Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's All Such a Blur!

This is the week I have been both waiting for and anxiously dreading, all at the same time!  I'm feeling a little schizophrenic!  I am having surgery a week from tomorrow and cannot wait to have that behind me and on to a speedy (let's hope!) recovery.  I am also in the process of moving this weekend!  I am nothing if not a Master of Perfect Timing!  Oh, well, try as I did, I could not arrange it otherwise, so this is the way it's all shaking out.  I am hyperventilating at the thought of it all, even as we speak!

I tell you this to -

(1) Explain to you that I will be Missing In Action for about a week, maybe a little longer, until the fog clears and I am able to put my thoughts together in a reasonably rational way. Yes, I cherish the thought that I am rational, even if my kids would make a strong case to the contrary!

There's lots of old posts here for anyone who wants to peruse them in a moment of mind boggling boredom that may overcome you!  For any of you who are interested in the book club, we will be reading "Half The Sky," which was requested by Shannon to be our next book.  When I get back, I will finish the review of "The Weight of Your Words" since I believe we have spent enough time on this book and its time to move on.  I sincerely hope many of you are able to get the book, "Half the Sky" and read it with us.  I have not read it yet and am very much looking forward to reading it with you.  We should be into that book by the middle of February, God willing and the creek don't rise!

(2)  Please keep me in your prayers for a successful surgery, move, and recovery.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it all!  See you soon!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

When You Were Inside of Me...

When You Were Inside of Me...

How can it be that yesterday
The budding flower of you
Lay nestled and protected
Beneath my beating heart,
But today, you are no more?

Was it only a dream I had of you
Or was it really true?
Hidden inside of me,
Where no-one else could see.
Was it true you called me Mama
And I called you My Pet?

No bigger than a pencil point,
A tiny little miracle,
You began your life in me,
Not a blob of tissue, not some cells I could ignore,
How could I explain to others that you were so much more?

I loved you in the beginning, in the middle and in the end,
I stroked your cheek to keep you calm,
I counted your toes, I tickled your chin,
And cradled you in my arms,
When you were inside of me.

I read you stories and sang you songs
And bounced you on my knee.
I whispered your name in my sleep,
Your little face filled my dreams,
When you were inside of me.

Don't ask me to wake up this morning
How I hate this day,
Your screams and cries are all I hear.
There is no life within me.
They have stolen you away.

No, I will never be the same
No matter what they say,

You cannot be replaced.
You will never be forgotten.
For when they took you from me
They took away my heart.

Will you know me when I get to heaven
Will I know you, My Pet?
Does the sun rise in the morning
In the evening, does it set?

You, my darling baby,
I never will forget.

Do you search for me sometimes
Wondering where am I?
Does God our Father comfort you,
When you begin to cry?

Does your guardian angel read you stories
And bounce you on his knee?
Does he tell you how I loved you
When you were inside of me?

Will he hold you to the window
to watch and wait for me?
Will he tell you when I'm coming
Will he let you run to me?

Do you remember how I loved you
When you were inside of me...

Note:  This poem is an original work written by me and lovingly dedicated to the many women who have lost their babies through abortion and miscarriage and who will never be the same.  Also dedicated to my own little one, lost in the fifth month of pregnancy.

May God comfort and heal the many mothers (and grandmothers) who lost their babies before they ever got to hold them in their arms.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Cannot Tell a Lie!

Is there anybody out there?!

We are at Chapter 2 of Dr. Stowell's Book, The Weight of Your Words.  This second chapter deals with the many ways we find to twist the truth, to protect ourselves, our public image before others, or to rob someone else of their good name by bearing false witness.  Pretty dangerous stuff, but things that we are tempted to do everyday.  

Most of us can recall situations when we were caught red-handed in telling 'little white lies'.  I remember a time when I was about 8 years old and was fighting the temptation to cut into a delicious looking cake that my mother had sitting on the kitchen counter for desert that night.  I very cleverly (I thought) cut a very small piece and then pushed the rest of the cake together to close the gap, thinking nobody would notice!  Of course, it was obvious to most eyes that the cake had been compromised!  Walking nonchalantly into the room where my mother was sitting, I thought I had pulled it off.  When she asked me if I had eaten a piece of the cake, I strongly denied any involvement in the "crime"!  She smiled, suppressing a laugh, as she asked me if I knew how the frosting had gotten on my face!  Caught red- handed with the evidence smeared all over my face! Sometimes, the Lord allows us to wallow in the misery of our own sin for awhile to teach us a lesson!

