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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, February 27, 2010

I'm On Vacation

Thanks for faithfully reading my blog. I will be on vacation through March 9th. I likely won't have access to a computer during this time, but hope to post many entries when I return home. See you on March 10th!

Blessings!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Promises

"They do not say to themselves, 'Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.'" Jeremiah 5:24

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

I looked out the window this morning, to see another snowy day in PA. The wind was whipping snow around. I saw several birds congregated at our feeders. Then I happened to glimpse a plump bird with feathers ruffled, trying to stay warm. To my surprise, it was a robin. My little friend arrived perhaps a little too early this season. He probably was anticipating some green grass instead of blowing snow.

As much as I would love to have a few more snow storms before the weather changes, I know that before long the promise of Spring will be descending upon us, whether I'm ready for it or not. God has designed the four seasons, and He promises that they will faithfully come each year. We can depend upon that.

I was thinking about promises when I saw the robin this morning. I love the promise that God gives - to never leave us or forsake us. What a reassurance that is, especially when facing challenges in our lives. What a blessing to know that He will always be there. God's Word is full of promises to His people. We can rely on and trust His Word.

As followers of God, it is also important for us to stand by the promises that we make to others. Children are good at reminding you of things that you have promised, sometimes perhaps in the heat of the moment. Whether our promise was given half heartedly or with full intentions, we need to be people that stick by our word. Matthew 5:37 encourages, "Simply let your 'yes' be 'yes,' and your 'no,' 'no'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

How are you doing with keeping the promises that you make?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grateful...In All Things

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:17

This afternoon I was to attend a crochet club for young girls that are interested in learning how to crochet and knit. This would have been the first time that my schedule allowed me time to participate. I had been so excited.... Instead I am sitting on my sofa, covered up with a blanket and fighting a bad head cold, and feeling pretty lousy.

In a little over three days, I will be flying to Georgia. I have a lengthy 'to do' list that really needs to be accomplished before I leave for this nine day trip. Even though I puttered around and was able to do a few things this morning, it wasn't anything that was on my list and could be crossed out. They were other items that just needed to be done.

By the time it was lunch time, I was too exhausted, and feeling too poorly to even eat. I asked my son to take care of his own meal and headed off to bed. I was able to have a good nap, but still am feeling achy and a little dizzy.

Before long I will need to make supper, so my son can eat before heading out for swim practice this evening. Right now I don't feel like moving from the position I am in. I would much rather just crawl back in bed.

Part of me wants to ask, "Why Lord? Why do you have me getting sick, just days before I am to leave?" My mind immediately thinks of what things will be like if I'm still not feeling well while flying, or visiting my friend, or..... It's times like this when I must stop myself and choose to be grateful, despite my circumstances.

One thing I know is that my sickness is not a surprise to the Lord. He knew about it, before I did. I also know I can trust Him to allow things in my life that I can manage, with His strength. He won't give me more than I can handle. I know that I can rely on Him and He will be here for me.

So this day I choose to be grateful despite not feeling well. I choose to give him praise for where He has me, even when I don't understand it. I know I can trust Him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Community

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

As I started to write this, there were five birds at our bird feeder at the same time. There are times when the birds come one at a time to eat, but often they have others with them. Some birds are almost always in pairs, like the cardinals and blue jays. Usually when I see the tufted titmouse and juncos, there is a few of them visiting. Even the morning doves tend to be in pairs. The other day when it was blowing and snowing hard, we had at least eight doves clinging to our apple tree, trying to stay warm. Their heads were tucked under their wings. Also one evening, when we returned home, we were surprised to see at least ten doves roosting in our maple tree. They watched as our van approached, but didn't stir until we opened the car doors. They were reluctant to leave.

Generally the birds don't seem to mind being together. The juncos, blue jays, chickadees, sparrows, finches, woodpeckers, doves and cardinals all seem to congregate at the same time. The only time I have seen the birds be scarce, is when we have seen a hawk flying around the area. Several times we have had one on the resting on the railing to our deck. But most times, the birds tend to enjoy eating and fellowshipping together. They appreciate community.

I remember reading a book many years ago entitled No More Lone Ranger Moms by Donna Partow. In it she talked about the importance of having other women surround us - to be the encouragers, sounding boards, mentors, etc. Scripture also talks about the significance of gathering together. We need others to encourage and inspire us in our faith and Christian walk. God doesn't desire for us to be lone ranger Christians.

