Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Do You Know the Truth?

A couple of months ago I read a book about a little girl who was in foster care after some horrible things had happened to her.  The foster mother was trying to reach this little girl who could not speak because of the trauma she had gone through.  She felt that if the girl would tell her the truth of what happened to her, that she would be released from the trauma and not re-live it over and over again in her mind.

God spoke to the foster mother in her daily Bible reading.  The words that jumped off the page at her were about TRUTH.  Can you guess where God took her?

"Then you will know the TRUTH
and the TRUTH will set you free!"
John 8:32

Jesus said, "I am the way,
and the TRUTH,
and the life;
No one comes to the Father
except through Me."
John 14:6

Do you know the TRUTH?  The TRUTH is JESUS CHRIST!  It doesn't matter if the 'truth' of a situaltion is known or not, what matters is that THE TRUTH is known in that situation.

JESUS CHRIST is the only one who can set you free!

The foster mother was able to share with the little girl that she could be set free from her fears and nightmares by seeking Jesus.  Telling the truth of what happened to her was not the key; JESUS was the key.

And, Jesus is the key for you and for me.  He is the only way to eternal life with the Father in Heaven.  All He wants from you is acceptance of His absolutely free gift of salvation.  All He wants is a personal relationship with you.

If you haven't accepted Him, you can.  Just say a simple prayer, talking to Him like you would talk to anyone telling Him that you believe He is the Son of God and that you want to accept Him into your life.  Tell Him that you are sorry you have sinned, and tell Him that you need His help on a daily basis.  Tell Him that you want a personal relationship with Him.

If you have accepted Him, make sure that you pray and tell Him how happy you are that He saved you from yourself, and that you will get to spend all eternity with Him face to face.  Spend time with Him today, praising Him for His awesomeness.

He promises to set you free!  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Do You See the Fingerprints?

My family and I have been busy bees lately helping God do Kingdom work.  He doesn't need our help, but He desires it.  And, oh, how fun it has been!  We have been blessed beyond measure.  We have laughed until we cried (God loves laughter - see Psalm 126:2).  We have watched in awe as God's will has been done, or just begun, in lives of those He loves.  We have been encouraged and we savor the time we have spent with Him.

But, because we have been so busy doing God's work, I have neglected to come here and blog in a week or two.  I try to let God direct me in writing, and He has not directed me lately in that way.  But He did direct my beautiful daughter, My Fair Lady, to write something, and she has agreed to let me use it today.  (Actually, I'm such a proud mama I couldn't help but want to share it, but I do have her permission.)  This is what she wrote:

I am a sculptor . . . I love to make things out of clay.  I spend a lot of time on the things I make and I won't stop until I get it right.  When I am finished, I sit back and look at my work and take pleasure in what I just made with my own two hands.  And sometimes, if you look close enough, you can see one of my fingerprints on it.  I have forever left my mark on it.  

So, I believe, has God done with His creation.  He has put time into the wonderful things He has made.  And everything He makes is perfect.  He takes pleasure in His creation.  He has left His fingerprints on them.  Forever leaving His mark on His work.

I wonder why it is so hard for some to see His fingerprints on everything around them?  It is not hidden from their sight.  All of creation is crying out their Creator's name!  But some do not hear.  Instead, they have listened to all of the noise the devil has made so they will not see how great and wonderful God is and never get to know Him.

Meanwhile, God has outstretched arms reaching for His most beloved of His creation.  Us.  He is saying, "Dear child, I am the one who formed you.  I knew you before I made the world.  I made all this for you to enjoy.  I love you as far as the east is from the west.  I sent my One and Only Son to earth to die on a cross for you.  All I ask is for you to love me and to have a personal relationship with me."

So you see, the true reason for the season of Christmas is that God loved us so very much that He sent His one and only Son into the world as a newborn baby, born of a lowly birth, and placed in a manger, so that He could walk the earth as we walk the earth, doing the will of His Abba, Father so that we might come to know Him in a very personal way and believe in Him as our Savior.  We are the reason for the season.  Isn't that marvelous?!