Of course, it isn't only kids that are guilty of being less than honest.  Adults are very prone in this direction, as well.  I will never forget the time my mother, not wanting to talk with a person she saw through the window, knocking at the front door, hurriedly insisted I answer the door (I must have been about 9 or 10 years old).  She gave me strict instructions to tell the unwelcome visitor that she was not home.

Answering the door, aware of my mother's listening ears in the next room, I loudly announced to the intruder who asked if my mother was home: "No, she told me to tell you she's not home!"
Needless to say, my mother was not pleased with my naive honesty!  She was caught in the lie by the complete innocence of my answer!  I guess we can't teach our children to be honest and then turn around and ask them to lie for us when we decide it's ok!

This is a great chapter on the many ways we find to stretch the truth and the many ways we harm ourselves and our neighbor by splitting hairs with the truth.  

How about you?  Do you struggle with telling "little white lies" that you think are harmless?  Did this chapter raise any red flags for you in this area?  What steps can you take to improve in this area in your christian walk?

NOTE:  I cannot tell a lie!  I am wondering if there is anyone out there who wants to be involved in this book club or am I just talking to myself?  Don't really want to waste my time, if that's the case.  

The whole idea here is to encourage one another to grow in our christian walk while reading some good books, but also to build community through an interactive, on-line discussion of the books.  We can have that interaction through the comment and reply section below this post.  

If you are interested in the book club, I definitely need your feedback.  If I do not receive any input, I must assume there is no interest.  In that case, I won't do any further writing on this book and will discontinue the book club.  If you do have an interest, please let me know.  

A blog is an interesting thing.  If it's not interactive, it's a bit like throwing a party and then, on the day of the party, discovering you are the only one that showed up!  Not much fun, at all!

It can VERY lonely out here, all alone in the big, bad, blogoshere...!  Again, I ask - "Is anybody out there?!"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  Psalm 139:14

In recognition of Sanctity of Life Sunday this weekend, here is a dramatic performance by Whintley Phipps reciting a poem authored by James Weldon Johnson.
The power and majesty of God, as well as the tender affection He holds for His creation, are beautifully portrayed for us in this excerpt (below) describing the explosive moment of the creation of man.

I can just picture God kneeling by the river bed, lovingly laboring over the crown of His creation, so loved by God that He stamps Him with His own image and breathes into him the very breath of God!

This beautiful poem speaks eloquently of the unique place God has given to mankind in the order of His creation. Because we alone, of all creation, have the incredible privilege of bearing the image of God, every person created by His hand has immeasurable value. In a day and age when unborn babies, the elderly, the handicapped and disabled are targeted for murder because they are deemed “useless” to the state, this is a truth that needs to be shouted out from the rooftops of every town and city in the world.

Every human being has a purpose in the eyes of God. Human beings are not disposable. May we be willing to stand up for that truth wherever it is denied. The choice to willingly violate this basic truth will, inevitably, sow the seeds of our own destruction. 

The Creation
by James Weldon Johnson (an excerpt)

From the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;

By the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;

And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,

Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;

This Great God
Like a mammy bending over her baby,

Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay

Till He shaped it in his own image;
Then into it he blew the breath of life,

And man became a living soul.



Note: I heard this poem originally on “Revive Our Hearts,” a program featuring Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Nancy is doing a series of teachings on “The True Woman Manifesto”. A gifted teacher with a passion for encouraging women to grow in the faith, Nancy can be found at: www.reviveourhearts.com on Moody Radio. There are many wonderful resources available at her website.

You can make a difference! Do you know anyone who is struggling with the issue of abortion or euthanasia?  What can you do to support them to choose life?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Lord Delights in YOU!

"For the Lord delights in YOU!"
You shall be called by a new name,
Which the mouth of the Lord will name.
You shall be called a crown of glory
In the Hand of your God.

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land anymore be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her),
and your land Beulah (Married).

For the Lord Delights in YOU!”
Isaiah 62:4

(Secrets He told me about YOU!)

