Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Memory of Him

"Remember well"
Deuteronomy 7:18

Memorial Day has got me thinking...  Memorial Day was originally known as "Decoration Day," as that was the day that Ladies' Societies decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers.   In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday.

Veterans' Day, by contrast, celebrates all veterans, whereas Memorial Day honors those who died in service to our country.   Veterans' Day was originally Armistice Day, which honored World War I.  In 1938, it became a national holiday, and it gradually came to honor veterans of all wars.

There's also Pearl Harbor Day.  And Patriot Day, which commemorates September 11.   And, of course, Independence Day.   Flag Day, Columbus Day, Arbor Day, Washington's Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr Day.... all days designed to keep us from forgetting someone, or something, significant.

We Christians have a few of our own, too.  Christmas and Easter, of course, celebrating Jesus' birth and resurrection, respectively.  Good Friday is not so much a celebration as a commemoration, but just as precious to us.

And many of these days have special celebrations or traditions, all a part of the remembering.   Sometimes I think that the most valuable part of days like these, are the opportunities to share history and heritage with our children.   But it's also important not to underestimate the importance of reminding ourselves of things we shouldn't forget.   What are the spiritual milestones in your life?  Perhaps the day you realized that you needed a Savior?  Lots of friends of mine know the exact date that they gave their life to Him; that might be something for you to celebrate on a regular basis.  How about a time when you were overwhelmed with His goodness?  Or a day when you felt His strength getting you through something you could never get through on your own?   I will never forget the first time I went snorkeling.  I have never been more appreciative of God the Creator, as I was that morning.   I also remember vividly a very painful day in my life, when I had been walking through a difficult trial for far too long, and I begged Him to bring to an end that chapter of my life ~ and He said "no."  The memory of that day, though painful, reminds me of His wisdom and that His perfect timing is very often different from ours.

In Joshua chapter 4, God instructed the Israelites to set up stones as a reminder of what He'd done.  These were designed to prompt questions from Israelite children.  Do you need reminders in your life?  You have plenty to think about every day, from morning to night ~ but what are you forgetting?  Choose reminders for yourself.  A post-it note on the bathroom mirror with a verse that's significant to you... an article of clothing in a favorite color can remind you of some way He has brought you joy... a sympathy card from a friend can be put on display to remind you of how God brought you through a difficult time.  The choices are many, and there's no right or wrong ~ the key is to remember.  

~ "Remember well what the Lord your God did" ~
Deuteronomy 7:18

Monday, May 30, 2011


I've been studying Acts of the Apostles for the past several months, but even so, there was a fascinating detail that I missed until a casual re-reading the other day.  It's in Chapter 21.  I'll give you the whole passage:

"After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.  Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, "In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles."'  

When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.  Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?  I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'  When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord's will be done.'  

After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem."

That is verses 10-15.  It's a turning point in the book of Acts, because in Jerusalem, the Jews will falsely accuse Paul of crimes against them, which will lead to his going to trial before Caesar, in Rome.   Paul would eventually die a Roman prisoner.   So this passage is crucial to God's plan.  Paul is in Caesarea with his group, which includes Luke ~ writer of the gospel, and the writer of Acts.    It is Luke's authorship that makes this passage so interesting to me.   While they are in Caesarea, the prophet predicts that Paul will be accused and taken prisoner and the reaction of the witnesses was emotional.  They begged and pleaded with Paul not to go; they wanted him to stay with them, safe.

Paul's response was quite different.  He was well aware that trials awaited him at nearly every step of his journey.   In 20:23 he had said, "The Holy Spirit testifies that in every city, chains and tribulations await me."   So truly, he expected nothing less than Agabus' prophecy.   And he had made his peace with whatever God had planned for him.  He told this to those who were with him, with such determination and fervency, that they were convinced.   Look at the words in the second-to-last sentence:    "When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord's will be done.'"

And the next sentence shows how firmly convinced they were:  "We started on our way to Jerusalem."

What struck me in a new way was the repeated use of a particular word: "we"

Luke had been a frequent companion of Paul throughout Acts.  He supported him, and as a doctor, presumably tended to him after beatings, stonings, etc.   Yet for all his loyalty to Paul's vision and his call from God, Luke was among those who pleaded with Paul not to go.   That surprised me.  It seemed like he was trying to stop Paul from doing God's will.  But I think we are simply seeing his love for Paul here.  But stronger than that, is his loyalty.  When Paul insisted, Luke not only supported him, he accompanied him.  He not only went with him to Jerusalem, but he would eventually accompany him on his perilous journey to Rome, in the last chapters of Acts.

I'm impressed by this because of how vocal Luke was in trying to persuade Paul not to go to Jerusalem.  He admits that he pleaded with Paul.  But as much as he wanted Paul to avoid what was coming, he was also willing to share in it.

This lesson is valuable for us, and it is summed up in Paul's words in Romans 8:17, "if indeed we share in Christ's sufferings, we may also share in His glory."

You on board?

~ "If we died with Christ, 
we believe that we will also live with Him." ~
Romans 6:8

Sunday, May 29, 2011

There's always Hope

"Be strong and take heart, 
all you who hope in the Lord."
Psalm 31:24

Amazing Boy played in the championship game in Little League today.  We lost by one run.  But it was a great game.  And of course, it was great to have gotten to that point at all.   Only two teams get to play for the trophy!

But what was even better than a great game, was how great my boy did.  Good pitching, good batting, good fielding.  The comparison between this year and this time last year, is substantial.  He's quite a bit improved.  Last year, I never knew what was going to happen when he came up to bat.  He might get a hit, but there was a bigger chance he wouldn't.  And you know what his problem was last year?  Confidence.  He didn't have much.  And it's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The lower your confidence in your ability, the more trouble you're going to have.

This year is different, though.  I don't know which came first, but he is much more confident, and he gets many more hits.  And every time he came up to bat this season, I knew there was a good chance of something great happening.   He knew it, too.