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will know Jesus and Abba, Father God in a very real way.  Know Him personally as your Savior, and not just as a member of the fan club (see earlier post for explanation).  Love Him the way He loves you.  Adore Him the way He adores you.  Wake up from your slumber if you have been asleep, remember your first love and be revived!  Jesus will soon return to gather His Bride and take Her home to live with Him forever and ever.  What sort of Wedding present do you have to give Him?  All He wants is you.  Will you give yourself to Him?  You have to choose to become His Bride, just as He chose you to propose to.  Look around you, see His fingerprints all over His creation and in your life, and say yes!

But when the set time had fully come, 
God sent His Son, born of a woman,
born under the law,
to redeem those under the law,
that we might receive adoption to sonship.
Because you are his sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."
So you are no longer a slave, but God's child;
and since you are his child, 
God has made you also an heir.
Galatians 4:4-7

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Are You Having Fun Yet? Or Are You Too Busy to Have Fun?

My very favorite Bossy Sunday School Teacher, (BSST) has been teaching about Advent recently.  Advent means "coming," and is a term that is not found in the Bible, but generally is taught in some churches (Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) as a tradition of looking to the coming of Christ, leading up to the celebration of Christ's birth.  More and more churches are beginning to teach their members about the beauty of Advent, using families or individuals in the church to light a candle in the Advent wreath each Sunday.

The first lesson was on the first candle of Advent, often called the "Hope Candle".  She brought out all the different Hebrew words for "hope" in the Bible.  It was a very good lesson, very insightful, and it made me think.  That's one thing I love about BSST - she always seems to be able to draw out the true meanings of the words used in the original text, whether it be Hebrew or Greek.  It's been there all the time, but because the English language uses one word for many meanings, it can get kind of muddy when trying to read the Bible from your perspective and knowledge of a word.  

The second lesson was on the second candle of Advent, called many different things, but the focus she put on it was the "Candle of the Way".  Like I said, most churches and Christians consider Advent to be a reminder of the "coming of the Christ child."  This candle is a reminder of the "way" Christ came to earth.  But, an even deeper, clearer meaning of this candle would be to remind Christians (and everyone on earth!) that Jesus Christ is coming again! - this time to take His Bride home to be with Him forever and ever in Heaven.

All of that is beautiful in itself, especially if you, O Reader, are a Christian and like me, are looking for His Second Coming.  But . . . (you knew there was a "but" coming, right?!)  My Bossy Sunday School Teacher didn't just leave it there.  Oh no!  BSST proceeded to stomp all over my toes about being too busy to pay attention to the true meaning of Advent.  She said we should be focusing ourselves on "preparing the Way of the Lord" rather than on busying ourselves preparing our homes for a holiday party!

And, she is so right!  

After priding myself on the wonderful love I have for my Savior, God used BSST's lesson to show me where I have been so busy preparing my home for Christmas - cleaning, decorating, plotting and planning Christmas surprises for under the tree, planning and inviting guests to come to a party of sorts, gathering items and making lists of menu items and what-nots, etc. - that I have pretty much just told Jesus to take a number - "sit over there and be patient, I'll get around to you."

What?!  Me - a pastor's wife!  I've been found to have that attitude towards Jesus?!  Sad to say, but yes, that is one of my crimes of the past few weeks.  Oh, sure, I've decorated my home with Nativity scenes.  I've broken out the Jesse Tree ornaments my beautiful daughters and I made eons ago (seems like only yesterday) to arrange in a special place on the wall and plan to hang on a garland over the door the Names of God ornaments My Fair Lady made a few years back.  I've even given my "Merry Christmas" button pin to the cashier at the grocery store.  But, I've told Jesus to take a back seat to my preparations.  I've neglected to spend time with Him while I prepare to celebrate His birth.  I've been spending too much time living in the present to take notice of the greatest present of all - God's gift to me (and you, if you will accept it) of His most precious Treasure of Heaven, His One and Only Son, the Savior of the world, the WAY, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ.

"Thomas said to Him, 
'Lord, we don't know where you are going,
so how can we know the way?'

Jesus answered, 'I am the WAY 
                                                               and the TRUTH 
                                                                           and the LIFE.

No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:5-6

So, are you too busy preparing for the season when you should be spending time with Jesus? If so, I ask that you try something.  Take a break right now and spend time in prayer telling Him how much you love Him, how you absolutely adore Him, and how sorry you are that you relegated Him to the chair in the corner waiting for you to get your act together.  If you will invite Him to come on over and join you, or better yet, you go over and join Him, I promise you that you will get all of your preparations for the season completed, and have fun - YES, FUN - doing it.