Before your mama knew your name, God did! (Jeremiah 1:1)
The Lord of all creation took the time to make a one of a kind YOU! 
(Jeremiah 1:1)
He sings a song of joy over you! (Zephaniah 3:19)
He has promised that nothing will ever separate you from His love! 
(Romans 8:38,39)
He suffered and died to give you life forever! (John 3:16)
He has counted the very hairs of your head – He knows you! (Matthew 10:30)
He longs for you to be with Him forever! 
 (John 14:2)
He wants you to remember that He fights for you! (Psalm 91)
He says He is always praying for you! (Romans 8:26)
He promises He will help you when you feel weak! (Romans 8:26)
He never wants you to forget that He is the One who keeps you from falling! (Jude: v. 24)
He wants you to remember who you are. You are His! (1 Corinthians 6:20)
He told me He has made a way for you. (John 14:6)
He says He's coming back to get you. (Revelation 22:12)
He says He will never leave you. (Hebrews 13:5)
He says, no matter who else has forgotten you, He never will! (Isaiah 49:15)
He promises that He will always be faithful to you – that is His name! 
(2 Timothy 2:13)
He doesn't want you to worry about a thing, because He cares for YOU! 
(1Peter 5:7)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory...

"Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord..."

My memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  are very vivid, even today.  I was a young woman when he was assassinated and I remember it well.  Driving through the streets of Chicago, it was shocking to see the National Guard, with rifles drawn, on every street corner of the city.  Armored military tanks patrolled the streets of American cities, hoping to diffuse the riots that were feared on the heels of King's murder.

But I believe the nation was so paralyzed with grief that the riots never materialized.  It is an amazing thing to witness the overwhelming sorrow that stops an entire nation as it collectively weeps for the senseless loss of a leader as admirable as Dr. King.

I am not black.  But I had so often been transfixed watching news reports of the young, black, Baptist minister who single-handedly stood up to the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world and challenged her to fulfill the promises she had made to all of her people, not just a privileged class.

I think the grief that we experienced as a nation when he was murdered was partly from a sense of loss of greatness. Who could watch this man and not know we were witnessing history in the making?  Who could watch his courage in the face of immense danger and not know we were bearing witness to a prophet in our times? Who could listen to his words and not be convicted that we were a nation being called to repentance?

There was a sense of enormous grief mixed with a breaking sense of guilt that, although we hadn't pulled the trigger, all of us had blood on our hands. There was a realization, almost like watching a spoiled child throwing a tantrum when the parent demands obedience, that we, as a nation, had gone too far in refusing to bend to the call of God to mend our ways.  We were witnessing the full fruit of our rebellion as a people; the tragic loss of a great world leader,  a son of America, born, bred and murdered on our own soil, by one of our own, simply because of the color of his skin.

There was a collective silence that covered the country like a shroud as an entire nation watched his young widow and four young children bury their husband and father.  But, I, like millions of other Americans, black and white, wept tears of grief, not just for this young widow, but also for the shame of our country that had let this happen.

In the face of this senseless tragedy, what could anyone say?  I'm sorry was so completely inadequate,yet so deeply needed.  As a nation, I think we woke up suddenly to the shame of our prejudices. Most of us knew the pretense that we were above it all was over.  The reality of racial prejudice that ran so deep that it could justify the murder of a good man simply because of his color was laid naked for us all to see.  Most of us who loved America were ashamed that this could happen in "the land of the free and the home of the brave." It was a moment of sober assessment of who we were as a people and who we wanted to be.  Dr. King was speaking to us all from the grave.  And we were finally beginning to listen...

I believe most Americans, not just black Americans, realize the gift that he was to us as a nation.  He called us to remember who we are.  His voice still echoes in my heart today.  May we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, repent of our sins as a people and ask God to heal our land.  That would be a fitting memorial for this great American leader, prophet and man of God.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Make All Things New...

"Behold, I make all things new..."
"Chiseled by the Master's Hand" is the title of a wonderful teaching series I heard on the radio recently by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, and host of the program "Running to Win."  If you are interested in hearing this teaching for yourself, I believe it is archived on Moody Radio.  I cannot recommend this teaching to you enough, although anything Dr. Lutzer teaches is worth hearing.  He is a gifted expositor of the Word of God.

The entire thrust of this teaching is that we are made in the image of our God, fashioned directly by His hand. We are not our own.  We belong to Him.  Only He has certain rights over us.  The right to give us life and to decide when to take us home are all in the sovereign domain of God and God alone.  This may seem rather basic to many of us, but in a day and age when laws are being written that disregard these truths, Dr. Lutzer's teaching is very timely.

