Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings


God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Earth, display your exuberance!
You mark us with blessing, O God, our God.
You mark us with blessing, O God.
Earth's four corners—honor him!
~Psalm 67:5-7 (The Message)


Monday, November 24, 2008

In Other Words---Thankfully or Resentfully?


"Thanksgiving begins with Thanks Living. Life is God's gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift to God."

Thanks Living.

I want to live a life of gratitude. Some days, I do it so well. Other days, I fail desperately. Most days, I have moments of both. Why the pendulum swings?

Thanks Living is a matter of perspective. It is keeping our mind's eye on the fact that everything (good, mediocre, not so great, simple, complex, desired or needed) comes to us by the allowance of God. He pours the blessings into our lives. He allows the difficulties to trickle in to strengthen us. He gives us the mundane tasks as well as the glamourous assignments. He is the giver of all things in our life. We must keep that in perspective. Then, and only then, can we live Thankfully.

I recently reviewed some of my old posts. One was addressed at the question of a friend's son. Do you live your life resentfully? That question still gives me pause.

Today, I want to live my life thankfully. I want to leave the resentment that tries to creep into my being behind. Today is a gift from God and I'm going to live like it is. How about you? Will you live resentfully or gratefully? The choice is all in your perspective.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:15-16

Have a blessed Thanksgiving week!

Today's hostess is Deborah at Chocolate and Coffee. Come, visit and be blessed.

I'm Over Here Today

Mipa Homeschool
(click on this picture in the sidebar to connect to the other site)

Playing catch up on the homeschool site. Join me there!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Father of the Year?

My father has decided to give Jewel and Flower this for Christmas:

It has secured his place as a finalist for "Grandfather of the Year."

At the same time, it has negated his chances of winning "Father of the Year."

Please note, it comes unassembled.

Granddad is in Texas.

We are in England.

Who do you think will be assembling it?

Enough said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Other Words--Regrets


“And I don’t regret the rain,
And the nights I felt the pain,
And the tears I had to cry some
of those times along the way.
Every road I had to take,
Every time my heart would break -
It was just something that I had to get through
To get me to you…”

As sung by Lila McCann,
“To Get Me To You”
[Hope Floats Soundtrack]

Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. (Luke 17:11-24)

Do you think that the prodigal son regretted the nights that he spent in the pigpen? Do you think that deep down he realized that it was his own deliberate choices that landed him there? Do you think that he knew that it was a road that he did not really have to take?

Yeah. Me too. What's more, I can relate to him because of those regrets. There are messes that I have made in my life that were because I deliberately and willingly chose to go a way that was not God-pleasing. There are so many lessons I've learned that when I think about it I wish I hadn't chosen the hard way to learn them!

"Good" self-esteem tells us that we shouldn't have regrets. It says that the correct answer is something like "those hard times have made me who I am and I wouldn't change them because that would change me." There are most definitely circumstances in our life that we have no control over that God will use to mold us into His image. Infertility, illness, loss of jobs due to mass lay-offs, etc are times where we have no control. God will take those terribly difficult circumstances and draw us nearer Him and make us better ministers of His care. He draws us near Him in our pain. Those are not the things I'm talking about. I'm speaking of the times when we know the better way, and we choose the selfish. And because we choose the selfish, God takes the opportunity to discipline us back into His arms. Those are the things I regret, the lessons He had to teach me in the arms of discipline instead of walking in the path of obedience. But, you want to know the greatest thing about those regrets? Even those regrets are covered by God's grace. Just as the father was watching for his prodigal son, my Father welcomes His prodigal daughter home every single time. He tends to the scars of my selfishness and helps me inscribe the lesson on my heart. Then He forgives, and sends me out to try and help other wayward children find their way home. Even regrets are used in His kingdom. How amazing is that!

What do you regret? If it was of no choice of your own, let God draw you near and tend to your hurt. If the regret is because of your choices, run home and allow Him to refresh you in His grace. Either way, He is waiting for you.

Father God, thank you for always welcoming this wayward child home. Thank you for not wasting the lessons I have learned, but instead being faithful to allow me to minister to others on similar paths. Help me to choose the right paths and stay close to you in obedience. And when there are regrets, prick my heart to want to come home sooner. Because of the blood of Jesus......Amen.