"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.

For God did not send His Son into 
the world to condemn the world, 
but to save the world through Him.

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe 
stands condemned already
because they have not believed in 
the name of God's
one and only Son."  
John 3:16-18  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When Was the Last Time You Paid A Kindness Forward?

I love the commercials on television that show someone watching another person doing something kind for someone else, such as holding an elevator door open, or letting another person take the taxi instead of taking it himself, or helping a new mother carry her packages while she cares for her baby, etc.  And then the person watching goes and pays a kindness for someone else, which gets watched by another person, etc., etc.  And all throughout the commercial others are doing kind deeds for someone they may not even know.  It always brings a smile to their faces.    Or the commercial that shows teenagers at a homecoming dance who have voted their special needs friend as homecoming queen.

My Fair Lady commented on her Facebook page the other day that she wondered what this world would look like if Christians were as excited about Jesus Christ as we are about our football teams (enter any other favorite sports team or hobby here).  Personally, I believe that the world would break out in a Great Awakening Revival.  If Christians were excited about Jesus and what He has done in their lives, they would want to share it with everyone they know.  This activity would be just as contagious as paying a kind deed forward.   

My Fair Lady and I went to an Operation Christmas Child Processing Center this last week to process shoe boxes that had been filled by others all around the southeast with all sorts of toys, clothing, school supplies and hygiene items.  What we were doing was preparing the boxes to be shipped overseas to children in third world countries as gifts for Christmas.  Samaritan's Purse is the organization that organizes events with missionaries to ensure that children in their area of the world hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We have gone to the OCC Processing Center as a family since Little Bit turned into a teenager, but we have filled our own shoe boxes since they were toddlers.  (Little Bit and Knight in Shining Armor stayed home this year due to work and sickness.)

Then just this morning, Knight in Shining Armor, Little Bit and I went to our community's "soup kitchen" to prepare meals to be delivered to individuals and families who are less fortunate than we are.  We deliver the meals because in a rural community such as ours it would be a hardship on those in need to actually come to the soup kitchen to eat their meals.  

I'm not telling you this, O Christian, to say, "Look at us:  See how good we are!" or to get an earthly pat on the back.  No, I am telling you this to encourage you to be purposeful about looking to see where God is working in your communities, in your lives and in the lives of others, and get on board and go to work for Him!  You will receive blessings beyond your wildest imaginations.  But don't do it because of what you may receive, but because your Heavenly Father requests your presence in doing the work of the Kingdom so that His Kingdom will grow, and His glory will be witnessed by others, perhaps enticing them to come to know Him as their own personal Savior.  In doing so, you will store for yourself treasures in Heaven, as the Word of God commands us to do in Matthew 6:19-21.

So, my question remains:  when was the last time you paid a kindness forward; or even just showed kindness to another just because it was the right thing to do?  It only takes a moment to share a smile and a kind word with someone.  Ask your waitress if there is anything you can pray for her as you bless your meal.  Say thank you to a first responder or military personnel that comes into your path - even go out of your way to say thank you.  Tell them that you are praying for them and their families, and that you appreciate their sacrifices in order to keep you and your family safe and free.   You never know where a person may be spiritually or emotionally.  You never know when you will be the answer to their prayers that God would just let them know that He is there and He sees all that they do.

The Bible says in Matthew 25:34-40, 

"Then the King will say to those on His right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared 
for you since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me 
something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me 
something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in.
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, 
when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you? 
When did we see you sick or in prison 
and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'Truly, I tell you, 
whatever you did 
for one of these brothers 
and sisters of mine,
you did for me.'"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Who Are the Superheroes in Your Life, Part 2

I knew this would happen . . . if I started naming superheroes in my life then I would inadvertently forget some.  God brought several more to my mind, and so I want to revisit this topic if I may.

God brought to mind the young wives and new mothers whom He has placed in my life even now when my own beautiful daughters are getting ready to test their wings on their own and leave my nest.  These young wives and mothers are so godly, and so obviously adore the husband and the children God has entrusted them with.  They have their acts put together so much more than I did at their age.  I wonder if God will let me grow up to be like them.