Have you ever been to a gathering where they were doing a raffle?  You know that feeling when they are reading off the numbers, and you're excitedly holding your ticket, knowing it might be you?   Years ago, I went to a function where they were raffling off several items, but I had forgotten to put my name in the basket when I came in.  So when the time came to pull the tickets, I knew I didn't have a chance.  None.  It was, literally, a hopeless feeling.

Hope is the difference.  Hope changes your outlook.  Hope is possibility... optimism... promise.

But Hope can be even better than all that.   Because Hope in anything on earth is the promise that it might come to be.  But Hope in the Lord ~ is certainty.  When the word "hope" is used in the Bible, it is not used in the sense of "wish" or "desire," as when we say, "I hope she comes on time."   Hope, in Scripture is undeniable and indisputable.    Isaiah 49:23 says, "I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed."  How's that for a promise?

On difficult days or during difficult chapters in our lives; when we're walking a path that has been hard for so long that we can't even see the beginning anymore, much less the end...  Hope is the difference.  It's energy, fuel, and a reason to keep on keepin' on.   It's confidence.... expectancy... trust.... belief.  

Do you have it?

~ "Always be prepared to give an answer 
to everyone who asks you to give the reason 
for the hope that you have within you." ~
1 Peter 3:15

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Today, too, is the day He has made

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

Wow, what a day.  It wasn't horrible, it wasn't crazy, it was just an odd day.  But it turned out to be a day where I just couldn't seem to find God.  I barely thought about Him.  I hate those kinds of days.

Usually, I think the days we tend to ignore God are the good days.  Sometimes, on our best days, we feel we don't need Him, ya know?  Like spending the day at Disneyland...

or being in Hawaii...

On days like that, my thoughts and prayers and acknowledgements of God might be brief shouts of praise, thanking Him for my family, and for the blessings we are enjoying.   But I don't seem to find the time for meditating on Him.

But today wasn't a wonderful day at Disneyland, or Hawaii.  It was just a regular day in the middle of my life; but a weird one.  My plans for the day were de-railed early on when the Apple of my Eye asked me to run an errand for him first thing.   Though he didn't pressure me, I knew he wanted it done as soon as possible, but I was hesitant to wake the kids up too much earlier than their usual time.  Awesome Girl has always had trouble falling asleep at night, so it's always a balancing act to let her sleep long enough in the morning so that she's gotten enough sleep; yet not so long that she's gonna have trouble the next night.  Which she is anyway....

But this morning, it turned out that Amazing Boy was the one who was hard to get up.  He's usually up with a bound, smiling and ready to start the day, so since he was sleeping longer than usual, I figured he must need it.  So I felt torn between gettin' a move-on, and letting him steal a few more minutes.

Once they were up, we ran the errand, but of course I figured I should run a couple other errands while we were out.  So by the time we were back home, I was starving (having not managed breakfast for myself before we left), plus I wanted to get started with schooling asap.  I noticed when my kids were little that if school was not my #1 priority, I'd find myself putting it off until I got "a few things done" and before I knew it, we didn't do school that day at all.

But as I sat down to teach, I realized I wasn't feeling well.  You know when you have a barely recognizable "tickle" in your throat, and you think:  uh oh.....  and it all went downhill from there.  I was moving slowly, trying to get some dishes done, move ahead on the laundry, running another errand that had to be done today, and making several phone calls (business, not pleasure) but all the while feeling lethargic, and knowing I wasn't getting as much done as I'd needed to today.

Where is God on a day like that?  Where is He in the midst of a day when even deciding what to have for lunch seems like too much work?

He is in today's verse, "be still and know that I am God."

He is in Hebrews 13:5  "I will never leave you"

He is in Matthew 11:28  "I will give you rest"

And He is in Exodus 3:14   "I Am"

I can certainly rest in that.

~ "He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul." ~
Psalm 23:2-3

Friday, May 27, 2011

Let there be light

"a lamp is made ready"
Job 12:5

If you like sarcasm (you know who you are) then there are passages of Job that are just for you.  Chapter 12 starts off with one of these.  Job has been putting up with the "wisdom" and "advice" of his "friends" for a few chapters now, and he gives them a taste of their medicine in chapter 12.  "No doubt, wisdom will die with you," he says, and then he tells them a thing or two:  "I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you."  And then, to underscore their arrogance, he gives us today's verse:  "A lamp is despised in the thought of one who is at ease; it is made ready for those whose feet slip."

Now, at first glance, I think the meaning of this verse is a little obscure.  I think I've glossed over it while reading, being content to receive the overall gist of the chapter.  But when I was taught the chapter recently, I understood it better.   {Please note that I'm reading from the New King James Version.  This verse in other translations has the same meaning, but different wording.  But I'm focusing on the word "lamp" for today, so hang with me, won't ya?}

 The point of this verse is that a lamp is for guidance.  A light is for someone who's not sure of what's ahead of them, and wants to be, well, enlightened.   But a lamp is sneered at by someone who is confident.  "Oh, that's only needed by someone who might slip."  And there's the danger.   If you think guidance or direction is unnecessary in any area of your life, then you're relying on you.  And I gotta be honest, that's a big mistake.  No offense.  It's not just you.  It's just that our wisdom is far short of His.   To paraphrase Annie Oakley, "anything you can do, He can do better!"

There's a great passage in the account of Jacob and Joseph, in Genesis 45 and 46.  Jacob had been separated from his favorite son for, oh, about 20 years, when Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers and sent for his father.  Joseph's brothers return home, and tell Jacob the glorious news that his son is alive and waiting for him in Egypt!  So Jacob packs up all that he has, and goes straight to..... Beersheba.


Yes, Beersheba.  I love that instead of going immediately to Egypt, Jacob went first to Beersheba, where an altar had been built to the Lord.   He offered sacrifices to God, and he waited.  And in the night, God called to him, "Jacob!"  Jacob answered, "Here am I."  And God assured him, "fear not to go down to Egypt.  I will make of you a great nation there."  And only then, when he had God's guidance, did he go to Egypt and see his son.

