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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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"We Have Our Heading..."

These are the words that Disney's Peter Pan says before heading off to Never Never Land. Not that I'm heading off into a fantasy world, but instead on the brink of a journey to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of God's direction in my life.
A compass is an instrument that determines direction or a heading that you desire to go towards. I choose to use God's Word as my compass as I learn more about peace and joy. I am excited about the spiritual truths He will teach me along the way. I'm eager to share them with you.
I thought of this morning at church when we sang the hymn, 'Living for Jesus'.*
Living for Jesus wherever I am,
Doing each duty in His Holy name,
Willing to suffer affliction or loss,
Deeming each trial a part of my cross.
O Jesus, Lord and Savior,
I give myself to Thee;
for Thou, in Thy atonement,
Didst give Thyself for me.
I own no other master,
My heart shall be Thy throne.
My life I give, henceforth to live,
O Christ, for Thee alone.
I look forward to learning more about having God's peace and joy despite the circumstances that I face each day. Even when the times may be hard, I trust and rely on God's love for me. "Not that I already have obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14
So I press onward toward the goal... Along the way, I am especially blessed by some women that have surprised me recently by emailing me to let me know that they have faithfully been praying for me. One woman today told me that she has my name written on each day of her calendar, so that she remembers to faithfully pray for me. Wow! A few weeks ago, another woman called to see how I was doing. She told me that God had been laying me on her heart lately. She made a point of praying with me on the phone before saying goodbye. God continues to amaze me of having others reach out to me in the times that I need it the most.
I praise God today for where He and I are heading. I am excited about the journey and the things I will learn along the way.
* Text by Thomas O. Chisholm and music by C. Harold Lowden

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Charles F. Stanley

Just as the title suggests, readers are taken on a step by step journey to discover their full potential while serving God. Markers along the way include: having a clean heart and clear mind; using your gifts; a healthy body; right relationships; a balanced schedule and taking God-approved risks. Each part is crucial in discerning what God created you to do and be.

Being an avid reader, few books have impacted me as this one has. The first chapter entitled, 'Do You Want God's Best?' began the Holy Spirit's stirring in my own life. My heart resonated with discovering God's full potential for me. I was both challenged and inspired by this book. Each chapter seemed to speak to what was occurring in my life at the time.

I highly recommend this book if you have an intense desire to reach your full potential for God. It is a book that I plan to re-read often.


* A complimentary copy was graciously provided by Thomas Nelson.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clean Heart and Mind

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:6-8

It has been almost two months since I had skin cancer removed from my face, close to my left ear. I shared in an earlier post that things seemed to be healing nicely until the internal stitches started poking their way through my skin, because my body was rejecting them. Since then, the remaining thread has dissolved, and I am back to the 'scar care' information that I was given when I was discharged from the plastic surgeon's practice.

In order to not have a scar from surgery, it was suggested to rub cocoa butter on the incision, and massage the area multiple times throughout the day....for the next year and a half. Now that requires some serious commitment. I can choose to follow the instructions of the surgeon, or I could choose to wear a hairstyle that covers up my imperfection, or I could choose to follow something in between. I could allow this 'care' to consume my thoughts and attention. But I intend to do what I can to keep up with the suggested care, but not beat myself up for the times that I forget. After all, it is only a scar, and we are told not to be obsessed with our beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, "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." I desire to be a woman who has a gentle and quiet spirit. I want it to be something that others notice about me - not because of me, but because of the Lord shining through me.

All these thoughts have been playing through my mind today as I continue to plan and prepare for my upcoming spiritual retreat. Just like my face was unable to fully heal until the internal stitches dissolved, so too we need to address sin that is in our hearts before we can move forward. God desires for us to have a clean heart and a clean mind in order for Him to fully work in our lives. When we have uprooted weeds that have sprouted in our hearts, we then are able to walk like Micah 6:8 encourages us. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Do you have any pruning or uprooting that needs to be done in your heart?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Journey Beginnings

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Yesterday I posted about the beginnings of my spiritual journey/retreat that I am in the midst of planning. I was actually able to sit down and come up with some goals to accomplish throughout this time period. I hope to share some of them with you in the days to come. They are loose plans, not set in stone. I want to remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit throughout this time. I am finding that the more I am praying and searching God's heart for what He desires during this retreat, the more excited I am becoming. I am choosing the above verse as my theme for this time of learning and growing closer to the Lord.