There are spiritual sisters who walk the same path I am on, perhaps in the same season of life or have just been through my season, who share with me the lessons they have learned along the way, and empathize with me about the things of life that concern me.  They get it, they get me, they understand where I am and are willing to hold me accountable to be the person, the wife and mother that God has called me to be.  They let me know that I am not alone in my struggles and trials.

There is the couple who we affectionately call the Blueberry Couple.  They own a blueberry bush grove and a garden that they have shared with us; filling our freezer to the brim with all sorts of wonderful bounty from their garden.  They act as if God gave us to them to raise!    I have watched them give out of the abundance that God has given them, freely and cheerfully.  What joy they have in their hearts when doing so.  There are others who have shared from the bounty of their gardens, or their finances.  They have shared with me recipes and given me the know-how to prepare jelly and other yummy stuff to fill my family's bellies. 

There are the older, wiser women whom God has placed in my life to encourage me in loving my husband and children.  And the older, wiser men who are grandfatherly in their ways, but wise beyond words.  They inspire me to do more, to love more, to long more for the abundant life God has in mind for me.  They all touch my life in their own life-changing way.

"You, however, must teach what is appropriate to
sound doctrine.  Teach the older men to be
temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, 
and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in 
the way they live, not to be slanderers 
or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 

Then they can urge the younger women 
to love their husbands and children, 
to be self-controlled and pure, 
to be busy at home, to be kind, and 
to be subject to their husbands, 
so that no one will malign 
the Word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men 
to be self-controlled.  In everything set
them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity,
seriousness and soundness of speech that
cannot be condemned, so that those who
oppose you may be ashamed because they
have nothing bad to say about us." 
 Titus 2:1-8

Of course, I hope you know, Dear Reader, that there are many superheroes that God places in your life that you may not even know are there, or that you don't acknowledge.  Perhaps they have disappointed you in some way, so they don't qualify in your eyes as a superhero.  Just like in the movie The Incredibles, the little boy who grew up to be Syndrome (Mr. Incredibles nemesis) was so enamored with Mr. Incredible; but when Mr. Incredible told him to beat it, and the little boy went off and went down the wrong path - perhaps that is what you did when your superhero disappointed you.

But, I am here to testify that God can redeem that superhero to you.  He can even redeem you if you have traveled down the path that has led you so deep in the wilderness that you don't think you will ever see the light of day again.  All you need to do is to call out to Him, and He will lovingly take your hand and lead you back to the straight and narrow path that leads to abundant living.  

Don't you want to call out to Him today?  He is waiting for you.  And He loves you so.       

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Who are the Super Heroes in Your Life?

Do you like superheroes?  I remember as a child always watching Batman on television.  I would hurriedly get through with my piano practice so I could sit down in front of the television with my brother and sister.  There is also Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl of the modern era of superheroes.  I can really identify with Elastigirl - being stretched in all directions at once.

There are many real life superheroes in my life.  They don't consider themselves superheroes, or even heroes, but they are.   They are the ones who have shaped me into the person I am.  God used them to enhance my life, teaching, correcting, rebuking and training me along the way.  Some of them have been life-long teachers, and others have been teachers for a season, but all of them are considered by me to be Super Heroes.  This is not to take glory away from God and give it to them; this is to acknowledge how God has used them in my life and to say thank you for allowing yourself to be used by God.

"I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you, 
I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel
from the first day until now.  Philippians 1:3-5

The first superhero in my life was my mom.  She was a stay-at-home mom for most of my formative years.  When people would ask me as a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would always be "A mommy!"  I am sure that it was because my mom was my superhero.  She always had a meal on the table when my dad came home from work, clean clothes for us to wear, and trained us in housekeeping and other things we needed to know to get along in this world.  She would play games like Candyland, Monopoly, and Dominoes with us too.  If we couldn't go wherever she was going, then most of the time, she didn't go.  

The next superhero was my dad.  He was always a hard worker, a man of integrity, working hard to support his family so that we could maintain a comfortable lifestyle.  We didn't have every new toy that every other kid on the block may have had if they had two working-for-paycheck parents, but we always had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, ample food on our table, and plenty of room outside to play our games of make-believe.  I remember one time he helped us make a teepee out back.  My sister, brother and I had a grand time playing cowboys and Indians with the neighborhood kids.  Dad always impressed on us kids how important it was to tell the truth, share our toys and have compassion for others.  Each Sunday, he would load us all up in the car and off to church we would go.  I didn't always notice things when I was a child, but later in life I always found him with his Bible in his lap reading from it.

