Sunday, July 31, 2011

It depends on your definition of "first thing"...

"early in the morning... He prayed"
Mark 1:35

I wrote this a few years ago, when my Awesome and Amazing kids were less self-sufficient than they are now, but I think of it every now and then.  It's still so often a struggle for me.  Seems like there's always something...

In the morning, first thing, I plan to have early morning Quiet Time with the Lord.

As I start to make myself some tea, and get my Bible and a devotional book, my children wake up.

I decide if I get them breakfast, it will keep them occupied while I have my Quiet Time.

While I'm beating eggs, I realize I may as well have some myself, instead of dirtying more dishes in a little while.  

While the pan is heating up, I get clean dishes out of the dishwasher, and figure I may as well start emptying it.

When the pan is ready, I make the eggs for my children and myself.

After I finish eating, I get up to set a good example for my children, and carry my plate to the sink to wash and load, and I see I need to finish emptying the dishwasher.

After the dishwasher is empty, I go to put my breakfast dish in it, and decide I should do the rest of last night's dinner dishes while I'm at it, since I couldn't finish them last night, because the dishwasher was full.

I do some of the dishes, and then I start to wipe off the counter, but realize someone used this towel to dry off the dog, so I take the towel to the laundry.

When I get to the laundry room, I realize it's high time I did some laundry, and that I left a load in the dryer.  I reheat those, and put a new load in the washer, and then while I'm out there, I see there are several hanging clothes that are now dry and can be returned to their owners.  

While trying to make room in my son's closet for his clean clothes, I find he has too many empty hangers in there, so I set all the clean clothes on his bed, and take the hangers to the laundry room. 

While I'm in the laundry room, the phone rings.  It's a friend, but I know she's not calling to chat, because she's calling from her cellphone, so this will be a quickie, so I go ahead and answer the phone.  We chat for several minutes.

When I get off the phone I feel guilty that she's out and about, running errands, and I'm still in my pajamas, so I go to get dressed.

After I get dressed, I start to make the bed, but decide if I'm going to make this a laundry day, I should do my sheets, so I take them off the bed.

I start to put the sheets in the hamper, and realize I should just empty it, so I go to the laundry room for a basket, and start with the kids' dirty laundry. 

While emptying my daughter's hamper, I find the necklace she has been looking for, and take it to her.

She's thrilled to see it, tells me I'm the best, and wants to do a puzzle with me. 

After we finish the puzzle, my son comes in and tells me he's hungry, and I see it's time for their snack.

As I leave her room, she dumps out the puzzle to start over again.

I go out to the kitchen, and discover I never washed my breakfast dish...

At the end of the day:

* there are still dirty dishes in the sink
* the laundry has progressed, but doesn't seem any closer to being done
* all the family's clean clothes are on my son's bed
* my bed has no sheets on it
* the puzzle is still all over my daughter's floor
 I spent the whole day being Martha and never sat down for Quiet Time.

Maybe the tea was a bad idea...

~ "Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, 
for I have put my trust in You.  
Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life." ~
Psalm 143:8

Saturday, July 30, 2011

God in the midst

"the message in the midst of the suffering"
1 Thessalonians 1:6

I had some visitors today, and their timing couldn't have been better.

Can you see that beautiful woodpecker there?  That's our apple tree.  We've been visited by this woodpecker about half a dozen times.   He is so stunning ~ sharply contrasting black and white, with a red cap.  And near as I can tell, he's a variety of woodpecker that doesn't normally hang around my area of the country.   So it's such a treat when he shows up.  He does a little pecking, but what he does more is sing.  A lovely little trill that I've come to recognize.

Well today, I got two emails within about half an hour, that were bad news for people close to me.  I breathed a heavy sigh, because both of them are friends who have been through a lot already, but then I prayed, knowing God has a plan, and it does not include faithlessness or discouragement on my part.

Taken by Joe Rosenthal, Associated Press
But then a few minutes later, I sat down to read,
and the book I'm in the middle of is James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers.   It's about the Battle of Iwo Jima, and the six men who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

 Ultimately, it's a story of incredible valor and triumph, but not without an unbelievable amount of pain.  The U.S. capture of Iwo Jima resulted in some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific.  So it's a heavy, sobering read.

So I was feeling anything but light-hearted, when I heard a familiar sound out my window.  And I knew even before I looked, that my little woodpecker was back.

But when I got up to see him, I saw there were not one, but two woodpeckers!  He enjoyed the hospitality of our apple tree so much, that he brought a friend.  And I was struck with such an enormous sense of peace.  I love our apple tree, and the lovely shade it provides.  I love being able to see the leaves, and then the blossoms, and then the apples out my dining room window.  And I love seeing the butterflies and hearing the birds that come to spend time there.

But the woodpeckers are such an unexpected delight, so interesting and beautiful.  And I was reminded that there is no difficult situation that is not made lighter by realizing that God is there.  Beauty in the midst of a trial, is Him.  Laughter in the midst of sorrow, is Him.  A miracle in the midst of hopelessness, is Him.

He is in our midst.

~ "welcome the message in the midst of suffering, 
with the joy given by the Holy Spirit" ~
1 Thessalonians 1:6

Friday, July 29, 2011

In the waiting room

"as you wait"
Jude 1:21

The wait is over.  I love that feeling.  Don't you love it when you don't have to wait anymore?

My Awesome Girl has been in New York City for the past few days.  For us, that's all the way across the country, but I don't think it matters much. Away is away.  And she was away.  But yesterday, she came home.