One of my biggest encouragers is my husband. He is always there to cheer on and inspire me to go to deeper depths in my faith and Christian walk. He also helps to show me the error of my ways, from time to time. :) Each of us needs someone that can do this for us - not just inspire and encourage, but also point out areas that we need to change or grow in and improve. I'm thankful to have this type of community in my life. I am especially thankful for my dear husband!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Letting Go

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already 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 3:10-14

Have you ever been weighed down by a situation, or perhaps a memory that you struggle with releasing? You keep remembering a conversation, and think about the things that you should have said. 'If only' pops into your mind. You have regrets of handling a situation poorly. You desire for things to be different. How do I get past this?

Or perhaps you responded correctly, but still keep replaying the scene over and over in your mind. You spend a lot of time and energy on things of the past, or circumstances that are beyond your control. Your thoughts are on a constant merry-go-round.

I find it interesting that God continues to show me new directions that I need to grow in, and all of them revolve around choice. He has distinct areas and paths for me to follow, but it has to be my conscious choice and decision. Yesterday, I blogged about choosing to think on positive things instead of negative ones. This is an area I often have struggled with, because of my upbringing. Both of my parents were fairly negative. Now I could say that I am the same way, because of their influence, but God calls me to go beyond that. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" When Christ came into my life almost forty years ago, I became His new creation. I no longer have excuses for the way I do things.

So how do we choose to let go, and to be different in our thoughts, attitudes and actions? Colossians 3:1-2 encourages, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Again...choosing to set our hearts and minds on Christ. Choosing to look beyond our circumstance and place it in the Lord's hands. Who else can better take care of our problems than the Lord?

This day I choose to let go of the things that weigh me down. I choose to place the burdens in my Daddy's arms. Only He knows how best to carry these things. I choose to keep my heart and mind focused on Him!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Self Talk

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." Galatians 6:7-8

I have been reading a book by Sue Augustine entitled Sanity Secrets for Stressed-Out Women. She wrote the following statement. "According to studies, when our thoughts are monitored on an average day, over 80 percent of what we think about is negative." Wow! This statement made me do some serious thinking about this matter.

The scripture above mentions that we reap what we sow. With that in mind, if we are sowing these negative thoughts, then it makes sense that we reap the results of that as well. When it gets boiled down to that, it makes me realize the importance of guarding what we say to ourselves, and also what we think too.

A friend of Sue Augustine sent her the following list:
  • You say, "It's impossible." God says, "All things are possible." (Luke 18:27)
  • You say, "I'm too tired." God says, "I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • You say, "I can't go on." God says, "My grace is sufficient." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • You say, "I can't figure things out." God says, "I will direct your steps." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • You say, "I can't do it." God says, "You can do all things." (Philippians 4:13)
  • You say, "It's not worth it." God says, "It will be worth it." (Romans 8:28)
  • You say, "I can't manage." God says, "I will supply all your needs." (Philippians 4:19)
  • You say, "I feel so alone." God says, "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
If you go through scripture, I'm sure you can come up with some answers to your own problems or situations you are facing. So again, the final thing to note is that it is a conscious choice we make. Psalm 139:23-24 encourages, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." We can decide whether to follow these negative thoughts, or choose a different path to take. I choose this day to dwell on the positive.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peaceful

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Matthew 14:27

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

As I write this, my husband and I are away for the weekend, for some much needed time alone together. It has been peaceful. We are able to sleep, eat, relax, spend time in conversation and just have a good time being with each other. I also enjoy that I don't need to worry about cooking meals and cleaning up afterward. I don't need to work on things around the house, be tied to phone calls, etc.

While we were out and about today we had the opportunity to talk about some things. I was able to share what God has been placing on my heart lately, and what direction I have been feeling Him leading me. I have been praying for almost a month now. The more I pray about what God has been showing me, the more at peace I have been.

But that is what the scripture in Philippians describes. We need to bring our anxious and weary hearts and place them at the feet of Jesus. He desires to show us His will and to give us peace in the process. Even in the midst of difficult things and situations, God can provide that peace that passes understanding.

When I think of "peace that surpasses all understanding" I always remember when our youngest son was five years old and had fallen off the bunk bed. We were at the hospital awaiting word of what was wrong with him. We learned that he had completely fractured his spleen and needed to be flown via a medical helicopter to a bigger hospital that could better take care of him.

The helicopter was about ready to leave. We realized that before we saw our son again he could be in surgery or possibly no longer alive. As I watched the crew load our little son into the aircraft I knew that he was in the Lords' hands. Even in the midst of the unknown, I experienced that peace. I knew that no matter what happened, I could trust the Lord.

