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"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." Matthew 5:14-15

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Often Do We 'Really' Praise the Lord

I have had several days of reflection this week. I have been thinking about my pastor's sermon a few days ago about watching our words, and have been praying for God to help me each day as I speak. Some of you know that I had a biopsy on Monday for the possibility of breast cancer. Throughout the past several weeks of tests and doctor appointments I have felt an overwhelming sense of God's peace that no matter what the answer would be, I knew that I could trust Him with my future. I truly was convinced that the report would come back positive for cancer, and that even in the midst of seemingly "bad" news, I knew He was in charge of my life.

Well, the report came back and it was negative for cancer. I truly was shocked. Of course I praise God for the good news, but I also was struck by this thought. "How often do I praise God when things go right, or when I receive good news, but tend to grumble when the news isn't so good?" We are told to praise God no matter what. I think this situation has given me just a small glimmer of what that truly means. I praise Him that I don't have cancer, but I also would have praised Him if I did.

I praised Him this week even when I was feeling pain and soreness from my surgery and my husband developed a severe infection that required treatment today. As we sat in the doctor's office we praised God that the doctor was able to take care of the problem in his office, instead of the operating room like we anticipated. But even if my hubby had to undergo surgery, we still would have praised God.

How are you doing with praising God? Do you praise Him in the good and bad times? I had a comment made to me about my incredible faith and I really don't think that is true. My faith often doesn't seem to be what it should. I think the difference is that I have been continually praying for God to change my heart and to make me more like Him. I have been praying that others will see Jesus in me. It's only when I take my eyes off myself and look in His sweet face, that I can truly praise Him no matter what.

Monday, November 26, 2007

30 Day Challenge

Yesterday my pastor issued a 30 day challenge to our congregation and I would like to extend it to you as well. The sermon was titled, "Filter out words of ingratitude and pour in words of grace." He had four main points to work on:
  • Filter out grumbling and pour in gratitude.
  • Filter out criticism and pour in encouragement.
  • Filter out blaming and pour in honesty.
  • Filter out entitlement and pour in contentment.

He challenged us to work on the words we say throughout this month. He even suggested wearing a rubber band on your arm and snapping it whenever you say something you shouldn't. So this morning I had my rubber band in place as I headed off for my biopsy. I pray that through this month I will be more careful with the words I speak. What a wonderful time of year to work at this. I pray you will join me. I know God will reap incredible results in our lives!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thankful Heart

As Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, perhaps you have been busy like me. Writing lists of things that need to be accomplished, food that needs to be bought, cleaning that needs to take place before everybody arrives, and the list goes on and on. But as I finally take a break from my hectic schedule to sit down for a few minutes at the computer I realize the importance of slowing down.

I need to take time to quiet my heart before God and think about why we celebrate this season. It is a time to remember our godly American heritage. It also is a time to thank God for the many blessings that He bestows upon us each and every day. We need to let our thanksgiving overflow out of our hearts and share it with others. "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done." 1 Chronicles 16:8.

Don't let the holiday go by without sharing with someone at least one thing that you are thankful for. How about starting a new habit of thanking God for something each day, as well as someone else in your life. You will start cultivating a thankful heart.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving always brings back memories of going to my grandmother's house for the day. She always had out her best dishes. She usually had made her first batch of Christmas cookies with Hershey kisses on the top and had pumpkin pie, and of course all of the other trimmings. So here is her pumpkin pie recipe if you need one for Thanksgiving this year.

1 1/2 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 T. flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup canned milk
2 T. margarine
Cinnamon

Brown margarine in pan. Beat eggs slightly. Mix pumpkin, salt, flour, sugar and eggs and mix well. Add browned margarine, milk and mix. Put into 10" pie shell. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, than 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until done.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm So Glad....

I'm so glad that God loves me unconditionally even when....
  • I'm feeling stressed out.
  • I have dirty dishes in the sink, counter, etc.
  • My house is in desperate need of cleaning.
  • I speak too harshly to my boys.
  • I react poorly to my spouse.
  • I neglect time with my Heavenly Father.
  • I focus on my own wants and desires instead of God's, or the other people in my life.
  • I feel overwhelmed by my "to do" list.

Okay, you guessed it - I've been a bit stressed out lately. As I did my devotions this morning I asked God, "What can I give up today, so I feel less stressed?" He pointed me to two activities that are "good" things, but ones that could be cancelled at least for today. I'm enjoying being able to get caught up with some things around the house, (including this blog), as well as preparing for a whole household of family that will be coming for Thanksgiving and staying for several days. I feel like I have been able to take a step back and BREATHE! Ah! I definitely needed that!