I don't have a lot of experience being away from my kids.   They do sleepovers, of course, and once or twice Hubby and I have done a weekend away from the kids, but that's it.   So this was the longest she and I have ever been away from each other.

She was with my mom, and my sister, brother-in-law and nephew, so I wasn't worried.  She called home of course, and praise God for texting!  But the house wasn't the same without her.  25% of the family was missing!  That's a big piece!  So yesterday we were eager for her to be home, but her plane didn't land until the afternoon, so we had to wait.

I have always thought that I'm not good at waiting.  But really, I don't know anyone who would say that they like waiting.  The thing is, there are different kinds of waiting.  And for everyone, one of these kinds of waiting is difficult.

Some waiting has a defined ending.  Like my girl coming home:  she had a scheduled landing time.  Now, that could end up changing of course, but in those situations, most likely, I'm gonna know exactly when the waiting is going to end.

But there are some kinds of waiting when we have no idea when it will be over.  In general, I think that's worse.   Especially if it goes on for awhile; it can seem like it's never going to end.

The difficulty of waiting can depend on the expected outcome, too.   Waiting for Christmas Day, or a vacation, or the birth of a baby has a different feel than for something you're dreading, like a dentist appointment.  Or what about waiting when you don't know what the outcome is going to be, like after a job interview, or waiting on medical test results?  Agony.

The duration and outcome of waiting matter a great deal, but I think the biggest determinant of how difficult waiting is going to be, is what you're doing while you're waiting.  Because the worst thing you can do, is nothing.  I don't think any waiting is supposed to be passive.  Why do you think pacing and thumb-twiddling were invented??  The closer it got to Awesome Girl's landing time, the more jittery I felt.  The Apple of my Eye was working, and Amazing Boy and I were just trying to keep busy to fill the time 'til she landed.  But it can be hard to concentrate on things when all you can think about is what you're waiting for.  But think about it:  your choice is counting minutes (or days or months...) or focusing on something else.   So focus on the one thing that promises peace ~ Him.   Isaiah 26:3 says "He will keep in perfect peace, whose minds are stayed on Him."  Man, I love that promise.   Jesus set the example for us, the night before His crucifixion.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, during His anxious time of waiting, He prayed.  While my girl was gone, I prayed for her a lot:  that the weather was comfortable, that she was learning things, that she was having fun, that she was having lots of chances to take pictures (her favorite thing).  Praying for her was a wonderful way to keep my mind on Him, while it was still on her.   And that's so much better than just waiting.

~ "Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait" ~
Jude 1:21

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Takes one to know one...

"my house is a house of prayer"
Mark 11:17

Sometimes a couple of events combine to teach us a lesson.... Case in point:  one day I happened to read the account of Jesus "cleansing" the temple.  This is such an interesting part of the gospels.  I can just picture Him overturning tables, releasing doves, driving out all the moneychangers, while they protested angrily.  We hardly ever see Jesus angry, but it's easy to picture our gentle and compassionate Lord angry in this scenario.

And then a few days later, on TV, I saw a reality show where four contestants were teamed up for a challenge that involved eating.  As they sat down, one of them said to the others, "Would it be alright if we prayed before we eat?"  They all agreed, and one of the others jumped in and prayed out loud, presuming to speak for all of them.  His prayer consisted entirely of making the request of God that they succeed in the challenge.  That's it.  No "thank you for the food" or "thank you for keeping us safe" or "bless our loved ones".   And I thought to myself, "I don't think that's what the woman had in mind when she suggested prayer."  Of course, it's possible that that's exactly what she had in mind.  Or she might have prayed a formula prayer that included words of thanks, but not necessarily feelings of thanks.

I found myself thinking of Jesus in the temple, and I felt indignant.  Clearly these people knew little about prayer.  They knew how to go through the motions, but not what role the heart was supposed to be playing.  Their ultimate goal was the prize at the culmination of the show.  This challenge - this meal - was just a means to that end.  Much like the moneychangers that Jesus scolded, these people were about their profit.

How dare they?  How dare they abuse the privilege of prayer that way?  I felt that God was being taken for granted.  He seemed not a part of that prayer at all, except it was His name and His format.  The contestant could just as easily been praying to the almighty god of reality shows, if there were one.  And I think I was right to feel angry.  That was righteous anger, I believe, because I wasn't angry for me, but for the respect that God was being denied.

But then, of course, the thought process comes back around to me... How often have I thrown a request prayer in God's direction, and it's the first time I've spoken to Him all day?  How often has my prayer been all about me, without a word of praise or thanks?  And it's a far greater crime on my part, because I know better.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  And that includes knowledge.

Every day, all around me, I can find ways that the world around me needs to be "cleansed".  But first I am responsible for this temple.  This 5'7", brown-haired, brown-eyed temple of the Holy Spirit.  Is this temple clean?  Is yours?  That, too, is something prayer is meant to accomplish.

~ "Teach me Your way, Lord, that I may rely on Your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.
I will praise You, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify Your name forever." ~
Psalm 86:11-12

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dream a little dream

"more than we can imagine...
according to His power"
Ephesians 3:20

I watched a movie today, about a Dreamer.  It got me to thinking about how important Dreamers are, and I started to wonder what the Bible says about them.  But Scripture doesn't say much about Dreamers, at least not in the way we use the word today.  When the Bible talks about people having dreams, they are almost always people who are receiving messages from God.  But when people today talk about a "dreamer," they are probably talking about someone who dreams while they are awake.  Someone who imagines what could be, or what they hope to be.

