Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If... then

"Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice 
and keep My covenant, 
then you shall be a special treasure to Me
   above all people"
Exodus 19:5

"If you indeed obey, and do all that I speak, 
then I will be an enemy to your enemies
and an adversary to your adversaries"
Exodus 23:22

"When you turn to the Lord your God
and obey His voice
(for the Lord your God is a merciful God), 
He will not forsake you nor destroy you,
nor forget the covenant of your fathers 
which He swore to them"
Deuteronomy 4:30-31  

"And it shall be 
that if you earnestly obey My commandments 
which I command you today, 
to love the Lord your God and 
serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, 
then I will give you the rain for your land in its season,
 the early rain and the latter rain, 
that you may gather in your grain,
    your new wine, and your oil"
Deuteronomy 11:12-14

"Observe and obey all these words
which I command you, 
that it may go well with you
and your children after you forever, 
when you do what is good and right
in the sight of the Lord your God"
Deuteronomy 12:28

"the Lord will greatly bless you 
in the land which the Lord your God is giving you 
to possess as an inheritance -
only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, 
to observe with care all these commandments
which I command you today"
 Deuteronomy 15:4-5

"Now it shall come to pass, 
if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, 
to observe carefully all His commandments
which I command you today, 
that the Lord your God will set you high
above all nations of the earth.  
And all these blessings shall come upon you
and overtake you
because you obey the voice of the Lord your God"
Deuteronomy 28:1-2

"Obey My voice and I will be your God, 
and you shall be My people.  
And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, 
that it may be well with you"
Jeremiah 7:23

Don't you love that He tells us why?

So much better than "Because I said so."


Monday, July 30, 2012

Taking sides

"choose for yourselves"
Joshua 24:15

There's been a big story in the news in the US the past several days.  A controversy.  Someone in the public eye who spoke out strongly about his Biblical beliefs, and was criticized for it.  Because not everyone agrees with him.  Which is basically because not everyone agrees with God.

That's okay, though.  God knows people are going to disagree with Him.  He knows He's still right. 

But when this gentleman spoke up, a few politicians spoke out.  And then a few celebrities.  And then Americans started getting on one side or the other and the issue was being discussed at workplaces and by friends meeting up at their local Ubiquitous Coffee House. 

I feel strongly about the issue, so I know which side of the debate I come down on.  And for the most part, I know what most politicians and politically outspoken celebrities believe.  After all, they're outspoken. 

But I was surprised, last week, to hear one celebrity take a side.  This was someone we normally don't hear from on political issues, but I guess he felt strongly enough about this issue to speak up.  And unfortunately, he does not believe what I believe.  I say it's unfortunate because this is an issue spoken of in the Bible, and he's not agreeing with the Bible.  But it's also unfortunate because I now know where he stands on this issue, and it's disappointing to me.  He was someone whose work I admire, and while he's still talented, I can't admire his judgement the same way.   He does not value God's word, and now I know.  And I wish I didn't...

Ignorance is bliss, but we are called to take a side.  And it's going to mean difficult choices.  If not now, then soon.  Matthew 25:32 says: "all nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats."  And regardless of who's on the other side, we need to be on His side. 

~ "Choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve...
as for me and my house,
   we will serve the Lord" ~
Joshua 24:15

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Offering, Part Two

"Let each one give
as he purposes in his heart, 
not grudgingly or of necessity: 
for God loves a cheerful giver"
2 Corinthians 9:7

Yesterday I shared some thoughts on tithing, remembering the promise in Malachi 3:10.  Malachi was given a message by God, to the children of Israel, because they had been holding back what they should have been giving to God ~ their tithe.  So God's message to them was this: 

" 'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house."
"And try Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts..."
'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.' "

But I want to share more specifically on the concept of tithing today.  Interestingly, the word tithe is used 37 times in Scripture (New King James Version) and almost all of those are in the Old Testament.  Only seven are in the New Testament, and of those, three are in the context of the Pharisees.  Because of this, I'm inclined to believe that not everyone is called to tithe, literally.  Meaning, it's not about 10%, per se.  It's about giving back to God.

Now, please understand, this is only my opinion.  And I, along with the Apple of my Eye, believe that we, as a family, should give 10% of our income to our church or a reputable charitable organization.  That might not be what you believe.  It's one of those issues, like how to keep holy the Sabbath, that we must each pray about, and act in accordance with what we believe He desires of us.

Anyhow, a few weeks ago, I sat down in church and while I was waiting for the service to start, I found myself looking at the things in pocket of the chair in front of me:  a couple of pens, an information card about our church, a prayer request card, and an offering envelope.  The offering envelope was in front, so I was looking at the words "My Offering" and I thought to myself wryly, "well, that's not very much lately..."  We are blessed in that I am able to stay home with my Amazing and Awesome kids, and that the Apple of my Eye has a full-time job, which was not the case for many months.  But his salary, like many in this economy, is not what it used to be.  And so our offerings are less than they used to be. 

So I started to think about those words "My Offering" in terms of things other than money.  You and I have so much more to offer Him than just our money. At the time, I had been praying about whether or not I wanted to get involved with a short-term ministry.  It wasn't going to last long, but the time, the energy, and it wasn't my favorite kind of ministry, if you know what I mean...  I'm sure you've been there.  That's someone else's gift; someone else's strong point...  I think I'll let them volunteer...

So I took that thought as a prompt from Him that I should volunteer for that.  So I did.  But still I thought.  And still I think. 

What can I offer?  What do I offer?  What will I offer?

Do I hoard things like my time, my money, my skills?  How much giving is enough, and how much is too much, because it will make me feel tired, or stressed or like I don't have enough Me Time?  (A phrase, by the way, which is nowhere in Scripture.  There is no Me Time.  There is only Him Time.)

