Or like this past winter, Andy was laid off for a good three months, and you would think we got to spend time with him here at home... not so much. When he wasn't out doing something to earn a few dollars, he was throwing himself into projects just because he had the time to lend a helping hand.

More than once, I have found myself starting to get angry when he runs off on another project- or is so quick to volunteer. But also more than once, I find that that anger gets headed off by a reminder- a not so gentle reminder sometimes- from the Holy Spirit. A reminder that my husband has a servant's heart, and I need to be supportive of that. It's not as easy as that though, I have to admit. Usually though, God brings a few verses to mind- or a passage of the Bible, and pretty much, I end up shaking my head at myself. I am reminded to be thankful for the husband with the servant's heart, and I end up praying for him that he would stay safe while he's out being busy helping everyone he can. And in fact, I have found, that as time has gone on the tables have almost turned a little bit- something comes up, and I encourage Andy to help out. Because as time as passed, I have found that I don't like being the wife at home, getting angry because my schedule has been interrupted.

Ah, that schedule. The household schedule that says we do certain things at certain times- and my husband of all people should know and adhere to that schedule. We have discovered that by letting the schedule go- the harmony and peace in the household has multiplied so greatly. The thing is, there is always more time. There is always a few more minutes, a few more hours, or even another day. If I don't get the dishes done today because dinner was so late, there will always be tomorrow to get them done. If I don't get the pile of laundry done on the day I originally planned to do it- guess what? The world is not going to come to an end. Instead I do what I can and do a load of laundry every day that week. The thing is, God made time. God made time, and he made us, and we, as citizens of heaven, need to realize that time was made for us- and it is God's will that we make time work for us, instead of against us. God's already made that easy by giving us more time- there will always be a tomorrow!

I didn't realize I was going in this direction today... but as I'm typing, I see where these two things completely go together. My biggest frustration with Andy having that servant's heart was that his willingness to help almost always interfered with time. Our time that we did things- even vacations were interrupted by his willingness to help a stranger! Well, I needed to realize, first of all that the time wasn't really mine to get upset about- time belongs to God, and He is gracious enough to give me all I need. And secondly, I needed to realize that when my husband was so willing to lend a hand- that God saw that, and if I could get on board with that servant's attitude, that time would simply not be an issue. And I really and truly see that at work. When I give Andy my blessing to go be a servant, I find that I get more things done throughout the day. Where I would love to have him at home, helping to get housework done sometimes, or doing yard work, he is out helping someone, and I find that I have more than enough time to get my things done. Somehow, I can get the house company ready in half the time that it would usually take both of us.

God blesses the willing heart. All that time that I was groaning over Andy being such a servant, he was being blessed, but I imagine that I probably missed out on a lot of those blessings because I was being stingy and protective of our time. It ultimately came to the point where I pretty much just gave up. I talked to God and I told him to go nuts- to put Andy in the right places at the right times to be a blessing to people- and as a result, our household has been soooo much more wonderful. Our time together as a family is usually sweeter- and it seems to last longer. When we have a rare day where we are all at home together, the day seems to go slower for us- what a blessing that is! Over this past lay-off time, Andy volunteered at Abigail's dance school, simply to be a blessing and to help out, and the rewards from that have been so much more than we could have even imagined. He set out to bless a family with his talents, and in turn, the family blessed him in so many ways.

So as I read verses like this today, all this long story here is to simply say I found myself lacking a servant's heart. Which my husband had. And if I wanted harmony in the household someone had to change. And that would be me. I had to change- I had to be willing, and I had to just give something that seemed so precious to God. And now it doesn't seem so precious to me. The concept of time... the idea that there is only so much time... God blessed us so much by showing us that time- the clock and the hours and minutes in a day really don't matter so much. That if we had the willing hearts, there would always be more time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

God Is Just So Good

"Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Yesterday we celebrated Zander's sixth birthday. We really had a great day together- Andy stayed home and we skipped school for the day, so we could all just focus on the birthday boy and spending time together. It really was a wonderful day.

And God knew long before he was born how much our family wanted this little boy- even though we didn't know it. I remember when we found out we were pregnant, Abigail was such the apple of her parents eyes. We adored this little girl, and we wanted another just like her. I was so looking forward to being the mom of two girls. And then Zander showed up- all boy. He has been such a delight and a joy ever since. He truly was the desire of my heart- even though I may not have known it at the time. As I write this up this morning, he is sitting nearby playing the new video game he got for his birthday, and I am always amazed at how he understands so much in these games. But even more than that- something will just tickle his funny bone and he will laugh in such a way that joy just fills the room. It's like giant joy bubbles stream out of the top of his head, and the whole family can't help but giggle along with him.

We are so blessed to have him in our family. Every day I get the tiniest glimpse of the man that he is going to be someday, and boy, does God have great plans for this little man. Just as the joy that bubbles out of him is contagious even now- the joy and the love of God is going to be contagious coming out of him all his life. He was created and designed by a loving Father for just the time that he was born into. I am often humbled and honored when I think that God placed this special young man into my care. I pray daily that God may give me the wisdom to teach him and to nurture his character so that some day he will be a fine man of God.

May God continue to guard his heart and protect him from the world that is lurking about. I thank God for the treasure that is my son, may he continue to find joy in everything- and may he know just how much God loves him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Timothy 2:1-2

This week I am praying for President Obama and his staff as they prepare for the State of The Union address tonight. This is an important part of the presidents job- as he updates the country on how the last year has gone, and looks ahead to the year to come. I am praying this morning for his continued safety- and for the safety of his beautiful family as well.

I am thankful for our President's willingness to serve our country. Even as he prepares to give the biggest speech of the year, it must be difficult, knowing that the second the cameras are off, the newsmedia will tell the people what was important and what was not. It does have to be difficult to prepare a speech, or words of encouragement knowing that his words could be twisted to fit someone else's agenda. I pray that this year, things change and are different. I pray that the newsmedia hears only the truth, and that the people hear only the truth, and not the spinning of words and half-lies or half-truths.

As we pray for the president today, you know I'm going to continue to pray for the people of Haiti. While my prayers have been specifically with the orphans and the orphanages, I also want to take the time this week to pray for all the soldiers and military teams from around the world who are there to help. Earlier this week I read a news story about how over 50 nations have representatives in Haiti, helping with recovery efforts. As the rescue efforts have turned to recovery in recent days, there is still so, so much to do. The entire city of Port Au Prince will likely have to be rebuilt. I imagine there are people out there speculating as to whether or not that should even be done. But you know what? When people come together- anything can happen. When 50 countries can come together to help one nation in the midst of tragedy, the country can be rebuilt. I have tears in my eyes every time I think of the unity that this tragedy has brought out around the globe. I am praying for supernatural energy for everyone working in Haiti to help. I am praying for peace for all those people who are without homes for a time- and I am praying that the message of unity will continue as the days go by. Haiti is going to need so much more help than just these first few weeks have brought. May the world continue to join together to help the people in Haiti- and may they experience the love of God as they do so.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Shift of Focus

"After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer. 10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before." Job 42:7-10

I've been reading the book of Job the last few days. I love reading Job- there is so much encouragement in there for someone going through a rough time. But even better- there are some fantastic words from God about his character and nature directly. If you have a chance- I highly recommend reading chapters 38-41. WOW! There is a boost if you ever needed one. God truly is amazing and does amazing things!