Sometimes, the word is used derogatorily; maybe to describe someone who can't seem to settle down and become a contributing member of society, or someone whose head is in the clouds.  But the truth is that those that we call "dreamers" are often the ones who improve our lives.  They are the ones with ideas, and the initiative to make those ideas a reality.  History is replete with stories of Dreamers.  Scientists, athletes, artists... It's a theme that forms the backbone of America.   While I do remember and acknowledge the many who came to this country by force, there are many, many more who came to America because they had a dream.   And I would venture a guess that most of the great accomplishments we can think of ~ in the U.S. or elsewhere ~ were accomplished by a Dreamer.

Sometimes Dreamers have ideas that are tangible goals, like landing on the moon, or finding a cure for cancer.  But other times, we are just dreaming of a better life for ourselves or those we love.   And how does God feel about that?  Well I think that God knew full well that many of His children would be Dreamers.  And I think He encouraged that.  Why else would He have told them about the Promised Land?  He wanted them to hope for it, dream about it, and strive for it.

The Bible doesn't talk about dreaming, except those nighttime visions.  But there are plenty of uses of the words "imagine" and "hope".  And I think those are the essence of a dream in our use of the word ~ a belief that better exists, and that it really can be.

If you're a Dreamer, you're in good company.  If you hope and imagine for something better, then you stand alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln; Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela; Joseph, Abraham, Joshua, Jesus' disciples, and even the criminal on the cross next to Jesus.   If you're a dreamer, then you simply refuse to lose the faith that God has a plan for you.

And if you're not a Dreamer... if you're a realist, or a pragmatist, or level-headed...  then I hope you love a Dreamer.

~ "He is able to do immeasurably more 
than all we could ask or imagine
according to His power that is at work within us" ~
Ephesians 3:20

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Doughnuts, and a lesson, from Krispy Kreme!

"It will be given to you.  
A good measure, pressed down and running over..."
Luke 6:38

God gave me a wonderful illustration of His promises today, in a place where you would least expect to hear from Him.  A doughnut shop.  Yet another reminder that He speaks to us in unexpected ways and places, if we're listening!

I took my Amazing Boy out for doughnuts this morning, as a reward he had earned.  We're lucky enough to live near a Krispy Kreme store, and it has a drive-thru for customers in a hurry, but we like going in.  They have a long window where you can watch the doughnuts being made.

They ride up and down slowly as the dough rises, then they move in small groups into the hot oil.  They float along, getting flipped at the halfway point, so they're cooked all the way through.  As they finish cooking, they are moved onto a rack that both cools them, and then takes them for a ride under the waterfall of glaze.  {The glazefall?}

But there was a bit of a snag today.  A doughnut had somehow gotten caught on one of the bars as it transferred from the "proofing" rack to the hot oil.  Part of the dough stuck there, and every doughnut that passed that same spot was getting snagged on that bit of dough.  So as they continued on their journey, they had an indentation in them.  It was slight, but noticeable, running all across the doughnut.

So I was curious as to what would happen as these "damaged" doughnuts went under the waterfall of glaze.  Would the glaze be enough to hide the evidence of what had happened?  I was hoping they wouldn't have to be wasted.  I'm sure they would taste just as good.

But what happened to these doughnuts as they were covered in their robe of sweetness surprised me.  Because they'd been through a "trauma," they had that little valley running across them, and so there was even more glaze on them!  It had filled up that little valley, making those doughnuts even more rewarding.  Now I really hoped they wouldn't be wasted!

Times are hard for my family right now, as they are for many people, in America and around the world.  The way is not smooth, and sometimes we can't help but feel, "it wasn't supposed to be like this".  But the holes that are left behind, in our hearts and in our souls, are impressions made by Him.  If we are malleable, He will leave His mark, and then fill it up.  And when He fills, He fills with sweetness... with grace, with forgiveness, with understanding and peace, and most of all, wisdom.  That, I think, is what difficult times promise, more than anything.

I have thought, during this trial, that when it's over, I won't be the same.  And I'm not only sure of it, I'm glad of it.

~ "How sweet are Your words to me,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!" ~
Psalm 119:103

Monday, July 25, 2011

He knows what you're thinking!

"You perceive my thoughts"
Psalm 139:2

I had a sweet conversation with my Amazing Boy today.  However, first I have to give you a bit of background, and then you're gonna ask me why I did what I did.  But I can't answer that.  Cuz I don't know.   And it's gonna embarrass me a little bit, but I've come to accept this quirky part of my background, so I'll just lay it out for ya.

When I was growing up, I loved apples.  Ate so many that my mom would scold me ~ not for eating healthy, but for not leaving any for anyone else.  It probably tickles her to know that I have to scold Amazing Boy for the same thing now...

Anyhow, we had a basement, and there was a TV down there, and a lot of our toys and stuff, so we'd hang out and play down there.  And if I happened to be eating an apple, then when I finished it, I would walk into the laundry room section of the basement, which was separate from the TV-and-toy section, to throw the apple core away.

Okay, now here's where it gets quirky.  I would walk past the trashcan, and throw the apple core behind the water heater.  Then at some point my mom would happen to look back there, maybe sweeping, maybe checking on me, whatever, and she'd see one or more dried-up apple cores back there.  You feel for her right now, don't you?

Now, I have no idea why I did this, or why I did it more than once.  My sister would tell you it's because I'm a middle child, and I was looking for attention.   My mom would tell you it was my aim to goad her all through my childhood.  It's also possible I just didn't want to get in trouble for eating too many apples, so I was trying to hide the evidence, and doing a poor job of it....