Michelle is the hostess for In Other Words this week. Please join us for further discussion of the song lyrics above.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If This is Not Fear, Then What is It?

On Sunday, November 2, my family and I led the service at our church regarding our trip to Romania. Before the service began, I instructed the greeters to please seat the men to the left and the ladies to the right. After a little storm which occurred in my absence of checking on the food, they happily sat the men to the right and the ladies to the left. :-) This sat up part of my presentation to the church. I was tasked with speaking about whether we were afraid to go. The answer to that question is an emphatic NO. We were not afraid. We wanted to trust Jesus and follow His lead. But, that does not mean the trip was without anxiety. The following is part of what I said. This morning, I believe that there is someone out there that needs to be reminded that stretching of God and fear to move on are not the same thing. Hopefully, this will bless you. It comes out of my own lessons of the last few months.

Not being afraid, however, is not the same as not being out of my comfort zone. I was way out of my comfort zone. It took me out of my comfort zone long before we left and I stayed there through the entire trip. It may come as a surprise to you all, especially those of you who have had the pleasure of helping me get ready for today, but I have a few issues with control. [additional note: there was enormous laughter here, I really can't understand why this was so funny!] Tiny ones. But issues none the less. And anyone around me pre-vacation knows that my Type A, OCD monster emerges. I am fanatical about having a detailed list of everything that needs to go into the suitcase. The tickets are checked daily so I know where they are. The passports are physically touched a few thousand times before we leave the house and I check a dozen times in the car on the way to the airport to make sure they haven’t somehow gotten lost in transit. I need details, lots of details. I can’t tell you exactly what it looks like in the [trip organiser's] house before a trip, but I can tell you that it does not look like my house. He does not have a Type A, OCD monster that emerges. And that throws me totally out of my comfort zone. So far out, in fact that seven days before the trip I still did not know what time we were leaving! And four days before we left, I still did not know when we were coming back, and we were coming back without him! I was out of my comfort zone. Ask my prayer group. I was begging God for any details to quell my inner monster. German, of course, was saying “He has the details, its fine.” I trusted (sort of) that he had the details, but I needed to see them. But…before we even left God was taking me out of a comfort zone that provides what I want when I think I need it. There were lessons before we left. And I was excited to be going, even in the anxiety. Because I knew that God was leading us there. In all honesty, I began to understand long before we left for Romania that the real change that God wanted when he sent us there was going to happen in me.

Some of you are probably out of your comfort zone this morning. You are seeing a perspective of this church that you did not know existed. If you are a guest this morning, don’t worry, we don’t normally segregate men from women. But in Romania they do. What did that mean for me? My comfort zone is that I want to be with German when I am out of my comfort zone. And for all of these church services, I would not be able to be with him. Not only that, but it would fall to me to keep two little girls entertained and quiet ON THE FRONT ROW where everyone can see us for a 2-3 hour church service in a language that they cannot understand. Out of my comfort zone.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Trips like this one take us out of our comfort zone. Food, customs, expectations all stretched us out of our comfort zones. But God was totally faithful in supplying our needs. Through the rest of the presentation, German will show you the pictures and tell what we saw and what the needs are. And I hope that you will take that stuff to heart. The needs are real and whether we give, we pray or we go, God will use our faithfulness. But I want you to take one other thing away today as well. Last night at a concert several of us attended [Casting Crowns], the lead singer prayed that “the fear that has held the church would be removed.” I want today, at [our church name] Church, for us to say no to the fear that so often cripples the church. I want you to see that saying yes to God may lead you to face your discomfort but it is not scary. I want you to realize that being stretched by God is not the same thing as facing fear. I want you to see that he gave this family the grace to communicate beyond language, to encourage and to bring joy. I want you to see how he used those elderly, poverty-facing congregations to encourage us! I want when you walk away today, for you to have no excuse…you are not too young (He used Jewel and Flower to minister in even a mental hospital!), you are not too old (the elderly congregations ministered to us), you are not too shy, you are not too busy. You are not whatever else "it" is that you think you are that limits your ability to serve. You are a child of God that He loves and will equip for the tasks He gives you. I want you to believe that God enables when God leads. Because He does!