But what really has struck me in the last few days is the very end of Job. I have more thoughts on this particular passage of scripture- many thoughts, actually. But today, I want to focus on the actions that Job takes here at the end of all his misery. All throughout the book of Job we read about the rough time Job is going through- and indeed, it is very rough! He was once so prosperous, and has lost it all- even his health. All the while he's trying to maintain his faith in his God, and here his wife and his closest friends keep telling him that he should go ahead and curse God, because he's already lost everything and he'd be justified in doing it. Yet he stands firm. He keeps his faith, and while he does complain, he never curses God- he still loves God with all his heart.

And here he is, at the end of it all, and God shows up. God tells Job all about Himself, and then he turns to these three friends of Job and tells them that they are worms. That they have spoken lies of Him, but that He will forgive them, if only their good and righteous friend Job will pray for them.

Now think about being Job for a minute here. He has nothing. He has lost absolutely everything, except for his relationship with God. His relationship with his friends is surely mucked up because of their bad counsel- and yet, Job should pray for these men? Job should pray for these men to become restored in the eyes of God, and Job does this very thing. And after Job prays for his friends to be redeemed, Job himself is redeemed. God restores everything that Job has lost- to the point of giving him double blessings.

And this is where the shift of focus takes place.

Being where I am, being where we are, in this place where we are looking for a new home, it is very easy to take time every day to pray and talk to God and ask Him for a new home. And yet... I know exactly where we are, and how it feels, and there are others in our lives in similar or worse situations. Actually, even people I don't know. I have the empathy and the compassion to know exactly what it feels like to look at my growing children and know we don't have enough room in our home or yard for them. I know what it feels like to be staring at a deadline on the calendar and knowing that we have until that day to find a place, pack up and move. And while I have great peace that God is going to move mountains for us, maybe these other people don't have that same peace.

And so, instead of taking that knee time every day talking to God about MY home, instead, I am taking that knee time and interceding on behalf of the loved ones who also need a home. I've been doing that for a while now, but these verses in Job just really confirmed to me that these actions are correct and not in vain. Because look what God did when Job prayed! When Job prayed for these men, God listened to Job and forgave the men for their transgressions. It is my hope that now when I pray, that God will listen and will take care of these loved ones who need homes. Because you know what? When God answers their needs, my faith will zoom right through the roof. What an amazing testimony that will be there! Now, I can still pray and talk to God about our needs- our desire for a new home, but it just seems like God put us in this situation, in this time so that we could help others more than ourselves.

Job was restored after he obeyed God and prayed for his friends. So I think I will obey and pray for my friends, and family, and the beloved of God. My heart is with them in their time of need, and honestly, if God does something great for us that will be wonderful- and a great testimony to give Him glory for. But think about it. Think about if we are praying for four families to get a new home- and all four families find this new home in just a short while. That is an even greater testimony than if we found a home for our one family. I just know in my heart that God has great things planned for His children- and that doesn't just mean me. Because you know what happened with Job?

"The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first." Job 42:12

I choose to believe that- and I believe that the Body of Christ is coming to the latter days, where the blessings will be abundant and will be so much better than the former days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Think Happy Thoughts

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

I'm a little slow going this morning... I think that maybe I spent too much time yesterday thinking happy thoughts. See, yesterday could have been one of those days. We had been up late the night before, so the kids were primed for crankiness- and all it would take would be one little word from mom or dad and either of them would have blown up. They WERE on the verge of being terrors, but after Abigail cried at me when I suggested
she wear tights to church, I knew I would have to take a different approach to the day.

On the way in to church, Andy was also oddly quiet, and it didn't take long to assess that after a long couple of weeks at school, it had finally caught up to him and it was going to be a long, tired day for him.

As I rode into church, I decided that the day was not gone before it started. I was not going to be irritated by the crabby people around me, and in fact, I refused to feed that crabbiness. I started thinking about how excited I was to go to church. It was raining, and I was thinking about how great that was- because my van really needed to be washed, and that seems like such a silly thing to spend money on. And my day just went up from there. I spent every moment thinking about something good. I thought happy thoughts- and when I didn't have anything to think on specifically, I thought on God, and how AWESOME He truly is. After church I spent extra time loving on my kids, giving them extra little hugs and treading very carefully with the things I said to them.

The end result? Not one outburst or seemingly crabby person all day. Andy relished the day to watch football playoffs, the kids relished the day to play computer games and video games, and I got to be blessed a bonus time when my tired family stayed home from church and I went again to the evening service. A day that could have been filled with crabby children and a husband teetering on the edge of being irritable ended up being a great day! All because I thought happy thoughts. I chose to think on good things instead of thinking on anything negative that would seek to bring me down as well.

This all reminds me this morning of Peter Pan. In that children's story, all it takes is a little fairy dust and a happy thought, and anyone can fly in Neverland. What a concept- and honestly, there is some truth there in that children's story. A truly happy thought would make someone float off of their feet and be able to fly. In our world, a truly happy thought will keep your spirit buoyant and filled with God's love and goodness. It's when you let in the bad thoughts- the negative thoughts that you can come crashing back down to earth. Only... we really don't belong on the earth.

"As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." John 15:19

We who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior are citizens of heaven! The negative thoughts and cares of this world are not ours- but the devil likes us to think they are. We can choose to not let those negative thoughts in. It can be really hard sometimes. Yesterday morning, when I was trying to tell Abigail that she should wear a particular skirt with tights and shoes, I could feel the anger and frustration welling up inside of me. And I saw the exact same thing welling up inside of her. I had a choice, right there. Do I let this yucky spirit control our day? Right here at the very beginning? Oh no, I chose the other direction. As soon as I recognized what was going on, I backed away. I chose to not engage the enemy and let him have a victory- no matter how small it truly was. Instead I walked away. I went to take care of Zander, and get myself ready- the whole time I consciously began running a few praise songs through my head. My little internal CD player was fired up, and all those thoughts of frustration and anger were cast away.

Logic, and worldly wisdom says that after a few long days, everyone in the household will be crabby. Something as simple as being aware and changing your thought process can literally turn the worlds logic on its head. I think if you ask anyone in my family- they will tell you that yesterday was a great day! The patterns of the world are not for me! God is goodness- and in heaven there are no such things as crabby days and fights with children and family. In heaven there is peace and unity- and THOSE are the things that I choose to think on. I want my head to be in the clouds, and I wish to fly with the Holy Spirit- and I will do so by thinking happy thoughts.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Friday, January 22, 2010

Of Houses And Underwear

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8

I've pretty much bared my heart hear already in recent weeks about trusting God to provide the perfect home at the perfect time. I'm sure I'll be mentioning it again and again, because the more I talk about it, the more faith I think I have for the whole process. The idea of actually packing up and moving is kind of scary to me. And yet, I took another step in the process and e-mailed our landlord this week with a move-out date. I haven't heard back yet, but I am hopeful that our date will be accepted, because we really wanted to pick a date that would be of the best benefit to our landlords- who have really been gracious with us this last year.