Okay, so there's the backstory.  My kids know this story well, and I think they get a kick out of it.  Kids loving knowing about our youthful naughtiness, don't they?

Well, my Amazing Boy and I were working in the garden today, pulling weeds out of a planter.  In the corner of that planter was an nectarine pit.  A few weeks ago, he had finished his nectarine, and asked if it would grow if he tossed it in the garden.  I said, "Dunno.  Give it a shot."  In the summer heat, it's probably not gonna turn into anything, but we can keep an eye on it, and see what happens, and call it a science experiment.

Anyhow, we're weeding happily (not really on that part) and out of the blue he says to me, "Mom, when you were a kid, and you used to throw the apple cores behind the water heater, did they get moldy?" I replied, "No, they really just dried out."  And he said, "Oh, okay."  Then he added, "Sorry if that was kind of random."  And I said, "It wasn't random.  You saw that nectarine pit over there, and that made you think of it."

Well he was stunned.  He looked at me with eyes wide open and said, "How did you know that??"  And I smiled and said, "I'm your momma.  I know how you think.  That's what comes from spending nearly every hour of every day with you since you were born!"  (And really, before he was born, too!)

I do know how he thinks, a lot of the time.  And I love knowing my kids that well.  It's one of my favorite benefits of homeschooling them, that I'm with them so much of the time, and I've been a part of so many aspects of their lives.  I have watched them grow, and I know the experiences that have influenced them.  They share with me their feelings; and know I will not use their vulnerabilities against them, or embarrass them with what they've shared.  The parent/child relationship is such a beautiful example of the relationship we can have with God.  If we are open in prayer with Him, and willing to be taught and grown by Him, it will be a source of contentment and peace.  As we learn to fully trust Him, we will find Him fully worthy of our trust.  And we will be placing our trust in the only One who knows us better than we know ourselves.

~ "You have searched me, Lord, and You know me...
You perceive my thoughts from afar... You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely.
You created my inmost being... knit me together in my mother's womb...
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in Your book
before one of them came to be" ~
Psalm 139

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Joy of the Lord

“the joy of the Lord is your strength”
Nehemiah 8:10

Isn't that a wonderful thought, that strength is derived directly from joy?  I love that the joyous feeling I have as a result of giving and living my life for Him, leads directly to the strength I need to live for Him in a world He does not yet rule.

The joy that I have as a child of God is not just that I belong to Him simply because He created me.  In that sense, all people belong to Him -- not to mention all animals, all plants, indeed all creation.  Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness; the world and all those who dwell therein.” 

But my joy rests in the fact that I belong to Him because I have given myself to Him.  Indeed, “the world and all those who dwell therein” are His, but it seems to me a great many do not know it.  What a blessing to know I am His, and by claiming Him as my King, I become a daughter of the King.

And then, as if it weren’t enough to receive such joy as that which comes from Him, but to know that this joy is the source of my strength!  That is truly a gift from Him.  He could have just given me strength, but He chose to give me strength that comes from my joy in Him!

My joy in my marriage gives me the strength to make my marriage the best it can be.  My joy in my children gives me the strength to be the best mother I can be.  My joy in the ministries to which He has called me gives me strength to rise to His call, and give Him the glory.

I am joyful, therefore I am strong.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

"By their fruits you will know them"
Matthew 7:20

I have a rather unfortunate story to tell you.  But it makes a point, so I hope you're not offended.  And after that I have a nice story to tell you!

I was driving to a friend's house today, and on the way, I made a lane change.  I had my turn indicator on, I looked to make sure there was no one in that lane, and then I moved over.  The only problem was, there was someone else who also wanted to change to that same lane.  He didn't have his turn indicator on, so I had no way of knowing he was planning on changing lanes, and unfortunately for him, I started first, so by the time he was making his move, I was already in the lane he wanted.  So he had to back off, then go around me a minute later.  And here's the thing:  once we'd both changed lanes, and he was in front of me ~ in the lane of his choice ~ which we were now sharing ~ he waved at me.  But, you know, in that unfriendly way in which people wave when you've annoyed or inconvenienced them on the road.  You see what I'm getting at here?

Now, I wasn't really offended, because I was too busy being puzzled.  I certainly hadn't meant to inconvenience him, and it really wasn't that big of an inconvenience.  It took maybe ten seconds out of his day.  And what I had done was perfectly legal, and I had just as much right to that lane as he had.    So I was confused as to why he'd felt it necessary to tell me he hoped I'd have a bad day.  I'm pretty sure that's what that gesture means....

Okay, now here's the happy story.  A few years ago, when my family was on Kauai, my dad was driving us all to dinner.  It was a two-lane road, to a restaurant off the beaten path, and dad had to wait while a car pulled out of a small parking lot.  This parking lot was so close to the road, that cars had to back out right onto the road.  So Dad slowed to a stop, and waited, and then when the car had backed out we got moving again.  The driver of that car waved at my dad, to thank him for letting him back out. You know that "hang loose" gesture that Hawaiians make?  With the thumb and the pinky out?  It was just so easygoing and friendly and lighthearted.  Exactly how we expect Hawaiians to be.  And it made me want to do something nice for someone else. 

Now, I have no idea if either of these men have a relationship with Jesus.  You certainly can be a strong, faithful Christian, and have a bad day.  So I'm not going to make any judgement on that.  But I was reminded today that even with complete strangers, we have a chance to impact them.  With clerks, with fellow drivers, with telemarketers or waiters or door-to-door salesman, we have the choice of saying, "I hope your day is blessed" or "I don't care anything about you and I don't care what happens to you".  