I added Psalm 4:8 to the top of my blog as a daily reminder. Last night before going to bed, I found myself feeling a bit stressed. As I was trying to sleep, I started quoting this verse to myself. "I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe." I fell asleep quickly and actually slept for six hours straight. This is something that I haven't done since I started with health problems in early November. This was a major joy for me today.

I find too that as I am focusing on spiritual areas I desire to improve upon, God is also showing me other areas in which I need to concentrate. I have been working on some small areas around the house that needed attention. It took me a while, but I was finally able to sort through some paperwork that had been accumulating on my kitchen counter. I even found myself humming hymns from time to time as I worked. Yesterday I was able to get completely caught up with lesson plans, grading papers, etc. for home school. I am doing things in small increments, but slowly accomplishing as well.

This morning in my devotions I was reading a section of the Christmas story. I was struck by these words. "For nothing is impossible with God." Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." (Luke 1:37-38) It was a great reminder that nothing is impossible. We can always trust the Lord. I pray that I will choose to respond, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants." Even if that means I am continually plagued with health issues, even if..... The list could go on and on.

As I was driving my son to swim practice, I was struck with the realization of the importance of doing a spiritual retreat perhaps on a yearly basis. Of course it wouldn't need to be as long as I am planning for mine to be. It could be customized to the time frame that you have available, perhaps shorter or even longer. Obviously it would look different for each person. But the important part is asking God to guide you in how He wants your spiritual retreat to proceed.

Well these are my musings for the day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Retreat

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Matthew 5:16

In about nine sections of scripture it talks about Jesus withdrawing from the crowds to take a break. He spent that time in prayer, and also as a concentrated time to teach his disciples. I have been thinking and praying about this a lot lately. I feel that it is something that I am in desperate need of doing myself. Because of the various things I have been going through lately, my body has been responding adversely to the stress of it all. Most days I have chest pains all day long. It is rare that I am without this symptom. So I feel that it is time for a change.

Over the next six weeks I plan to have a time of retreat and withdrawing to a lonely place like Jesus did. I feel the need to have concentrated times of prayer and digging in God's Word, to learn more about peace and joy especially, and also how to better manage stress. I hope to share my insights along this journey.

This first week is more of the planning and preparing process. I hope to have a generalized plan of the areas that I desire to focus on during this time of separation. I haven't gotten very far in this process yet other than thinking. Yesterday was my son and my first day back at homeschooling, after taking a five week Christmas break while my oldest son was home from college. I am trying to get caught up with school planning, as well as planning for my spiritual retreat too.

The month of February will be my main time of spiritual renewal. I have a few books and a Bible study or two that I hope to work through, as well as doing my own study on Philippians as well. Also during this time, I am praying that God gives me clear direction for what He wants me to be focusing on doing. I feel a strong desire to be more specific and intentional when it comes to my writing.

As of now, the first week of March will be a time away hopefully visiting my friend in Georgia. It will be a great way of finishing out my spiritual retreat. I am excited about what God wants to teach and show me over these next six weeks.

Perhaps you aren't able to take a long break like I am planning to do. Here are some ways that you can have a mini-retreat throughout your day.

  • Take a hot bath and have restful music playing in the background.
  • Prepare a hot drink and curl up by the fireplace.
  • Light a candle.
  • Put on relaxing music - for me this is often Christmas music or praise music.
  • Choose not to answer the phone for a few hours, or check email, etc.
  • Read a good book, even if you only have a short time to do so.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Do something creative.
  • Look for a joy from your day. (Yesterday mine was seeing a beautiful male cardinal come to the bird feeder).
Hope this gives you some ideas to get you started on being rejuvenated today. Feel free to share some of your ideas as well. One of the things I have been enjoying each night is just sitting and looking at the lights from our Christmas tree. We have a fresh cut tree that we got just days before Christmas, and it still is quite green and regularly drinking water. So it is a joy to look at it each day. Surprising it still has that great pine smell as well. It has been a special blessing and joy in my life.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Food For The Day

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

I read these verses this morning in my daily devotions. It is one that I have read many times before, so it isn't anything new. But somehow it struck me in a different light this time. Perhaps it is because of the various trials that I am going through right now. I don't really know.