Then there are the superhero teachers I had throughout my school years.  My 4th grade teacher was Ms. Pannell.  She got married during that year, but I remember her being very interesting and a very good teacher.  Ms. Fields was my 5th grade teacher, and if I remember correctly, she had taught my dad when he was a child.  I know she had taught many of my cousins and my siblings.  I had a science teacher in the 9th grade that was very hands on, and did lots of experiments with us.  I know the basic workings of a car motor thanks to her, and every thing I understand about the physical workings of stuff, she taught me.  My piano teacher and my choir teacher taught me much of what I know about music - how to read it, and how to sing a piece without ever hearing it before.  My French teacher, Ms. Allison, taught me to appreciate a second language, and I read The Little Prince in French class.   My algebra and calculus teacher, Ms. Mallie Moody, was my all time favorite academic teacher.  She not only taught me all things mathematics (and made it fun!), but she also taught me how to crochet, and would let me crochet in class after I had finished my seatwork.

The Sunday School teacher I had at Dauphin Way Baptist Church was instrumental in leading me to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior; and another Sunday School teacher taught me not only more about Jesus, but also taught me how to cross-stitch - a favorite activity that allowed me to release a little of my creativity, relieve stress and also to earn a paycheck at one point.  My youth leader at Meadowbrook Baptist Church taught me to love missions, discipleship and evangelism.  He taught us about the other religions of the world and how to witness to others with the truth of God's Word.

And then, there are the Bible Study Teachers I have had as an adult.  Not just the Beth Moores, Kay Arthurs, and Priscilla Shirers of the world that are well-known; but also the not so well-known teachers who have taught me so much as a young single woman, a bride, a young mother, a mother of preteens, and a mother of teen-age daughters getting ready to leave my nest.  They have mentored me in my walk as a wife and mother, and as a Christian.  There have been other women in my life who qualify for the special name of Super Hero.  Many of them have been spiritual mothers, or spiritual sisters.  One of them is so special that my beautiful daughters call her Granny.  She loves me unconditionally as if I were one of her own daughters, and she holds me accountable to walking the walk that I talk.   

Two other superhero women in my life are my beautiful daughters.  My firstborn is my Fair Lady.  She is lovely both inside and out.  She is talented in all sorts of ways.  She is compassionate for both humankind and animalkind.  She can read between the lines in any book or movie and see the spiritual applications, even if they are there by accident - not on purpose.  My youngest daughter is my Little Bit.  She is a little bit of sunshine when my skies are gray.  She is a joy to call daughter and friend.  She is also lovely both inside and out; and talented in other ways than her sister.  Together they keep me grounded, and make me so very proud of the young women they have become.  God reminded me this last Mother's Day that they are who they are because of who I am, who their dad is, and because of other women in their lives who have enhanced their lives.  

Then there are the pastors and music leaders who have taught me from God's Word, helped me to apply God's Word to my life, and taught me from their knowledge of pitch, tone and all things musical.  They have encouraged me and exhorted me to do my very best in everything I strive to do for God's kingdom.

My favorite pastor of all is also my Knight in Shining Armor.  My Knight in Shining Armor is my most favorite superhero.  He is a man of integrity, who loves the Lord more than he loves me. . . but oh, how much he loves me!  He is my best friend, my lover, my spiritual leader.  He loves me unconditionally, and it seems that our love grows stronger and stronger each day.  He is a gentle, kind, patient man.  He is my soulmate.  He works hard so our family can enjoy a comfortable life.  He is the best dad for our beautiful daughters, and a great role model for what they need to be seeking in a future husband.  

I find myself so overwhelmed at how GOOD God has been to me.   A nobody without Him.  A poor, wretched, wicked soul if left on my own.  God loves me so much that He has blessed me with all of the above mentioned treasures.  He makes me feel as if I am His favorite, and He spoils me rotten just because He can.  He can and will do the same for you.  All you need to do is to trust Him to be Lord and Savior of your life.  He wants to bless you, to treat you as a favorite child, to spoil you rotten.  But He will not force Himself into your life.  He wants you to invite Him to dwell within you.  He wants you to acknowledge His Lordship over every single area of your life.  Let go, and let God be in control.  It is so easy you will wonder why you didn't let Him have His way with you years ago.