With friends and family, we have the chance to apologize, or to make up for any impulsive crankiness.  But with strangers, we have just once chance.  So be ready to make a difference in someone's life ~ for the better.

~ "A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another
as I have loved you" ~
John 13:34

Friday, July 22, 2011

In the wee small hours of the morning

"In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice"
Psalm 5:3

What is it about 3 a.m.?  Do you ever wake up and find you can’t get back to sleep?  I know for some people it causes a desperate, panicked feeling.  You’re so anxious to get back to sleep, so that you won’t suffer the next day, and the more anxious you are, the more you’re keeping yourself awake. 

I never feel anxious at 3:00; although I sometimes feel frustrated at how little control I seem to have over my body and my mind.  What frequently happens is that I find myself overly worried about some issue in my life.  Some crucial, puzzling problem like:  we’re almost out of milk

Seriously.  That’s the kind of thing I worry about.  Something with a simple solution, that yet manages to keep me awake.  And generally, I’m telling myself how silly I’m being.  Part of me knows that all I have to do is go to the store the next day, and the problem will be solved.   But even knowing that, I can’t stop my mind from racing. 

3 a.m.  There’s just something about that time.  I think it’s because it’s somehow the halfway point between “last night” and “tomorrow”.  It’s the official “middle of the night”.

It’s quiet.  I sometimes get up, trying not to wake the dog (I usually don’t succeed).  And trying not to wake the Apple of my Eye.  (I usually succeed at that.)  And I’m very fortunate that my work is at home, so if I need to, I can catch a quick nap the next day ~ although I rarely do.  But I think that keeps the anxiety about sleeplessness at bay, just knowing I could nap if I needed to.

Once I'm up, I feel less worried about the milk.  ;)   I guess my logical mind is able to take over.  I might read a little Scripture on my computer (that way I don't have to turn on a light) but mostly I just pray.    Different people in my life, who need prayer, come to mind, and I'm able to lift their needs to Him.  A little talking, a little listening...  There are certainly fewer things competing for my attention than there are during the day.

But what I love, is that there's nothing competing for His attention.  Not that there ever is, of course, but I'm more aware of that fact.  He's up at 3:00 in the morning, and waiting for me.  

I'm not thrilled when I find myself awake in the wee hours; sleep would be my preference.  But I love knowing that He's there, listening, and maybe with a thing or two to tell me.  My goal is for it not to be wasted time, a time of annoyance or impatience, but a time of peace and prayer.

~ "Lord, be gracious to us; we long for You.
Be our strength every morning" ~
Isaiah 33:2

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Amazing Grace

"God's abundant provision of grace"
Romans 5:17

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, 
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see

"Sin shall no longer be your master; 
you are not under the law, but under grace" 
~ Romans 6:14

"One thing I do know.  I was blind but now I see!" 
~ John 9:25

Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear
and Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear." 
~ 1 John 4:18

"You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" 
~ 1 Peter 1:8

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come;
Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far 
and Grace will lead me home.

"You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day" 
~ Psalm 91:5

"My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes" 
~ Isaiah 32:18

The Lord has promised good to me.  
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.

"My hope, Lord, is in You" 
~ Psalm 25:21

"My shield is God Most High" 
~ Psalm 7:10

When we've been here ten thousand years, 
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise 
than when we've first begun.

"They will not need the light of the sun, 
for the Lord God will give them light" 
~ Revelation 22:5

"Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise" 
~ Hebrews 13:15

{With appreciation to John Newton (1725-1807)}

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Created like Him ~ and no one else!

"God created mankind in His own image"
Genesis 1:27

My kids and I did something a little different for lunch today.  They competed in an Iron Chef-style competition, and I was the judge.  The secret ingredient?  Oranges.  They each had to make one savory, and one sweet dish containing oranges.

We've done this once before, with the challenge of using peanut butter, and one of the dishes that my Amazing Boy came up with, we still have occasionally.  He called it a fruit taco, and it was peanut butter spread on a tortilla, and then a variety of berries piled on.  Kind of a fancy pb&j, but you eat it like a taco, and using berries instead of jelly gives it such a healthy, juicy wow!

Their dishes were really good.  My Awesome Girl made chicken & pasta with broccoli, and orange zest and juice squeezed over the chicken.  AB made a salad that incorporated orange juice in the dressing.  And perched on top?  He took a slice of orange, coated it in a breading of ~ are you ready? ~ crushed up Frosted Cheerios.  Then he fried it in a little butter.  I know what you're thinking, but can I please just tell you what a fascinating flavor combination that was???  Crunchy and juicy and sweet and a little buttery.

I judge them in three criteria:  taste, originality and presentation.  So two of these, the choice of ingredients, and the plating, require them to use their imaginations.   They both made such beautiful plates ~ her bright green broccoli with the bright orange slices on the side; his bright green lettuce with the red, orange and yellow of heirloom tomatoes, a little orange zest here or there.  They were each so beautiful.

It got me to thinking about the gift of creativity.  This is a gift that God has given to each of us, and yet it manifests itself differently from person to person.  Artist, writer, chef, you name it.  Some are creative in business, others in software design or architecture or problem-solving.

God is our Creator, which means each of us is too, created in the image of The Creator.  I hope you celebrate that.  I hope you recognize the creativity He has given you, and what you do differently than anyone else.   And I hope you take joy in creating.  He did.

~ "gifts according to the generosity of a king" ~
Esther 2:18

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mine ears have heard the glory of the Lord

"Declare His glory among the nations"
1 Chronicles 16:24

The family and I went to a wedding this weekend.  It was a fairly small, but lovely and elegant affair.  We know both the bride and groom very well ~ one of those weddings where we could have sat either on the bride's or the groom's side!

