Sunday, December 31, 2006

Christmas gifts...

This is the last day of the year, but I'd like to share a few thoughts about Christmas, before the holidays are completely gone.

Whenever the Christmas season comes around, I seem to be surrounded by two main schools of thought.

1) The secular view of Christmas with Santa Claus and commercialism is, of course, very prevalent today.

2) Then there are the Christians who rant and rave (or simply preach, more mildly) that Christmas is not about buying gifts for people and making wish lists... so while plenty of them go ahead and give and receive gifts anyway, they almost seem to talk about it in a regretful, apologetic sort of way, as if they really shouldn't be succumbing to the world's version of Christmas. After all, they know that Christmas is really about celebrating Jesus' birth... even if He wasn't really born on December 25th.

But I have another point of view… one that I never notice anyone talking about, or enjoying the way I do. I'd like to explain it the way I did to my kids.

They once asked me, "Mommy why, if it's Jesus' birthday, do we get presents?" So I told them about Matthew 25, where Jesus said this: "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me."

Then I asked them if they could wrap up a present and hand it to Jesus to unwrap on His birthday. They answered 'no,' of course. And truthfully, even if we could, there isn't any thing that we could give to the Creator and King of the universe anyway! But... He said that when we give to others... He feels like we are giving that gift to Him. And He's not talking about obligatory gift-giving with no thought and caring behind it. He's talking about giving to the needy, of course... but I also think this applies to gifts for those who might not be financially needy, but who, perhaps, need someone to show God's love to them. Maybe your parents could use some appreciation... maybe your siblings could use something that says you love them despite everything... maybe your co-workers need to know that someone cares.

This puts a whole new spin on Christmas gift-giving doesn't it? When we're looking for a gift for someone on our list, and we're getting frustrated because we can't find anything... what attitude do we take? What are the thoughts that are going through our heads? Would they be any different if it was Jesus' name on our list?

What if we were Mary or Lazarus, and Jesus was coming over for His birthday dinner? Would we just buy the first thing we saw that was half-way suitable? Would we be thinking about return policies and gift receipts? I don't think so... not if we really loved Him. Some of us would do what the woman with the alabaster perfume did and spend our life's savings to buy a perfect gift. Others of us might take some precious time out of our days to weave the fabric and to sew a new cloak. Maybe others of us would make His favorite meal for Him. We would all want to give Him a gift that showed Him our love, in some way.

And that's what I like to do at Christmas. I like each gift that I give to show that person that I love him or her... and hopefully also remind them that God loves them as well. If they need encouragement, then I want my gift to give them encouragement. If they need to know that they're forgiven, then I want my gift to show them that I, at least, forgive them, and if I do, then God certainly does. If they need to feel appreciated... to know that they're important… then I want my gift to show that I spent either time or money or thought on them because they are worth it to me. Sometimes my gifts only cost a few dollars, and other times, when God has financially blessed us, they are more expensive. But I always hope that my gift recipients can see the love that went into it, because that's what is important to me.

So if you're one of those people who hate the commercialism and pressure of the holidays... if you're stuck thinking that you have to give gifts at Christmas... if you want to get back to the real meaning of Christmas, but aren't sure exactly how to do that... then try this next year. Make your list of people to give to. (Notice I said 'give to' not 'buy for.') Then pray for each person and ask God to give you a gift idea, within your budget, that will minister to that person in some small way. I guarantee that you'll rediscover the joy in gift-giving.

And then you can join me in saying: "I give gifts, because it's Jesus' birthday! And giving gifts to those He died for, is one small way to show that I have given myself to Him."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Problem with a picture of heaven...

My daughter was making a picture the other day. It had a shining man in a robe, standing at the end of a path, a fence with a gate off on one side, a tree with flowers on the other side, three rainbows criss-crossing each other across the sky, and other typical things found in nine-year-old girl's pictures.

"Mommy," she asked. "Do you know what this is a picture of?"

I didn't really bother to try to guess... I just said the usual, "It's pretty, what is it?"

"It's what I think heaven is like," she said. She went on to describe it in detail, pointing out each thing.

Then she went back to drawing and coloring, and later came and said, "Look, Mommy. I'm almost done. Can you see what I still have to color?" I pointed out some flowers were still white. "Uh huh," she said. "I still have to color the curbing, too, though."

I shoved down a laugh at that. I have never, ever, even once thought that there might be curbing in heaven! (For those of you who don't live in Florida or some other place where curbing is used in landscaping... it's colored concrete, laid down in curved 'curbs' along the edges of flower beds, between the beds and the grass.) But my daughter, having lived in Florida for most of her life, considers curbing to be a part of every well-landscaped yard... therefore, heaven must have curbing, too!