I don't know about you, but I do a dozen things every day that seem like the right thing to do.  Automatic... a "no-brainer".  But Jacob going straight to Joseph would seem to qualify as a no-brainer, too.   We think we don’t need God.   We have our education, or our talent, or our career, or our financial security, but where do we think we got that from??  You have nothing of your own.

There is nothing more dangerous than being in danger and not knowing it.   There is nothing more foolish than thinking you don't need the light He offers.   His lamp is made ready for us.

~ "You are my lamp, O Lord;
the Lord shall enlighten my darkness." ~
2 Samuel 22:29

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You do your part, He's doing His.

"He who has begun..."
Philippians 1:6

I was working on fractions with my Amazing Boy today, and just loving that he's gotten so good at reducing them.  It used to be a bit of a sticky thing, because he'd forget that he had to simplify once he had done the addition or subtraction of the fraction.   Or if he did remember, he'd struggle with how to reduce it.   It's been hard to drum into his head that the problem is not done when he thinks it is.

Today's verse is about completion.  I have always loved this verse, which in its entirety reads:  "being confident of this very thing:  that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

It's a beautiful, faith-filled verse, and so encouraging.  I love how Paul says "being confident".  I like that it's a present-tense, ongoing verb.  Not just temporarily confident, but remaining so.   Are you confident  ~ as Paul was ~ in God as a promise-keeper?

Do you also know that God never leaves anything unfinished?  When God raised Joseph up to the position of a trusted and valued slave in Potiphar's household, it was a vast improvement over what Joseph's status had been when he was in the pit.  But God had not yet brought to a completion the good work He had begun in Joseph.

When Moses and the Israelites marched away from Egypt, complete with the spoils of their former masters, little did they know that behind them was Pharaoh and his army, and ahead of them was the Red Sea.  God had yet to complete the good work He had begun.

Even looking at his own life, Paul could see that the good work begun on the road to Damascus was not yet complete.

Believe this:  God has only begun with you.  As the saying goes, He loves you just the way you are, but He has no intention of leaving you that way!

But as encouraging as all that is, read further.  Read the ending of the verse:  "He will complete it in you until the day of Jesus Christ."  The work begun is not over until Jesus Christ comes again.  The work of Joseph, of Moses, of Paul, is not complete.  Their lives continue to teach, to illustrate, to inspire, to encourage.

Do you know what God is working on in you?  Are you aware He's doing something?  Maybe you're just living your day-to-day life, not walking through any tough times right now, but He's still at work.   And the work God has begun in you will not be complete even when He has seen you through this trial you are in, or when you have achieved this task He has set before you, or when you move on to a new chapter in your life.  Because the ultimate goal is not your completion, though He will be faithful to that.  The ultimate goal is His glory, and His reign over the earth.  Only then will the good work of God be complete.

"He who has begun a good work in you
will be faithful to complete it
until the day of Jesus Christ"
Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lost... but listening!

"We will die!  We are lost, we are all lost!"
Numbers 17:12

Well, those of you who know me are probably surprised I haven't touched on this issue yet, but here it is.

I got lost the other day.

It's a tendency of mine.  That doesn't mean it happens a lot, but I really can't take credit for that.  I can follow directions, so I do that.   If I don't know where I need to go, I find out beforehand.

Unfortunately, when I got lost the other day, I was headed someplace I've been to many, many times.  I'm not even going to tell you what day it was, or where I was headed, cuz the Apple of my Eye will never let me hear the end of it, if he knows....

The problem was, I tried to go a different way.  I tried to go a faster way.  Well, I didn't try to go a different way.  I definitely did that.  But faster?  Nuh-uh.  Lost is never fast.  And fortunately I wasn't as panicked as our friends the Israelites in this quote from Numbers.  I just thought that was a funny quote for our theme today.   :)    I knew I'd find where I wanted to be, it just took longer.

I should have just done what I know.   I should not have veered from the path I knew, without directions.   It was impulsive.   And frankly, it reminded me that I'm in danger of doing that spiritually.  Lately, I've been thinking I should go a different way in one area of my life.  I don't know if I'm bored or frustrated, or just not feeling fulfilled, but I've been thinking of making a change.  Fortunately, I've been praying about it a lot, and recognizing that He's not leading me that way.  I don't have directions to go down another path, so I need to stay on this path.   In Matthew 14, when Peter walked on the water, he was fine as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus.  As soon as he looked down at the water, he began to sink.    The lesson for me?  Eyes on Him, full speed ahead!

~ "But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold." ~
Psalm 73:2

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Celebration of Prepositions

"through Him... with Him... in Him..."
Romans 8:37... 1 Corinthians 6:17... 1 John 4:13

I love the English language, and grammar, but having taught it to my kids for several years (a process which is ongoing) I certainly know that it's not easy to understand.  Take, for instance, prepositions.  They are kind of hard to define.  When I was in sixth grade, my teacher taught us that a preposition is "anywhere a squirrel can go".  It's a colorful illustration, but not quite accurate.  It applies to "up a tree" and "past the pile of nuts" and "in the hole" but it doesn't seem to work with prepositions like "about," as in: "I read a book about squirrels."  Or "during," as in:  "The squirrel opened her eyes during prayer because she thought someone was sneaking away with her nuts."

Well, you get the point.   I've also seen a definition for prepositions that was "a word that links together words in a sentence."  I thought that was just incredibly vague.  By that definition, the word "and" is a preposition! So basically I've told my kids that they're basically just gonna have to memorize prepositions for the most part, so they'll know them when they see them.  And I sang them a catchy little ditty that my mom taught me, that contains a lot, but not all, of them.

Well this year, I'm using a new curriculum to teach my Amazing Boy, and they had a definition I'd never seen before.  This said a preposition shows the relationship between a noun/pronoun, and another word in the sentence.   I thought that was interesting.  It seemed to include more prepositions in its definition than the squirrel illustration.  But what really intrigued me was the word "relationship".    A relationship is defined as "the way two people or things connect".  And that, of course, made me think of God.  All of a sudden I realized the many prepositions that are used to describe our relationship with Jesus... our connection with Him.