Weddings are always such a celebration.  Joy and love everywhere you look, as well as wonderful traditions ~ some rooted in faith, some rooted in family, some rooted in culture.  But some weddings celebrate God more than others.  Obviously, a wedding with a justice of the peace is not as spiritual as a wedding in a church.  A wedding that does not include God is really more of a legal contract in the eyes of the state, and less of a covenant and a promise in the eyes of God.

But in this wedding, God was everywhere.  And because both of these amazing young people attend our church, our pastor performed the ceremony.  But the first thing he did was ask the groom's father to open the ceremony with a prayer.  I'd never seen that done before, and I thought it was such a nice touch.  The groom was about to take on a new role in his life ~ not just "husband," but spiritual leader for his new wife.   So to have his father ~ the man who had been his role model all his life ~ pray for them, seemed very appropriate.

But there was something very interesting about that prayer.   The groom's family is Romanian-American.  The groom, whom I'll call Jason ~ cuz that's his name ~ was born here, but his parents were not.  They've both been here for many, many years, and speak perfect English, and yet, Jason's father chose to pray in Romanian.  I'm not sure why...  Maybe he just feels more comfortable with his first language.

And so, not knowing any Romanian, I'm not sure what he prayed.  And yet it was beautiful.  His voice rose and ebbed, with the emotion of his words, and I felt carried along, in total agreement with him.  I felt a little like I did when my Awesome and Amazing kids were little.  They would close their eyes and pray absolute gibberish.  It was just between them and God, and I just felt privileged to be allowed to listen.  There was such wisdom in Jason's father knowing that even though most of us wouldn't understand him, we could still be in agreement with him.   That is really the essence of praying together. Choosing to be in agreement with one another.

There was, however, one word that I understood in that prayer.  It wasn't a word that has to do with  marriage, or with children growing up and moving on.  But at the same time, it was a word that has everything to to with that.  And it's the reason I knew I was in agreement with his prayer.  It's a beautiful word in the English language, but it was made more lovely to me because clearly it transcends language.  It's a word that I think I need to use more often in my prayers ~ perhaps in all of my prayers, because it brings it all back to God... all that He has done for us and all that He's doing, and all that He's worth... So I joyfully join with Isaia in saying:

 ~ "Gloria" ~

Congratulations, Jason and Ari ~ Many blessings in your new life together!  And thank you, Isaia, for your beautiful prayer.

~ "every knee will bow, and every tongue acknowledge
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father" ~
Philippians 2:10-11

Monday, July 18, 2011

Memorizing Scripture ~ Part Three

"I have treasured the words of His mouth
more than my necessary food"
Job 23:12

Just a few more thoughts, my friends, on the subject of memorizing Scripture.  Most of us are living awfully busy lives, and permanently implanting His Word in our minds and hearts takes commitment.  As someone once said, "You gotta have the 'want to'!"

I encourage you to want to.  Years ago, after I attended that conference with the speaker who had memorized whole books of Scripture, the very next day, with that in my head, I happened to read Deuteronomy 32, which is a song of Moses.  Something about the beauty of that chapter, and the fact that I'd just been presented with the idea of memorizing a whole chapter, inspired me to get started that very day.  It took me all summer to memorize 42 verses (which is the whole song, albeit not the whole chapter) three or four words at a time.

Now, I couldn't still recite that song to you, because it's been several years, and we have to keep reciting something memorized, if we want to keep it memorized.   But I know it when I hear it.  If someone happens to quote it in a sermon; when I come across it in the New Testament (it's quoted a few times, I think), I just know it.  If you're a mom, have you ever been at a park, or where there's several children, and one of them shouts, "mommy!"  they might all sound alike, but you know when it's yours.  Same with Scripture.  When you memorize something, it becomes yours.

It will never leave you.  It can never be taken from you.  Even if you think you've forgotten it, it'll come back to you when you least expect it.   And by claiming it, it will already have made a change in your heart, and in your life.

Revelation 5:8 tells us that God treasures our prayers in golden bowls.  If that's how He cherishes our words, how much more should we cherish His??

~ "Your Word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path...
I will not forget Your Word" ~
Psalm 119:105, 16

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Memorizing Scripture ~ Part Two

"I have hidden Your word in my heart"
Psalm 119:11

Okay, so today is the "how" and the "how much" of memorizing Scripture.

Entire books have been written on how to improve one’s ability to memorize.  Some suggestions will follow.  But it’s been said, if you are able to memorize several phone numbers, and a couple of social security numbers, then you are capable of memorizing 1 & 2 Timothy.

No matter what method you choose, memorize this first: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Remember: it is almost impossible for someone to memorize a passage of Scripture without deepening your understanding of those verses. 

“…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8

God does not intend for scripture memory to be either easy or difficult;
He only intends for it to be time consuming. 

I once heard a speaker at a conference who has memorized whole books of Scripture.  So if that's possible, you know it's possible to memorize individual verses.  It's not just a gift that some people have.  It's something God expects of us.

So I thought I'd share some of my favorite tricks for memorizing Scripture.

~ Write out the passage.  Put pictures in the margin to help spark your memory, or the first letter of each word.  "If you love Me, obey My command" as I Y L M, O M C

~ Write out the verse, passage or chapter in word groups.  When faced with FBIPHDTWAIBM, people are able to remember only a few items.  But if the same information is presented the following way:  FBI PHD TWA IBM, then people can remember a great deal more.  Our brains are good at grouping information into meaningful groups, even if it's only meaningful to us!  And FYI, the ideal size for grouping letters, numbers or words, meaningful or not, is three.