How about you? Do you have anything that is stressing you at the moment? Don't forget to take time and just breathe. Ask God to fill and refresh you. 'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9 Don't give up, instead look up to your Heavenly Father who is longing to give you rest!

Medical Update

  • Just wanted to thank you for praying for my dear friend who was anticipating surgery and possible cancer. Her surgeon gave her a clean bill of health! Praise God! She will get to direct our Christmas cantata after all!
  • I have shared about my situation and just wanted to let you know that I go for a biopsy on November 26th. I still feel God's peace and know that He will be with me no matter what I face. Thank you for praying for me and my friend! What a mighty God we serve!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Faithful

I just finished reading a post by Micca Campbell entitled "...He Is Strong". I encourage you to stop by her blog for a great article. Her site is http://www.miccacampbell.com/

I've been thinking the past few days about being faithful. I ask myself, am I being faithful in the little things that I face each day? As I am faithful with these, God will entrust me with greater things.

How am I doing with responding to my husband and children? Am I being faithful with time spent with my Heavenly Father? How am I doing with budgeting my time and resources? I can see some times where I am doing well, and others where I could use some improvement. Above all else I desire to be faithful to what God has called me to do. I pray that I will be His witness no matter what different things I face. I desire to hear God say to me, "... 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21).

What is God calling you today to be faithful in doing? Step out in faith and trust He will be there. He won't disappoint you!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Running a Marathon

Okay I haven't been literally running a marathon, but it sure has felt like it this week. It has been a crazy week with school schedule, extra-curricular events to chauffeur my sons to, church activities, Proverbs 31 Gather & Grow Group, driving my son to and from work - a 45 minute drive each way..... I'm sure you get the picture. I just have not had many free moments to sit down at the computer.

On Tuesday I discovered that my second mammogram was suspicious. I have a cluster of calcification and when that starts to happen it isn't a good sign. So this week has been busy with trying to set up doctor appointments as well as tracking down where my mammogram films are, so they can be pulled so I can hand carry them next week to my appointment with the breast surgeon. She will do further testing and perhaps set up a time for a biopsy as well. I feel like I have been running a marathon and I am not a runner. I much prefer walking. :)

Still through all the craziness of this week I have felt God's peace and presence. I know He will be with me no matter what I face next week. I know He will beside me holding my hand each step of the way. What a reassurance that is.

Yesterday I was stressed out...trying to do schoolwork, get the house cleaned up for the P31 study last night, bake for two different events, etc. My youngest son was giving me a hard time with school. A lot of his problem dealt with not knowing what the future holds for me, and the fear that he was experiencing because of that. I finally decided to call a halt to schoolwork for the day. My sons worked together to get the house clean and ready for the evening as well as baking. We also hung some bright Christmas garland around our door frames, had Christmas music playing and brought down the miniature Christmas tree down from the attic. I love the Christmas season. This helped me to step back for a while and not experience stress, but instead joy as we prepared in just a small way for the upcoming holiday.

I praise God that He understands and knows all that we go through. I praise God that His love for me never wavers. I pray that in all I do and say that I will be a beacon that points others to Him.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Thy Will Be Done

It still amazes me how God uses everyday things in my life to speak to me. Saturday night I was awake several times through the night thinking about the "what ifs" concerning my mammogram. I still knew that whatever happened I could trust the Lord, but I was beginning to have a seed of apprehension as I contemplated the unknown future. Sunday morning still found me a little ill at ease. My husband was gone for the weekend and I didn't have him here to reassure or comfort me.

I went to choir practice before church service. The song we were singing was entitled "Lean Into the Potter's Hands". It talked about how we need to choose to lean into God's hands. Only He can bring us peace and comfort. As I sang the words, I praised God that He holds my future and that I can trust Him. He again gave me His peace and comfort.

Later that evening I discovered that the choir director, and my dear friend will be facing surgery as well as other potential treatments. I took the news hard and grieved for my friend and what she will be facing. This morning she was still very heavy on my heart as I prayed for her. She is such a vital part of our choir. I always enjoy her enthusiasm, encouragement and joy as she directs.

I am not a great singer and have always said that I am one of those in the choir that "makes a joyful noise". I am there not because I am good at singing, but because I desire to praise the Lord through singing. My friend makes it even more of a joy to sing.

Because of her health issues it is very likely that she will be unable to direct the Christmas cantata this year. As I prayed early this morning I was crying out to God on her behalf. I knew she felt peace no matter what she faced, but I was not feeling any. Then God brought to mind a song in our cantata this year that talks about Jesus taking off His crown, laying it down and saying "Thy will be done," before He chose to come to earth as a baby.