Taste and see that the Lord is good,
Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.  
Psalm 34:8 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Traveled to Midian Lately? By Mistake or On Purpose?

Do you remember where Moses fled after killing the Egyptian and burying him in the sand?   (Don't have a clue what I am talking about?  Check out Exodus 2:11-23.)

"When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled 
from Pharoah and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well . . ."  Exodus 2:15  

Have you fled to Midian lately?  (By the way, Midian is just another name for the Wilderness.)  Was it for an all out blatant transgression?  (That's a sin that you've planned out and executed.) 

"But who can discern their own errors?  
Forgive my hidden faults.  
Keep your servant also from willful sins
may they not rule over me.  
Then I will be blameless, 
innocent of great transgression."  
Psalm 19:12-13

Perhaps you did not murder someone (I sure hope not!), but perhaps you did purposely stop in the grocery aisle and gossip with Bessie Mae about what Molly Sue told you that Carol Ann did on her date.  

Or perhaps you stirred up some good old dissension by telling Cindy Lou that Sandy Dee said her dress was the ugliest she'd ever seen, and Cindy Lou and Sandy Dee were upset with each other, and with you.  

Perhaps you didn't have the money for that perfect pair of pants you found at the mall, so you decided to hide them in your humongous purse that has the hidden zipper in the side.  You always keep it filled to the brim with stuff you don't need so that you can rid yourself of some of it in the dressing room to make room for a nice find.

Maybe, you didn't plan your sin.  Maybe you just sort of fell into it - like the pride I had over being a superior seamstress to my Novice Seamstress Daughter.  Or like the procrastination that resulted in the scorching of same Beautiful Daughter's favorite pair of pants.  (See earlier blog posts to find out what in the world I am talking about!)  

How long have you been there?  Moses spent 40 years in Midian.  Forty Years!  How long have you spent in Midian?  Moses was 40 years old when He left Egypt and 80 years old when He returned.  God used a burning bush to call Moses back to Egypt.  God had a major plan for Moses' life.

"When they sin against you - for there is no one who does not sin - and you 
become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, 
who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; 
and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive,
and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, 
   'We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly'; 
and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of 
their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land 
you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen 
and the temple I have built for your Name; 
then from Heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, 
and uphold their cause.  And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; 
forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, 
and cause their captors to show them mercy; 
for they are your people and your inheritance, 
whom you brought out of Egypt, 
out of that iron-smelting furnace."  I Kings 8:46-51  

Do you hear God calling your name?  He is calling you to repent and turn to Him.  He has wonderful plans for you.  He longs for you to spend time with Him.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord,
'plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,' declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

"But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; 
and you may be sure that your sin will find you out." 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Do You Need to Be Tomato-Staked?

Tomato-staking is a technique that gardeners use for young tomato plants.  First, dig a hole to plant the tomato plant in, and then place a stake next to it.  To assist the young plant to grow a straight, strong stalk, tie the plant to the stake using twine, or better yet, old knee-high pantyhose.  When the plant is mature and producing fruit, the stake will assist the plant from becoming too heavily burdened by the fruit which could cause the stalk to be broken.

You ask, why in the world am I blogging about gardening techniques when the purpose of this blog has been encouragement and accountability?  Well, you see, tomato-staking is also a term that many homeschoolers use for a form of discipline.  (Discipline also means "to teach".)  When a child, young or older, has a habit of misbehaving that child might find him/herself "tomato-staked" to the parent.  They would get to spend extra time close to the mother or father's side until such a time that the parent feels that the child can behave herself appropriately.  This time might be spent doing chores, even extra ones, or just reading quietly in the same room as mom while mom spends time reading.  It would not be a time for the child to be more of a nuisance so as to escape the discipline that is being doled out to him.