~ Write out the passage in C O L O R

~ If it's a longer passage that you once knew but have forgotten, trying writing just the first word of each verse or phrase.

~ Another way to help yourself remember a forgotten passage is to say it out loud and write the words or phrase at which you stumble.  Keep reciting it, prompting yourself only if you need to.  Gradually, you'll need your cheat sheet less.

~ Use a "Chain".  Memorize the first segment.  Then memorize the second segment.  Then recite them together.  Then add the third, and so on.

~ Use a "Reverse Chain".  This is good for pairs or groups.  One person reads the entire verse over and over again.  The listeners jump and finish the verse whenever they can.  They should be able to jump in sooner and sooner.  We used to do this when I taught kids at Bible Study, and pretty soon, all of them had it memorized.

~ Use hand or body motions.  It's good exercise, too!  :)

~ Put the passage to music.  Music empowers the memory.  The words to "The Star Spangled Banner" were set to a tune already familiar to Americans.  And "Amazing Grace", written in 1772, didn't find it's "permanent" tune until the 1830s.  People just sang it to a tune they already knew.  Twinkle, Twinkle?  Happy Birthday?  Jingle Bells?  Mary Had a Little Lamb?  Sing your verse to one of these.

~ Use the passage for penmanship and/or typing practice.  Repetition of the same words is a good technique for building fast and neat handwriting, or fast, accurate typing.  And the passage used will be memorized during these repetitions.

~ Make sure you understand the point of the passage.  It's not just a series of words, and the flow of thought will aid in the memorizing.

~ Text elimination:  Put the passage on a dry erase or chalkboard, or on a computer screen.  Read the passage, then erase a word.  Now try to recite it, filling in the missing part from memory.  Keep reading, eliminating another word each time.

Also, you might be wondering: should you memorize on your own, or with a partner or a group?  The answer is "Yes."

Finally, some thoughts on how much Scripture we should memorize:


There is absolutely nothing stopping you from memorizing entire passages, chapters, and even books of Scripture.  It was done by the Israelites, it was done by the early Christians, and it is being done today, by people just as busy as you are.

But no one who wants to finish a marathon begins by stepping out the door and running 26 miles.  Work up to that level.  Memorize a verse at a time.  Then add to it. Keep going, and memorize a whole passage or chapter.   Or, choose a passage you already love so much that you know it by heart, and memorize the verses before and after it.  Then keep going.

Should you memorize Scripture?

What else would you do??  It is the very words of God.

Memorize Scripture, until there is nothing left to memorize.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Memorizing Scripture ~ Part One

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom"
Colossians 3:16

Memorizing Scripture.  Are you a fan, or are you a-feared?  It takes some effort, but it's well worth it.   In John 14:26, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would "teach all things, and bring to your remembrance all things I have said to you."  I just love it when a piece of Scripture pops into my head at an opportune moment, because I know I'm seeing that verse in action.  And the more we familiarize ourselves with the Bible, the more that's going to happen.

So, for the next few days, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the subject.  Today... the "Why?"

For your brain
The process of memorizing strengthens your brain.  However, your goal is not to have a strong brain so that you can be a trivia expert, but so that it works for you, helps you solve problems. 
A brain strong in Scripture will help you solve spiritual problems.   He can’t bring to your remembrance something you never knew.

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

You might complain that you try to memorize Scripture, but it’s like water going through a sieve.
But after a while, you are going to have a very clean sieve.

For your heart
The Bible is entirely inspired by God himself. That is why it says that all scripture is 'God-Breathed'. It comes from God's own mouth.  How many times have you been taking notes on a lecture or sermon – and if you don’t take notes, why don’t you?? – and you try to write down what the pastor has said, but by the time you write the first half, you have forgotten the second half, and you desperately wish he would repeat it, and you’re sneaking a look at your neighbor’s notes… How much more desperate should we be for God’s words?

When we have something memorized, we say we know it “by heart”

Scripture should be in your heart…

…So you are prepared to answer questions concerning your faith. “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you… 1 Peter 3:15

…So you are prepared to share the Gospel.  “(Paul) reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”  And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” Acts 17:3-4

…So you know right from wrong. “Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11

…So you grow in Him. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Hebrews 5:13-14

…So you grow in your prayer life. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”  John 15:7

…So you can meditate on it anytime, anywhere. “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God,
a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 
2 Timothy 2:15

Corrie Ten Boom had memorized huge chunks of Scriptures, which blessed her when she was in a Nazi prison camp, and did not have a Bible.  Not planning on being in a prison camp?  Okay… are you planning on driving on long trips? Conversing with friends? Sleepless nights? Long walks on the beach? Sitting in a hospital waiting room?

So there are some reasons.  Pick the one you like, and stop thinking of excuses.  :)  I'll share some more tomorrow on the subject.  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Remembering that we have forgotten

"This I recall to my mind,
therefore I have hope."
Lamentations 3:21

Something interesting happened to me today.  I remembered something.  Something that I'd forgotten.