I'm not saying we're supposed to volunteer at every ministry, donate to every charity, pray for every cause...  It's about offering to Him what He has given us.  Offering it back, really.  In the quantity He desires, at the time He asks.

And like Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, God might not even take from us what we offer.  Sometimes He simply wants us to offer.  

~ "Give and it will be given to you:
    good measure, pressed down, 
     shaken together, and running over..."
Luke 6:38

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Offering

"not room enough to receive it"
Malachi 3:10

So I don't know about you, but finances are tough in our household.

You too?  Can I get a show of hands?

Yeah, I thought so... I'll pray for you all. 

God provides all we need, but there is little left over for extras.  {Although God does provide a few of those, too!}  Hubby and I are discussing all purchases ~ even the little ones ~ and working with our Amazing and Awesome Kids to make choices about what's important in our lives.  It's hard sometimes, but I know it's so valuable, especially for our kids.

Y'know, I really hate calling my kids "kids" sometimes; they're not children anymore.  But somehow, calling them our "offspring" just doesn't convey all the love I feel...

At any rate, I know it's a great education for them to know how important a budget is, and how to live with one.  Which makes me grateful, once again, that God wastes nothing.  He uses every experience in our lives to grow us and mold us, and I know He's faithful to do so with my... offspring.

One of the things that we all agree on, is continuing to donate money.  It might be to our church; it might be to friends raising money for a mission trip; it might be to a charity whose work we value.  It's definitely a smaller amount than it used to be.  Sometimes very small.  But we know that everything we have is because God provides, so we give back.  One of my favorite verses is on this subject, and it's a challenge from God.  It's Malachi 3, and God is accusing His people of sinning in ~ among other ways ~ not contributing to the temple.  And He challenged them to tithe as commanded.

Now, the reason it's one of my favorite verses is partially because it's a challenge.  There are few things more precious, I believe, than a challenge from God.  First because, when God challenges, you know that if you succeed, the rewards for your efforts and your obedience will be beyond what you can imagine.  And second because, when God challenges, you know you can succeed, because He never asks more of us than we can do.



So here is God's challenge to His children ~ and that includes us, not just the ones to whom Malachi was speaking directly:

" 'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house."

Bring what you are supposed to bring, He commands.  A direction, I might add, that no parent should have to make.  Do what you are supposed to do.  It's the best advice anyone could possibly give.  It is all-purpose, and accurate in every situation.  

Admittedly, the tricky part, sometimes, is knowing what you are supposed to do...

But in this case, they knew.  Tithe.  Ten percent.  

And if they met His challenge, here was His promise:

"And try Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts..."

Go ahead, give it a shot.  Just try Me and see.

'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.' "

You know what that is?  That's a promise of abundance.  And no one promises abundance like God promises abundance. 

Try Him and see.

~ "As soon as the commandment was circulated, 
the children of Israel brought in abundance 
the firstfruits of grain and wine, 
oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field, 
and they brought in abundantly
   the tithe of everything" ~
2 Chronicles 31:5

Friday, July 27, 2012

Believe what you know

"Therefore you also
   be ready"
Luke 12:40

I was cold at church other day.  And it's not the first time...

Our church is generally well air-conditioned, even in the winter.  Which is not as bad as it sounds; we have mild winters... I guess our Pastor likes it cool, which I totally understand.  I've spoken in public before, and it can make one hot!  So the women in our church know to bring a jacket if they are the type to get cold.  I mean, don't get me wrong; it's not freezing, just cool.

But on top of that, the city that my church is in, is about five miles closer to the coast than where we live.  So mornings and evenings especially, can be 10 degrees cooler ~ or more ~ than home.  Wonderful ocean breezes, you know? 

So when we attend the mid-week service, during summer, I have to remember all this when I'm getting dressed to leave.  And it's really hard.  It might be in the high 80s outside, and I might be uncomfortably warm as I'm getting ready, but in an hour or so, I'm gonna want to have a jacket, or at least long sleeves.

But somehow, when I'm getting ready, I just find it so hard to believe that I'm going to be cold.   I think to myself, nah... you're exaggerating...  it's the middle of summer...  the evenings are balmy... short sleeves are fine... 

I know the truth.  And I try to tell myself the truth.  But I don't believe me, because it just seems too far-fetched.  I'm so warm at the time, I can't imagine things are going to change that much.  And I talk myself out of being prepared. 

Now seems so real, it's hard sometimes, to believe that the future is going to be what we know it's going to be. 

Have you read Revelation?  Then you know.  If you haven't, then read it.  And you'll know.  And be ready. 

"the day of the Lord will come
as a thief in the night..." 
2 Peter 3:10

"Watch, therefore, 
for you know neither the day nor the hour
 in which the Son of Man is coming..."
Matthew 25:13

"the Lord Himself will descend from heaven 
with a shout,
with the voice of an archangel, 
and with the trumpet of God..."
1 Thessalonians 4:16

Be ready.

~ "Therefore you also be ready, 
for the Son of Man is coming
    at an hour you do not expect" ~
Luke 12:40

Thursday, July 26, 2012

As He directs

"Sing to Him a new song;
play skillfully with a shout of joy"
Psalm 33:3

It's summertime, which means every time I meet up with a friend or acquaintance for a chat, there's catching up to do.  Maybe they attended a wedding and I get to see pictures.  Or maybe they've been on vacation and have adventures to share.

It also means that there's people missing from church.  We go to a fairly small church, so when a family is gone for a couple weeks in a row, they are missed.  And since so many people at my church are active, participating in ministries, it means someone has to fill in the hole when someone else goes on vacation.