So here are a few examples ~ hopefully these describe you!  :)

"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him."
(1 John 2:29)

"The multitude pressed about Him."
(Luke 5:1)

"He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him."
(1 Corinthians 6:17)

"By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit."
(1 John 4:13)

"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
(Romans 8:37)

"It will be said in that day: 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us.  This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
(Isaiah 25:9)

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them... to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.  And you, my child... will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him."
(Luke 1:68,74,76)

See?  You had no idea grammar was so inspirational, did you?  :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

The End

"the Son of Man will come in the clouds
 with great power and glory"
Mark 13:26

The world didn't end.  Did you notice?  Some people thought it was going to this weekend.  Maybe you saw it on the news.   Some pastor or preacher or something said he had mathematically calculated that May 21, 2011, being 7,000 years after the flood, or something, was the day when the world was going to end.  Or the end of the world was going to begin.  Or something.

Didn't happen.

There are a whole lot of reasons to have believed it wasn't going to.  Revelation speaks of events that have to happen beforehand, and there are some that have not happened.  Also, Matthew 24:36 says "of that day and hour, no one knows" so I'm not sure why this pastor or preacher or something would think he's the exception.   The Bible says that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.   So having all the news outlets warn us the day before doesn't seem to fit that expectation.

On the other hand, I think it was a good thing that people were talking about it.   If you've never read Revelation, then there are events that are going to come as a shock to you.   People need to be reminded ~ or informed ~ that this world will end.  2 Peter 3:10 says the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.   Now that's global warming!

But if you did hear the news stories, how did you feel?  This weekend, when the hour had passed, did you feel relief or disappointment?   If you felt disappointment, then you're probably at a good place with God.  I know people who fervently echo John's words at the end of Revelation, "Come, Lord Jesus!'

But if the idea of the world ending has you worried or scared, you need to find out why.  There are going to be frightening events taking place, but those for whom Jesus is Lord, have nothing to fear.   1 Thessalonians says "The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord."  That's a beautiful promise; nothing there to be afraid of!  

Living in this day and age keeps our minds pretty occupied.  It takes all we have to manage our schedule for today or this week.  Most of us don't go far without our calendar or day-planner.  But as we look ahead, we have to look ahead to a day that is coming, though we don't know when.  Read Revelation.  Study it.  And then watch and pray.

~ "When the Son of Man comes in the clouds 
with great power and glory, 
He will send His angels 
and gather together His elect... 
Take heed, watch and pray; 
for you do not know when the time is." ~
Mark 13

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Did you feel it, too?

"rejoice and be glad"
Psalm 118:24

I had a moment today.  

Have you ever had one?  You must have.  It was wonderful.

I had just arrived at Amazing Boy's baseball game.  Sat in my chair, and found myself looking at green grass and blue sky.   The boys had taken the field with all the enthusiasm you would expect of 11-year-olds at a playoff game.  There were a few birds flying overhead.  Big ones.  There's a lake very nearby, so I've seen geese, ducks and gulls as well as hawks, and smaller, harder to define birds.

I also saw, off in the distance, two kites flying.  I think the presence of kites signifies the perfection of a day, don't you?   You have to have blue sky and a beautiful breeze.   It's a rule of kite-flying.   So when I looked up and saw those kites, I realized how beautiful the day was.

And all of a sudden, I was very aware of God.   I sometimes think that He manifests Himself differently to help us be more aware of Him.  His characteristics and qualities are, really, too complex for us to understand.

But I felt Him as Jesus in the beautiful nature I was seeing ~ because Colossians 1 says "the Son is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn over all creation.  For in Him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible... all things have been created through Him and for Him."

And I felt Him as the Holy Spirit in the breeze I was feeling.  The word "spirit" comes from the Latin for "breath".  The Holy Spirit is the breath of God felt as a rushing mighty wind in the upper room as tongues of fire came to rest on the believers who were there.  So when I feel a breeze, I think of His Spirit.

And I felt Him as.... Him.  Lord.  God.  Sovereign.  Majesty.  The great I Am.  Psalm 139 says, "If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me."  

He is everywhere.  Whether we know it or not.  But we get so caught up in worries and plans and day-to-day business, that we forget to realize His presence.

Today ~ in a beautiful moment ~ I knew it.

~ "This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad." ~
Psalm 118:24

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trains and eggs and flames, oh my!

"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire"
Matthew 3:11

Wanna go on a little trip?  We'll start at a hard-boiled egg, travel to ancient Greece, and arrive at present-day you.  I know that "you" and "a hard-boiled egg" are not places, but since the mode of transportation is my train of thought, that gives us a little more leeway.

Marceline, Missouri ~ Walt Disney's hometown
So let's get started, we have a long way to travel.  'Boooooard!

Recently, Amazing Boy told me about a science experiment he'd heard about, wherein you can get a hard-boiled egg inside the neck of a bottle, without breaking or squishing the egg.  You set the egg on top of the bottle, and it just gets sucked inside.   He's telling me this, and I'm just looking at him, saying something deep and profound like "huh??"  So I looked it up online, and then I found a bottle that's the right size.  One of these days, we're gonna give it a try.

The way it works is to light on fire a piece of paper, and put it into the bottle.  Then set the egg on top.  The fire heats the air molecules who rush past the egg in their desperation to escape the bottle, creating a partial vacuum.  And since "nature abhors a vacuum" (and so, incidentally, does a dust bunny), the egg is sucked inside.   Interesting, yes?

So I was thinking about this trick today, which had me thinking about fire.  From there, the next depot for my train of thought was, naturally, the Olympic torch.   I had read some fascinating stuff about the torch the last time the Olympics were going on, which took me to the next stop on our train of thought, but we'll get there in a minute...

