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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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Humble Heart

James 4:10 "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

Today we had our first experience at the Creation Museum sponsored by Answers in Genesis in Hebron, KY. One of the first things that we chose to observe was the planetarium show. It was an astounding array that put into perspective the size of our galaxy in comparison with the entire universe. The further we got away from the Milky Way, the more our system was just a small speck in the expanse of the sky.

I had tears rolling down my face as I contemplated the vastness of God's creation, and the intricate details it took in order to sustain life on Earth, as well as the billions of stars that God spoke into existence. The Bible almost mentions the stars as an afterthought. In Genesis 1:16 it says, "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."

For me the show was a humbling experience. Of all of the things that God created, He also chose to make me. I felt very small and insignificant. But yet, I know too how very much the Lord loves me and delights in me. If I were the only person in this world, He still would have sent Jesus to go to the cross and die for my sins. I felt so unworthy.

Later in the evening, we walked around the outside gardens. It was dark outside and the place was decorated with Christmas lights. In a few weeks they will be having a special program for the holiday. We saw dinosaurs that were lit and looked festive. As we passed the building on the highway as we left, there was a single decoration in the shape of the star that was a reminder of the one the wise men followed so many years ago.

Jesus chose to come in this world and be born in a humble stable. He chose humility when He stooped to wash His disciple's feet. He chose humility as He was crucified on the cross.

Humility is a trait that scripture encourages us to emulate. As we go into this Christmas season I want to choose to a humble life and a simple faith that brings glory and honor to God. May I be more and more like my Daddy each day.

Find a way to serve someone in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Choose a humble heart and attitude. How can you be a servant today?

Dear Lord, I praise you for creating our world. I am small and insignificant in comparison. I pray for a humble heart that will bring glory to you. Help to make me more like you. Amen.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Heart That Plans

Jeremiah 29:11-13 "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 upon 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."

We are on a trip that we have planned for quite some time. We had been unsure if we would be able to go or not due to our oldest son's health issues. Just four days ago we received the news that we would be able to vacation. Itinerary and hotel stops were figured out weeks in advance, with the hope that we would be able to leave.

Over the past few days I have made a series of lists - things to pack, things to accomplish before we left, as well as reminders for when we return home again. We were actually ready early this morning and I felt assured that everything was packed and ready to go.

As we played a game while traveling, and later ate lunch, I realized several things I had forgotten to bring. Even though I had well planned and prepared for the trip there still were things that I missed. They weren't major things - just some food items that were desired. We can do without them and make do.

Every day we make plans in one way or another. We plan what we will eat, what we will wear, where we will go or what we will do. We plan and prepare as much as we can. Ever since creation God had a plan. He knew Adam and Eve would sin. This caused separation from God. The only way to bridge the gap was through Jesus.

Through the many years of history, God was preparing and planning for the day when He would send Jesus into the world as a baby. God also planned for the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins. He planned for Jesus' resurrection from the grave. Jesus promised before He left this earth, that He was going to plan and prepare a place for us in Heaven. Praise God that He plans for us and doesn't forget anything.

As you plan and prepare for the holidays, don't forget the reason why we celebrate Christmas.

I praise you Lord that you are a God that plans for my future. Help me to have a healthy balance of planning and just trusting in you. Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Heart That Praises

Luke 2:13-14 "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today our thoughts turn towards the things and people in our life that we are grateful for, especially during this past year. Each day often has troubles of its own. The challenge is to look for ways to praise God.

Today's Our Daily Bread reading by David McCasland said the following statement: "True thankfulness is more than being grateful for what we possess. It's an attitude that permeates our relationships with the Lord so that we may serve Him with gladness and joy."

I love that word 'permeate'. The dictionary defines it as "to pass into or through every part of; to penetrate through the pores, interstices, etc., of." I want to be so saturated in my Heavenly Father's love that it just oozes out of me - that others see His love in my eyes and hear His praise on my lips - no matter what I face.

I know that I can trust Him that whatever happens in my life has been hand filtered by the Lord. He knows what is best for me. Even though I face discouraging times I know that He is trustworthy.

The birth of our Savior began with the angels giving praise to God. We need to follow this example, especially as we are in the midst of a season that tends to be very 'busy'.

Spend a few minutes each day giving God praise for what He has done in your life.