Have a blessed weekend. Live in His strength. Trust Him to guide. Don't let fear hold you back!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankful Thursday---Isn't God Good?

It's Thankful Thursday! I won't be doing a traditional list today, my heart is too full and explanations are needed. In fact, this was meant to be last week's post, but life, God and lessons got in the way, and He continued to add to these blessings. Today I am most thankful for the myriad of ways God speaks to us.

Last Saturday (the 1st) dawned with me expecting it to just be a looooong day. We were overcommitted and I was stressed. But God showed up, in a big way, all day. First, we were meeting at the church to do the meal preparation for Sunday (our Romanian presentation and meal). We were catering for 80. Lots of veg to chop, meat trays to make and sausages to cook. I figured if we had 2 helpers we might be able to finish by noon. God blessed us with three helpers and we did indeed finish at noon. The work was made light. The fellowship was amazingly sweet. Isn't God good to speak to us through friends in mundane tasks?

Saturday evening, sixteen of us got on the church mini-bus to travel 2 hours to a Casting Crowns concert. Believe me when I say, GOD SHOWED UP! First I had two hours to visit with my husband without children. Yay God! Then the concert itself just ministered. I took notes (at a concert a rocking-dancing-stay-on-your-feet type affair!). German took notes (truly, this was a concert not a conference). I was totally blessed. God added to my presentation for Sunday in a tangible way, and the fruit of that would be seen on Sunday. But mostly, we knew that we had been in the presence of God and He totally enjoyed our worship. Isn't God good to speak to us in our energetic offerings of worship?

We dropped into our beds at 1 AM, realizing we are not as young as we once were. But, again, God showed up with immediate sleep. That is not a norm for either of us! Isn't God good to speak to us in rest?

Sunday German, the girls and I led the entire service as well as hosted the lunch. Again, extra help arrived to make light of the final meal preparation before church. The service was filled with technological logistics---switching from one speaker to another, video, powerpoint, two little girls holding and using microphones, the praise band and instruments. There were so many places that things could go wrong, but nothing did. The message was well received and a couple of creative things should have helped people walk away and not forget. Eighty people ate lunch, and food was sent home with at least twenty of them. God multiplied the food over and over, because we had so much left yet everyone had ate their fill. Good funds were raised for the charity. Isn't God good to speak in clarity of message and logistics of church services?

My good friend, Jewel, had a baby boy on Halloween night. He is the most beautiful creation one could behold! Monday evening I spent an hour just cuddling him while Flower played with his fingers, absolutely enthralled with the perfect smallness of them. Isn't God good to speak through new life?

All week, my quiet time has "Godincidently" landed on verses that are absolutely specific to decisions that are being made in our life. Daily, I am reminded of God's control and my need to just trust. Daily, I am reassured that "today" is handled. Daily. Isn't God good to speak in His Word?

Yesterday I sat with a friend, sharing and praying over things that are happening in each of our lives. She shared an illustration she had heard over the weekend that exactly described the state of my heart. It was a hopeful illustration. It was a word of God. Isn't God good to speak through faithful friends?

His Word, friends, concerts, help and fellowship, newborn babies. They all allowed God speak to me the past ten days. I am so thankful that God has brought my heart to a place where I was able to listen to Him. How is He speaking to you? Are you able to hear?

Iris at Grace Alone is the hostess each week for Thankful Thursday. Go, peruse the posts of thankful hearts. You will be blessed!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Other Words---Beautiful Women


“To possess true beauty, we must be willing to suffer . . . if Christ Himself was perfected through His sufferings, why would I believe that God would not do the same with me? Women who are stunningly beautiful are women who have had their hearts enlarged by suffering.”

(Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul” by John and Stasi Eldredge)

Four years ago she buried her husband of fifty plus years. She never had children. I've never asked if they chose not to or could not, but the longing in her eyes while she watches my girls play betrays the hurt. She walks with a four point cane, permanently hunched from the damage osteoporosis has wreaked in her body. Emphesema batters her lungs. Yet, her doctor asks her, "How do you keep smiling?"