Dr. Lutzer, a masterful teacher and story teller, includes in this teaching a few priceless words of wisdom on the subject of names.

Here is an excerpt from his teaching:

"Only God has the right to re-name you and He wants to."

"Who are you?  Tell God the complete truth of who you are.  What is your name?  Is it Fear?  Is it Rejection?  Is it Anger?  Is it Unforgiving?  Is it Bitterness?  Is it Failure? Is it...?

Give to God who you are.  He wants to re-make you, heal you, transform you.  He will give you a new name. Only God has the right to name you.  You are His."

Where are you, right now, as you read these words?  Are you burdened with a name He never intended you to carry?  Think about the name you give yourself right now and the name He wants to give you.  He has a new name for you.  Go to Him and let Him reveal to you what it is.  

In place of the name the deceiver has branded you with, the Lord  names you - 

Courage. Victory.  Chosen.  Forgiven.  Peace.  Treasured.  Joy.  Hope.  Dearly Loved.  Never Forgotten. Never Abandoned.  Safe in the Hand of the Father.  Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb...

The list of new names He has for His children is endless.  Lean in close to your Heavenly Father and let Him whisper to you the beautiful and life giving truth of the name He has for you.  Accept nothing less. This is part of God's gift to you, bought and paid for by the Blood of Christ.  Take it to yourself.  And never look back...

"Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."  And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."  Revelation 21:5  NKJV

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rivers of Living Water

If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said,
Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
John 7: 37,38 nkjv

Friday, January 13, 2012

Speak No Evil...

Book Club Discussion: Chapter One: The Weight of Your Words, by Joseph M. Stowell

In Chapter One, Stowell sets the stage for understanding the power of our words to build up or destroy when he re-tells the poignant true story of a high school student who really wants to sing in the school musical but is convinced he can't hold a candle to the other kids. His music teacher, Mrs. Wilson, sensitive to the need to encourage her student, convinces him to try out and then rewards his efforts with a resounding affirmation of his talent, telling him “You are JUST RIGHT for the part!”

Unfortunately, as the student grows and begins to believe in himself, the following year, Mrs. Wilson is replaced. The newly confident student, beginning to believe in his talent after a year of affirmation from Mrs. Wilson, tries out for another singing part in front of 150 of his peers. The new teacher speaks only six words to his student, following his audition. “Who told you, you can sing?”

The student, now a grown man, recounts this story with the pain of that memory still in tact. The insensitive words of this teacher destroyed the boy's self-confidence and set him up for years of self-rejection as he replayed the tape of those words over and over again in his head. By the student's own re-counting of this experience, it took him eight years before he would even try to sing again...

Can you relate?! Do you remember some unkind, even cruel, words that somebody felt free to spew in your direction as a child or teenager? Maybe a nickname that you were saddled with that makes you flinch even as an adult? Sticks and stones can break our bones, and words can deeply hurt us!

The thought of having a stick of dynamite in our mouths is unpleasant, but that is exactly how Dr. Stowell describes the power of the tongue. Amen! He concludes with five principles for taming the tongue, found in the book of James. Basically, they boil down to these:

  • Spiritual maturity requires us to control our tongue! (requires!)
  • The tongue is small, but mighty (loose lips sink ships)
  • Our words are potentially combustible (so don't flip the switch)
  • The tongue is like a wild beast! (ever ride a tiger?)
  • The tongue tends to promote a double standard (do not speak with forked tongue)

Stowell gets right in our faces when he talks about our tendency to excuse our tongues from the call to spiritual maturity. He makes his case citing our lame rationalizations such as 'we need to pray about this' or 'my sources are reliable or I wouldn't say anything'! Darn. I think he knows us too well!

I found Chapter One of this book to be extremely convicting! Not sure I want to read any more! But, in the end, I went on and read Chapter Two. I'm still recovering! It definitely deserves a place of its own! If you haven't read it yet, that gives you another week to jump in and join us. If you dare!

Definitely, not for the faint of heart. Looking in the mirror, sans makeup, can be very scary, indeed!

Questions: Ever been on the receiving end of a cutting tongue? How did it affect you?
Ever been involved in a christian group that excused unkind or out of control speech?
Ever struggled with a damaged self-image as a result of careless words?

Note: This discussion is a part of the “Even My Dog Likes to Read” Book Club series. You can find all book reviews by clicking on either label at the bottom of the page, right side. Hope you join us next week!