Anyway. The provision of the home. One of these day I will be able to log on and share about it, but today, I am still believing for it. I had another faith-building experience this week about it, and I wanted to share it, because it's actually kind of funny and thought would make for a nice light Friday morning funny.

This week I took Zander shopping for new shoes. My boy really needed them apparently, because to my horror, his new shoes that fit nicely ended up being two sizes bigger than the one he'd been wearing. Boys. I swear all he does is grow! Anyway, to go with the shoes, he was going to need new socks, and I really thought more than once about picking up some underwear for him. It just seems like his basic needs are all the sudden too small for him, so it's time to upgrade for him. We looked at the underwear, and I suddenly wasn't sure what size we needed. Since I didn't want to take the time to find out at the store, I told him we would pick some up later on. He was good with that- he was thrilled enough with the new socks and shoes.

But then the most interesting thing happened. Wednesday night at church someone at church came up to us and showed me these packages of little boy underwear that she had picked up. She told me she just couldn't stop thinking about Zander on that particular day, and she saw this underwear for an incredible deal and just had to pick them up for him. She was actually apologetic about it- and almost embarrassed, but wouldn't you know, they were the exact size we needed! The whole time we were talking about this underwear, which I let her know I was so appreciative of, I swear I heard this "dad voice" chuckling in my head. And later on, I just heard God say "See? I'll even provide, have patience, and I'll provide a home."

I just am amazed all the time at the goodness of God. In this instance, I just was floored that God would use this lady to bring such a huge message to me- in the form of some underwear.

And so, as we roll on to the weekend- and I usually take a blogging break for Saturday and Sunday, I just want to remind my blessed readers that God truly does know your every need. And if you will let Him, He wants to meet your needs. This verse today. Just think about the visual here. God is standing behind a door, patiently waiting. And you look at that door, and you know that by knocking on that door, your life could possibly change. Just think about the pure joy that will come from the other side of the door if you will only take up your courage and knock. Love is on the other side of that door. Find that door, give it a knock, and lay your needs before the One who wants meet them all. He so much wants to remove that barrier that stands between you- but YOU need to make the first move before He can open the door.

Be blessed- and have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When We Pray...

"Then I said:
"O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands," Nehemiah 1:5

God hears the voices of His children.

As I read the first chapter of Nehemiah for about the twelfth time in as many days, I cannot help but think about how much Nehemiah's prayers must have pleased God. These words that he prayed are the very words that a very patient God has been waiting to hear from his beloved children.

"I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.' " Nehemiah 1:6-9

Here Nehemiah prays on behalf of all the people. He confesses that they have sinned, they have done wrong and not followed God's commands, but then he also confesses to God that they are ready for change. They are ready to turn around and follow His commands and His laws.

Like the prodigal son, ready to return home, Nehemiah bares all before God, and reminds God of the very words that God had given to Moses hundreds of years earlier.

Nehemiah is praying to God and and praying the very words of truth, scripture that comes from the very mouth of God.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

When I think about this whole exchange, I just know that God was so pleased and so happy with the people of Israel. We have a patient God, but as he watched and waited and watched and waited, I wonder if he ever just shook his head, watching them make wrong decision after wrong decision. And then, it finally happens. The people desire Him once again, and as one, they all seek to make change and love and glorify the Lord their God.

"all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel." Nehemiah 8:1

All the people assembled as one. Unity. And after that book of law came out, the people sat for hours while it was read to them. Then they began to praise God- again, as one!

"Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground." Nehemiah 8:6

Now God must be just getting giddy! First He hears the beloved prayers of His children, confessing their wrong and choosing to do right. And then He hears the praises of His people!

I can't help but think that this is exactly what God has been waiting for from us. He's waiting for His children to read His Word and pray His Word and praise Him- all in one accord. Imagine the great works that could be done if we could reach out of our denomination walls and take the hands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Imagine if we could set aside our differences and our interpretation of doctrine, and simply agree to love God, and to work together to love our neighbors.

Let's go back to the verse in 2 Timothy for a minute.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

Study, to show yourself approved unto God. As I read this verse, it just tells me that I really need to keep digging into the word of God. When I think about the act of writing a book... an author really does want his words to be read. A person doesn't just write and then go through the process of publishing a book for that book to be set on a shelf and ignored. I have to think that an author loves it when people continue to read the words that they have written. Well, God wrote the greatest book of all! And He wants us to read it over and over. He wants us to study it and dig into it and learn it well so that in a time of need we can reach into our minds and pull out the very verses that will aid us in our times of need.

He wants us to learn His words, so that when we pray, we will see the mountains move and the seas part before us. God gave us the very tools we need, we just need to take the time to read His Word and take it in.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3

This morning I am thanking God for President Obama. In the wake of the earthquake last week in Haiti, our president has recruited former presidents to lead fundraising efforts for relief. It's a really demonstrative way to show that as a country, we really can come together in times of need. We can set aside our petty differences and work together in love and compassion to help those that are truly suffering. The other day, President and Mrs. Obama surprise visited the local Red Cross chapter to thank them for their efforts. I imagine they both were sitting around discussing the crisis and just wishing that there was more they could physically do. I know I've been feeling that way...

It's been a bit of a rough week for me! Every time I turn on the computer or the earthquake, I see photos or footage of that earthquake and it just rocks me to my core. I think of the people still trapped in the rubble, and I think of all those children who have lost parents and the tears just start rolling. Haiti already had 300,000 orphans in orphanages before the earthquake- how many more will there be now! It's heartbreaking, and I just feel like it's not enough to pray for that country, or to make a donation.

Yet I hold close to me the verses in the Bible that bring comfort and encouragement.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

God uses all things for good. And while my human mind cannot possibly see how this devastating earthquake can be good, I know that God has plans for the people of Haiti. God loves the people of Haiti- He must, because that's the only reason I can think of for the love that is welling up inside of me for the people of Haiti. Even now, as I see our country coming together to help those suffering, I can see good coming out of a disaster. I am praying constantly that God will use this earthquake to bring the Haitian people to Him- to know His love and His ways, and to abandon their worship of voodoo and false idols.

So this warfare Wednesday I am just going to continue to lift the people of Haiti in prayer, and at the same time I am continuing to pray for my country, that as we become united in this mission of mercy that we will see that our differences just aren't that important. I am praying that once again our country can come together in the spirit of unity- we've done it in the past, we can do it again. I also pray that as our country comes together for a time, that Godly wisdom will be granted to President Obama, that He will see and know God in a personal way, and will turn this country in the direction that God wishes it to go.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Can't Do It By Myself

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

This past Sunday evening at church, during worship, I was talking to God about a few things. I really feel like lately there has been a whole lot on my mind- when I have even a spare minute to myself there is always something there to think about and dwell on and pray on. There's a lot of "stuff" going on in my brain right now! But I was talking to God, and I was thinking about some of the things that I've been doing lately. I've had several people asking me for advice, several people asking for prayer and/or my thoughts on passages in the Bible, and overall, it's kind of been... overwhelming to me. Because I really don't feel qualified- if that makes any sense. Oh, I think I'm qualified to pray- I am always willing to spend some time praying for a need, but everything else just seems so out of my league for me. So I was telling God this, and really, I was just asking for wisdom in these situations- so that I don't say the wrong things or steer someone in the wrong direction.