She waited a long time to discover her passion in life. Several battles in a mental hospital fighting the ravaging depression that haunted her. Finally, at age forty she began to live for her dreams. Dream degree, dream husband, miracle child. But the depression continues to haunt. And the dream husband turned out to be addictive and abusive and fed her mental illness. She hangs on, however, to see her daughter emerge into a confident young woman.

Weariness is her life. The ex-pat life and homeschooling her girls came to an abrupt end with mysterious exhaustion and illness. When I first meet her, she can barely hold her head up from fatigue. She surrenders her children's education to a school and begins to concentrate on getting better. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) will not be her downfall. Four years down the road, she has a vibrant ministry and has brought her girls back home for school. There are days weariness creeps in, but it does not win.

Alone again, she prepares to go to worship. She's been married, in name, for a long time. But he left the marriage years ago. He has sought the beds of who knows how many others. Her friends advise her to leave. But she won't. No, she can't. She resolves that she made promises in marriage, and she believes God will honor those promises. A year goes by. Five years. Ten. Now, twenty years I have known her. She still believes that someday her husband will hear the call of the Lord. Until then, she waits and she hopes and she prays and she allows Jesus to be her comfort.

Multiple sclerosis is her enemy. She received the diagnosis just as she was bringing her third child into the world. Could she manage with three toddlers and MS? Manage she did. Then her sister was diagnosed with leukemia. Years of battling, and her sister lost the earthly battle. A reprieve? No, the MS was still there. But her children grew and became adults and gave her grandchildren she adored. Then another cancer diagnosis. This time her own. This battle would take another year. She would not have enough to conquer it. But she never lost her hope.

Five women. Different ages. Different circumstances. Different reasons for coming into my life (or me into theirs). One thing in common. They are without a doubt among the most beautiful women I know. Their beauty was tested in the crucible of suffering, and when you look at them you just see Jesus. You see their hope. You see their lifeline. You see His beauty staring back at you.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4

Father, thank you for the examples of the lovely friends mentioned above. I thank you for how they have ministered to me time and time again in the very midst of their suffering. Your face is beautiful shining through theirs. Lord, I want to show you forth. In the face of the crucible that you will use to make yourself known, may I be found as worthy as these. In Jesus Name....Amen.

Our hostess this week is Nina at Mama's Little Treasures. Please visit and be blessed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In Other Words----True Liberty


“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
2 Cor 3:17 NKJV.

Today, millions of people will go to the polls and vote for their choice of government leaders for the United States. They will be casting a ballot to say which candidates they believe will provide them and the country the most freedom in the upcoming terms (whether it be President, Representatives, Governors, Mayors, etc). Many people are hanging their entire hope on whether or not the "right" candidate gets elected. Don't get me wrong, I, too, have my opinions of who will be the best leaders in our country. My vote was cast weeks ago by absentee ballot and I pray that I voted in the way God would have had me vote. I do believe it matters. But I believe that it is more important for the people of God to recognize that God is the leader of our lives and not any person we choose to govern us. God allows and appoints governments. But He does not relinquish His control.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 13:1-2

When we believe that the government chosen by the people is more important to our living lives of liberty than God we are in trouble. The question is, what are we voting to be liberated from? If we are seeking liberty in how to spend our money, care for our bodies, educate our children, protect our interests, or relate to other countries then it is true the government is the more important choice. But if we are seeking true liberty, then God is our only hope. No candidate can liberate us from what truly holds us in bondage. Only God can do that because only God can liberate us from our sinful state.

To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:6-8

In an interesting twist of timing, several bloggers are at this very moment traveling in the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. If you have a chance go and read some of their stories. They are only on day one of posting and they will tug at your heartstrings as you see true poverty and an organization that I personally believes makes a difference. In today's post, Melanie at Big Mama writes, "...I was sitting in a shack with a tin roof, filled with four smiling children and a mother who was beaming as she told us how happy their home is because they have Jesus." Melanie goes on to contrast that with groups of kids who can have anything materially but have no hope. [PLEASE click the link above and read it. It will touch your heart, and maybe lead you to get involved with Compassion.] Melanie captures this sense of liberty with Jesus. The family that has nothing materially is liberated because they have Jesus. We, who compared to much of the world, have everything materially live in bondage if we don't live in Jesus.