Imago Dei... Made in the Image of God

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV

This month is the thirty- ninth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America. Under that law, over fifty million unborn babies (in the United States, alone) have been erased from the face of the earth before they ever had a chance to see the light of day.

They could not vote for or against their own death. They could not campaign for pro-life candidates. They could not stand up and protest. They had no voice. They had no power. They had no “right to life” without their parents okay. There was no cry as these babies went to their deaths. They could not even speak.

Truly, these are the innocents of our time, ordered to be murdered by laws that are based on – what? There can't be any moral power behind a law that violates the law of God. There is no more legitimacy backing up these laws than there was when Herod ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Jesus' time. A nation that slaughters it's most vulnerable citizens, simply because it can, is headed for the judgment of God.

What can we do? Get involved. Pray for the unborn. Pray for the millions of women who suffer from depression and self-rejection following an abortion. Pray for the fathers who never even held their babies or had their fatherhood acknowledged. Pray for fathers and friends and would be grandparents who failed to support the mother-to-be to carry the baby to term. Pray for those who surrounded the woman caught in a crisis pregnancy, who pushed her to abort. Vote for life, whenever you have the opportunity. 

Ask God what you can do and do it.  Don't be passive about this critical issue. You are a walking, talking, breathing testimonial to parents who were pro-life - they gave you an opportunity to live. Give someone else, whose life is hanging in the balance, the same opportunity...

We all bear some level of responsibility for a tragedy of this magnitude. May God forgive us for our own inhumanity to these helpless victims of abortion. May He heal us all of the depth of pain this sin has brought on our land. Whatever we can do, we must do. The innocent unborn babies of the next generation need us to care enough to get involved. Before it is too late for them.

"I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is "Abortion", because it is a war against the child... A direct killing of the innocent child, "Murder" by the mother herself... And if we can accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love... And we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts...” - Mother Teresa

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

From the Rising of the Sun

From the Rising of the Sun...
“Barukh atah, Adonai Elohenu, Melek ha-olam...” 
or “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe!”

I love this beautiful little prayer tucked inside the book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. (p. 92) They explain that the Jewish people are taught to saturate their day with very short prayers (berakhah) to “bless” or praise God for anything and everything. Each little prayer is to be said with kavanah, which, Jewish theologian and writer, Abraham Heschel explains is “Attentiveness to God...It is one's being drawn to the preciousness of something he is faced with. To sense the preciousness of being able to pray, to be perceptive of the supreme significance of worshiping God...” Heschel, Man's Quest for God, (p.84)

I love the picture of this method of prayer drawing us into a deeper awareness of God's constant presence in our lives and of the “preciousness of being able to pray!” Without this, prayer can seem like a chore that is devoid of any real meaning.

Reading this reminded me of a car ride I had with my little granddaughter when she was only about three or four years old. She was sitting in the back seat while I was driving somewhere and I suggested that we think of things we could thank God for. No sooner did I have the words out of my mouth when she started a list of things she saw all around her that she wanted to thank Him for. The list was endless – the grass, the sky, the rain, the sun, the cows, the dirt! "The dirt?" I said. Yes, she told me matter-of-factly – God made that too! I was left watching her in the rear view mirror, speechless at the ease with which this little child, so dear to the heart of God, already knew how to talk to her Father. Everything around her was a blessing from God who deserved to be thanked!

As grownups, we have a little harder time seeing the blessings so readily! But the Jewish mind weaves everything into the berakhah (blessing God).

Having a bad day?  “Blessed are You, Lord, God, King of the Universe, for bringing me through this ugly, difficult day!”

Wish you had more money?  “Blessed are You, Lord, God, King of the Universe, that You enable me to make a living in such difficult times!”

Feeling ill?  “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, that You are able to heal me, if You choose. I put my trust in You.”

Tired in the morning?  “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, that You give me life for another day.”

Want to try it?! Remember to:
  • Always keep God at the center of the prayer. The Jewish prayer, even today, always addresses God as “Lord, God, King of the Universe.”
  • Pray these prayers of blessing or praise to God from the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night.
  • Keep them very short. One or two sentences at most.
Here's a few suggestions the authors incorporated into their book.(p. 100)

Try writing your own berakha or blessing for the following:
  • The happiest day of your life
  • The saddest day of your life
  • Two things that have happened to you in the last hour.
  • Write a blessing about the weather (no matter what it is outside!)