And do you know what God told me?

That I am correct- by myself am not qualified for these situations, BUT with Him by my side, I can do anything. That if I am the willing vessel, He will use me and do His work through me.

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

I can't tell you how much peace that gave me. To me, that means that I don't have to worry about giving the wrong advice, or the wrong directions or the wrong scripture for situations. But it does mean that I need to consider everything prayerfully. That, I'm already doing, but it is a good reminder to me, that as long as Christ is my rock and His Word is my source, that I don't have to worry when someone comes up to me and asks me a question- or shoots me an e-mail that I'm not sure how to reply to.

What God is asking of me is to show His love. That, I can do. It's amazing to me, when I think over the last few months, how my prayer list has grown. I have this little list of people who I pray for every day- not necessarily in a "sit down with a list and pray" fashion, but as I go about my day, there are people who come to mind every single day. And they get prayed for every time they come to mind. God cares so much about these people that He keeps them at the forefront of my mind and I get the opportunity to love them and pray for them. Sometimes I get to share with them how I've been praying for them- and I always pray that is an encouragement to them. But it strikes me that if that list of people is continuously growing, I must be doing something right for God to put even more on my mind. That's pretty cool to think of.

While I am still overwhelmed with the idea that God would want to use me in such a way- a way that can really touch people, oh I am willing. There are just some days where I feel His love in such a way that I feel as though I could burst if I don't share it and let some out. So I am willing to share, and I am looking forward to seeing what God is hoping to accomplish through me. Because He who gives me strength never leaves a project uncompleted.

"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

Monday, January 18, 2010

Faith Can Move Mountains

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:22-24

The other day I shared about the collision of faith versus fact. Ever since I shared that, I've really been thinking on it, trying to improve where I want my faith to be. There are practical things that a person can do to build their faith, so I thought I'd share some of them today. Maybe what I share can help you believe for your own mountain to be moved!

The first thing I do is turn to my Bible. When I'm questioning my faith, I turn to scripture to show me examples of faith. I read these verses in Mark 11 and see Jesus addressing my faith precisely and exactly. And I read these verses in Matthew as well:

"Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.

20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.

21Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:18-22

Jesus was the ultimate example for us- every day it should be our goal to become more and more like him. So to read an example of him putting his faith into action just gives me a little boost right away.

I also like to turn to the book of Exodus in my Bible. Right now, my faith has me believing that God is going to provide a home for us- at least, that's what I'm working on believing. So I turn to Exodus, and I spend some time reading of the Israelites wandering, and how God provided for their every need. Every need! Even their clothes failed to wear out for forty years while they wondered in the desert. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so if God can provide in such a miraculous way for a people who continued to sin over and over, I like to believe that He will provide a home for my family.

There are other things I can do though to build up my faith. First, I can see or hear testimonies of other people, and how God provided for their needs. I just received an e-mail the other day from a lady who had no money, yet needed something for her daughters birthday. God provided money for gifts, a gift card for groceries, and a little extra money to put gas in the tank! I was so excited for this person and her daughter- it gave me such a boost. It also showed me the Goodness of God- to provide for a daughters birthday just tells me how much He loves his children. Yesterday at church a couple shared how God has increased interest in their business, and my thoughts were that if God will do that for someone- God can do the same for us. God is no respecter of persons- what He does for one, he'll do for another- if we can only find the faith to ask Him and believe.

Yet on the practical side, I confess I was having a hard time putting my faith into action. I mean, I'm trying to find faith that God is going to provide our home. How do I put that faith into action? I really spent some time thinking on that last week after I shared my heart about it. I was trying to figure out how God was going to provide a home for us if I don't actively look for it. If I don't put the effort into finding a home- how on earth is it even going to happen? Then I thought about what I was telling myself. I was telling myself that God couldn't just do it. God can do anything! He's God! If He has a home for us- I'm sure He'll find a way to show it to us.

So the first thing I did, was I went online and looked again at the home that is in my heart. I talked to God about it a little, and then where I would usually resign myself to looking at the homes that could be more of a reality, I walked away from the computer, and I did something totally irrational.

I started planning my garden.

Our dream home will have property- it will have a large enough yard to grow as big of a garden as I want, and still have plenty of room for my kids to play outside. Here I've been telling myself over the last months that I could settle, and small scale garden again if needs be. As I've been having garden conversations with people, I've simply said "I have to wait for a yard before I do any planning". Well, I decided that in order to put my faith into action, I needed to build that faith by doing. It wasn't doing to look at potential homes, when God has the perfect one getting ready for us. Action is preparing to move to that home.

So I pulled out my favorite seed catalog and started preparing an order. I pulled out an order form and I filled it with seeds for things that I cannot grow small scale. I added corn and popcorn, I added pumpkins, and four varieties of melons and watermelons. I added potatoes, and all told, I think I ended up with 25 tomato varieties if I count the ones I already have. Then I totalled my order, wrote out a check and put it in an envelope with a stamp and address. That seed order is an act of faith. Almost all of those seeds will be useless in a small garden. But in the big garden I am pining for- they will be a reality.

My seed order made, I sat down with graph paper and physically plotted out my dream garden for this year. I even put a compass on my map to show the precise direction I wanted my garden to face. And the whole time I was thinking about when I could put this garden in the dirt. As I plotted my individual veggie patches and herb patches, I was thinking how when this garden is actually mine, I'll be able to share so much. 25 feet of tomatoes? No sane person or family needs that many tomatoes. But I'll bet there are plenty of food pantries in the area who would love a bushel or two of organic, homegrown tomatoes. Nobody needs 3 varieties of melon and 3 varieties of watermelon- but imagine the faces of the children who usually get the same old stuff from the food pantries. Imagine how excited they would be to watch mom walk in with a huge watermelon- only to cut into it and see the vibrant orange color be-speckled with black seeds!

As I plotted this garden on paper, I could visualize it being mine. And I started thinking that way. I started planning what I would can, what I would freeze- would we need another freezer? I started planning all the extra that I would have to share with neighbors and friends and those in need.

And then I found my vocabulary changing. Where I used to say "well, if we ever move..." I found myself saying more than once over the last few days "when we move to our new home..." The kids even asked about something regarding wishing they had something in their bedrooms- my reply was that we'd look into that for our new home.

One day, one word at a time, I'm changing my thought process and my speech process regarding my faith. Every opportunity I get to say or do something to pump up my faith is one step closer to actually harnessing the faith and believing.