The most noticeable place that happens is with the worship team.  It's a pretty fluid group already.  There are pretty much two different teams, each led by a husband and wife team, with other musicians that are either regulars, or fill in when needed.  So at any given time, when I walk into church, I could see a variety of people in various roles.

But a couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, there was a drastic change.  Neither of the "usual" husband and wife teams were there.  The lead singer was a gentleman who normally plays the keyboard.  He was still playing the keyboard, but he was doing the singing, too.  And his co-singer was his lovely wife.  She has played the violin for us many times, but I didn't even know she could sing.

They were so wonderful at leading us.  We sang a couple of songs that were new to me, and it was so enjoyable to be led in learning something new, by someone I didn't even know could lead me!

My husband and I, partway through the first song, just looked at each other in silent astonishment.  And I know the look on each of our faces simply said "Wow... who knew?"  This wonderful couple had gifts and talents that a lot of the church didn't know about, because there simply hadn't been a need before then.  And they were content to serve in "backup" roles, even though they clearly had the ability to do more.  Can you imagine if they'd tried to do more than they were needed to, all those other Sundays?  There's not gonna be harmony if everyone wants to be the leader.

It was a reminder to me, about serving as He calls me to serve.  I might have gifts that I feel are not being used, and that can feel frustrating, but I need to trust Him on the timing.  He might be calling me to lead, but He might be calling me to follow.  He might be calling me to teach, or He might be calling me to empty the trashcans.  And it was a reminder to me to step up when He calls me to, and stay out of the way until He does. 

"humble yourselves
  under the mighty hand of God,
  that He may exalt you in due time"
1 Peter 5:6

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Martha: The Sequel

"Now it happened as they went 
that He entered a certain village; 
and a certain woman named Martha 
welcomed Him into her house.  
And she had a sister called Mary, 
who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.  
But Martha was distracted with much serving 
and she approached Him and said, 
"Lord, do You not care 
that my sister has left me to serve alone?  
Therefore tell her to help me.'   
And Jesus answered and said to her, 
'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled 
about many things.  
But one thing is needed, 
and Mary has chosen that good part, 
which will not be taken away from her.' "
Luke 10:38-42

So.  Then what?

What did Martha do then??

Have you ever wondered how Martha responded?  I mean, what was she supposed to do?  It was her house, and people needed to be fed.  Jesus needed to be fed!

And yet...

Jesus' words make it clear that there was something wrong with Martha's actions.  And maybe her motives.   So did she sit down?  Let the casserole burn?  Decide to forgo the Baked Alaska?  {yea, like anyone would serve a casserole, followed by Baked Alaska.  But I digress...}  Did she ignore the dishes until the next day?

And did she sit right down at Jesus' feet?  Did she refuse to be distracted, worried and troubled about many things?

And did she choose the one thing that is needed?  That which would not be taken away from her?

What do you think she did?

What will you do?

~ "Martha, as soon as she heard
     that Jesus was coming, 
      went and met Him" ~
John 11:20

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Never alone

"enjoy pleasure"
Ecclesiastes 2:1

My baby girl went away from me last week.  My beautiful, sweet too young to leave the house high-schooler went away to camp with the other high school students from our church.   She had a wonderful time {Although I'm pleased to say that she missed us.  Is that wrong of me?}  And she experienced a whole lot of fun experiences that she has never experienced before.  Outdoor activities like swinging from a giant swing into the lake, and playing Airsoft, and jumping on one of those giant trampolines where you're held with elastic cables, so you're able to do back flips and stuff.  Not to mention teachings and worship twice a day, and general laughter and merriment with new and old friends.

It was a long week for the Apple of my Eye, and Amazing Boy and me.  25% of our family was gone, and the house just didn't feel right.  She texted us frequently, letting us know how ~ and what ~ she was doing, but that only helped a little bit.

I was glad for her to be having fun, learning, and doing new things, but that's part of what made it hard for me.  If she were off at the dentist or something, I'd miss her, but she's been to the dentist before.  There's nothing new there.  But the things she was doing were new, and I wished I could be there as she experienced new things.  I wished I could see her face, see the expression in her eyes, and hear her laughter.  Author Elizabeth Stone said, "Having a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  I read that quote when my girl was tiny, and I think about it often as my kids grow more and more independent.

I want them to do and experience new things.  I just hate not being there when they do. 

It makes me appreciate even more the intimate relationship we have with the Lord.  He knows how we feel; He knows what we are thinking.  He's with us when we laugh, and when we cry.  I don't think we acknowledge that as often as we should.  And I wonder if being ignored bothers Him as much as it bothers me...

I love that He was with her in everything she experienced while she was away from me.  And I love that He was with me, while my girl was away.

~ "truly our fellowship is with the Father" ~
1 John 1:3

Monday, July 23, 2012

On the way

"take your journey"
Deuteronomy 1:40

Yesterday is gone.   How do you like today?

And what comes after this, for you?  I mean, I know it's tomorrow, but what exactly will that bring? 

It's summer right now, which means we're in between "last year" and "next year" as far as school goes.   So even though it's the middle of the calendar year, it's not the middle of the school year.  'Cause the middle of the school year is when the calendar year is beginning.

Makes perfect sense, right?

I think for most of us, the day we're in is the part of our life that takes up 90% of our focus.  I wish I knew the real number, though.  How much of an average day do I spend thinking about the future?  I've got next year's schooling to think about for my kids.  Books to buy, books to read, lessons to be planned.  I also might have an idea for a Christmas present for a family member, or get an idea for a vacation I'd like to take someday with the family.  Not to mention dinner ideas, and the budget for the next month.