I praise God for the promise of peace. I also am thankful for the opportunity to have a peaceful weekend with my husband.

Friday, February 19, 2010

In God's Shadow

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:1-2

My son shared with me this morning one of the reasons why he appreciates his boss. "He accepts me for who I am, and doesn't compare me to my brother." My heart went out to him, as he said these words. It brought back many memories through the years of being compared to my two older brothers (three and four years older), as well as a girl cousin that was nine years older than me.

I could relate to the pain of being compared and found lacking. Even though my two sons are totally different in personality, it seems to be the natural tendency for some to contrast them. It is hard to live in someone else's shadow, especially if you are the one that feels deficient.

My youngest son has excelled in a lot of areas this year - his first year without his older brother at home. I feel it is a large part of not having to be in his brother's shadow anymore. It allows him the opportunity to be accepted for who he is. I think it also has permitted people to see the strengths that he possesses.

What a contrast it is to be in God's shadow - a place where He allows us to be who He created us to be. We are loved, accepted, cared for and appreciated. He doesn't compare us to anybody else in the entire universe. We are unique because He created us. He sees past our weaknesses, to see the potential that is within us. He loves us even when we fail.

There is safety being in the shadow of God. He desires what is best for us and we can trust Him. I consider it a tremendous compliment if I am compared to Him. I desire to be in God's shadow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm Glad God Doesn't Need Sticky Notes!

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;" Isaiah 49:15-16a

I keep the sticky note companies in business. Even with having a daily calendar, (all right I have at least two places) where I record activities and things that need to be accomplished. I still seem to rely on these little slips of paper to keep me organized. Often they are used to remind myself of important things - pay bills, take care of pressing paperwork, return a phone call, or some other item I don't want to forget to do.

Most of the time, these notes are stuck to our kitchen table. But they also can be found sticking to counters, the dashboard in our vehicles, a mirror, my calendar, on a book, etc. The problem is that these little pieces of paper aren't always very sticky. Then there are times when a family member (who shall remain unnamed) moves one or throws it away.

I don't know if it is a sign of old age, the stage of life that I'm in, or having too many things on my calendar, that cause me to be more forgetful. With the aid of these sticky notes, I often am able to stay on top of things, but not always. From time to time things slip by my attention...or perhaps lack of attention.

It is a comfort to me that God is all powerful and all knowing. He doesn't need pieces of paper with reminders written on them - tell Jodie that I love her, don't forget to send some more snow to PA, stir James' heart so he makes a decision to follow me. God is capable of taking care of all of us at the same time. He doesn't forget. He doesn't get frazzled or stressed. He isn't overwhelmed by circumstances.

Perhaps when I choose to rest in His arms, I can experience some of those things as well. When I draw close to Him, I become less stressed, frazzled and overwhelmed. This brings more peace and joy in my life, which in turn helps me not to be as forgetful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Insight

"I'll write the book on your righteousness, talk up your salvation the livelong day, never run out of good things to write or say." Psalm 71:15 (The Message)

"And the special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayed—keep that ablaze! God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible."
1 Timothy 1:6-7 (The Message)

It seems lately, that driving my son back and forth to work has become my time to ponder things. It also is a good time to pray and listen to some teaching CD's. Today I had opportunity to do all three of these.

I was listening to a message by Susanne Scheppman from the 2006 She Speaks conference, put on by Proverbs 31 Ministry. This gathering is designed for speakers, writers, and women's ministry leaders. Susanne's talk was entitled, 'Pathway to Publication'. It was geared to teach more of the nuts and bolts of creative writing and submitting for publication. I found it very inspiring and encouraging.

As much as I was touched by listening to the CD, I also was reminded of words that my husband spoke to me a few days ago. We had been talking about my writing, and my desire to get back into doing it again. He commented that he had known from the very beginning that God has given me a gift to write. He said it with conviction and without hesitation.

Often it is easy to overlook something that a loved one or best friend tells us. Perhaps we think that they are only saying things, because they care about us. We may believe that they can't see the flaws that perhaps everybody else does. Actually, I think this is Satan's way of telling us lies that distracts us from the original mission that God has placed in our hearts.