God used those four little words to show me that no matter what I face, or my friend faces I can trust Him. I can say with confidence "Thy will be done" in my life and in my friend as well. Thank you Lord for this reassurance.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Joy in the Journey

A few days ago I celebrated an anniversary. On November 1, 2006 I started to faithfully keep a "Joy Journal". I had just had a crazy month before that. I was in charge of Pastor Appreciation Month (October) and when it finally was over I was stressed out. My husband had commented to me that I had been lacking joy. A friend of mine had given me a gratitude journal but I didn't plan to start it until January because it had dated pages to write on each day.

Well after hearing the assessment from my husband, I knew that God was calling me to start the journal right away instead of waiting to the new year. So each evening before bed, as I checked my blood pressure, I would write a few sentences about what had brought me joy that day. As I was faithful with filling it out each day, I realized that I was starting to have a more joyful heart and attitude.

As I wrote my last entry on October 31st I observed that a year had passed by already. I only had missed seven days throughout the year when I did not get a chance to write. I realize that God has changed my heart a lot this past year.

I find myself humming and singing praise songs much more frequently. I hadn't even thought much about it until this past Monday after I had gone for my first mammogram and I stopped off at a retail store before heading home. As I locked the car door I saw somebody give me an odd look. I then realized that I had been singing a hymn. It reminds me of Luke 6:45 which says, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

I encourage you if you have never done this before, to give it a try. You can use an ordinary notebook and just write a few sentences at the end of each day. You will be surprised at how much God will start working in your heart. You also will find that you have a lot of things to be thankful for and that bring you joy!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Power of Words

I have had various thoughts and ideas about what to write about today. Multiple topics came to mind, but uppermost on my heart has been the power of words. Last night at our Ladies Bible study we were studying the topic of conversation and the words that we use. I also have just started reading The Power of a Woman's Words by Sharon Jaynes. As we discussed the chapter of Susanne Scheppmann's study called Perplexing Proverbs, I was struck by the fact that we can make or break some one's day by the words we speak to them. Proverbs 25:11 states, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."

I think of the different words I have heard this week. The phone call that said that they needed me to come in for additional mammogram x-rays, two dear friends that offered to go along with me today; sweet comments made by other bloggers; love, encouragement and prayers from my beloved husband. I also think of the times that I was short when I responded to my sons, or was harsh because of being under stress. The Lord reminded me that even in the midst of difficult situations I still can choose the "right" words to say, and attitude. Being under stress is not an excuse for saying unkind things.

I pray that God will continue to chip away all the old sin nature in my life. Each time I learn something new in my spiritual walk, I think of the image of an artist designing a marble statue and how he chips away all of the unwanted parts. I pray God will chip away all those things in my life that don't bring glory to Him. I desire to be more like Him in all areas of my life.

What words of encouragement and love can you share with someone today? Proverbs 15:4 says that our tongues can bring healing and be a tree of life. Ask God who He has for you to speak pleasant words to, that are sweet and healing.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Go and Make Disciples

I have been thinking lately about the command that Jesus gave, which was to go and make disciples. I guess it has been on my mind, since I was recently awarded the Mathetes Award for excellence in discipleship. I was truly humbled by this award.

A disciple is defined as a follower. Our goal as Christians is to lead others to God and that they would follow Him.

I have been leading a ladies Bible study in my home for about two years now. We have studied various topics: Proverbs 31 woman, Titus 2:3-5; Fruit of the Spirit and Perplexing Proverbs. For the majority of the studies, we just have a few woman that attend. We have come to know each other pretty well and have developed a close relationship. My heart's desire for them is that they will grow and learn more about being a woman that is sold out to Jesus. I guess you could say that I disciple them. But I have no desire for them to turn into "Jodie". I do not want them to be a follower of me, but instead to be a follower of Jesus. My job is to point them to the only person that is worthy of following, and that is Jesus.

There are many areas in our lives where we have the opportunity to influence others, or disciple them. I have been a Christian for 37 years now. The older I get, I realize how vital it is to point others to Jesus. We do this through the things we say and don't say. I am becoming more aware of the importance of continually guarding my speech. I pray that the things that come out of my mouth will glorify and bring praise to God. He is my heart's desire.

Cooking Update

Well we just completed the month of October. I'm sure my son is breathing a sigh of relief. He had the sole responsibility of preparing all of our meals for that month. He did a wonderful job. He tried some new recipes that I am interested in trying too! It has been a great experience for him and he really has enjoyed it.

I realized this morning how I have gotten used to his preparing the meals. Now Mom is back into having to do the planning, preparing and cooking. Don't get me wrong. I actually have missed cooking. (Didn't think I would! :) I think my hardest adjustment will be remembering again to prepare the various meals. I'm sure my family won't let me forget!