As you know, the Olympic Torch is ignited several months before the opening celebration of the Games, so that it can make its way from Athens to the host city, but did you know that each time they begin the relay for a new Olympiad, the torch is kindled by the light of the sun?  And it is not uncommon for the Olympic flame to be accidentally extinguished during the course of the relay, and even the cauldron itself has gone out during the Games, so the torch has a safeguard built into it.  There are two flames.  There is the visible portion ~ the yellow flame we see ~ which burns cooler, and is more prone to being extinguished in wind or rain, but there is also a smaller, hotter flame inside the torch, which is protected from wind and rain.  This flame is capable of relighting the cooler, more visible portion if it is extinguished.

We each have a flame, too.  You might have a gift for teaching, or music, or a love for children.  Your flame is kindled by the light of the Son, and He asks that you use it to light the world around you.  But you have a hidden flame, too ~ the Holy Spirit ~ ready to relight the flame of your gift, should it be extinguished by fatigue or frustration.

One of the ways He does this is through prayer.  Your communication with the Lord must be frequent, if not constant; sincere, and thorough.  He will keep your flame lit, but not if you insist you don't need Him.

He also does this through the Word.  The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance everything Jesus has said to you ~ but only if you are listening.

So step out.  He's given you a gift and a passion for that gift.  You have light to offer.  What are you waiting for?  Your flame is lit ~ let the games begin!

~ "Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you."
2 Timothy 1:6

Friday, May 20, 2011

Because that was you once...

"Whoever receives this little child in My name 
receives Me"
Luke 9:48

Amazing Boy with his cousin, who's crazy about him.

My Amazing Boy is the youngest in our family, so that's the role I get to see him playing 90% of the time.   When he's with his friends, he's not the youngest ~ he's just one of the kids; and on his baseball team he often rises to a bit of a leadership role, as he loves baseball and has been playing for years.  But even so, he's pretty much the same age as the rest of the boys.  Once in a while, I get the chance to see him in a different light.  For instance, when my sister and her family come in town, he gets to hang out with his younger cousin.

Well, recently, Amazing Boy and I helped out watching some five-year-olds while their moms were studying the Bible, and he took on the role of "big brother" to these kids.  He'd never met any of them before, but I got distracted helping out one little one, and when I looked up again a minute later, Amazing Boy was playing ball with the other kids.  He'd even invented a variation on basketball that helped to occupy notoriously short five-year-old attention spans!   He worked puzzles, built block towers and played play-dough.  When it was snack-time, he doled out anti-bacterial gel, then distributed water and crackers all around.  (No, I wasn't in the corner doing my nails, I was cleaning up after them when they moved on to something else.  But thanks for asking.)

I didn't ask him to do any of these things.  He had brought a book, and I would have been fine with him sitting and reading unless the kids got out of hand, but he just jumped in.

Now, I think if I asked him, he'd say he wasn't particularly interested in interacting with five-year-olds.  Wait ~ I'll ask him:  okay, he said that it was "kinda weird" cuz he wasn't really playing with them, he was following their lead.  And no, he wasn't that "interested" in playing with them, but yes, he'd do it again if I needed him to.  (See how amazing he is?)

But here's here's what struck me about the whole thing.  Several years ago, that was him.  He was the five-year-old, and someone sat down to play play-dough with him, or read to him, or play cars with him. And my heart did a little flip-flop when I saw he sweet he was being.  And I thought, "this must be how God feels."  How He must love it when we do for someone what someone once did for us!  It's like the Golden Rule, but in reverse.  "Do unto others as someone once did unto you."   I think it's something that lots of us do automatically ~ those who have suffered from an addiction might go into counseling to help others... or someone who has beaten cancer might run in a 5K to raise money to help others.   But maybe others of us need to do it purposefully.  That might be a good prayer conversation to have with God.  To ask Him to help us to look back at our past, and how we've grown, and then show us if there's a way to help someone else grow, too.

~ "Therefore, encourage one another
and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing." ~
Luke 6:31

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sure there are clouds, but the sun is there too!

"the hope of the righteous brings joy"
Proverbs 10:28

How was your day?  
How is your life? 
How is your job?

If I asked you any of those questions, and we had time for more than the standard "fine" response, what would you say?   Lots of times, the answers we give are along the lines of, "I have a headache," or "man, I can't believe how high the price of gas has gotten" or "I have too much to do and I hate my boss".  Which may all be true, but why is that how we chose to respond?   Why is our summary of a situation so often negative?

To be fair, I really think that sometimes what we mean is something like, "I had a pretty good day, except I had a headache for a lot of it." Or, "Well, gas prices are forcing me to adjust my budget, but it was pretty easy to eliminate one dinner out a month."  We know there are good things along with the bad, but we focus on the bad for some reason.   We may be aware of the good, but we're not acknowledging it.

Look at this:

What do you see?

When I asked my family, my two kids said, "dots" and my hubby said, "bullet holes".  (Good thing it wasn't a Rorshsach test!  He clearly has some issues we need to discuss!)  My Awesome Girl also studied it for awhile before trying to describe what constellation the dots looked like.

But here's what was interesting:  none of them mentioned the white.  They only mentioned the black.  Which is not wrong, but it's also not complete.  And I think each of them would tell you they thought that part went without saying.

But perhaps it shouldn't.  Perhaps that things we think should go without saying, shouldn't.  To each other, to ourselves, or to Him.   I had a great day today.  No pressing issues, which meant I was able to get a little caught up on the laundry, and help my kids get caught up on their schooling after a crazy couple of days.   We did some chores, watched a little TV, and read a little.  Amazing Boy had a baseball game this evening, which they won.  My hubby, the Apple of my Eye, worked today, which is always a blessing.  We had three meals and snacks, a roof over our heads, two mischievous and loving pets, good weather, clothes to wear, working appliances and cars, our health and the health of our families, supportive friends, a great church, fulfilling ministries, and comfortable furniture.  I saw several birds, a butterfly, some amazing clouds and a beautiful sunset.  Each member of my family, unbidden, told me they love me.

Oh, and I had a headache today.  But that seems hardly worth mentioning, now that I think about it...