Today, if you are American, please go vote. It is a privilege and a duty that we should not take lightly. But, more importantly, if you are reading this and you are a Christian, today vote to live in the liberty that Christ has already bestowed upon us. If you are not a believer, I urge you to consider allowing Jesus to liberate you from your sins. There is no greater privilege than living in His kingdom's freedom. Bless you today!

Father, God, we come to you today on our faces. We humbly seek your guidance in how to vote for the leaders in our country. We confess that we oft times allow negative, destructive rhetoric to come out of our mouths as we discuss political things. Forgive us when emotion is allowed to rule and we dishonor you and your Name with our words. We know that You hold the authorities and we beg that You will be the God of whoever is elected today from the smallest to the highest offices. We pray that those officials will seek You and that Your liberty will be allowed to reign in our hearts and in our country. Amen.

Today's hostess is Karen at In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus. Please visit her today for links to other reflections on today's Scripture.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Marriage Monday--Grace of Marriage

1st Monday Every Month at Chrysalis
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Marriage Mondays is evolving! And changes are good. Over the next several months, MM will be hosted on a different blog each month, giving us an opportunity to get to know some other great bloggers out there (and give Chrysalis a much deserved rest from hosting). The topics are also going to be more thematic. Each month there will be a topic of "The __________ of Christian Marriage" with the blank being the month's theme. I'm really excited to see what will be written in the coming months. The topic this month is GRACE. Our guest hostess this month is Robyn at Overflowing Grace (how appropriate!) so be sure and visit her as well.

About eighteen months ago I was challenged to never say anything negative about German in social settings. I was so tired of being around Christian women who spent way too much time complaining about what their husbands had done (or not done), how their husbands spent their time or what their husbands wanted. These were committed believers. Their husbands were solid Christians, leaders in the community and church, good providers and loving family men. Yet it would have been difficult to decipher that from the conversations that could be overheard. Please hear me correctly, no one was making dire accusations in these conversations. These are the "my husband never helps with the house" or "my husband would rather watch football than spend time with the family." But we all know, in reality, that type of talk is always filled with exagerration and only serves to make someone else look bad.

In that company, it becomes easy to focus on negative things. But the more I read and prayed and sought God's leadership in my marriage, the more I became determined that this type of conversation was disrespectful and therefore sinful. Even if I had such issues, it would be disrespectful to air them to the world for the sole purpose of making my husband look bad. I would not want German to air the areas where I fall short to his friends either. That would feel disrespectful and unloving.

Yet, none of us are married to perfect mates. And none of us are the perfect mate. We all have shortcomings. There are things that are going to irritate us about our partners. Other things are going to make us downright unhappy. If left unchecked, our emotions about these things can get the better of us. That is where grace in marriage is so important. Grace says, "you may not deserve my patience or my forgiveness, but I'll give it to you anyway." Grace says, "I may be the most unlovable person on the planet today, yet you are still reaching out to me and I will accept it." Grace is treating our partner with the love and respect that God says show them even when they don't deserve it. Grace is allowing our spouse to reach out to us when we know we don't deserve it. Grace cannot be earned, it is the conduit of allowing God's love to flow through us and guide our marriage in spite or our human failings. Without grace, we are going to fail in our marriages because we cannot ever totally please another person in our human strength, nor can we be satisfied with what they have to offer in their humanness. Grace is the part of the equation that places God in the middle of satisfying one another.

It has been, and will continue to be a journey. Yet I do find that my conversations with other wives are more edifying. It only takes one person to say "but look at all the good things he/she does" to shut down the negative feast on someone's shortfalls. In fact, lots of positive attributes have been professed as one begins to season their speech with respectful and loving comments. I am a more respectful wife because I have allowed grace to be the main ingredient of all I say about German. And the funny thing is, his actions aren't nearly as irritating when I'm focusing on and looking for the positive. I don't even see the things that would have been my complaints a year ago. They may, or may not, still be there. The eyes of grace are not seeing them. Hopefully, he is able to say the same about my actions.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6