And how often do I give some thought to the past?  When a photo comes across my screen saver, or if we go over to my folks' house for dinner, there might be some reminiscing.  My sister and her family were visiting last week, so there were a few silly stories about childhood mischief.  My kids and my nephew love hearing stories of their parents' misdeeds when we were their age. 

Not that I ever misbehaved...

But where we are in life right now is not just about right now.  It is also part of the journey of where we've been, and we're going.  Think about the movies you've seen of Moses delivering the children of Israel.  The story seems to end after the cross the Red Sea.  Happily ever after awaited them, right?

Wrong.  Forty years in the desert awaited them.  The journey continued.  An exodus is an exit, but it's also an entrance to something else; a journey to the next thing... the next place.

So love where you are.  Live where you are.  But realize that where you've come from is part of where you're going.  It's not a mid-life crisis; it's an exit from what's come before, and an entrance to what's next.

And what's next is wonderful.  Just make sure you go with Him.

"I must journey today, tomorrow, 
and the day following"
Luke 13:33

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Each one alike, and each one different

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

This day is special.  Exciting and wonderful.  This is a day that has been eagerly anticipated. 

So today, I eagerly pray that my words, my actions, even the thoughts of my heart would be pleasing to Him.

I want my decisions to be His will.  I want my words to come from His Spirit within me.  I want my attitudes to not betray the old nature that lurks within me.

I give Him this day, because He gave it to me.  And I hope the special events of this day would be remembered for the glory they bring Him.

Because really, this day is an ordinary day.  But it is the day He has made.  So it's an extraordinary day.

~ "Proclaim the good news of His salvation
  from day to day" ~
Psalm 96:2

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Your place of peace

"Peace be to you"
Daniel 10:19

Where is your place of peace?

In the backyard, in the shade?

On the front porch, in the swing?

In the sun with your feet in the pool?

In the bedroom?

In the living room?

In the kitchen?

At the park?

At the coffee shop? 

At the library?



Halfway up the stairs?

In the easy chair?

In the rocking chair?

In the lawn chair?

Where's your place of peace?

Go there.  Every day. 

If you don't have one, find one. 

And go there.  Every day. 

And take your Bible with you. 

~ "Seek peace and pursue it" ~
Psalm 34:14

Friday, July 20, 2012

Speak softly, and carry something

"take in your hand your..."
Exodus 17:5

My kids and I watched a movie about Moses the other day.  It had been a couple of years since we'd seen it, and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy seeing Biblical events brought to life.  Reminds me of details I'd forgotten, or maybe even never noticed in my reading.

I also love the liberties that moviemakers are able to take.  We simply don't have all the details about our Bible heroes and their lives, so it's fun to imagine those things we don't know.  And since moviemakers are paid to imagine, I enjoy seeing what they imagine!

I had an interesting conversation with my Amazing Boy during this most recent watching of the movie.  I guess Amazing Boy was starting to realize how big a role the rod of Aaron and the rod of Moses played in God's miracles.   Every time a miracle took place, a rod was the instigator.   In obedience to God, Moses instructed Aaron's actions, and his rod became a serpent (Exodus 7).  Then Aaron obediently stretched his rod over the waters, and they became blood (Exodus 7).  Then He wanted Aaron to stretch his rod over the waters, and cause the frogs to come over Egypt (Exodus 8).  Then Aaron's rod struck the dust and brought lice over the land (Exodus 8).  Next, Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail and fire (Exodus 9).  Then Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and here came the east wind with the locusts (Exodus 10).  And then, as you probably know, Moses lifted up his rod over the Red Sea, and the children of Israel crossed in safety (Exodus 14).

And while we were watching all of this, my boy said to me, "Did God give Moses that rod?"  And I said "No, Moses already had that.  It was just a tool of his trade."  And then I added as an afterthought, "God uses what we have."

Ordinary things can become powerful when God is behind them.  God can use anything.  Or nothing.  When He created the earth, it took only a word.   For David, God used a stone.  For Noah, a boat.  For Jesus' act of sacrifice, He used a cross. 

There are things in our lives that through Him, are powerful.  But without Him, nothing has any power in our lives.

So what's your "rod"?  A pen?  A computer?  A textbook?  Your voice or your hands or your feet?  Without Him, everything we have is nothing.

But with Him, anything we have can be everything we need.

~ "With God all things are possible" ~
Matthew 19:26

Thursday, July 19, 2012

So, what do you think?

"they enter and dwell there"
Luke 11:26

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?  Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  Or does it depend what's in the glass and how thirsty you are?

Actually, a friend of mine once told me, it depends if you're drinking it or pouring it.  That one made a lot of sense to me.

But I'll tell you what's important to note:  the glass is always full.   Because even if it's not full of liquid (or popcorn or jello or graham cracker crumbs or anything else), air comes in to fill that space.  I guess that's what is meant by the saying "nature abhors a vacuum".  I'm not sure I know enough about science to be sure that's true.  Certainly things are different in outer space than they are here on earth.  So maybe it's not entirely true.  The only thing I know for a fact is that children abhor vacuuming... 

But you know that in normal circumstances, here on earth, any space emptied of any substance is automatically filled with air.  Nothing empty stays empty for long.  That's also true, by the way, of cleaned off countertops, closet shelves, and women's purses.

And it's true of you and me.

In Luke 11, Jesus cast a demon out of a man, and shortly afterward, told the disciples the following:  "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he {the spirit} goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

Here's another way to put it:  Pulling weeds out of a garden only leaves room for more to grow back.  If you want to prevent the weeds, you need to plant something else in that space.  You might still have to pull some weeds, but there'll be a whole lot fewer of them, when there's less space for them. 