I realize now (and should have a long time ago), that often those closest to us, that know us the best, also are able to provide the best insight for our future. They already have a vested interest in us and desire to see us succeed. I guess it is never too late to learn something new! :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Daily Bread

"Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you." Deuteronomy 8:1-5

"Give us today our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

Isn't it reassuring that God gives us what we need for each day, on that day....not before, and not after. He provides what we need when we need it. He is never late, but always on time. That reminds me of Gandalph's response in the Fellowship of the Ring movie, when Frodo exclaimed that the wizard was late. Gandalph replied, "A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to."

I recently came across notes in my Bible from a special speaker we had at our church a number of years ago. He pointed out that the passage in Deuteronomy was a forerunner of the Lord's prayer. He said that we are invited into a journey of living one day at a time.

We see that while the Israelites wandered in the desert in the pursuit of the promise land, God used this time to make them into the people that He desired. It is a lesson for us as well. God would rather have us take longer to get somewhere, if it means that we will arrive as the right people. God is not in a hurry.

This speaker also pointed out that, "Faith leads us on an exciting journey of daily trust in God." God often will give us a glimpse of a vision, or mission that He has for us in the future. But often, it may be many years before we see fruition of that promise. In the waiting time, we need to be doing whatever we can to prepare for that future mission. Perhaps it means, being faithful to what He is calling you to do each day, where you are. Sometimes it means taking special classes or courses that help to prepare you for the journey ahead. Other times it could just be a time of drawing closer to the Lord.

It is important to take one day at a time. Trust God for strength and direction for that day. Be faithful with what He has given you to do. Learn to hear His voice and follow it in the little things. The stronger your faith muscle grows, the more He will eventually give you to do. Remember to take things slow....one day at a time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Passion

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Ephesians 4:11-13

My in-laws live in the Washington D. C. area, and attend McLean Bible Church where Lon Solomon has been the pastor for thirty years. Whenever we visit our family, we have the opportunity to attend their church as well. Within just a couple times of hearing Lon speak; it became evident that he has a passion for reaching Washington D.C. with the gospel of Christ. Many of their ministries and activities have this intent in mind.

Lon just finished a four part sermon entitled, "Why We Do What We Do the Way We Do It at McLean Bible," where he explained in depth about the passion this church has for reaching our Nation's capitol. My husband and I have had the privilege of being able to see the series, via their online church service.

I couldn't help but think about this series, and about Lon Solomon. Some might say he is a radical Christian. But I think, he represents the type of passion, concern, and desire that should drive each of us that claim to be followers of Jesus. God has created me and you with a specific purpose and plan that only I (and you) can do. It is not the same for each person. We each have different people that we come in contact with each day. God desires to use you in a special way that only you can do.

Are you willing to step out and see what job God has for you? Are you willing to walk in the path He has set out for you? He promises to give us strength for the journey. He created you with a passion and He desires for you to use it to serve Him. What are you going to do with your gift?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Strength for the Journey

"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 40:31

Muscles taut, tense and ready, anxiously anticipating the start of the race. We were at the finals for my son's swim season today. Swimmers would take the blocks and hold perfectly still, awaiting the signal to sound. Months of working out and conditioning came down to their performances today. The strength of the athlete's training was evident to all.

Apolo Ohno was at the back of the pack for qualifying for speed skating this evening, until the last few laps, when he rocketed ahead to first place. He conserved his energy until the end, when it mattered the most. Many other evidences of athletes that overcome overwhelming odds, to excel in these Winter Olympics, will be seen over the next couple weeks. We will see their strength, and the final culmination of years of hard work and discipline. Young viewers will be inspired to pursue athletic dreams, because of what they witness through these Olympic Games.

As I ponder this, I can't help but think about our Christian walk and how we are instructed to excel. Isaiah says that we can run and not be weary, and walk and not faint by...... waiting. But how can that make us strong? It seems to be an oxymoron. How can just waiting make us strong? The key is drawing into God's presence. Allowing Him to fill us, nurture, teach, and encourage us. Our strength comes from Him, not from us.

Psalm 46:10a says, "Be still, and know that I am God." One way to be strong in the Lord is by being still and quiet - drawing into His presence - resting in Him. I have personally experienced this, as I have been on this spiritual journey for almost two weeks now. I sense a difference in me. I have had more time to just rest in God, to come into His presence, and listen to what He desires to tell me. Through the process I find myself feeling stronger as well.