From the rising of the sun to its going down
The Lord's Name is to be praised.” 
Psalm 113:3 NKJV

Until Its Going Down...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You're Not the Boss of Me!

I'm Not Listening!

Don't you just love the cell phone commercial with the guy talking on his cell phone while desperately trying to find a location where he can be heard on the other end of the phone? We all laugh at that because we've all had that frustrating experience. It's very irritating to be speaking to someone and not be heard, isn't it?

Recently, while talking with a very dear friend, I had the uncomfortable experience of wondering if he was listening – was he blocking out what friends had tried to tell him about his health? Was he hearing the voice of the Lord speaking correction into his life, for his own good?

This friend is a very sick man. He has a long list of serious ailments and disabilities that are limiting his life and, potentially, risking his life in dangerous ways. I have prayed for him, that the Lord would protect his health. I don't want to lose him prematurely. But, while talking with him recently, the conversation took an unexpected turn. He was describing the many health issues he and his wife are dealing with and mentioned COPD as one of them. He was listing these problems with a kind of cavalier, “you won't believe what else I have” attitude that was alarming.

But, when he mentioned COPD, he had my attention. He announced that this disease has left him with only about 50% of his full lung capacity. My immediate response, knowing the habits of my friend, was “You're not still smoking, are you?” He had me on speaker phone and when his wife heard me ask that question, she (also a smoker) quickly responded that “It's a very hard habit to kick”, a sentiment then echoed by my friend. The tone of their voices elevated quickly as they bounced back and forth supporting each other in drowning out any objection to their smoking habit. It was clear they did not want to listen to any voice that might make them take responsibility for this risky behavior.

I was shocked by their mutual choice to avoid responsibility for this deadly habit. I realized, God may send many people to speak His love for us and His desire for the best for us, but, we have the complete control to block out those voices to our own peril. We can minimize the consequences until it is too late to make the necessary changes that God is asking us to make. My friend matters so much to me. But I cannot make him listen to me if he doesn't want to. I cannot make him tune in to the voice of our God calling him to “choose life.”

Ultimately, I began to wonder, is there any area in my life that God is trying to speak to me about that I am blocking out? Like a little child, we are all capable of covering our ears and refusing to listen.

How about you? Is there any habit or behavior in your life that you are refusing to yield to the Lord? Are you blocking out the voices that He is sending to get your attention? Have you minimized the cost of refusing to make those changes in your life? Are you fighting with God to be the boss of your life?!


“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live...” Deuteronomy 30:19  NKJV

Monday, January 9, 2012

Even the Dog Likes to Read!

That's right! At my house, even the dog likes a good book! Well, not really, but, if I had a dog, I'm sure he would be a voracious reader!

What's the big deal about books, anyway? Maybe we should ask God, for God Himself has created in us a deep, deep need to read and ingest His Word. John opens his gospel message by saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”John 1:1 What an amazing description of Jesus Christ – He is the “Living Word!” Ever wonder why John used this description of Jesus? He could have called Him many things but, “The Word”?!

Later, we see a tired and hungry Jesus, rebuking Satan's temptation to turn stones into bread, saying: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every WORD that comes forth from the mouth of God.”Matthew 4:4 That's an incredible endorsement by God of the power of the written word collected in a thing we call a book!

It is in this spirit of great respect for the power of books to communicate that I invite you to join me in choosing to read a few “good books” this year!” Selecting a few is a challenge but here is my short list to get us started. These are some books that I have a passing acquaintance with through radio interviews with the authors who always left me hungry for more. If you have read any of these and want to give us a little review, please jump in. I will give my opinion, but I value yours, so please do contribute your comments!

We will focus on one book at a time and take it slowly since everyone is juggling a lot of balls in the air at one time these days! Fridays will be the day for Book Club discussion and comments from you. Right now, we are reading, The Weight of Your Words, by Joseph M. Stowell. All books that will be a part of the Book Club reading series can be found by highlighting the label “Book Club” from the list of labels in the lower right corner of the home page. This will bring up the whole series in case you want to revisit a particular book we have read.

Make yourself a cup of tea and snuggle by the fire (or under the blankets) and enjoy the journey!

Suggested Books for 2012 (in no particular order!) If you have a preference for what you want to read, let me know and we can plan on reading that one next!