Now, I know you think that happens everyday, but this was different.  This wasn't one of those rememberings like sitting bolt upright in bed, thinking, "I can't remember what day are the library books due!"  Or walking to the checkout, and going, "*snap!*  I almost forgot hot dog buns!"  {And why do we say we "almost" forgot something when, in fact, we did forget it, cuz we couldn't be remembering, if we hadn't forgotten to begin with....}

But this wasn't like that.  This was something that I'd forgotten, that I had not even remembered that I'd forgotten.  I guess because there has been nothing to remind me.  {Who sang that song "Always Something There to Remind Me"?  Cuz there's not always...}

Let's see, how can I summarize this event in my life without incriminating anyone I'm fond of....  A couple of months ago, someone in my life made a decision that directly affected me.  Said Person asked my opinion, which I was happy to give, and Said Person knew I felt strongly about my opinion.  Within minutes of hearing my opinion, Said Person immediately decided to do what I wished they would not do.  I calmly replied, "fine" because after all, it was their decision to make.  But I felt... ignored.  Disrespected.  Disregarded.  And maybe a few other dis-es.

When Said Person made that decision, I thought our friendship would never be the same.  I felt so hurt because I felt like I'd just found out that I meant less to Said Person than I thought.  Or at least, my opinion meant less.  It was an important decision, and what I thought didn't matter.

But this morning I remembered with a start, that I'd forgotten all about it.  I realized that our friendship hadn't altered at all.  I guess Said Person has shown me repeatedly since then that my opinion does matter, because I have forgotten that I ever felt that it didn't.  The decision did affect me, but I've made peace with it, and our friendship hasn't suffered.

Now, maybe you'd say it would be better if I'd never remembered that painful morning.  But by remembering, I realized I'd forgotten, and I realized how grateful I was to God that He'd caused me to forget.  I really think it was all Him.  satan likes to torture us, sometimes, with memories of things we'd like to forget.  But God didn't let that happen.   When my Awesome Girl was about five, she did something wrong that she felt so bad about, she cried herself to sleep.  My heart hurt so much; the agony she was going through was far worse than the sin she'd committed.  And all I wanted was for her to forget it had ever happened.  And she did.  The next morning I cautiously said something related to the subject, and she didn't know what I was talking about.  And I never mentioned it again.  For her, it's completely gone, and for me, the memory has become not about what she did, but about God allowing her to forget.

And this morning,  He brought a painful memory back to my mind just to show me that it no longer held any pain for me.

I'll never know how many things I've forgotten, but that shouldn't stop me from remembering that I have forgotten.

~ "You will surely forget your trouble,
remembering it only as waters that have passed away" ~
Job 11:16

Thursday, July 14, 2011

God is love ~ through us

"love one another"
John 13:35

So recently I find myself toolin' along in my cute little car...

That's not me; that's Hubby.  And he's not toolin', he's just sitting.  But isn't it a great looking car? 
And I've got my sunroof open, enjoying the cool of a summer morning...
That's not me; that's Awesome Girl, a few years ago.  But it's a great sunroof, isn't it?
And I've got my iPod goin'.... And can I just say, maybe not for the first time, how much I love my iPod?  iTunes is a great thing.  (No, they're not paying me anything to say that.  It's just a fact.)  I love that one minute I can be listening to something from my high school days (or before), like some classic Amy Grant, and the next, something that's new and hip and happenin', like MercyMe or Phil Wickham.  

By the by, is it hip and happenin' to say "hip and happenin'" ?  Or did I just expose my lack of hipness?

At any rate, one of those Amy Grant classics came on.  A song called "There Will Never Be Another", circa 1979.  There's a line in that song which says "there will never be another who could love me like You.  There will never be another who could hold me, mold me."  And it got me to thinking that because God is love, He is all kinds of love.  Therefore, He can both hold us ~ comforting and supporting us ~ and mold us ~ changing us and making us more like Him.

And it got me to thinking of all the different facets of God's love, a concept that I've certainly meditated on in the past.  But what struck me today is the different people in my life who are tangible examples of the many characteristics of God's love.

The fact of the matter is that no one person can be everything to us ~ a fact you've probably noticed about people in your life.  In some cases, it might have even come as a disappointment to you to discover that.  Frankly, it's unfair of us to expect anyone to be everything for us.  

But it occurred to me today that perhaps the people that God places in our lives are designed to sort of add up to Him.  You know what I mean?  For instance:

A parent loves like no one else, but that love often manifests itself as discipline.  There are a lot of people in my life who love me, but most of them would not discipline me.  But God does discipline, so He's got people in my life who love me through discipline.  "The Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in." ~ Proverbs 3:12

The Apple of my Eye loves me in a myriad of ways - friendship, patience, selflessness ~ but the way he loves me differently than anyone else, is commitment.  No one else in my life has ever stood up before witnesses and promised to love me until he or I die.  There are a few people who will love me as long as I live, but no one else has or will give me that promise.  This, too, is a manifestation of God's love.  "Great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever." ~ Psalm 117:2

Even my dog serves to love me as one of the manifestations of God's love, because she loves me unconditionally.  Now of course my family, my parents and sisters all (probably) love me no matter what.  But it's entirely possible for me to anger or hurt a family member so much that they would not want to be near me until they forgive me.  Or they might give me the silent treatment.  Not my dog.  If I accidentally step on her paw, or forget to feed her, she will hold no grudge.  She will still come when I call her, and lick me unmercifully if I let her.  In the same way, nothing I could do could ever make God stop loving me. "I have loved you with an everlasting love" ~ Jeremiah 31:3

Teachers, encouragers, wise counsel, comforters, exhorters... God has provided me with people who love me in all of these ways.  I like to think that when all this love is added together, it looks a lot like Him.  

Human, indeed.  Not as pure, not as strong, not as perfect as His love; but made in His image nonetheless.

~ "Dear friends, let us love one another, 
for love comes from God" ~
1 John 4:7