Do you see what's being illustrated here?  Taking steps to remove something negative in our lives ~ whether it's habits, actions or thoughts ~ is only half the battle.  You need to then fill the hole you've created in your schedule or your mind. 

If it's something in your calendar, there are plenty of options for you to fill the holes.  Attending a church, finding a Bible Study, listening to a sermon online, getting together with people you know are living for Him.... not to mention prayer, reading and studying the Bible on your own.

If you're working to rid yourself of negative thoughts or even desires that aren't right for you, it's a little harder.  Our minds can quickly and frequently return to places we don't want them to.  The answer here, in one word is:  Word.  The word is Word.  His Word is the only word you need!  There is a verse for every situation you come across, and this where study comes in, because sometimes you have to go looking for what you need.

Got a problem with anger?  Find a verse on love or forgiveness and remind yourself of it whenever your thoughts wander where you don't want them.

Fighting with desires or coveting, outside of what is God's will for you?  Find a verse on wanting His will, or on serving others.

Feeling discouraged, or low on faith?  Read a gospel, and remind yourself of what He did for you.  Then read Revelation, and remind yourself of what He's going to do.

Take out what doesn't belong in your life, and fill it with what does. 

~ "Finally, brethren, 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,
things of virtue, things which are praiseworthy,
meditate on these" ~
Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A land of rivers of water

"There the majestic Lord will be for us;
a place of broad rivers and streams"
Isaiah 33:21

We took a lot of pictures when we were camping last month.  The Apple of my Eye, and my Awesome Girl are both wonderful photographers.  Amazing Boy and I also love to take pictures, but neither of us has much chance to get our hands on the camera!

So Awesome Girl took most of the pictures when we were camping, and if you look through the pictures that she took, you'll see wonderful shots of trees, and mountains, and flowers and pine cones, and family and friends in various activities like fishing, toasting marshmallows and hiking.

But I think, what there is the most of, are pictures of the river.   There's just something about water, isn't there?

I got to thinking about this the other evening, during a rainstorm.   I just love a summertime downpour!  And the good thing about summer rain is that we can have some windows open, cuz it's not too cold.  I just love listening to the rain.  Running water is such a soothing sound.   Even the smell of rain is pleasant. 

We've got a fountain in our backyard, too, for the days it's not raining.  Which is most of them.   It's nice because we can hear the trickling of it even if we're inside the house, and if we're outside, we can both hear it and see it.   Water can be just as interesting to watch as it is to listen to.  Isn't it wonderfully mesmerizing to just sit and watch it bubble, or go by in a stream, or come crashing to the shore or fall from a great height?

All of this is why my girl took so many pictures of the river when we were there.  The sight, the sound, the smell.... beautiful...

"He brought streams out of the rock, 
and caused waters to run down like rivers"
Psalm 78:16

"A river went out of Eden to water the garden"
Genesis 2:10

"Let the rivers clap their hands, 
let the hills be joyful together before the Lord!"
Psalm 98:8

"When you pass through the rivers, I will be with you"
Isaiah 43:2

"There will be on every high mountain,
and on every high hill, 
rivers and streams of waters"
Isaiah 30:25

"A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, 
proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb" 
Revelation 22:1

"He shall be like a tree planted by the waters, 
which spreads out its roots by the river"
Jeremiah 17:8

"The waters of the river, strong and mighty"
Isaiah 8:7

"They went through the river on foot.
There we will rejoice in Him."
Psalm 66:6

"like gardens by the riverside, 
like aloes planted by the Lord, 
like cedars beside the waters"
Numbers 24:6

"There is a river whose streams 
 shall make glad the city of God"
Psalm 46:4

"You visit the earth and water it, 
You greatly enrich it; 
the river of God is full of water"
Psalm 65:9

"All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; 
to the place from which the rivers come, 
there they return again"
Ecclesiastes 1:7

There's just something about water, isn't there?

~ "he who believes in Me... 
out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" ~
John 7:38

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do you have your share?

"You know the word which the Lord said"
Joshua 14:6

Analyzing words in Scripture is one of my favorite ways of studying the Bible.  Finding out what words mean, and comparing how certain words are used in varying places is always kind of intriguing to me.

One word that's always been especially interesting to me is the word "portion".  It's used several times in Scripture, and usually it has the meaning of someone getting a part of something, as in "And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.  But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah." (1 Samuel 1:4-5)

But it's also used several times referring to God.  And one time referring to you and me.  And frankly, it's those usages that have had me pondering and wondering.  There aren't very many words that can be used to describe both God and us.  

For example:

"Oh Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup"~  Psalm 16:5
"God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" ~ Psalm 73:26
"You are my portion, O Lord" ~ Psalm 119:57
"The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him" ~ Lamentations 3:24

He is our portion. 

"The Lord's portion is His people" ~ Deuteronomy 32:9

We are His portion. 

So how can this be?  How He be what we are, and we be what He is?

The word in the original language is cheleq, and it has several definitions, that I think explain how the word can be applied in such different ways.

In the first examples, it means share or inheritance, or an individual's lot.  A good example is in the book of Numbers, where God tells Aaron that he and his family ~ the priests ~ do not receive any land in Canaan.  Chapter 18, verse 20:  "You shall have no inheritance in the land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel."

He is what we need; what we deserve for our faith in Him.  He is our reward. 

In the the Deuteronomy usage, it uses the definition "possession" and more particularly, "a chosen possession". 

We are His chosen; His beloved. 

See?  Scripture may seem confusing at times, but with study, there's always an explanation. 

A beautiful explanation. 