The Weight of Your Words by Joseph M. Stowell
A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
When Hell Was in Session by Ravi Zacharias
Twilight's Last Gleaming by Dr. Robert Jeffress
Made to Crave by Lysa Turkeurst
An Unmerited Mercy by Marvin Olasky
All In by Mike Guzzardo
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
Half the Church by Carolyn Custus James
Out of a Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan
While the World Watched by Carolyn Mall McKinstry
Small Things With Great Love by Margo Starbuck

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sticks and Stones

With the coming of the New Year, many of us feel challenged to make some changes, especially if we have been paying attention at all to the nudging of the Holy Spirit as we try to follow Christ.

In keeping with that spirit, I mentioned at the end of last year that I would like to start a book club on this blog.  I will go into more detail regarding that on a separate post, but, for now, I would like to invite any of you who are interested to come along with me on a journey through the world of words, where there are so many gifted teachers and authors who have written books to stimulate growth in our walk with Christ.

The themes of growth, maturity in Christ, "pressing on", facing shortcomings, pruning away the dead branches, are very loud in my life right now.  Such is the nature of walking with Christ - He doesn't expect us to stagnate, but to grow and bear fruit.  "I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vine-dresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes that it may bear more fruit." John 15: 1,3  Looks to me like, much as we may like to avoid the pruning shears of the Lord, we cannot and call ourselves real followers of Christ.

With all of this in mind, the first book I am reading this year is The Weight of Your Words by Joseph M. Stowell, former President of The Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  I will be reading this book for the first time, along with any of you who choose to join me, and, of course, I hope there are lots of you who decide to come along with me and 'see what we can see'!

As the title of the book suggests, this book explores the power of our words, for good or for evil, in our relationships with family, friends, children who look up to us, coworkers, and others.  The list is practically endless when we think of how many people we impact with our words.  Of course, the issue of gossip is one that is often (sometimes unfairly) associated with those of us of the female persuasion. But, men can be just as guilty of undercutting a coworker or slashing the self esteem of a partner or a child through the careless, even cruel, words they throw on the ears of their victims.  This sinful use of the tongue as a weapon can cripple a person for a lifetime.

Obviously, this is not an issue to be blown off lightly.  Excusing gossip and bullying speech is a dangerous and irresponsible past-time.  While I would like to think I am above this kind of thing, I know I am just as capable as the next guy of sharpening my tongue for the ready the next time somebody gets in my way.  This is the kind of thing that God calls us to take deadly aim at and kill before it kills us.  "And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell."  Matthew 5:29  He is telling us not to lightly dismiss any area of sin in our lives. Because He takes it seriously, so should we.

With bullying tearing through the playground like wild fire, we have to ask ourselves, where are our children learning this behavior, if not at the knee of the adults in their lives?  As Christians, what are we going to do about it?  If we are to be 'salt and light' what must change in us for us to have that effect on our culture in this area?

If you think this is an area you would like to grow in, please pick up this book and lets do a little exploring of what God has to say to us on the topic of our words.  This book is available on Amazon for under $13 and if you are lucky enough to have a Kindle (I'm jealous!) it is under $10.  I believe there are also used copies available at even lower prices.  I plan to set aside Fridays to have a little book discussion with you about whatever book we are reading. I know everyone is very busy, so we will take our time and try not to be too overwhelming.  No tests or grades assigned!  Just friends helping friends grow in the Lord!

If you choose to participate, please get the book and read at least the first two chapters by next Friday.  I know God will join us in this effort to be open to where He wants to shine His light, where He is pleased and where He wants to change us in 2012.  Have your own way, Lord.  Have your own way!

"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless."  James 1: 26

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Everything I Have?

Don't know what's happening in me these days. I am having a struggle between wanting to turn off the radio dial playing in my head that calls me to a “sold out” for Christ lifestyle and one that straddles the fence. One that allows me to keep busy with my hobbies that are so much fun for me to do and yet seem to be stealing me away from the Cause of Christ. One that allows me to “tune in to the voice of the Lord” when, and if I want to, and One that demands that I yield complete control to Him.

I have been reading so much lately about dying to self. One of my heroes of the faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who was martyred at the end of WWII, said that “When Christ calls us to follow Him, He calls us to die.” That's a somewhat uncomfortable thought, to say the least. Which is why we don't hear it spoken from too many pulpits in America these days!