I praise you Lord for the gift of your son. I praise you for the many blessings you bestow on me daily. I praise you in the good times as well as the bad. May I live a life that gives praise, glory and honor to you. Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Listening Heart

Proverbs 1:5 "Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance."

It's been a long and weary day. Many things were accomplished - like home schooling, completely decorating the main floor for the upcoming Christmas season, taking care of some bills, meals, etc. The dishes were washed and put away. The kitchen was fairly tidy. I had a few minutes before leaving for the community Thanksgiving service being held at our church.

I was feeling tired and a little overwhelmed with the things that need to be accomplished before leaving for a mini vacation. As my husband was getting ready for our soon departure I asked him, "Do you love me?" I have to be honest, my mind started whirring on my "To do" list and I didn't hear his answer. So a minute later I asked him again, "Do you love me?" He replied that his answer hadn't changed from the previous minute. I then realized that I had not heard his first response. I was too busy thinking about everything else.

All day I have been 'busy' getting all the things done that needed to be done, or at least what I thought needed to be accomplished. All throughout the day I have been in prayer about what I should write for today's advent devotional. I was having no direction or leading. I realize that most likely God was already speaking to me, but I was too busy to hear what He had to say.

Do you ever get like that? Too occupied with things that you don't really hear what is going on around you. Maybe you are so focused on your thoughts that you miss out on a conversation. It's easy to be the one talking, but harder to be a good listener.

I think about the night that Jesus was born. The shepherds listened to the proclamation from the angels, and immediately went to see the Messiah. I'm sure they would have been overflowing with joy and shared with other people about the wondrous things they had witnessed. But scripture doesn't make mention of anyone else other than the wise men that heard about the birth of our Lord. Perhaps they weren't listening.

As our thoughts focus on the things that need to be done, make sure you take time alone with God and really listen to what He is trying to tell you. You just might be surprised.

This holiday season make a point of stopping what you are doing and really listen to what someone may be trying to say to you.

Lord, sometimes I get distracted by all that needs to get done that I forget to just spend time with you and listen for your voice. Help me each day to seek your face. Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Heart That Waits

Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (KJV)

Most of us do not enjoy hearing the word "wait". In the society we live in it is hard to be patient. But yet this verse in Isaiah encourages us that as we wait on the Lord we will have our strength renewed. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.

Lately this seems to be a continuing theme that God is trying to drill into my heart, in many areas. I recently shared that our oldest son has been having a lot of struggles with his health. While running cross country this Fall he was injured and unable to finish the season. Since then he has had continual pain in his hip. After numerous doctor appointments, x-rays, etc. we finally have a diagnosis. He has hip flexor strain. Which basically means that all the soft tissue that supports his hip is inflamed.

Now this may not sound like good news, but it was to us because it looked like he could possibly end up having to have surgery on it. Praise God he won't have to go through that. What will help the strain to get better? Time. He was given exercises to do twice a day to help strengthen it, and also he will be on ibuprofen regularly for a while to help with the swelling, but it will just take time to heal.

Being told to wait, wasn't the answer my son anticipated. If anything I think it was frustrating for him, because it already has been almost two and a half months since the injury. But for some reason this is where God has him (and us) right now. In a holding and waiting pattern.

As my thoughts turn toward Christmas, I realize how difficult it must have been for generations as the Jews to wait for their promised Messiah to come. And when he came, he didn't come as they anticipated. He came quietly in the middle of the night as a fragile baby. He wasn't born in a fine palace but in a humble stable. The years of waiting came to full fruition when Christ was born.

What things have you been fighting against God's timing lately? Are there areas in your life where He is telling you to wait on Him. Go to him for patience as well as strength. Only He can satisfy.

Practice being patient and waiting. This week as you are waiting in line either at the grocery store, gas station, etc. make a point of letting someone else go in front of you. Not only will you bless them, but it also will allow you the opportunity to practice your skills at waiting.

Lord, teach me how to be patient and wait upon you. Help me to seek you for strength and not things of the world. Thank you for all the years of waiting the world experienced so we would have Jesus. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Heart of Preparation

Luke 10:38-42 "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

A couple days ago our family celebrated Thanksgiving a little early. This will be our last year to celebrate together for several years since my oldest son will be off to college in Florida next year and they only get the day off, which doesn't allow time to travel to Pennsylvania to be with the rest of us.