~ "I am my beloved's,
     And my beloved is mine" ~
Song of Solomon 6:3

Monday, July 16, 2012

We shall never see anything lovely as a tree

"one cuts a tree from the forest,
the work of the hands of the workman,
with the ax.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with nails and hammers
so that it will not topple"
Jeremiah 10:3-4

I love trees.  I think that's mostly because I love shade.  But I also love the variety and diversity among trees.  The leaves, the trunks, the flowers, the seeds, the height and girth.  It's fascinating how much can be different among creations that are so much alike.

I got a book on trees a few Christmases ago, and was astonished to learn that you can differentiate between pine trees by how many needles there are to a cluster or by how their pine cones grow ~ hanging down or pointing up.

I love the variety in flowers on trees ~ and the fact that some trees have none.   I love the different shades of green ~ and the fact that some trees aren't green at all.

Trees are beautiful.  Their trunks, their branches, their leaves...

So why do we cut them down?  Well, because in addition to being beautiful, they are also useful.  Furniture, houses, objects of value and beauty can all be made from trees.  And I think God intends it that way.  God intended for us to make responsible use of the earth and its treasures.

But in this verse, the purpose for these cut down trees, was idols.  The children of God were cutting down trees, to make idols.  They cut them down, then decorated the resulting lumber to make it beautiful ~ which it already had been ~ and then rigging them to stand upright ~ which they already had been.

And then, they worshiped these decorations, the work of their own hands, instead of worshiping He who had created the trees themselves.  

It's a dangerous trap.  God created us to be creators ~ artists, carpenters, songwriters, chefs, poets... but are we more fond of what we've built than we are of Him who gave us the talent? 

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow as lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
{Joyce Kilmer, 1886-1918}

Worship the One who created the trees ~ and the One who created you!

~ "the trees of the woods
      shall rejoice before the Lord" ~ 
1 Chronicles 16:33

Sunday, July 15, 2012

He has chosen wisely

"I have chosen you"
Haggai 2:23

I wasn't feeling well yesterday, 
and I didn't want to tidy my home 
or make dinner for my family.  

So why do it?

Because He has chosen me 
to be mother to these wonderful children, 
and wife to this wonderful man.


In the mornings I pray, 
and sometimes I can barely keep my eyes open.

So why do it?

Because He has chosen me to be His child, 
and receive His knowledge and love.


There are days I struggle with my ministry, 
and the things He has called me to do.

So why do them?

Because He has chosen me to serve others, 
to bring Him glory.


My sweet husband holds up our small family, 
and works selflessly to support us, 
in a job he doesn't enjoy.  
So why do it?

Because He has chosen him for us. 


They, and you, and I, have been chosen by Him 
to carry burdens we don't want, and don't understand.

So why do it? 

Because we have been chosen.


And the Lord will uphold those He has chosen.


~ "Choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve...
But as for me and my house,
we will serve the Lord" ~
Joshua 25:15

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fruits of the Spirit in unexpected places!

"the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"
Galatians 5:22-23

I took a nap the other day.  A short one.  Well, it was Sunday.  You know, the day of rest.  So I did.

And my cat napped with me.  So I guess you could say I had a cat-nap.   Very rewarding.... I can see why they do it all day.

It was so restful, lying there with my sweet little ball of fur.  And I thought, not for the first time, how much I love owning a cat.  She is sweet and gentle, and she brings me peace.  And that thought made me think about one of my favorite passages of Scripture ~ the fruits of the Spirit.  And then I started to think of how my cat and my dog are illustrations of these characteristics for me.   So I thought I'd share with you!

Love ~ this one is both of them.  They both have different ways of showing love to our family, but they both do.  Welcoming us when we come home, greeting us when we get up in the morning, or when we come into a room.  They encourage love from us, and they give it right back.

Joy ~ this one is mostly the dog.  The cat does make us laugh when she plays with something.  She still loves to be teased with a feather or a string ~ if she's not napping, that is.   But I have to say that our dog is the most joyful.  Energetic, playful, easily excitable.  And when she's happy, she even looks like she's smiling.

Peace ~ as I've discussed, I'm going to give the edge to the kitty on this one.  Serene and quiet... even her movements are, well, as agile as a cat.   Unless of course, she's chasing a string.  But the dog gets points for peace, too.  Peace of mind.  She's a great watchdog, and it helps me be at peace to know she's there.

Patience ~ seems like the cat should get the edge here.  She's mellow and calm and rarely in a hurry.  But I think her apathy disqualifies her from the category of patience.  Why should she get points for waiting patiently when she doesn't care?  That's not patience.  Besides, if her food bowl is empty, she's far from patient.  Even if it's 3:00 in the morning....

The dog, on the other hand, displays patience every single day.  If she wants to go out, she politely asks at the back door, and then waits for us.  On the off chance we don't notice her, she will run to one of us, then run back and sit patiently again.

But the real reason she wins the patience award is for her behavior when the Apple of my Eye gets home from work.  As I've mentioned before, she adores him.  So when his car pulls in the driveway, and the garage door opens, she gets very excited.  But she knows she's not allowed to leave the house.  And that she has to wait for him to come in, and say hi to his people before he says hi to her.  So she sits, trembling and whimpering until she gets the command to come.  And then, boy oh boy, does she come.  But not until she's allowed.  And the patience she shows while she's waiting is admirable.

Kindness ~ The next couple of these are hard to define in a pet, but I really think both of them are kind.  They both come when you call them ~ yes, even the cat! ~ and jump up in your lap to cuddle with you.  It's one of the reasons I chose this particular cat from the shelter.  We had gone into the little room where you can sit with a cat to get to know them, and even though she didn't know us at all, when I patted my lap, she came and sat down.  That's a nice trait to have in a pet.  :)

Goodness ~ Another tricky one, but there are a lot of definitions for the word good.  The first says "to be desired or approved of" ~  That's the dog, for sure.   She practically says, "how am I doing?  Are you happy?  Can I help you with something?  Do you love me?"