So I strongly encourage you to find time this coming week to separate yourself from the daily rush of life, to draw away from the world, and crawl up in your Daddy's lap. Allow yourself to be quiet and still in His presence, so He can minister to you. He desires to strengthen and encourage you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Treasure

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. "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 13:44-46

I couldn't help but think of this verse, as I reflected on an occurrence that happened in the midst of the snowstorm we had a couple days ago. Out my kitchen window, I can see a bird feeder that we have hanging from our deck. Also, I have placed a wooden board on the deck itself that I often scatter with birdseed, so I can see various birds as they come to eat.

On this particular day, there was a flurry of activity at the bird feeder. Cardinals, sparrows, blue jays, various finches and juncos were taking their turn at sustenance on this cold, snowy, wintry day. A rose of Sharon bush stands right by the feeder, so the birds often tend to congregate there to await their opportunity to eat.

My husband and I watched as the snow was falling quickly, and had completely covered the board filled with seed. We watched in amazement at the juncos, often called snow birds. They would land on the board and shuffle their feet continually, so they could displace the snow and still find the seeds. They knew that there was treasure under that snow - something good to eat, and they were determined to find it and get it. They worked for quite a while, and were able to uncover a bit of snow in the process. Finally, it got to the point that the snow was accumulating so fast, that they gave up with finding food on the board, and instead went to the feeder.

I am reminded of the treasures that we can find in God's Word, if we are willing to take the time to dig and find them. Jeremiah 33:3 promises, 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.' We need to be open, asking and searching for what He has for us. He desires for us to know. Have you asked Him what He has created for you to be and do with your life?

This break that I have been taking, has been allowing me to do that. It has been exciting and refreshing to see and hear from my Lord. Interestingly, He has reassured and reaffirmed a calling that I have felt from God ever since I was a young girl. I am anxious to see the treasure or fruit that He desires to accomplish through this. I desire for Him to use me in a mighty way - not because of me, but because of Him.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Teaching, Rebuking, Correcting and Training

"Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." James 4:17

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Ouch! Aren't there sometimes when you read a passage of scripture, and the Holy Spirit uses it to convict you? Not always a fun thing, but necessary, if we desire to grow to be more like Jesus.

I like what it say in 2 Timothy, that all scripture is God-breathed. I can picture God standing with one hard on the shoulder of each of the writers in the Bible. God's other hand guides the writer's pen as He whispers to them, "This is what I want you to write." As a writer, this is my desire as well - for God to guide my pen and words as I write. Obviously, my words will never be God-breathed like the Bible is, but I still desire for Him to use me.

God intends for scripture to teach, rebuke, correct and train us. All of these words, remind me of the role I have played in the lives of my sons. For almost nineteen years, my husband and I have daily taught, rebuked, corrected and trained them in a myriad of ways.

It's easy to look at these words and think of them as harsh, and perhaps shy away from the intent. But I believe God had in mind the role of a parent, who lovingly guides their children in the way they should go. Their actions may seem harsh at times, but it is driven by their unconditional love for their child.

I awoke this morning, with a prayer on my lips, before I even reached for the Bible on my nightstand. "Lord, help me to see You today." My first thought, was a desire to be in His presence and to be used by Him. Then the verse I read in James, leapt off the page to convict me. I knew that God was whispering and reminding me of the gift that He has given me, that I have allowed to lie dormant the past couple years. It is a desire that I have sensed Him fanning into flames, as I am going through this spiritual retreat. It is something I no longer can deny and must be faithful in walking in the path He has set before me. I do so with trepidation, only because of the battle with the enemy that says, "You can't do that. You'll never amount to anything. You don't really have a gift...."

I choose this day to follow God's call and no longer listen to the enemy's lies.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Faithfulness

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91:4

Early this morning my husband was outside clearing off the car, and shoveling the foot of snow that had fallen since yesterday afternoon. He works at a state university in the computer department. Even though the school was closed for classes, staff was still supposed to report to work. When he arrived on campus, parking lots and sidewalks had not been cleared.

It didn't seem to make any sense of why he had to be at work today. He could have taken leave, but since his ski accident less than a year ago, he has not been able to earn many days of vacation. So he was reticent to take the day off.

Only a few other people made it into work this morning. Most chose to take a day of vacation. By the time he arrived home, the roads had become pretty hazardous - so much so that the governor of our state has closed quite a few of the main interstates.

I couldn't help but think about the faithfulness of my husband this morning - to go into work, even when the weather
was poor. The dictionary defines faithful as, "strict or thorough in the performance of duty". That is definitely a word that I would use to describe my husband - he is faithful and dependable. I can always count on him to be there, when I need him. At times he is the anchor that keeps me sane.