With being our last time together I wanted to make it special and meaningful. My thoughts were on that all day until it actually was time to do final meal preparations. You know, when everything needs attention at the same time - setting the table, carving the meat, making the gravy, browning the sweet potatoes and potato filling. Normally these are things that make me very frazzled as I'm in the process of trying to make it all by myself. But this year, I did things differently. Not because I planned it that way. I just knew if I continued on the path I was heading I would end up getting grumpy and affecting everyone in the process. It must have been the Lord, because I called in my three guys to help with various jobs. One was setting the table with the special dishes, the other was getting out the turkey to carve as well as the drippings to make gravy, and the other helped wherever I needed it.

Within a short time we had the meal prepared and were ready to sit down together, and for once I wasn't frazzled in the process. Because I was still in a good mood, so was everybody else. We ate, laughed and shared together. We actually stayed sitting at the table long after the food was consumed, just talking and enjoying each other's company. When we finally did get up from the table, we set about cleaning up the kitchen together. One son dried and put the dishes away while I washed. My husband and oldest son worked on getting the turkey off the bones and put into packages to freeze for later.

We all worked together to get the job accomplished. When we were finally finished it was 9 PM. I couldn't believe how quickly the time had passed. Even though it was late we still sat down to watch the Peanuts Thanksgiving special. It was a wonderful and hopefully memorable evening together as a family.

As we look toward Thanksgiving and Christmas it is so easy to get caught up in the preparations that 'have' to get done, or so we think. I encourage you this year to evaluate what things are really necessary and not to get caught up in the busyness of the season. Remember that less is often best.

Take time throughout each day to ask God to prepare your heart for this Christmas holiday. Allow time to just have some time of rest and not always doing something.

Dear Lord, help me to not get caught up in all the preparations that need to be accomplished in the weeks ahead. Open my heart and prepare me for the things you want to show me this Christmas. May my heart be prepared for whatever I face. Amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Thankful Heart

Today marks the first day of a series that I have debated about writing for a couple years now. I thought it would be fun to write a daily advent devotional to be used throughout the holiday season. Hope you like it.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

As our hearts turn toward the celebration of Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the importance of giving thanks. I remember when my oldest son was just two years old. At the time he had a huge fascination with tractor trailer trucks. Many times he would watch from our kitchen bay windows to the highway about a half mile away. He would watch and say, "Car, truck, BIG TRUCK." I knew when he said "BIG TRUCK" he was talking about an eighteen wheeler.

Ever since he was little we had made a point of doing daily devotions with him. One day we were traveling on the highway to visit his Grandma. I still can see him sitting in his car seat and saying his first prayer with eyes wide open and watching. He prayed, "Thank you God for BIG TRUCKS." At that moment a tractor trailer truck was passing our car.

I realize though that his prayer came from a heart that had learned the importance of giving thanks to God. His prayer was just the overflow of his heart. He thanked God for something that he was passionate about seeing.

As we gear up for the holiday season which is quickly approaching, take a few moments just to thank God. Keep a record throughout the Advent season of at least one thing you are thankful for each day. Share with someone your thankful heart. Perhaps you will encourage them to be thankful as well.

I thank you Lord for the gift of Jesus so many years ago. May I find a way each day to give you thanks and praise, no matter what circumstances I face. May you cultivate in me a thankful heart. Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

....All right, it isn't yet, but soon I will be dragging those Christmas boxes out of the attic and starting to decorate for Christmas. Due to a lot of things going on in our lives lately, I often have found myself discouraged. This year I decided to decorate for Christmas a little earlier than normal, to help remind me of the joy of the season.

This afternoon you will find me starting on a box or two and starting to decorate our house for the holiday. We usually don't pull them out until the weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year we will be in Kentucky at the Answers in Genesis' Creation Museum. So I figured it would be fun to have all of the decorating completed before we even leave. That way I will return home to a house already decorated and ready for the Christmas season.

What special things do you do to get ready for Christmas? How and when do you start decorating? Perhaps the next month will be dedicated to drawing our hearts to the Lord during this season. Let me know your thoughts....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Signs of Fall in PA

My life has been busy lately, but I wanted to post some photos from the beautiful Fall that we have been having in PA this year. It seems like it is much more colorful than we usually have. Thought perhaps you would enjoy seeing some of God's beauty.