The next definition says "pleasing and welcome" ~ that's both of them.  They make us happy.

"Expressing approval" ~ that's the dog.  She always makes you feel like you've done something wonderful, even if all you've done is get out of bed in the morning.

"Having specific needed qualities" ~ well that's both of them, too.  The cat has what she needs to be a cat; the dog is a successful dog.

Faithfulness ~ This, I think, is both of them, too.  Both are true and loyal in their own way.  There's no insincerity to either of them, so they are who you expect them to be.  You can count on each of them, you know? 

Gentleness ~  Gotta give the edge to the cat here.  The dog has a certain charming clumsiness to her.  She'll walk right over you as soon as lick ya.  But the cat has that wonderful gentleness that only cats have.  Padding along on velvet paws, jumping up on the bed with barely an impact.  Delicate and gentle.

And finally:  Self-control ~ As I've mentioned, the dog is pretty good at obeying, even if the command is "wait," and even if what she's waiting for, is a piece of dropped food.  Now, if she can grab it before you notice it, she will.  But if you head her off and tell her to sit, she will.  And sometimes, when she wants to go out, and the cat wants to come in, and I don't want her to run right over the cat {see: the dog's lack of "Gentleness"...} I will tell the dog to sit, and then open the door.  The cat walks in, while the dog just sits looking up at me, not really knowing why she's waiting.  Then I give her the release command, and off she runs.  She doesn't necessarily understand why I had her wait, but she did as she was told.  

I really believe it was part of God's plan all along, for us to have a relationship with animals.  Not just for the love and affection, but for what we can learn from them, too!

~ "And God made the beasts of the earth...
And God saw that it was good" ~
Genesis 1:25

Friday, July 13, 2012

Schedule it in

"In the morning...
He went out...
and He prayed"
Mark 1:35

Are you a morning person?  If so, I admire you.  Mornings are so beautiful, so quiet and cool and peaceful... The earlier, the more so.

Or so I understand from those who've been there...

Me?  Not so much.  I really only get up early under duress.  And my idea of "early" is probably what you'd consider shameful... unless you subscribe to the same theory I do, in which case you'd think I'm perfectly logical.  Either way, I'm not going to tell you.  You can just imagine, and then judge me accordingly.

Or let's do this:  if you're an early riser, let's just say I get up a half an hour after you get up.  If you're a late riser, I get up a half hour earlier than you...

When I do get up, though, the first thing I do is turn on the TV.  It helps me to get my eyes open; helps me wake up.  Usually I turn on the news for a few minutes ~ not too long; it can be a depressing way to start your day.  Or I turn on a home improvement channel or ESPN.  To be honest, there's really not much on in the morning if you don't want news.  I mean, there's something on every channel, but unless you want to be told what's wrong with you, you probably aren't interested.

Because the most predominant thing on in the mornings, is infomercials.  And they're happy to tell you what's wrong with you, and how they can help you.

Honestly, they seem to be on 90% of the channels.  Makeup and skin care, hair care products, hair growth products, hair removal projects, exercise equipment, diet helps of various kinds.  If you want to be a better you, there's a product out there for you.  

I find this ironic when I think about what Scripture tells us Jesus did first thing in the morning.  He prayed.  

Now, doesn't that sound like a great way to improve yourself?
~ "stand every morning
to thank and praise the Lord,
and likewise at evening" ~
1 Chronicles 23:30

Thursday, July 12, 2012

S'wonderful... s'marvelous!

"His name will be called
Isaiah 9:6

Have you ever heard that saying, "What if you woke up this morning, with only the things you thanked God for yesterday" ?  It's a very thought-provoking reminder of all He does for us, and all we have to thank Him for.

But the other day I was discussing miracles with a friend of mine.  We were thinking, "what if God took back from us anything we didn't recognize as a miracle from Him?"  Then we started to think about the different definitions people have of miracles.  What exactly constitutes a miracle?  My dictionary says that a miracle is defined as "a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency."

A divine agency??  What the heck?  Apparently my dictionary is not Christian... 

Anyhow... the second definition says "a highly improbable or extraordinary event; an outstanding or amazing product or achievement".

And the origin?  This is a good one.  It comes from the Latin for wonderful ~ as in:  something that makes you wonder.  The origin of the word is almost better than the definitions.  A miracle is something that makes you wonder.

You see, my friend and I were disagreeing as to what exactly constitutes a miracle.  I think that she was thinking of a miracle by the first definition ~ something that can only be explained as a work of God.   I was going by the idea that a miracle is something "highly improbable" or more accurately in my circumstance at the time ~ something surprising and welcome, but unexpected. 

And that's why I think the word wonderful is the best description for a miracle.  Because an event can be perfectly explainable, and yet still make you wonder why, or even why now?  And that, I think, is where God comes in.  Because He is the what and the when and the why of everything in our lives.  We have choices, but not always about what happens to us.

All the more reason to be aware of all He does in our lives.  And all the more reason to acknowledge them.

~ "Pause and wonder!" ~
Isaiah 29:9

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Growing in spite of weakness

"you have a little strength"
Revelation 3:8

My in-laws moved to Texas last year.  It's been fun for us to visit them and explore a part of the country that's new to us, but it's hard to suddenly live far away from family.