It amazes me that when our hearts our open and receptive as we read God's Word, that He opens our eyes to see the food (bread) that He has for us for that day. Each day has different needs, and so in turn, He provides a variety of food. But the important part, is having an open heart to what He desires to show you.

What 'food' has He given you this day?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Finger Tip Faith Continued

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

At this moment, this verse is easy to relate to, and also one that I am clinging to. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I have been experiencing a lot of struggles lately physically, spiritually and emotionally. At times I may even feel that I'm at my limit and just can't handle any more....

Then I received a phone call last night from my husband. He and our two boys traveled to Virginia to stay with my in-laws over night, since this morning my oldest son is boarding a plane and heading back to Florida to attend college. Due to my health issues I was unable to make the trip with them.

Upon arriving my husband called to let me know that they had arrived. We chatted for a few minutes about my son's swim meet that he had been to the afternoon before, how his mother was doing after they visited her in the hospital (she just had a hip replacement on Wednesday), how it had started sleeting shortly before they arrived, etc. Things that were of no real significance. Then he shared how he was driving on one of the major interstates down near the D.C. area. It was heavy traffic, a car on either side of him when a Christmas tree appeared in the middle of his lane. He had no way of swerving to miss it. He knew that our car was damaged by it to some degree, but couldn't tell how much since it was after dark when they arrived.

We talked again this morning and it appears that there is damage to both car doors on the driver's side as well as a broken front bumper. Upon hearing this I find that I have choices to make. I could be consumed with the whole situation - cost, dealing with insurance, etc. I could even ask some of those 'why' questions. "Lord, why do we keep having things happen to us?" But I can also choose to just rest - "hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

So I find that each day and sometimes each moment can be opportunity to practice finger tip faith. Times when we choose to trust and follow even when we don't understand. So this day as my son heads back to college, I am grateful that God kept my family safe on the highway yesterday. Even though I will have times of missing our son, and perhaps frustration over the whole accident with the van, I still rest in the fact that I can trust God.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finger Tip Faith

Ever feel like you are holding on for dear life by your finger tips? Perhaps you have seen the poster of a cat barely hanging onto the branch by its claws. Those images are on my mind today.

All the medical test results are back now and everything was negative. This is a good thing, but yet, there still is no answer to why I have been feeling (physically) the way that I have. So the test that still remains is to continue to trust, despite the circumstances and situation.

Trust even when it may feel that I am dangling over a precipice and have little strength to continue to grasp the branch. But I guess it is at those times that our Heavenly Father is undergirding us.

John 15:4-6 says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." So today I cling to the fact that even though I can not see any fruit for this situation, I know that as I continue to rely upon the Lord, and remain in Him, at some point God will use it to bear fruit in my life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life in the Desert

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Psalm 63:1

"The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs." Isaiah 41:17-18

My life has been very stressful the past year. Our family has faced many things that I would never have thought or imagined. For many months while my husband was down due to his ski accident I was the one that carried the load when it came to taking care of our household. There also has been many times of emotional stress as well. Throughout this time I have continued to rely upon the Lord for daily strength.

Since November I have been going through some major health problems of my own. For whatever reason something has changed in my body and I now have a difficult time retaining fluids. No matter how much I drink, it quickly passes through my body and leaves me feeling dry and thirsty.

My eyes especially have been affected. I have had silicone implants placed in my tear ducts to try and keep the moisture in my eyes. I have noticed little help since this procedure was performed a couple weeks ago. I had a time recently when there was an eyelash on my eyeball and I was unable to get it off for quite some time because the eye was too dry. Most nights I wake up with my eyes almost too dry to even blink.

Each day I feel like I am in a battle to stay hydrated and that each day I lose a little more ground. I constantly feel dry and thirsty and very often physically exhausted. We still are awaiting word on some lab work that I had done last week. I don't know at this point if something is physically wrong, or perhaps it is just how my body is responding to all the physical, spiritual and emotional stress I have been under this past year.

The Bible says that even when we are in the midst of desert times in our lives, we still are to be seeking the Lord. He assures us that He will not forsake us. This is a truth that I am clinging to today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Heart Health

With the beginning of a New Year, some people make decisions to get in better shape. They desire to exercise and be more controlled in their eating. Perhaps health issues are the reason for the sudden change in routine.