When I am introduced to people as a "pastor's wife," I quite frequently explain to them that I did not get that job because I am a goody-two-shoes and deserve it!  God tomato-staked me to one of His men because He knew (in His infinite wisdom) that without doing so I would be off doing my own little business, playing among the minefields of life because there are wildflowers there, or just simply smelling the roses and getting pricked by the thorns of life.  I would not be paying attention to where I was going, in which direction I was headed, or  to what it was that God had placed me on this earth to do.  I just want to know why He tomato-staked me to a preacher! Couldn't it have been to a worship leader instead?!  Does this mean that I need more sermons than the average person?  Why couldn't I just go through life singing praise songs, or better yet, listening to them being sung to me by the rich bass/baritone voice of my Knight in Shining Armor?  (My daughters used to think this was funny, until I pointed out to them that the same principle applies to them - why are they preacher's kids?!)

So, my question remains:  do you need to be tomato-staked?  Perhaps you do not need to be staked to a preacher, worship leader or youth pastor.  Perhaps you need to be tomato-staked to God Himself.  (I'm tomato-staked to God, but I have to have an undershepherd to keep me marching to the tune of the right Drummer.)  The Holy Spirit does the job of the pantyhose - holding us close to the Father, teaching us to do His will.  There is just enough elasticity to allow you to have make your own choices, but pull you back up right when you try to stray outside of God's will for you.  It will keep you from becoming too heavily burdened by the cares of this world, mired down in the muck of Sin Swamp, the dry arid sand of Desolate Desert, and the blatant, bold wilds of Wickedness Wilderness.  If these are the places that you find yourself in, turn back, run as fast as you can to the Tomato-Stake and tie yourself to Him.

"Submit yourselves, then, to God.  
Resist the devil, and 
he will flee from you.  
Come near to God and 
He will come near to you.  
Wash your hands, you sinners, 
and purify your hearts, 
you double-minded.  
Grieve, mourn and wail.  
Change your laughter to mourning 
and your joy to gloom.  
Humble yourselves before the Lord, 
and He will lift you up."  
James 4:7-9    

Friday, November 23, 2012

Has Pride Walked Boldly Through Your Door?

My beautiful daughters and I have been busy this week.  As if all the prep work for Thanksgiving day was not enough, because of procrastination we had to really move it, move it.  A few months ago we decided that we wanted to have cool, fun-printed aprons for preparing this year's feast, so we went out and bought a pattern and fabric.  Then . . . we got distracted and didn't sew them.

So, on Friday of last week, my Just-Do-It-and-Get-It Done daughter decided we were not procrastinating any longer.  We didn't have time.  It didn't matter to her that she had never sewn anything before in her life.  I could tell that this was not one of those times I could just tell her, "I'm sorry, but I just can't.  We'll get it done for next year."  I couldn't even hide behind my fibromyalgia.  I was going to have to bite the bullet and teach her how to sew.

We dug out the sewing machine from it's home in the closet, and cleaned off a table so we could lay out the pattern and cut it out.  I stood behind her and encouraged her as I taught her what she needed to do.  I told her she was doing a great job . . . And she was - for her first attempt at sewing.  

And then it happened. . .

When sewing the skirt to the bodice, we didn't pay attention (I seem to have a problem with this!) and we sewed her bodice to the bottom of the skirt.  It didn't really matter since the skirt piece is just a big rectangle.  I asked her if she wanted to rip it out and do it correctly, but that is not Just Get It Done's nature.  So, we moved on.  She completed her apron, upside down skirt, not-so-straight seams, and slightly off tension and all.  It looks great!  Truly it does.  I am so proud of her.  

So, then, I sat down to work on my apron.  I quickly cut my fabric to match the pattern pieces.  I arranged all of my pieces in order, and made sure that I would not have to stop and search for anything.  I was pretty proud of my straight seams and my swiftness of sewing the pieces together.  I even did steps out of order because I knew what I was doing and I could save time by sewing and then pressing it all at once.  I was an expert seamstress. . .


When sewing the facing around the arm hole, I sewed the wrong piece to the wrong side and the fabric was not going to press out right because I sewed the wrong sides together!  There was no fixing it WITHOUT ripping it out and doing it correctly.  So, I went searching for my seam ripper, but could not find it.  I had to improvise by trying to rip the seams without ripping the fabric by using a pin and scissors.  It was tedious work.  The pin wanted to bend.  I stuck my fingers.  The thread did not want to release it's hold on the fabric.  