But as much as I love and respect my husband, he can never take the place of my Lord and Savior. Ultimately at the root of my anchor I hold in my husband, is actually Jesus. I know that there will be some times when my husband can not physically be present, but God is always with me. He promises to be faithful to us. I take rest and comfort in God's faithfulness this beautiful snowy day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Laughter

"Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:2-3

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:13


All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Proverbs 15:30

I surprised myself last evening. I have been reading a good book this past week, and I on several occasions have found myself laughing as I perused the pages. It made me pause for several reasons. As a writer, I often find myself analyzing as I read, trying to discover what it is that makes it a good book. Sometimes I become so enthralled with the story, that I forget to examine it, because I am so wrapped up in the unfolding drama.

Several weeks ago, I still was in the midst of some very difficult situations. I was experiencing many health issues, as well as feeling overwhelmed by various stresses that I kept encountering. I knew that my health was continuing to deteriorate, because of these various weights that were weighing me down.

That is the main reason I felt God calling me to start this spiritual retreat - to help me get my eyes more focused on Him, instead of my situation. It has at times taken a conscious choice and decision to keep my eyes on Him, even though I was seeing no results.
This is often typical of us it seems - to get discouraged when we don't see anything happening. Perhaps because we live in a fast paced society, we expect instant fruit.

But it always takes the seed being planted, water, sunlight, and growth before a bud forms. Then the flower still needs to be pollinated before it can begin to burst forth with fruit. Even the fruit takes a while to fully form and be 'ripe'. I am not yet at the point of seeing fruit, but I have witnessed the potential shining through.

How do I see it? Because I find myself laughing once again, being more joyful, and often discover that I'm humming praise songs or hymns throughout the day. Also, yesterday my husband returned home to tell me of some potentially good news. Even though, I at this point have not seen the actual evidence of it, I trust that God will produce fruit there as well.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cracked Eggs

"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26-27

My youngest son happens to love eggs. Most weeks he asks at least twice, if he can make eggs for breakfast. This morning was no different. But as he was putting the eggs away, the carton slipped and a couple eggs were broken and at least four were cracked. Now, he could have just put the eggs back in the refrigerator and chose not to tell me what happened. But instead, he was up front and honest about the situation.

If he had secretively placed the eggs back in the refrigerator, it wouldn't take very long before they would start to spoil and stink. This made me think about relationships, especially marriage, as we are soon approaching Valentine's Day.

In our day to day relations, we may find some times when we are hurt in a situation. Perhaps our spouse says some unkind words, or did something to hurt your feelings. We get a hairline crack in our shell. Now it may not be noticeable to anybody. Perhaps it can even be covered up with a bandage or you can try to camouflage the crack, to hide this imperfection in our relationship.

But sooner or later if untreated, this crack will continue to weaken our relationship as well as progressively get worse, developing a deeper crack. This is why the Bible stresses the importance of dealing with our relationships on a daily basis....so we do not allow anger and ill feelings to get in the way. When we allow this to happen, it opens the door for Satan to have a foothold in our hearts and in our lives. This verse is one that my husband and I have faithfully followed through the years.

As a prayer warrior for Proverbs 31 Ministry, each week I see evidence of cracks that have been left untreated, and have become huge fissures in relationships - marriages that are falling apart. I can't help but wonder, if they followed the Bible's advice of daily checking on the health status of their marriage, how different would their lives be? Do you have any cracks that you are trying to cover up?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Torn Curtain

My family and I heard a great sermon this morning by Lon Solomon from McLean Bible Church in Washington D.C. He was talking about the tabernacle during the time of Moses and how there was a thick veil or curtain that separated the Holy of Holies. The High Priest went in once a year to offer atonement for the people of Israel. It was a very sacred place.

Then Jesus came along. When He died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This act allowed us to have access to the Heavenly Father, without having to have a High Priest to intervene for us. (Well, to some degree - Jesus paid the ultimate price by dying on the cross in our place, allowing Himself to be the High Priest that goes before the throne of God on our account).

Hebrews 4:16 says "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." What a reassurance to be able to have access to the Father, and to know that He cares about our every need. We can boldly approach because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.

Jesus encouraged us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30. We so often want to handle things on our own. We forget the importance of taking everything to our Heavenly Father. He knows everything about us. He knows what is best for us. He is just waiting for us to hand our burdens over to Him, because He loves us so much and wants to carry our burdens.