24"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:24

I have asked, and I believe that I have already received. Right now, we're just waiting for God's perfect timing to be revealed. What an amazing testimony we will have on that day. I am looking forward to it- praying for it and having patience for it. But I'm believing it will happen exactly when God wants it to happen, because faith can move mountains.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Free, Indeed

"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

33They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:31-36

Jesus sets us free from a life of sin. Just like that, all we have to do is believe, and we no longer have to be a slave to sin. I think so many people forget that- or they miss it completely. For too long, we've been in church services where we are told that it's okay to do wrong and to sin- we can always come back to the cross and be forgiven. And while that's true- God doesn't withhold forgiveness- it just doesn't have to be that way! It IS possible to live without sin. It IS a fact that when Jesus died, He redeemed us from our sinful nature- if we only choose to accept it.

Therein lies the problem- choosing to accept it. Do we choose righteousness and holiness and say yes, Lord, I choose to live a life without sin? Or do we choose the path of less resistance? Choosing to live righteous is tough stuff- and I certainly am far from perfect, but I happen to have the perfect example of choosing to live righteous.

Let's talk for a moment about the lying tongue. Let's talk about telling lies- it's something that even a young child learns to deal with, as they lie about breaking something or not doing homework, or things like that. How about simply embellishing the truth, which while there may be good intentions there, when you scrape down to the very core of what you're saying- you're actually lying.

"He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44

Satan is the father of all lies. So when I make the choice to tell a lie- whether it be with good intentions or bad intentions- I'm actually listening to the devil. Jesus never told a lie, and spoke straight up about lying being from the devil. Living without lying can be very tough indeed! What do you say when someone asks you to do something you really don't care to do? Sometimes we make up excuses- well, we might get together with so-and-so, a child hasn't been feeling the best and so on, but when we decide to live righteously, that lying tongue has to go. Which means the truth needs to be on our lips at all times. Or in some case, the truth needs to come out of our fingers into our e-mail or Facebook or text messages.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

Truth is Jesus. So if we are going to put on the robe of righteousness and try to live more like Him- we need to cut off the lying tongue completely- for every reason. As a mom, that can be difficult because the last thing I want is for my kids to repeat something to someone I don't want to hear. There's a popular TV show that I choose to not let the kids watch. I've watched it with them, and the content is not good for a Christian kid, in my opinion. But I don't tell them I don't want them watching it because it could lead them down a dark path I don't want them going. Instead I simply tell them I just don't like the show and would rather they didn't watch it. That way, when the subject comes up in conversation with other kids, and they hear the other kids asking or talking about the show, MY kids won't jump in and say something crazy like "my mom says that show is from the devil".

But the whole point here is the fact that Jesus has set us free from a life of sin- we just need to accept it! And then we need to confidently walk forward as a child of God. Once we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, sin has lost its hold on us. We don't have to be swayed by a sinful nature, because our nature has been redeemed and washed in the precious blood of the lamb. We are free! My husband likes to say that so many churches today are in the business of sin management. Well, I say that it's time for the church to embrace the idea of sin banishment! Sin has no place in the life of a follower of Jesus! Sin has no hold on me and has no part in my life. I have been set free from a life of sin, and I choose the way, the truth and the life. He is the only way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When Faith And Fact Collide

"I will bend Judah as I bend my bow
and fill it with Ephraim.
I will rouse your sons, O Zion,
against your sons, O Greece,
and make you like a warrior's sword." Zechariah 9:13

In the last few months, I've noticed an internal struggle sometimes. It's a struggle of faith. I have seen over and over these last months how God provides for our needs. Food has been in abundance, and really hasn't been an issue- Praise God! Gas money seems to show up just when we're running on low, even cash. You know, even though Andy hasn't been working in so long, I swear I've had a bit of cash in my wallet almost all the time. I'll use the last few dollars for something, and then someone comes along and literally presses a twenty into my hands. Or one will show up in the mail. Money for rent has come in just in time every month, and on the rare occasion where I write the check, not knowing how it will all be there, God does something awesome, and I don't have to worry about it.

God has also provided something completely new for Andy. A new opportunity within his job that he loves, and right now he's taking advantage of that opportunity- and he'll receive a real paycheck for it. The paycheck that can only come from God, because he almost never has income this time of year in the winter months. And yet... and yet there's the practical part of me that keeps fighting my faith part. When the money hasn't been quite there for an expense, I pray about it, but then I'm also looking for something practical I can do about it. Do I have anything that would fetch a handsome price on Ebay? Things like that.

More recently, it's been about our future home. We still think we want to move once the snow melts. But we still don't know where. More than once, I've just felt that God was going to take care of it- that He was going to show us where we are to be when the time is right. I was specifically told to have patience, that it will all work out. But, I keep seeing the practical matters of it, and it's so hard to just let the faith win out! The practical fact is that we do have a lease that will be up- I can pray that we will be able to extend it for a month or two, but it would really be easier to just be able to say that we are in fact, moving. The practical fact is that we are looking for some specific things when it comes to our new home- and this is where the faith really collides! I want the extra space in the house, and the extra large yard. In the communities we're looking, those homes are so few and far between, and well, well out of the price range we're looking.

So more than once, I've thought to myself, as I'm looking at homes, that maybe I'm asking for too much, maybe I need to settle- I need to give up the idea of the extra guest bedroom, or look more than once at the smaller yards- I can garden small scale, I have been for years. But then, just before Christmas, I was sitting at the computer, looking at the same homes that I've been looking at for weeks, wondering if I should look closer at them, when the thought came to me to think big. If I could just pick one, if money was not an issue, and I could have my choice of what's available out there right now. So I did. I picked one, and I told God that was what I wanted. I even showed it to some family over the holidays. Yet it doesn't make any physical, logical sense. There is absolutely no way that we could find ourselves living in that home.

Except that I have a really big God, and for Him, earthly money means nothing.

The other night I was looking again at the homes available, and before I crawled into bed, I was wondering to myself if maybe we should consider driving by a few of these after church on Sunday- again, settling for the smaller, but maybe they could be okay. And then I had a dream that I was looking at house after house, and the whole ordeal was such a struggle. I was literally having trouble walking in these houses, and right towards the end, I remember looking in a mirror, and my teeth literally shattered and fell from my mouth.

"Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot
Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. " Proverbs 25:19

The faithless man. Unbelief. Oh, I so want to believe. I want to hang onto my faith and have my faith in my God who will provide for all our needs. I want to stop worrying about the impending lease deadline, and I want to stop focusing on finding a new home. I just want to let God drop it on us- literally. The physical self, though, sometimes wants to take over. That's part of what the first verse I shared today is about.

"I will rouse your sons, O Zion,
against your sons, O Greece,
and make you like a warrior's sword." Zechariah 9:13

God is talking to men of faith here- that's what Zion means, men of faith. And the men of Greece, those are the thinkers, the men of logic and understanding. And right here, we see that the men of faith will be like a warriors sword, and will defeat the men of logic. Meaning that my battle- my battle between faith and logic already has an outcome. The faith will triumph over the logic. I just need to keep telling myself that. I need to keep praising God because I know the outcome already- and I need to thank Him for all that He has done for us already, and will continue to do, because all that He does is really for His glory- not mine. He doesn't do things for us so that I have a great story for my blog- He does things for us because He loves us. And as we receive these acts of love from our Father in heaven, we get to share all He has done with everyone we know. God gets the glory for everything!