Isn't it interesting that something 'dying' and losing its coloring for the year can be so beautiful. Perhaps there is a spiritual lesson in that. Romans 8:12-14 says, "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." What old sin nature in your life do you need to crucify and let go of to be more like Jesus?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wisps from the Past

I shared recently about the struggles that my oldest son has been experiencing lately. I also wanted to share something he just finished writing. He combined his recollections from this past summer when he served at a local Christian camp as maintenance assistant, and compared them with some of the things he has recently been going through. Enjoy!

It was a blustery fall day. The fall colors were vivid and bright. Gusts of wind punctuated the scene. It was beautiful to look at, but absolutely miserable to be out working. I happened to be mowing, the steady drone of the diesel engine vibrating through my seat. As I trundled along, astride the tractor I could almost see glimpses from the past summer from the very field I was mowing. The sun broke from the clouds like....

....An average, hot day in July. I could see groups of kids congregating on the ball field, the counselors herding them to one destination. As I steered around them, I kept my eyes on them, less a camper stray in my path. I kept my hand on the throttle as a precaution. As I surveyed them, I noticed the counselors, one counselor in particular, her orange hair glowing in the sunlight. She noticed me, smiled, and waved. I nodded back, and tipped my hat, like any good gentleman. A good friend of mine, she seemed to always be glowing, from inside and out. Having passed the group, I refocused on my task as...

....The tractor bucked and swayed as I hit a bump. A shudder of pain coursed from my body; I was still recovering from some muscle injuries and getting shaken up like a can of soda really hurt. Focusing back on my task at hand, the memories of the summer faded to the back of my head. Another gust of wind blew. I shuddered and huddled as close as I could together, hunched up so as to...

...Keep the rain off me as I rushed past the Chapel on the golf-cart through the pounding storms. I pulled my jacket tighter to keep from getting chilled by the icy raindrops. As I sped by, I could see all the campers inside, the counselors all dressed up for some activity. I continued by, barely missing...

....A telephone pole. I quickly steered around it. I pushed the memories to the back of my mind to clear away any distraction. As I rumbled along, I could see my breath in the wind. I could see from my vantage point the beautiful valley stretched out before me. Over looking the view was a pair of benches...

....Which was my favorite spot in the summer to do my devotions. I looked out over the valley, taking in the splendor of God's creation. God revealed many things through the Bible and His Creation to me from that bench. Even as I was sitting there, I noticed my friend at the other bench, also delighting in the Creation around her. Though tired, her joy shone through her like sunshine. Her hair seemed to belie that, glowing orange... the tree right in front of me! I brought myself back to the present, warm memories fading away, as I maneuvered around around the tree. This was becoming a habit. I continued, the throaty growl from the tractor piercing the cold silence. Another wisp of could wind hit me. I huddled up, trying to make myself impervious to the cold. I passed the pool, covered up and closed down for winter. I could almost imagine that....

...I was standing at the foot of the deep end, towel around my neck like a cape, together with all the other guy counselors. One of the counselors stepped up to the diving board and gave a “war speech”. The campers, clumped together in the shallow end watched us. Some were caught off guard by our sudden congregation at the deep end, exuding confidence and vigor. Some knew what would be coming and were getting their friends to rally around them. Some were completely oblivious to what was happening until the one counselor finished his speech and we all roared a “war cry”. With that, we dived in the water toward the campers. I executed a decent racing dive and swam all the way underwater to the shallow end and popped up next to an unsuspecting camper, his attention on the counselors he could see. Before he was aware of what was happening, I tossed him through the air. This was dunk time! I dived back underwater, seeking another unsuspecting target. As I did, the shock of the cold water hit me like...

... Another gust of cold wind. I shivered and pulled my jacket tighter around me. My breath came out like puffs of smoke. A few flurries flew into my face. My fingers were getting numb with the cold. I flexed them, willing the blood to circulate through them and warm up. My fingers, and my toes had other plans. Instead, they froze up more, it seemed. I pulled the tractor up in front of the dining hall. I stopped the engine and swung off. I strode up to the entrance, cold and tired. I felt exhausted...