How different would our lives be, if instead of getting upset by a situation, we immediately took it in prayer to our Heavenly Father? Sometimes it takes continual releasing the problem back to him, before we learn to really let go and trust Him with it. I pray that I continue to learn this lesson.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Imitating the Father

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:25-27



"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." Matthew 8: 23-26



In the midst of the snow storm today, there was a flurry of activity at our bird feeders. Sparrows, juncos, cardinals, blue jays and various types of finches were eagerly seeking sustenance. We took great joy in watching them. I thought about the verses in Matthew 6, which says that God provides for these beautiful creatures. They don't need to worry.



Yesterday I listened to a sermon by James MacDonald about trusting God, and not worrying. He pointed out that in the original language the word storm was a seismic, mega storm. Jesus would have known that a storm was coming. But yet, he still chose to get into the boat. He also chose to sleep and trust His Heavenly Father. You could say that He was resting in His Daddy's arms. He knew that He would be taken care of, as well as His disciples.



What a great example for us - to imitate our Heavenly Father, like Jesus did. Choose to walk in His path. Choose not to worry. Choose to trust that He is going to take care of us, even when we aren't sure of the situation and can't see a positive outcome. In the midst of the storm, choose to trust!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eager Anticipation

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11

I noticed a few days ago, that my snowdrops have pushed up above the soil and are just ready to bloom. I brought a few into the house this morning. Some would look at these small white flowers and be eagerly anticipating the beginning of spring.

There are many things that we eagerly anticipate. It could be an upcoming graduation, a wedding, getting a raise, a reunion with a loved one, etc. Today I am excitedly awaiting the snow that is predicted to hit later this afternoon and through tomorrow. The weather reports have predicted anywhere from 10-24 inches for our area. I can hardly wait, because I love the snow. We have nowhere to go this weekend, so the blizzard-like conditions that have been forecasted are not something to be feared.

My little snowdrops will soon be buried in a thick blanket of snow. Even though they will be covered, that promise of spring eventually coming will still lie beneath the surface. Just like I can't see any snow falling as I write this, I anticipate that it soon will be here and that I will again see the beauty of it.

I thought of this as I was driving home from taking my son to work this morning. There are many things that we eagerly anticipate and look forward to happening in our lives. For some it may be the excitement of watching the Super Bowl this coming Sunday. Our enjoyment is often over temporal things that will not last very long.

How much better would it be if we choose to eagerly anticipate our time with the Lord each day, to bask in His presence? What if we were excited about attending church, and couldn't wait to get there. Or we were more anxious to tell someone about a new spiritual truth that we just learned, instead of talking about the weather. How much different would our Christian walk be, if we choose to walk in the path of each day eagerly looking forward to our time together with our Heavenly Father?

Some food for thought as you go about your day. Ask yourself, "When was the last time that I eagerly anticipated my time with God?" What can you do to change that?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Words

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." James 3:9-12

Being a writer, I happen to enjoy words, which is probably a good thing! :) Some words are just fun to pronounce and say - like plethora, ostentatious and hyperbole. I often do better to put my thoughts down on paper instead of speaking them. I feel I can better convey through the written word what is on my heart. When I go to talk, I always seem to fall short of what I had hoped to say.

In my devotional today it said, "As we communicate with other people, our words show what's in our heart. The words we speak can be a balm for the weary, healing for the hurting, and comfort for the sad; or our words can dig into people's lives and leave ugly wounds and scars that take lots of effort to repair."*

This thought has been on my heart today. I have been contemplating my friend that said that every day she has my name written on her calendar so she remembers to pray for me. That means so very much to me. Even more meaningful is the words of Isaiah 49:15-16, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." What a tremendous thing to know that my name is engraved on God's hand. He will never forget me!

When faced with difficult challenges and situations we need to be careful in how we respond. I try and remember to utter a quick prayer before responding, and ask God to guide my words and tongue. I'm not always successful, but strive to be. Today I happened to make a right choice. I can't help but wonder if I was able to be gentle, because of my choosing to focus on God this past week or so.

One thing I struggle with is that I usually do not respond verbally, but often hold things inside. I have been this way since I was a little girl. Perhaps it's part of not wanting to make waves. I am not one to confront, even when it tears me up in the process. I feel that part of my health issues have been from internalizing the various stresses that I have experienced this past year. I'm in the process of learning when I need to speak up and say something, and also when I just need to choose to give the situation over to the Lord and trust Him to work. It isn't always easy, and I am still in the process of finding the answers.