If we go to the first part of that verse, we see the key to faith winning over the logic, and that is praise.

"I will bend Judah as I bend my bow
and fill it with Ephraim. " Zechariah 9:13

Judah means praise, so think of praise like the bow that launches an arrow. And Ephraim means double fruitfulness- or double blessings. So as we give God the praise in everything- whether it be good times or bad times, that praise is bending the bow, which is filling with double blessings, and getting ready to launch.

Personally, I'm ready for it to launch. But I am holding to patience, because I do know one thing- God's timing is always, always perfect. He knows the precise time to release the bow so that the arrow strikes the bulls eye. I will not yield to my physical self that tells me to act- the self that tells me to take matters into my own hands, because as long as I cling to faith and patience, the results will come, exactly when they are supposed to. I will wait, and I will praise God, because He is so good, all the time. And no matter what happens in the months ahead, I will love Him with all my heart, soul, and strength.

"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Deuteronomy 6:5

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: Lifting Up Haiti

"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places." Matthew 24:7

Less than a week ago someone shared with me photos of an orphanage in Haiti. My heart cried out for those kids, as I wanted to bring them home right away. While that is physically impossible, it did lead me to pray for them. And ever since then, the orphanages in Haiti have been on my mind, and the country in general. It's such a poor country, there is so much need, it just breaks my heart.

Then last night, an earthquake struck the country of Haiti. A big one. This already poor country looks like a nuclear war zone. It's completely devastating. Their poor building code has caused building after building to collapse- including a major hospital.

They need so much. They already needed so much, and now... Just thinking about it, my eyes fill up with tears for these people. There has also been rain- and after an earthquake like this, that brings with it a serious risk of mudslides.

Yet there is a bright spot- the orphanage that I was praying for is safe and unharmed. The children slept outside last night, for there was a fear of aftershocks, but they are safe. Praise God for that.

International aid is going to be key for helping these people. Their country is not functioning at all this morning- they need so much, including rescue workers and medical personal. May God place a sense of urgency in the hearts of the nations to send help. May God wrap the people of this small country in His arms and give them comfort in the days and weeks ahead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sons of God

"[Sons of God] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26-28

Yesterday I picked up and started digging into a history book. Specifically, this book has begun by telling the history of the early church- and the first Bible ever printed. It was really eye opening, and it is verses like this that I believe completely changed the world. Once upon a time, no one could read. Literally. The leaders in the church could read, and in those days, there also weren't printing presses. People wrote books by literally writing them- imagine how long it would take to copy down the Bible in perfect handwriting! It could take an entire lifetime to make one copy! So everyday people didn't have access- and couldn't read anyway. The early church and the kings and queens of that time liked it that way. It meant that they- man- could dictate how life was to be led. Unless you had money and were noble, you really were more like a slave.

So the people of the world, before America even existed, lived as the Pope or their King told them too. The Pope, the bishops, and other church officiates decided which parts of the Bible they would preach on- and usually it was parts that fit their agenda at the moment. It was a dark time for commoners, the religious orders were growing more and more populous because people were pretty much required to give to them. A friar would go door-to-door asking for donations, and if a donation wasn't given, he would curse the household. In those days that was such a big deal! (Well, it still is, but not the point I'm making today.) So then, these friars would go back to their mission literally loaded down with goods- food, cloth, gold, money. There would be an abundance, and yet the very next day, another friar would go out and do the same thing. The religious orders were basically living in abundance, while the people suffered. They had no choice but to listen to those who were above their station.

And then came the printing press and the first ever printed Bible. That one invention literally changed the world. The Gutenberg Bible was the first one ever printed, and for the first time ever, people began owning Bibles. The Popes at the time (there were two- a dark time for them as well) as well as the Kings and leaders recognized this as a dangerous thing! And yet they couldn't stop it. Once the printing press was out in the open, other people began making presses and printing Bibles. It's awesome to think that the first thing ever printed on a press was God's Word.

The people began learning how to read. Formal education began, and children began teaching their parents how to read too. The one thing that everyone wanted to read? Their Bible. And verses like this one caused a people to rise up and say enough to their leaders. It caused people to rise up and say enough to slavery and serfdom- they wanted freedom and liberty. When they read in their Bibles, they saw that God called them all sons of God- that there was no differentiation between slave and free- that they were all children of God and freedom was their right as such!

I'll tell you, I knew a lot of this already, but reading it again as an adult, with understanding of the Bible, I just can't imagine what it would have been like to live in a time period where I couldn't just sit down with my Bible. It makes me realize how truly blessed that I am to live in the time and the place that I do. And it also... well, it makes me think twice, really. I'm just thinking about the everyday, and how often do we look at someone else and on the inside, we're thinking about how much better we are then them. I suspect we all do it at times. We think that our ways are better than theirs, or our clothes are better, or our choice of food as we stand in the grocery line.

This even extends to the church. How many of us think that our church is the best church and everyone should attend it? Why can't we just be happy for all the people who attend church on a regular basis, and instead, work together to reach out to the unchurched? My church is right for me and my family- for where we are at in our walk with God. That doesn't mean that it's right for the family down the street. Instead of beating them over the head by telling them all the time that they need to come to MY church, I should be encouraging them in the choice that they've made for their family. Now, the family in the other direction may be a different story, because they don't attend a church at all. Maybe they need some encouragement- but maybe their choice will be drastically different. That's okay! We are ALL sons of God! Regardless of the way we've chosen to worship God, the end result is identical- we are all ONE in Christ Jesus. Neither of us is better than the other.

I think when the church as a whole really takes this verse and understands it, that we will start to see great things in the church today. With understanding will come unity, and a church united is so much stronger than a string of churches all wrestling for the best membership numbers. Together we can reach out to the lost. Together we can care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Together we can make a real difference, as we work hand in hand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Season Of Study

"He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 21:5

I just used this verse for the last Warfare Wednesday post, but I have to say, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I think this is a good thing, I think it means that I am in a season of study, and boy, has it come on suddenly and in full force.

A season of study. I've had the season of reading the Word before- in fact, at this time last year I purposed to read the Bible cover to cover and it took me just under five months to do so- reading at the lunch hour every day. I started doing the same thing just over a week ago, on January 2nd. But something changed, and I just really didn't feel like God wanted me to start at the beginning and go to the end. Instead, I skipped ahead to the minor prophets in the Old Testament. I wish I knew why they are called "minor" prophets, because it seems like every time I dig in, I discover something new and exciting to me. Hardly minor in every sense of the word.

But this last week I was reading in Zephaniah, and I want to do a bang up blog post about it on of these days, because something I read there led me to all sorts of verses throughout the Bible, and then I recalled a sermon we heard way back in August, so last night I watched that service on our online archives and sat and wrote down everything of interest. I went to bed last night dwelling on these words, and this morning, I woke up, and it was a little bit of an effort to sit down here and blog. I have school to start in just a few moments, but all I really want to do is read some more in my Bible. I want to dig in and study, and, probably more important for me, write it down.