...from the hard work prepping the go-karts. I had been working on them for a fair amount of the morning and stayed at the track to be on hand in case any karts broke down. I stepped into the dining hall and took off my hat and sunglasses. Most of the day campers were already at their tables. I wearily made my way to the staff table. I usually ate at the day camp lunch instead of with the regular camp so as to have time to get back to the go-kart track in time. I set my hat, water bottle and sunglasses at my place, then went to wash up. After washing up, I stopped by the mail boxes and checked for mail and maintenance requests. Finding neither, I returned to the dining hall. As I entered, I noticed my friend with her campers. She was busy with her campers, but looked up as I entered. I nodded in greeting, she smiled and waved back. After a brief conversation, I made my way to...

... the kitchen where I made myself a cup of hot chocolate in a thermos. Hopefully, it would keep me warmed on the tractor. I put my hat back on and got back on the tractor. I started it up and resumed mowing. With the hot chocolate in my hand, I was significantly warmer. The fall colors were absolutely magnificent. The colors and atmosphere set the stage for more warm memories of the past summer. As I continued to mow, I could see glimpses of the past. I could see the various spots across the field where I sat down with various campers that I was cabin buddies with and explained to them what it meant to be a Christian. I could see the campers playing games on the field, and the times afterward, explaining the parallels between the game and life. I could see the time spent every morning digging into God's word and praying. I could see the time spent with friends, talking and encouraging each other. I could remember the times spent talking with my mentor and his encouragement of me.

As I thought back on the summer, I remembered all the difficulties and stressful days of being a maintenance assistant. But, I also remembered the times of trusting God's plan, though I didn't desire on being a maintenance assistant: I really wanted to be a counselor. However, God had a plan for me. Through me, He was able to encourage others through my work. Through my experiences, the good and the bad, I learned to trust God implicitly. By being up at camp, I was able to grow in Christ and in my friendships. My one friend and I continue to grow in our friendship. Even now, I'm going through some rough times. However, I still need to trust God implicitly. And, just like before, I need to endure. Also like before, I am privileged to have a good friend who is a great encouragement.

I wish I could say that I rode my tractor into the sunset, but I didn't. The memories from the summer were great to look back at, even with the rough times. I know I have rough times ahead of me. But, I know I can look back at these rough times and see the big picture and how God was working through my situation. Its tough to keep going on, without knowing what's going on. I do know that God knows, and I need to trust Him. Just like those wisps of the past summer, I believe, by faith, that at the end of this rough time, I can look back and see God glorified, just like this past summer.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Prayer Request

We discovered at the appointment last night that Joshua has severe whiplash. This is what is making him dizzy, disoriented and nauseous. It can take up to 4-6 weeks to heal. So please continue to keep him in your prayers. He has been dizzy and unable to concentrate much on his school work. We have a follow up appointment on November 17th to see how he is doing.

As for his hip - he had an x-ray this afternoon. It will be 2-3 days before the doctor gets the results. I imagine we will get called if something showed up on it, if not we'll probably learn the results at the appointment on the 17th. He also is scheduled to see an orthopedic doctor on November 25th. So it looks like it may be a little while before we have an answer to his hip problems. He is just tired of being in pain. This started around mid September.

Today I bring a prayer request before you, my bloggy friends. I mentioned in my earlier post that my 17 year old son was in a car accident a little over a week ago. He appeared to just have the normal aches and pains after an incident like this. But then last Thursday he also started experiencing extreme dizziness as well as nausea. The dizziness is making things appear off balance, which makes it difficult for him to walk without holding on to things. This evening I will be taking him to our family doctor so we hopefully can determine the root of the problem. Please pray for wisdom for the doctor.

I also have mentioned before that he had a hip injury due to running cross country over a month and a half ago. That still is causing him a lot of pain, and hasn't seemed to heal. There is a possibility that he will be facing surgery with that.

Right now things seem unsure for his senior year of what all he will be facing. It's hard to stand by and see him hurting and suffering and knowing there is nothing I can physically do to help him. He continues to be in my prayers. I pray that God will use this series of 'problems' to draw him even deeper into his relationship with the Lord. We heard a sermon together yesterday that mentioned that the things that happen in our lives are never wasted. God uses them for something, even though we can't always see it.