I take hope in these words of Jesus, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Matthew 14:27

*Beside the Still Waters January/February 2010 (Volume 15, Issue 1) - February 4, 2010 written by John Lehman

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Resting in My Daddy's Arms

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Yesterday as I my husband and I drove to our son's swim meet, it was just beginning to snow. By the time we came out from the meet several hours later, it was continuing to fall. Snow always brings joy to my heart whenever I see it. The roads were getting quite slippery by the time we made it safely home.

Today I was to drive my son to work at a Christian camp - about 35 minutes away from us. Because of the roads, my husband didn't want me to drive, but instead to postpone his working to another day this week. Fortunately our schedule, and the camps is pretty flexible, and we were able to do that. So instead of having to get up early and be stressed with driving in the snow, I was able to sleep in and catch up on some sleep.

I did an unheard of thing (at least for us) - my son and I have decided to take a snow day. He wanted to be able to have some time to play in it. At almost sixteen years of age, I realize that it won't be long before he no longer has this desire. So I took advantage of the time, to give him a break. He chose to do a few of his subjects that require reading, but for the most part we are just relaxing today.

As I have been going through my spiritual retreat, I am realizing the importance of having time to just rest in the Lord's presence. In today's society, there always is a long 'to do' list awaiting our time and attention. We often live in constant motion. We rarely take time to just rest.

I have been keeping a journal as I go through this journey and I have entitled it, "Resting in My Daddy's Arms". It is a reminder to me of setting time apart to come into the Lord's presence. To crawl up in His arms like a little child does with their parent, and just rest in His comfort, peace and security. He has many things He desires to show and teach me. He is just waiting for me (and you) to crawl up in His arms and rest in Him.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Opportunity for Joy

"Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. If you need wisdom - if you want to know what God wants you to do - ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can't make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do." James 1:2-5

Yesterday I was talking with my dear friend in Georgia, and she mentioned that she is in the process of memorizing the book of James in the Bible. I remembered that this morning, as I was doing my devotions and decided to take a look at the book of James. I have read it many times through the years, but I thought these first few verses were especially meaningful.

How often do you think, "Boy, I'm glad I'm going through these difficult times, because it gives me an opportunity to experience joy." All right, that probably isn't the first thought on your radar screen. Perhaps it is more along these lines, "Lord, why do you have me going through all of these tough things? Don't you love me and care about me?"

But we see in these verses that God desires to use these hard situations we face, to 'grow' us to be more like Him. As we grow in His likeness, we are able to endure, and in turn develop a strong character. Scripture promises that once we have this strong character, we will be ready for anything. Wow! That definitely gives you a different perspective on trials, doesn't it?

How do we experience this joy? I think it has to be an active choice - just like I mentioned in yesterday's post, about choosing to take every thought captive. God has so many good things that He desires for us to have, but He is just waiting for us to ask Him. He promises to give us wisdom. It says in the verse above that He will gladly give us wisdom. This is something that I eagerly desire - His wisdom.

So in the future (and even now) when I experience difficult times, I pray that God will bring to my mind that this is an opportunity for me to feel and know His joy. I pray that I will continue to grow and endure and develop a godly character. Throughout that time, I desire to be resting in my Daddy's arms, because I know I can trust Him.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Boot Camp

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." Psalm 139:23

I was remembering this morning many years ago, when my dear friend (now husband) went through boot camp for the summer, in between college semesters. He was in the ROTC program and eventually became an Army officer when he graduated from college. He shared numerous stories of the vigorous training that he went through during this time away from home. Even though it was a difficult time for him, he learned how to be a soldier.

The Lord brought this to mind this morning as I was praying and thinking about this spiritual adventure that I am undertaking this month. My goal and destination for the end of February is to experience more joy and peace and less stress and anxiety. So I was pondering how I get from point A to point B. Obviously I am praying and asking the Lord to guide, direct and teach me along the way. I am digging in God's Word and learning more about these fruit of the Spirit. But is something else needed as well?

I discovered that it also is crucial to train my thoughts. Hebrews 3 encourages us to fix our thoughts on Jesus. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

So how does one take every thought captive? I have discovered that this is not an easy thing to do. It takes consciously stopping a train of thought and choosing to think of something else - over and over and over and over again - sometimes multiple times throughout the day. It takes a lot of discipline. Thankfully I am assured in Hebrews 12:11 that, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." So I am claiming that harvest of righteousness and peace in my life, even though I can't always see it right now. I know that as I continue to take every thought captive, and think on the things that God desires of me, I will eventually see success.