"Then God saw everything that He had made, 
and indeed, it was very good."
Genesis 1:31

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Growing up doesn't just mean growing old

"the boy Samuel continued to grow 
in stature and in favor 
with the Lord and with men."
1 Samuel 2:26

This verse has always been special to me.  I have used it many times when I pray for my children, especially when they were little.  I don't pray that they'll be wealthy or successful, or that one of them will grow up to be President of the United States.  I mean, those things would be great, but I don't pray for that, ya know?  I pray that my Awesome Girl and my Amazing Boy will grow in stature and in favor with the Lord, and so with others.

The word "stature" can apply either to one's height, or one's achievement in life, but this verse has always made me think of the basic definition:  height.  In that definition, it makes me think that Samuel grew not only spiritually, but physically.  I don't picture him as another Samson or anything, just strong and tall.  And I think this represents what is often a mother's first prayer for her baby:  for her child to grow up strong and healthy.

Have you ever wandered through a cemetery?  Either looking for the one whose memory you came to honor, or else just strolling?  A cemetery can be a very peaceful, tranquil place.  And very interesting!  You look at a tombstone, and you see those two dates:  the year of birth, and the year of death.  Eight numbers, and that little dash in between.  I look at those numbers, and I already know something about this person.  I know how old they were, or how young, and it either impresses me, or makes my heart ache.  I look at the year they were born, and then I know they lived through the Great Depression, or the Vietnam War.  I might look at the year they died, and notice that they never felt the pain of the attacks on September 11.

I might also notice if the last digit is the same in both years, and think how interesting if a person lived exactly 50 or even 100 years.  And what about those lifespans that start with 18-- and end in 19--.  I think, "Isn't that amazing, to have lived in two different centuries?  To have crossed over the threshold into a new century!  And all the changes they saw, in technology, politics and world geography!"  And then it occurs to me with a little surprise that I, too, have lived in two centuries.  But that doesn't seem as remarkable to me.  It's just my life, that's all.

But take away that four digit number that tells you when they were born.  And take away that four digit number that tells you when they died.  And what's left?  That dash.  In between the birth and the death ~ is life.  The Lord only knows all that that mark details.

A life well-lived is a life of joy, pain, love, laughter, and tears.  But a life pleasing to Him is a life in which we grow, both in stature, and in favor, with our Lord, and with others.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This just in: Love means having to say you're sorry

"while we were enemies"
Romans 5:10

In one of the Shrek movies, there's a scene where Puss in Boots is compelled to apologize.  He holds his hat in his hand, looks down and says remorsefully, "I'm ashamed."  My kids do this sometimes when I'm scolding them, and it cracks me up and makes my mad go away.

Well recently, I found myself in the position of Puss in Boots.   I was having a stressful day ~ too much to do and not enough time.   I had to go out that evening, and I was trying to get ready, but also get things done that I had to take with me. I was mad at myself for putting off doing those things, but when I thought about it, my weekend had been such that I really hadn't had a chance before that evening anyway.

So there I was, running around printing things, packing my tote bag, and packing the car with what I had to bring ~ and my wonderful family dropped what they were doing to help me.  My Hubby ~ the Apple of my Eye ~ had a deadline of his own, for a Bible study class he teaches; and my Awesome Girl had a deadline of her own, for a class she's taking.   But they, and my Amazing Boy were doing things for me so I could leave on time.

In a hurry, I reached up to get something out of the cupboard, and I dropped a glass, breaking it.  And would you believe, I blamed the Apple of my Eye?!  "How could you put this here!  What were you thinking?!"  At which point my Awesome Girl spoke up, "I put it there.  I'm sorry, I thought that's where we kept it."  And I responded sharply, "No, I stopped keeping it there months ago because I was afraid it would get knocked out of the cupboard!"

Well, of course a few minutes later my eyes were opened to the obvious, and I was apologizing profusely to both of them.  It was completely my fault.  I should have just moved it out of the way.  And they both graciously accepted my apology; they understood I was just stressed out right then.

But here's the thing ~ even though I had apologized, and they had accepted, I didn't feel any better.  I still felt bad for how I'd treated them when they were in the midst of helping me.  And I wondered why that guilty feeling just wouldn't go away.

And then I thought about Jesus.    Today's verse, in Romans, says that while we were yet His enemies, God reconciled us to Him through the death of His Son.   He did something incredible for me ~ died on the cross to offer me the gift of eternal life ~ before I was even born, and even after I was born, it was years before I thanked Him, and said "yes" to that gift.  And now?  Having accepted that gift of salvation, I go for days and weeks without even thinking about His sacrifice, much less thanking Him for it.  Where is that guilty feeling?  Where is my remorse?  My shame?

What He did, He did for each of us.  If I were the only person on earth, He still would have died for me. Because even if I were the only person on earth, He still would have had to.   Not enough remorse means not enough appreciation.  And of that, I'm ashamed.

Monday, May 16, 2011

And don't forget the "thank you" card...

"His blessing"
Psalm 133:3

We have a funny Christmas tradition in my family.   Stockings hung by the mantle with care were never really a tradition for us.  We did a few variations on it, but the one that has stuck started when I was about 15.  Dad had gotten Mom a mink coat for her birthday, in mid-December, and on Christmas morning, after all the presents had been opened, Mom brought out that box.  She set it in front of my two sisters and me, and took off the lid.  Inside were a plethora of small gifts, like socks, hair bands, earrings and the like.   Mostly there were three of everything, and we'd grab for the color we wanted the most.

But there were also unique items.  Jewelry or home decor (once we'd moved out) that she'd chosen especially for each of us.   And after the excitement of grabbing our treasures out of the box, there'd be one or two things about which she'd tell us, "Well, I bought that one thinking of you," and we'd happily switch.  Almost always, we could see why she'd chosen that particular one for our sister.  We'd agree with Mom, and exchange so that things ended up where Mom had desired.

The things I grabbed from the box were the things that appealed to me, but sometimes that didn't mean they were meant for me.  Would I rather have what had been specially chosen for me?  You bet.   Even if, at first glance, I preferred another color, it was outweighed by the fact that I would rather have what had been chosen for me.