Write it down. I've had this beautiful journal in my possession for...hmm, for over twelve years, and I've never written in it. I still remember the lovely people who gave it to me, and I remember when they gave it to me to make a mental note to use this journal for something special. Twelve years later, I finally have dug out this journal and I have begun using it. Simply put, I'm writing down scripture in it. Maybe a few notes, or corresponding scripture, but I'm simply writing it down. And here's why.

When I write, I remember. Simple as that. I will often sit down and write a long grocery list before I do a ten day shopping trip, but then, as happens sometimes when you're getting children ready to go out the door, I might forget that list at home. Nine out of ten times though, I will actually remember every single thing on the list- even some of the obscure items, like a jar of anchovies or a bottle of pesto. I recall the items on my list by remembering the act of writing it down. I can visually see the word on my written notebook page. Just last week, I was talking about how I wish I actually knew more scripture, and someone suggested to me that I write it down. Physically write it down. Then I woke to this verse in Revelation and I just took that as direction- I need to write this stuff down.

I write all this stuff this morning simply to encourage. I have a feeling that I'm not alone in this desire to take in more of my Bible these days. While it's important to read it, right now I just feel like it's more important to really get to know it- to take in these scriptures and digest them fully, make them a part of me.

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

God's Words need to become a part of us- it a season of study. Making God's Words our words is a great way to begin a new year.

Friday, January 08, 2010

One Of Those Days...

"Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" Isaiah 30:18

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:6

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

Compassion is the only word that comes to mind for me this morning. Compassion is one of the traits of Jesus that I know has been growing in me. Compassion is being stirred up, and there are just some days where I just want to throw myself on the floor and sob, and cry for all the iniquity in the world today. It's not a depression, just more of an understanding that there is so much hurt, so much anger, so much need, and the only thing I can do about it is pray- when on the inside I want to do so much more.

Last night before I went to bed, I had been spending time online chatting with a group of ladies when someone jumped on and shared about an orphanage in Haiti that was looking for people to adopt their children- specifically boys, people generally want to adopt the girls while the boys remain. Oh, my heart leaped out of my chest at that! Those beautiful boys- all under the age of eight, playing and smiling, and just wanting a family. It broke my heart because all I can do is pray that they find their families. Yet if the means were not an issue, you can bet I'd be on a phone with that orphanage, finding out what I needed to do to bring some of them home to be mine.

I think those thoughts carried over into my dreams last night. Because I had a dream that we were living in a different house and a man dropped by in the middle of a dark and stormy night and literally dumped three children on me. One baby girl and two boys under the age of five. I loved them instantly, and wanted to take care of them forever, but then a short while later a grizzly couple showed up, claiming to be the parents and took them away. It broke my heart in the dream, and I still recall the sobbing I did in that dream as my children were ripped away from me. I'd only had them in my arms for a few hours, but they were already mine. The wails of a grieving mom are not easily forgotten.

Then this morning, as I sat down at the computer, I find a short message from a friend on the other side of the globe. The Muslims in the country of Malaysia are attacking and burning the Christian churches in Kuala Lumpur. Instantly I prayed that my friend and those he loves would stay safe, and he and his country will be on my mind all day long, I suspect. But the compassion that is stirred up inside of me is just making my spirit weep and sob for that country! I am crying for the Christians who have to worry about being able to worship God. I am crying for the Muslims who display such zealousness- if only they could be so zealous for the one and only true God! (Minus the radical extremes, of course.)

The thing is, as I'm praying for all these things, I'm digging deep to pray for them. Jesus himself carried an abundant supply of compassion with him while he walked on this earth. What I honestly wonder is, how is it that he was able to walk on the earth without just curling into a ball and sobbing. Really. How is it that he was still able to hold himself upright and walk among the lost? I think it's because he knew there was hope. That is something I intend to find as well. Right there in my spirit, right next to the compassion that is springing forth is the side order of hope to go with it. As long as I have Jesus, as long as the world has Jesus, we have hope.

And so I pray, and maybe I weep, but mostly, I pray, and I look ahead. I use that hope to look toward heaven and await an answer, because Jesus is always the answer.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Dreamcatcher

"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." Joel 2:28

The verse above is also found in Acts 2:17- I always find it interesting when a scripture is important enough to be repeated more than once. I've been meaning to do another post here for a while now on dreams, because it's something that I'm becoming more and more familiar with. Yesterday, I was looking in my jewelry case for a pair of earrings to wear to church. I was looking for something kind of specific, and as I shifted things around digging, I moved a necklace and earring set that I never wear. It is a set that was given to me many years ago by an old boyfriend's mom (I think). They are dreamcatchers. Native American symbols- weavings with feathers hanging from their centers. Lore has it that the people would make these and put them over their beds as they slept, and it would help give them good dreams- and keep the nightmares out. The reason I haven't worn this jewelry isn't because I don't like it, but because as symbols, I was concerned that someone would see them and think I was dabbling in spiritual things that were not from God.

Last night, though, as I looked at those earrings, a startling realization came to me. All those years ago, when this lady was giving me this jewelry set, I think she was being prophetic without knowing it. I think those dreamcatchers were symbolic at the time of me in the future. I smiled as I looked at them yesterday, not because of the memories of receiving them or the lady who gave them to me, but because I saw, very clearly that they were not evil symbols at all. Rather, they spoke volumes about who I am becoming. And that is a dreamcatcher. I am recognizing more and more when God speaks to me in my dreams. The cool part? We all are dreamcatchers. Every single one of us has the potential to communicate with God via our dreams. Sometimes, it can be as simple as laying down to go to sleep and asking God to visit you in your dreams. God wants to talk to His children, and since sometimes, we're not so easy to get ahold of during our busy days- what better than to utilize the times when we are sleeping?

I just wanted to take some time to encourage anyone who visits here to take some time and dwell on the dream world for a bit. Recurring dreams or dreams that you vibrantly remember may very well be something God wants to tell you. The trick to dreams though is that most often we need to dig in, to understand the different symbols and ideas that God is trying to get across. The easiest way to learn to understand what our dreams our telling us? Ask God to show us. Often times, when I do that, the answers don't come right away at all. I have to think on them and think on them- and I ask God why I dreamt of that particular person. I also spend a lot of time in my Bible- because I want to be sure that any meanings or interpretations are from God and not just me making something up. The one thing that I really, really need to get back to doing is writing down my dreams. They've been coming at a rapid pace the last few weeks, and I'm ashamed to say that I don't remember some of them- there have been so many. But let me see if I can give you a few examples of some dreams and possible meanings.

A few weeks ago I think I mentioned that I was woken up and really felt the urge to pray for someone. That happens to me quite a bit. I'll be dreaming about someone and as I come out of the dream, I physically wake. It's in that moment that I really remember the dream, and I always take my sudden waking as a sign to think on that dream. Right then and there I think about it and ask God if it's from Him. A lot of times, I feel it is and I'll just start praying for whoever it is. Sometimes it's someone I know well, sometimes it's someone I haven't seen for years. Sometimes it's someone I don't know- but know of. Like this last one. Truly strange in my mind, I was woken up in the middle of the night to pray for a Hollywood actor. I suppose it shouldn't be strange, because God loves ALL his children, but still. It felt a little strange to be lying in my bed praying for this actor. But I did. And the very next morning when I turned on the computer, I saw they had made the headlines- and not for a good reason. I confess that I do wonder what my prayers prevented- and hope that they made a difference.