All the time I was fuming over my error, God was talking to me about my bigger error.  Pride had walked boldly through my door.  And I had held the door open for it.  It didn't creep through the back door.  No, it strolled boldly through my front door.  I had no choice but to admit my sin, and ask my Heavenly Daddy for forgiveness.  And of course, He forgave.  He even told me it could have been worse . . . I could have bragged to Just Get It Done about my superior skills and made her feel less than the wonderful person she is.  I am so thankful that somewhere along the way, I learned to quench my critical spirit and not point out that her way of doing things was not my way of doing things.  Ya see, my way of doing things doesn't make it better, it just makes it different.  And that's okay.    

My daughter's apron is beautiful, my apron is beautiful, and my Chase the Rabbit Trail daughter is just fine with completing her apron in time to do lots of Christmas baking! Just Get It Done and I had a ball playing in the kitchen to get our feast ready on time. . . and Chase the Rabbit Trail had a ball helping us.

"The highway of the upright avoids evil;
those who guard their ways preserve their lives.

Pride goes before destruction
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud."
Proverbs 16:17-19 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Do You Need Forgiveness for Scorching the Pants?

I have done it now!  Oh, I'm in such big trouble.  My daughter asked me to iron her black pants for her while she took a shower.  She even heated the iron to the right temperature for me.  I forgot . . .  I got distracted and forgot.  So when she called for me to bring them to her, I quickly ran over to the ironing board to iron them.  However, the iron had shut off and so I had to re-heat it.  I didn't pay any attention to the special-ness of the fabric; I just set the iron for the usual setting.  Big mistake!

Yep.  You guessed it . . .

I scorched her pants!  

I was horrified at what I had done.  These were her favorite pair of pants.  She loved wearing them.  She felt good about how she looked with them on.  They fit just so right.  I had no choice but to tell her what I had done.  I was terrified.  I wanted to run and hide behind a rock.  But, I couldn't.  She was waiting.  My beautiful daughter had trusted me with her favorite pair of pants and I had ruined them.  Oh, the shame and remorse I felt. 

I had no choice but to confess what happened.  There was no hiding it in the closet like a skeleton praying that it would never see the light of day.  I couldn't sweep it under the rug and pretend it wasn't there.   I had to tell the TRUTH

So, I confessed all of it.  The procrastination.  The lack of attention.  The horrible scorch mark.  All of it.  And you know what?

She was disappointed.  She was even a little angry.  But she FORGAVE me!  O, happy day!  She forgave me!  

Yes, there is still consequences to pay.  I still have to find a way to replace the pants.  That's going to require me spending money that was earmarked for something else.  I'm going to have to spend time shopping for the next perfect pair of pants.  But, I get to do it knowing that my daughter forgives me, and I get to spend time with her looking for another pair of pants.

So, my question remains for you.  Do you need forgiveness for scorching the pants?  Have you done something that you didn't intend to do, but someone was hurt by it?  Or maybe you need forgiveness for that snarky comment you said in passing to your co-worker that you felt good about saying.  Perhaps its for a bigger offense than that.  Perhaps the only one on earth you have harmed is yourself.  Forgive yourself because you will never be able to truly get beyond it until you do.  Seek forgiveness!  Your Heavenly Father is waiting for you.

"Seek the Lord while He may be found,
call on Him while He is near."  
Isaiah 55:6

"As far as the east is from the west, 
so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  
Psalm 103:12

You are More by Tenth Avenue North

There's a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she's wandered
And the shame she can't hide

She says, "How did I get here?
I'm not who I once was
And I'm crippled by the fear
That I've fallen too far to love"

But don't you know who you are,
What's been done for you?
Yeah don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You've been remade.

Well she tries to believe it
That she's been given new life
But she can't shake the feeling
That it's not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she's rehearsed all the lines
And so she'll try to do better
But then she's too weak to try

But don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You've been remade.

You are more than the choices that you've made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You've been remade

'Cause this is not about what you've done
But what's been done for you
This is not about where you've been
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you built
But what He built to forgive you
And what He built to make you know

You are more than the choices that you've made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You've been remade

You are more than the choices that you've made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You've been remade

You've been remade
You've been remade
You've been remade
You've been remade.