But, in the church outside of America, where persecution, even to the point of death, is a common occurrence, I believe this concept is well understood and accepted. In the face of that depth of commitment and sacrifice, how can I really justify demanding the right to ignore the priorities that the Gospel sets before me?

Even I am surprised at the battle this is waging in my life. I would like to think I have this all wrapped up – no problem – just name it, Lord and I'll give it up! But, such is not the case. I am a true child of American culture, often pampered and expecting to have a “happy” life filled with pursuits of my choosing. After all, our founding fathers guaranteed us the 'inalienable right to life, liberty AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS” - right?! If we take that line of thinking too far, we can justify any behavior as our inalienable right “in the pursuit of happiness!” Maybe that's what's going on these days. We can do anything we want – God wants us to be happy! Is that true? Somebody I respect in the world of christian leadership once said, “No, God doesn't want us to be happy. He wants us to grow up!” Ouch!

As I have struggled with these uncomfortable thoughts, I have found myself really wanting to bargain with the Lord, pretty much saying, “Well, okay, Lord, I'll give You THIS, if You'll give me THAT.”
He, the One that I call, Lord, has repeatedly called me to something higher. It absolutely brings me to tears to hear the Lord calling me to “Come, Follow Me!” Matthew 4:19 “Go, sell everything you have...and come and follow ME!” Mark 10:21  I cannot pretend I don't hear Him. I cannot turn off His voice. He still calls His people to the cause of the Gospel. And it still costs us everything we have...

For the Love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died, and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5: 14, 15

All scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Broken Pieces

Do you love new beginnings as much as I do?  I get very excited at the thought of a new venture, and a new year always brings hopes and dreams for good things to come.  It's wonderful to have a chance to start again, isn't it?  Last year is in the history books and some of us are very glad, indeed.  We might think it was a terrible year.  But, as so often happens, give it a little time and we might just find ourselves thinking of it as "the good old days!"

As the year drew to a close, I found myself dealing with situations and some trials, I hadn't wished for - how about you?  In my case, I somehow managed to tear a meniscus in my knee which left me suddenly out of a job, walking with a cane, unable to drive, walk or stand for long, and in a good deal of pain!  Reminder to self.  Do not EVER do this again!

February 1st is the scheduled date of surgery to repair this little irritation, and I cannot wait!  Amazing how a little "mishap" like this can change a person's life!  The temporary losses that went along with this injury tempted me to spend endless hours bemoaning my fate.  How could this happen to me?  Why did this happen to me?  Will anything good ever happen again?!  Did anything good happened at all in 2011? Yes, I am often given to melodrama and can easily get the needle stuck on the 'poor, poor me' image constantly dancing in my head.  Pain and suffering can do that to me - I know you probably don't have that problem, but, alas, I am very inclined in that direction!

I say all that to say this.  In the end, as I looked back over the year that was leaving us, I realized I would have to deliberately, intentionally, look beyond the circumstances of my pain and misfortune, to search out the blessings of the year.  Were there any?  Did they equal the negative side of the ledger, since I was tempted to only track my many trials and tribulations in 2011?  I seriously doubted it, but I was willing to take a passing stab at the possibility that, maybe, just maybe, the Lord had thrown a few blessings my way that I might have overlooked!  

This was the turning point - once I sat me down and gave me a little talking to (it was difficult, but I did it!) the blessings I began to recall so far outweighed the trials that I was amazed at the goodness of God!  I awakened from my pity induced slumber to realize, had I not followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to LOOK FOR THE BLESSINGS, I would never have seen them!  Lesson learned - look beyond the trial.  There are blessings in the broken pieces of our lives.  Too many to count.  Too many to forget.  Too many to fail to thank Him for today.

I don't know what's ahead in 2012, anymore than you do, of course.  But, my prayer for you (and me!) is that, should we find ourselves broken by life's circumstances in the coming year, we will lean into the Lord, and ask Him to take us by the hand and walk with us through it all.  Here's a beautiful old song, written by one of my Daddy's favorites, Tommy Dorsey.  This song was written after he had suffered the tragic loss of his young wife and baby in child birth.  Out of those "broken pieces" came this beautiful song that has been a blessing to countless numbers of people over the years.  May we never forget to look inside the trials life brings our way and find the blessings.  And thank Him for it all...

P.S.  I would so much appreciate your prayers for successful surgery and a full recovery in the 
coming year.  I thank you and, trust me, my children will thank you more than you can even imagine! :)