I thought of these different things as I was lying on an examining table this morning to have an echo cardiogram of my heart. Through modern technology this machine was able to see the inner workings of my heart. If there happens to be a problem, a doctor will diagnose it and let me know what to do to get my heart in better shape.

But how is the condition of your heart? Not your physical heart, but your spiritual heart? Only God knows what we think and feel within our hearts. He knows what secrets we keep that others do not see. Perhaps today you could use a 'heart' checkup. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Am I regularly spending time with the Lord?
  • Am I reading His Word each day?
  • Do I have any un-confessed sin?
  • Is there someone that I need to forgive?
  • Am I allowing the world creep into my heart?
  • Do I have regular fellowship with other Christians?
  • Am I reaching out to others?
Make it a goal to have a healthy heart this year - both spiritually and physically.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stitches and Sin

In December I had some skin cancer removed from the side of my face. A week later I had the stitches removed. Things appeared to be healing nicely for the first couple weeks or so. But then I started to notice soreness and pain. I went back to using antibiotic ointment to see if I could get it to heal. My scar from surgery is right by my ear, so it is not in an easy position to see, even with a mirror.

Today I was finally able to see a little better of why my face was sore. I thought I would perhaps see infection because of the way it had been hurting. To my surprise, I saw two pieces of thread sticking out of the side of my face. One piece I was able to pull out with a tweezers, but the other would not budge. I called the doctor's office to find out what I should do.

It turns out that what I saw were actually two internal stitches that were from surgery. For whatever reason my body was rejecting the stitches and was trying to dispel them. It will take some more time before the final stitch works its way out from under my skin.

As I thought about my struggles with these stitches, I was reminded of how easily sin entangles us as well. Often those sins may be hidden so that others may not see what is going on in our hearts. But God always sees and knows. Like my stitches that festered beneath the surface, so sin destroys us. It turns our heart away from fully depending on God. Do you have any stitches or sin that need to be addressed in your life? Why not do so today?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weight... Upon the Lord

"Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 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." Isaiah 40:30-31 (KJV)

In the month of September I had reached a weight that I had never seen before. It had been a stressful year for our family and I guess I tend to be a stress eater. As I contemplated the journey to losing weight, I knew it would be a difficult road. I have tried to lose weight in the past and have not been very successful.

But this time as I thought about the need to cut back on my eating, to work more on eating things that are healthy for me, and also to get back on the exercise routine, I knew that more than just those items needed to be changed. I sensed that this was one area of my life that I had maintained control over, instead of allowing the Lord to have control. I pretty much ate what I wanted, when I wanted. The Lord started prompted me that I would never have success in this area as long as I remained in charge.

So began my journey three and a half months ago. It started with a prayer asking for forgiveness for not giving this area to the Lord before, and also asking for Him to be in charge of my eating. I have been amazed that a lot of the junk food that I used to thoroughly enjoy, and had trouble saying 'no' to eating, has lost its hold on me.

I was discussing this with a dear (skinny) friend of mine who was amazed at my willpower and control, especially being able to continue to lose weight over the holidays when it is most tempting to overeat, or 'cheat'. I said it had nothing to do with me, but has to do with God. Don't get me wrong, I am far from perfect. There are times when I still eat sweets, but it is not very often. It no longer has possession of me. From time to time I will choose to eat snacks that aren't as healthy, but I usually try to weigh the cost first, and pray again for the Lord's help in controlling the amount I consume.

It's been a long journey for me, but I praise God for where He has me, even in the midst of ill health right now. I pray that I continue to learn and show others what it means to have God first place in my life - in all areas.... even when I'm not feeling well.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Faith Like Potatoes

If you haven't yet seen the movie, "Faith Like Potatoes", I highly recommend that you do. Our family sat down to watch this several nights ago and were pleasantly surprised and uplifted by this movie. This movie is an autobiography of Angus Buchan, a humble Scottish farmer in South Africa.

The film portrays how a Zambian farmer comes to a faith in God, and how much his life is changed by this encounter. Known as "God's farmer", he has gone all over the world to share his testimony of the power of God.