We might walk through this world grabbing for, or wishing we could reach, that which we desire.  That job, that spouse, that opportunity, that pathway.   It looks good to us, we think it would be perfect for us, maybe we even have been wanting it for a long time.   But God has a better plan.  There are things in my life I'd prefer over what I have.  But I honestly believe that I'm better off with what He has chosen for me.   Is there anyone who loves you more than your mom?  Who knows you better?  Who wants the best for your life, more than she does?   There sure is.  Your heavenly Father.

Trust Him.  And thank Him.

~ "The Lord bestows His blessing, 
even life evermore." ~
Psalm 133:3

Sunday, May 15, 2011

To know us is to love us

"Great is His love toward us"
Psalm 117:2

Watching the news lately, I'm seeing a lot of coverage of the Mississippi River.  The southern U.S. is experiencing its worst flooding in over 50 years.  Right now, we wait to see how Louisiana and Mississippi are going to fare, but at the same time, I'm wondering:  How's Memphis??

Memphis, Tennessee was the big story last week.  You couldn't turn on the news without getting an update.  There was even an online news source that had a video camera set up so you could stay constantly apprised of the water level.    My hubby, the Apple of my Eye, had found the Memphis "flood-cam" and forwarded it to me.  He knew I was very interested.  You see, we were in Memphis just last year.  We had gone to Nashville for the graduation of my sister-in-law, who had earned her advanced nursing degree at Vanderbilt University.  (You go, girl!)  And after exploring the Nashville area for a few days, we spent a few days in Memphis.  We love traveling anywhere in the U.S., but Memphis holds some special memories for me.    I loved walking down historic Beale Street, and we had a great, great dinner there.  Fabulous BBQ ribs, in a crowded joint right on Beale.  Licking sauce off of our fingers while Elvis (the later years) performed his classics onstage.

Sunset on Beale Street

Then, the next day, we drove to the Mud Island River Park.  Mud Island is a peninsula that juts out into the Mississippi, across from Arkansas.  The museum has a permanent exhibit outside, called the Riverwalk, which is an exact scale model of the Mississippi River.   They have carved the states into the walkway on either side of the river, and you really get a feel for all the twists and turns the river takes on its way from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico.  You can also stand in, and walk through the ten states it runs through on its way.  It's truly the coronary artery of America.  It was fascinating for all of us to learn so much about the Mississippi.

We're standing in "Memphis," looking at the "bridges" that go across to Arkansas.
The "river" level is low, because it was late summer

Having been to Memphis, and having such fond memories of it, I'm more concerned than I might otherwise be.  Sure, I've been praying for everyone I see on the news, like the tornado victims in the South a few weeks ago, and those suffering in Japan.  But I feel more connected to the people in Memphis.

That's the difference.  Being connected.  Imagine if I ~ if you ~ had a connection to everyone along the mighty Mississippi that's being flooded, and to the people in Japan, and everyone else in the world that's suffering.  You'd be exhausted with worry, and with trying to stay on top of all the situations, you'd hardly have time for anything else.

Well that's how God must feel.  He is intimately connected to each of us, and constantly aware of us.  There is not a single headache, stubbed toe, broken heart or insomnia-causing concern that He doesn't feel right along with us.   I had a conversation years ago, with a friend, and I said something about God coordinating something perfectly in my life, and how grateful I was.  She replied, "I don't think God pays that much attention to the details in our lives."  I felt so sorry for her.  It's one thing that God loves and cares for me deeply, but it's entirely another thing to know it.

Do you know it?   Isaiah 63:9 says "In all their affliction He was afflicted."  Though it's more than we can understand, don't underestimate His connection with you.

~ "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~
Romans 8:38-39

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Runnin' on Empty?

~ "The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord." ~
Isaiah 11:2

What does it mean to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" ?  It's a phrase that's used several times in Scripture, primarily in Acts of the Apostles.  But it's also used to describe John the Baptist, and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah; and of course, Jesus.

We also see that the Spirit of the Lord "came upon" people in the Old Testament, like Samson and Gideon.  Does that mean they weren't filled?  Does it mean it wasn't permanent, but for the purposes of accomplishing something specific?  We do know that at least in the case of King Saul, God did remove His Spirit from him, (1 Samuel 16) but to my knowledge, that's the only time we see that.

Of course, we would much rather be filled with God's Spirit than just have it come upon us occasionally.    2 Timothy 3 says that God would have us be complete ~ thoroughly equipped for every good work ~ and that sounds to me like being ready all the time.

But are we really filled all the time?  I think there's two ways of looking at this, to make sure we're doing our part to be filled.

First, is the idea of filling something.  My husband, the Apple of my Eye, used to love reminding me that "two objects of matter cannot occupy the same place at the same time".  I don't know if that's an actual scientific law, or just something he came up with, but it's certainly true.  {He did invent the Law of Liquid Multiplication but that's for another time.}   So it stands to reason that if I'm too full of me, I'm not gonna have much room left for the Holy Spirit.  John the Baptist said of Jesus, in John 3:  "He must increase, and I must decrease."  There's great wisdom in realizing that.  I might have been "full" of the Holy Spirit ten years ago, but I'd like to think that as I've grown spiritually, and gained more of God's wisdom, and become more like Him, that I have decreased.  (I really, really hope that's the case, although only He can say!)  So if I have decreased, then I must be fuller of His Spirit than I was ten years ago, even though I was "full" then.  Get it?    You can fill two glasses, to the brim, with water, but if one has more ice cubes than the other, then it's going to have less water.  Until the ice melts.  Then they're gonna be the same, so the analogy only works if it's a cold room.  Or if we use orange juice in this conversation.  Which is fine.  Cuz I like ice cubes in my orange juice....