One thing that's made it a little easier ~ besides the wonder of instant communication, of course ~ is that my in-laws gave us several things before they left.  Just a few accessories and a few pieces of furniture that they decided were unnecessary, or not important enough for them to pack and move halfway across the country.   So we've got these little reminders all over our house.  Our bedspread, our kitchen table, some dishes.... all used to belong to them.

Some of my favorite new possessions, though, are my plants.  Rather than transporting them, my mother-in-law gave all her plants to her friends and neighbors ~ and me.  I love plants.  They don't always love me, however.... I've been to nurseries where the plants tried to scooch behind each other when they saw me coming.

Okay, not really....

And most of the plants are doing beautifully.  I think I've only lost one.  Okay, maybe two....  But the rest are doing beautifully.

They are some indoor and some outdoor plants, but the one that I think is my favorite is one of the outdoor plants.  It sits against a post, under our patio cover, and is visible from where I sit to do school with the kids, so I can see it all the time.  And, it flowers, so I never know when there's going to be a little spot of pink  ~ or two or three ~ to brighten my day. 

The bad thing about the location of this particular plant is that, that while it's in a position for me to see it frequently, it also is in position to be in the line of fire, as far as backyard activity.  Which, despite that violent-sounding expression, does not mean that our backyard activities include gunfire...

They do, however, include playing fetch with the dog, in which the ball is not thrown by the human participant, but shot with a hockey stick.  We have a couple of hockey players in the house, so the sticks are handy, and they enable you to play fetch without having to bend over and pick up a slobbery ball.

So the plant risks being banged by a hockey stick or stray ball, the dog itself, or any one of a number of other activities that goes on in our backyard.

And sure enough, there's been an injury to the plant. A small branch has been broken.

See how the branch is brown where it meets the dirt?
The main part of the plant is fine.  It's happy; it's green; it's blooming nicely.

But you know what?  So's the broken branch.

This is the broken branch.  See how green?
Somehow I guess a little bit of water is still managing to come up that sad brown stem, so that the upper part of the branch, and the leaves attached to it, are happy and green.  Small, but happy.

Beautiful!  Sorry there's no flowers right now...
It kind of amazes me to see how well this branch is doing, despite the fact that the base of it is broken.  And it made me think of this verse in Revelation.  I first came upon this verse about three years ago, and it touched me very personally.  The whole thing goes like this:  "I know your works.  See, I have set before you and open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name."

This is the part of Revelation where John has something to say ~ from Jesus ~ to seven different churches.  This particular part is spoken to the church at Philadelphia, and I just love the praise in it.  I was going through a very difficult time in my life, and I felt He was speaking to me through this verse.  And I felt that He wanted me to know that He was pleased with me.  It was so eye-opening to know that having a little strength was enough. 

Is it something He wants you to know, too?  Are you feeling like you only have a little strength?

It's okay.  Keep His Word, and do not deny His name.  And know that your little bit of strength is enough.

~ "He gives power to the weak,
and to those who have no might
He increases strength" ~
Isaiah 40:29

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Knowing which way is up

"the wisdom of the world
    is foolishness with God"
1 Corinthians 3:19

Have you ever had a circumstance in your life that was painful, difficult, or uncomfortable? 

I thought so.

Me too. 

And have you ever looked at a picture of yourself during that difficult time, and then felt that same feeling that you had felt?  For instance, when I was in the hospital giving birth the first time (my Awesome Girl) there was one picture of me that was taken before I had the epidural.  In other words, one photo when I was miserable.  There were photos taken afterwards, where I was smiling, and just waiting (fairly) patiently for things to progress.  But in this one particular shot, I was most definitely not smiling.  And any time I see that photo, I am uncomfortably reminded of how miserable I was at that time. I can almost feel it again, all these years later.

I had a similar, albeit less painful, experience last year while visiting San Antonio, Texas.  We were in a museum that included a "fun house" of sorts, and one of the things to experience was a long narrow room in which the floor was set at a very steep angle.  It was amazing how easily our sense of equilibrium can be thrown off!

You can see that both of my kids are able to stand, at a very steep angle, without falling over.   Amazing Boy had his hands on the walls, but only because he was trying to press his luck! :)

Here you can see that the tennis balls are staying at the "high" end of the bar, as if they're defying gravity.

Now, I was taking all these pictures from outside the "slanted zone".  There were "windows" cut into the walls of the slanted room, so that those who didn't want to participate could still watch those who did.

And why would someone not want to participate in the slanted room?  Because it makes some people nauseated, that's why.  I speak from experience.  I tried.  And I quickly left the weird zone, and watched my family enjoy instead.  And even now, when I look at these pictures, it makes my stomach a little queasy, and my head a little achy to remember!

But it also was a good lesson to me; one that I still remember.  Because when I decided to come out of the slanted room, even though I'd only been in there a matter of seconds, it was hard to get my footing back.  My equilibrium had decided that the "abnormal" was normal.  The flat part now seemed weird, and my body no longer trusted what had been fact just a short time before.  It was even worse for my family, who spent several minutes in there.

The Apple of my Eye back on "terra firma", and Amazing Boy still messing with his equilibrium!
I think this can happen to us if we're not careful.  God's Word gives us the model and the instructions for what's supposed to be "normal," but we're having to walk through this very slanted world, and it's easy to lose our equilibrium.  The ways of the world can start to make sense to us, if we're not reminding ourselves frequently of how we are to live.

We have to do our best to make sure that what the world calls "normal" doesn't become our standard.  And man, it's hard.  TV, movies, ads, magazines... the input is incredible, so our determination has to be strong.  Reading the Bible every day, going to church, and hanging out with people who do, are what's going to keep us on the straight and narrow.  Or rather, the straight and flat.

~ "Teach me Your way, O Lord,
and lead me in a smooth path" ~
Psalm 27:11