Unlike most movies that are based on a true story, through watching the extra features on the video we were able to see how closely the producers stuck to the original story. There even is about an hour of the real Angus Buchan sharing his tremendous autobiography. Check out this movie and see how it stirs your faith in the Lord.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Trust...In All Circumstances and Situations

It's easy to trust when everything in your life is going well. But things often move to a different level when we experience trials and difficulties. We may feel that we aren't where God wants us to be because we are having troubles, or are confused. But it is usually during those hard times that we learn the most and grow closer to the Lord, particularly when we accept where we are and stop fighting against it. Some roads that God leads us on our rocky and hard and perhaps even full of thorns and briers. The path is not always easy.

I have been on a difficult path since the beginning of November. It is a road that I would not have chosen, but it is where God has me right now. It is one that has involved many medical tests and doctor visits. At this point, I still have more tests to undergo before I hopefully will have an answer to the cause of the medical issues. At this point the doctor has suspicions of what it could be. I take comfort in the fact that my Lord knows what is going on with me.

But despite the circumstances and the situation that I am undergoing I choose to put my trust in the Lord. I follow Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Monday, January 4, 2010

True Blue

"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel." Proverbs 27:9

I have been thinking this afternoon about the blessing of friendship. Friends come in many different ways. Sometimes they are just a short relationship due to time shared, distances, etc. But then there are some that are steadfast no matter what. I know for many years now my husband has been that for me. Not only is he the love of my life, but he also is my best friend. He knows how to make me smile, or when I need to talk or could just use a hug. I know that his love for me is unconditional and I also know that it will always be there for me.

My other 'best bud' is a dear friend that no longer lives close by to me. We still stay in contact each week as we tell each other about what is going on in our lives. We also try and make a point as well to lift each other up in prayer while we are on the phone each week. There have been many times when we have shared our burdens and tears together. We have grown closer because of our prayer times together. I know that she too loves me unconditionally and that I can trust her. So today I find myself incredibly thankful for my 'true blue' friends - ones that stick by no matter what. So thank you honey and Penny! :)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Choose

I have been thinking a lot lately about the choices we make. It is so easy to get caught up in worrying or fretting over situations that we face - things that we have no control of and can not change. I was reminded recently of various times through this past year when God lead me through situations where all I could do is trust in Him. Times where all you can do is lift open arms to the Lord and release all of my plans and trust that He will take care of the rest - especially since He knows what is best for me.

So today I choose to stand with open arms and say, "It's yours Lord. I know I can trust you. Only you know what is best. Today I choose to serve you Lord."

Perhaps you too need to make this choice today.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reminiscing

Today would have been my Dad's 73rd birthday. On December 27th it was exactly twenty years since he has gone home to being with the Lord after fighting a long hard battle with lung and brain cancer. I can't help but think of him today.

My Dad was a very quiet and private man. He was a hard worker and loved his family. He was a man of few words, but felt that his working and providing for our family was the way he conveyed his love for us. I remember telling him in college that I needed to hear him say those words as well. I still can picture him sitting on my bed when I told him that I was never sure whether or not he loved me as I was growing up. I think that was the first time I saw my Dad cry. He assured me then of his love, and made a point from that moment forward to tell me of his love. Unfortunately he only would have a few more years to do that before the Lord called him home.

He left while I was over six months pregnant with his first grandchild. He never had the pleasure of holding this grandson that also carries his name. I think of all that he has missed the past twenty years - the birth of another grandson, swim meets, graduation, college, etc.

I know that I still miss this quiet gentle man. In him I see a reflection of myself as well. So on this cold January day, with snow flurries flying, I praise God for the time that I did have with my Dad, and that I did learn of his love for me and was able to revel in that those few years. Thank you Lord for also being a 'Daddy' to us.

New Beginnings

It is the beginning of a New Year. Many make resolutions to eat healthy, lose weight, get organized, etc. They have good intentions and plan to be different this year. Perhaps they do well for the first few weeks of January. But then, something happens that gets you off track. Maybe you suddenly snap and give in to the urge to eat snack foods or you just don't feel like exercising today...or the next day.

One of the greatest things I enjoy about being a Christian is that each day can be a new day. No matter how much we fail or mess things up we still can start over again. Our Lord always has open arms and desires for us to be walking each day with Him. Choose each day this year to be eagerly serving and following the Lord.

Happy New Year!!