The other way of looking at this concept is in a lesser-known definition of "full".  This definition is "completely engrossed with; unable to stop thinking or talking about".   Ever said about someone, "he's really full of himself"?  That's the meaning I'm referring to there.   Can you imagine how much you'd decrease; how effective you could be in serving Him if you were "completely engrossed" with Him?  If you were unable to stop thinking about Him?  The capacity boggles the mind.

The Lord does His part ~ more than His part, really ~ in giving us His Spirit.  He fills us, to the brim, with Himself.  We owe it to Him ~ literally ~ to do the same; to be full of Him.

~ "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us,
because He has given us of His Spirit." ~
1 John 4:13

Friday, May 13, 2011

A voice not lifted up, is a voice down low

“they lifted up their voice”
2 Chronicles 5:13

I don’t think I listened to any music today.  That realization comes as a shock to me somehow.  I would have thought that a day doesn’t go by without my listening to something.  But then it occurs to me that I generally only listen to music in the car.  I love my ipod, and how even though I don’t know what’s coming next, I know it’s gonna be one of my favorite songs.  :)   But that’s in my car all the time.  I could listen to the songs on my computer, but I just don’t think of it, unless it’s December.  Then I play my Christmas music all day long. 

So if I didn’t listen to any music, then I didn’t sing.  I love singing ~ my whole family does.  My mom and my sisters and I, and both my kids, too.  We are all singers.  Choirs, camping, road trips, family celebrations… we don’t need much of an excuse.   If one of us starts, the others are going to join in!  It makes me sad to realize that I didn’t sing at all today.

And if I didn’t sing today, well then I didn’t worship Him today.  I know that singing is not the only way to worship Him.  Words, actions, thoughts, and certainly prayers are all forms of worship.  But singing is somehow uniquely worshipful.  I guess because it makes me feel something, while I’m conveying praise to Him

I read someplace that you should start your day with music.  I think I’m going to try to do that.  And punctuate my day with music, too.  It’s something I’d like to do for Him, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to do something for me, too.

~ “ the trumpeters and singers were as one, 
to make one sound to be heard 
in praising and thanking the Lord, 
and when they lifted up their voice 
with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, 
and praised the Lord, 
saying “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” 
that the house, the house of the Lord, 
was filled with a cloud… 
for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” ~
2 Chronicles 5:13-14

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's not what you think!

"they changed their minds"
Acts 28:6

Acts 28 contains the rather famous story of Paul being bitten by a viper, but then calmly shaking the creature off his hand.   It's an inspiring example of Paul's faith, evident in his response to the snake; but also of God's protection.  In Mark 16, Jesus said, "Those who follow Me... will take up serpents, and they will by no means hurt them."

But what intrigues me in this particular reading of this passage, is the reaction of the natives who lived on Malta.  Verse 4 says that when they saw the viper hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "This man must be a murderer."  They thought that the universe was trying to exact revenge for his crime, first through the shipwreck in chapter 27, and when that didn't work, with the viper.

The irony is that Paul is on his way to Rome to go to trial before Caesar.  He has been accused of crimes he did not commit, back in Jerusalem, and now he is judged as a murderer.

But while the Maltese natives watch, Paul suffers no ill-effects from the snake bite.  And when they saw no harm come to him, verse 6 tells us, they changed their minds and decided that he must be a god.

Wrong again.

They were making these judgements based on circumstances, which although very tempting, is very wrong.  Judgement can be sometimes automatic ~ we see, we judge.  And it doesn't necessarily mean judging in a cruel or critical way, we're just deciding something must be the case.   But it's dangerous, and it's disobedient.

You know far less of any given situation than you think you do.  And you've probably come to a wrong conclusion about someone in your life, whether it's your spouse, your neighbor, or that guy who cut you off on the freeway.  Pray to see others through His eyes, and for the ability to love your neighbor as you love yourself.   And pray that others will do the same for you.

“People look at the outward appearance, 
but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weedy or not, here they come!

"and the earth brought forth grass..."
Genesis 1:11

While I may occasionally enjoy sweeping, one thing I do not enjoy is weeding.  It calls for too much bending and stooping, and you gotta look out for spiders, worms and scurrying lizards.  Not to mention a myriad of beetle-y things...

But this year, weeding is more important than ever.  While we have lived in our house for several years, last year we had a variety of weeds we hadn't had before.  Some kind of tall grass that had needles on the end of it.  By the end of last summer, when the grasses had died, these needle tips broke off rather easily.  That meant that every time the dog went outside, she'd come back in wearing a few of these.  The annoying thing was, not that that they were sharp, but that they have more than one point, and these points face in opposite directions.  This means that when one pokes into your pants leg, or into your sock, you can't pull it through, and you can't pull it back.  You pretty much have to break the thing in half and pull from two different directions.   And if it's caught in the carpet, forget about it.  It would dig so far down you couldn't pull it up, but there would still be enough of it there to stab you if you stepped on it with bare feet.  Nuisance....

So this year I was determined to pull them out early ~ while they were still green, while the needle-y things were pliable, and before they got stabb-y.

{By the way, I adore the intricacies of the English language, and I respect the proper use of words, but I also think it can be very effective to turn a noun or verb into an adjective by adding a "y," like "beetle-y," "needle-y," and "stabb-y".   Don't you agree?  Thank you for your participation.}

The comparison between weeds and sin is very strong.   It's so much easier to rid our lives of a pattern of sin, before it takes hold.  The longer we wait, the more rooted and established sinful habits become, and the more pain they are going to cause.  I think sin can even trick us a little, looking harmless, as those weeds do when they are green.  Or it can seem inviting, as weeds do when they have lovely little flowers on them.  Sin can seem like "no big deal" as we justify it to ourselves.  A friend of mine used to call that "inviting sin in for a cup of coffee".  Don't be fooled.  It shows up uninvited, and in places where we can't even believe it will grow.  We might even have to remove it from our lives over and over again, as it has a tendency to return.  It's persistent and tough, but it's got to be removed or it's going to choke out what God is trying to grow in us.

~ "The seed that falls on good ground is he who, 
having heard the word 
with a good and noble heart, 
keeps it and bears fruit." ~
Luke 8:15