I also had a dream the other night that I was running with a rock star. We were trying to evade crowds, and I remember in my dream asking him if his stardom was worth all the hassle- and he looked at me and smiled and said "oh yeah." I thought it was just a random dream, but then I opened up my Bible and read where Jesus was being followed by crowds.

"Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." 21He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." Luke 8:19-21

While I don't know that the dream had any specific meaning for me- it did give me a glimpse at a character trait of Jesus that I may not have thought about before.

The other night I had another dream that I didn't realize had double meanings for me either. I had a dream about a friend who we have not seen in over a year. They've been in our prayers a bit, but we just have not made it a priority to get together with them. This dream kind of pointed that out to me, actually. So when I woke up in the morning, I really felt I needed to just send a little note to let this friend know that we have been praying for them and continue to do so. While I was composing this note to him, I suddenly had a need to write to him a portion of my dream- with an interpretation of the symbol that I had no idea was a symbol- or needed to be interpreted. I am praying that brings him great encouragement, because I just sense that he needed it, and I also pray that my actions were exactly what God wanted from me.

You know, when I first started having a few of what I call "God Dreams" I was a little nervous about it. In fact, when I shared my dreams with a few people, I got that look... that look like, um, okay, nice dream and all, but they don't really mean anything. So I went to my Bible. And I read the book of Daniel and the book of Ezekiel. And then I went and read about Joseph in Egypt, and Peter in the New Testament. All these men dreamed dreams- and most of them received interpretations after some prayer as well. (Or in some cases, after much prayer.) I honestly did go through a period of a few months where I didn't have any dreams, and I think it was maybe because I doubted, because I wasn't sure I wanted to understand. And yet... I decided that if I did dream dreams that I would be in fantastic company. When I go through a period of time now where I am not dreaming, I go back to Daniel, Ezekiel, Genesis and Acts and read about these dreamers in scripture, and I ask God to show me more. He always does.

I still have many dreams that I've dreamt that I think are significant or mean something, but I have no meaning yet- and many of these are over a year old now. Yet they keep coming to mind, and I'm sure that someday, God will show me what they mean. Even more- as I see some of the people I have dreamt about, I feel an extra dose of compassion or love for them. When I see that actor on TV or my computer screen, I'm praying extra for him to know God's love. When I see other people that I've dreamt about, I make sure I ask them how they are doing and let them know I'm praying for them. If nothing else, my dreams have become a prayer tool for me- and how can that ever be a bad thing. I am no longer afraid of the looks of others- being a dreamcatcher is part of the fabric of being me. It's part of how God made me, and if it brings Him glory and maybe it will bring someone to Christ down the road- it simply can't be a bad thing. I love that my Father talks to me in my sleep, and there are days where sleep doesn't come fast enough, because I am so eager to see what He has to say to me. And so I'll sign off today with some links to scripture about people who dream. Read them, enjoy them, and meditate on them, and then ask God to show you. He just may do that.

Acts 10

Genesis 37 and Genesis 42

Daniel 1

Ezekiel 1

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,“Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:5

The hard thing about my weekly Warfare Wednesday posts is that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am meant to continue doing them, yet, it seems that Wednesday is always the day I wake up with fire in my belly, with something on my mind, and I want to share. But this morning... well, this morning, I think I can actually tie the two together.

More than ever, my prayers continue for President Barack Obama. Because you know what? God loves him. Not only does God love President Obama, but I believe God favors him. God placed the desire in his heart to have a heart for his country- to want to serve his country in the capacity of president. And Mr. Obama has listened to the heart that God gave him. Now, we need to pray that the heart of our president will beat in time with the heart of God. That President Obama will hear the will of God and will follow. I believe that it is God's Will that our country not be divided, and that God can use this man, this servant we call president to help heal the division in our country. If only he would listen, and if only the people would pray.

And along those lines, it is a new year, a new day, and Jesus says in Revelation 21 that He is doing a new thing! I believe He IS doing a new thing, right here in my home state of Wisconsin. While I'm praying for leaders this morning, I really want to pray for my state. We have a gubernatorial race this year, and I just pray that it stays away from being ugly. I pray that our state will have peace and that God's man for the job is the man chosen. May we be an example for the rest of the nation, that two parties can come together in peace- and may we be an example that doing God's Will is the best way.

And as we're praying for peace this morning- peace for our nation and peace for our state. I'm also praying for personal peace. May each one of us do something unexpected in the name of peace and love. The end to conflict and division starts at home. All it takes is one set of neighbors to start getting along, and people see that. Our differences in thought or opinion does not need to bring about the hate that is so rampant these days. Instead, we can agree to disagree, and still love each other with the love of God that is present in all of us. The love of God is going to make a difference in the year to come. It is my prayer that everyone can know this love- can see it in action and experience the love that transcends ALL understanding.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bearing Fruit For The New Year

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

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." John 15:1-16

I've joined in with a group of ladies online for a study this year on bearing fruit. I'm really looking forward to it. We're just a few days into the discussions of the first verses, and already I can tell that I am going to glean so much from these women- and I hope that I can also add to the discussion.

Something that was brought up that I think is key to the idea of bearing the good fruit that God desires us to bear is something that we don't even have to do. As we read the verses above, we are being compared to the branches of a grapevine, where Jesus is our vine, and we are the branches. If we think in a practical, physical sense, on a grapevine, what do the branches actually do? Well, they bear the eventual grapes that will produce, but other than that, they don't actually do anything. What they do is remain attached to the vine. In other words, all we have to do is stay attached to Jesus, and the fruit will grow. We need to remain attached at all times. A branch that is snapped off is discarded... oh, I really, really don't want to be discarded.

I want to remain in the vine at all times. I want to abide in Him, while He abides in me.

And yet... there's more to this bearing fruit. I hope to have many more tidbits to share about this in the weeks to come, as I think there is a lot to be said about the analogy of bearing fruit. I don't think the Bible uses fruit as an analogy as a mistake. It's purposeful, and we can look at the physical aspects of fruit growing to understand how we should go about putting ourselves in the best positions to bear our precious fruit.

Today I think of pear trees. Pears are one of my absolute favorite fruits. I love them when they are at the perfect stage of still a little crunchy, but beginning to release their juice. Pears are so unique in flavor and shape, and they also grow uniquely. A pear tree must have a partner in order to grow fruit. A love pear tree in the wilderness will be a lively tree, but without another pear tree nearby to pollinate it, it will not produce fruit. A pear tree needs companions as it grows, to help the fruit come forth. In exact same way, we as Christians need partners. As a pear tree needs to be surrounded with trees who bear the same fruit- we also need to surround ourselves with people who bear Godly fruit.

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." Matthew 7:16-18

By their fruit we will recognize them. And then we need to surround ourselves with these like people. We need to spend time with them, and spend time encouraging each other in our walks with the Lord. And together we can share our growth, and together we can bear the fruit that shows the world around us that we are children of God.