It got me to thinking, though, about heaven, and different people's conceptions of it. The Bible has a number of descriptions that we try to take into consideration, but I think most of us do the same thing... we take our favorite, most beautiful parts of the earth, we take out anything that might be considered an imperfection, and we imagine it in heaven. The problem is that our most incredible imaginings still fall far short.

When it comes right down to it, though, it doesn't really matter, does it? God made it to be perfect. And if there's anyone who would know how to make something perfect... for everyone all at the same time... it's God.

What is important is what my daughter mentioned when she was finished with her picture. She was observing her handiwork with satisfaction, for the most part.

"That's how I think heaven is," she said to herself, "except the gate. I should have drawn it open. That's how it always is, you know."

Out of the mouth of babes...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

God's provision isn't...

It's been a little while since I posted, I know... life's been busy. We've had our house on the market, dropped our asking price twice, finally got a buyer, encountered problems, worked out problems, encountered more problems, heard they got worked out, had the whole sale fall through, found out there might be a possibility of resurrecting the sale, had those hopes dashed... *sigh* You get the picture.

I find myself struggling between "taking it easy" trusting that God will work things out... and wondering why it sometimes seems that God isn't content with merely exercising our faith and trust and patience... He always seems to want to stretch it! But no sooner had I thought that last sentence out, then a lightbulb went off in my head. Of course! God's never content with letting us remain where we're at... He wants us to grow! Haven't I said as much on this blog? It's amazing how fast we forget things sometimes... you know?

For us, this whole moving thing is stretching us in so many ways, because we're almost starting over in so many ways. (...whenever it happens, of course.) When we first made these plans... well over a year ago... the real estate market here was booming. Our home was worth roughly three times what we paid for it, 5 years ago. We anticipated selling it and having a fantastic nest egg to use for our new start. But it didn't happen. The real estate market was starting its drop off as we were making those plans. Our house has lost so much of its recent value that we've lost almost 50% of that nest egg we thought we'd have. Yes, it's still worth over twice what we paid for it... but the loss of that money has challenged us. We don't have what we thought we needed, to follow through on the plans we had made.

So where does that leave us? Trusting God, of course, but sometimes it's easier said than done.

I'd like to share something about my husband. He is a giver. He is one of the most generous people I've ever met, in fact. And sometimes it's hard for me to accept that. There have been times when he's given money that I thought we needed... or would need soon. There's been times when we've been given a gift and he's passed it on to someone else more needy... and I'm sitting here thinking, "Wait a minute! What if God meant that gift for us! We need it!"

But I've come to realize that this giving heart that he has is a gift... to ME. It is, perhaps, one of the most valuable qualities that he has... one of biggest things I would loose out on if I lost him. See... I've always known that when you give, you plant a seed... a seed that always bears fruit. But more recently I've come to have a vauge realization that I really don't understand how many harvests I have gotten to partake of, merely because I am his wife. How many blessings would we have not gotten if the seed-planting was up to me? Really? Yes, I like to give, too, but I have to admit that I am usually only glad to give out of our abundance. I have a hard time giving some of our daily bread. The problem with that is this... the Bible says that there is a "time for planting and a time for reaping"... not "there is a time for reaping and planting, and a time for doing nothing." Which is exactly what I would probably end up doing.

My sister sent a link to an article a former pastor of hers had written. It was about money and how it has both a bright side and a dark side... it can be both a blessing and a curse. Much of the article (here, if you're interested) covers ground that God has already shown me in the past. But there was one sentance in there that really shook me... revealed me to myself.

"When you give, you defy the fear that you won't have enough."

And oh, how true that is. When we hear of someone that is needy, and I know my husband's mind starts thinking about giving to them, what do I do? I usually start mentally calculating how much we can spare... how much we can get by without, just in case he asks for my input. But that's not the point, is it? God's provision isn't for my plans... it's for His!

Better that I learn to just ask God how much He wants me to give and leave the provision for tomorrow up to Him. Better that I remember all of the times that He's dropped gifts on us straight from Heaven. Better that I take my trust in my Heavenly Father to a deeper level... to stop trusting that He will provide for my plans, and know that He's already taken care of the provision for His plans.

So I'm off on this adventure... to learn the deeper secret found in giving... to remember that God never promised to provide for my plans... to once again surrender and find out how much better God's plans are... to watch God blow my mind again with His provision and grace.

"For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation. " - Psalm 33:9-11

"The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps." - Proverbs 16:9

"Many plans are in a man's heart,
But the counsel of the LORD will stand." - Proverbs 19:21

"O LORD, You are my God;
I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name;
For You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. " - Isaiah 25:1

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,'
declares the LORD,
'Plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope.'" - Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, October 05, 2006

God of all my dreams...

A short while back I was in the mood for a new praise and worship CD.

Now, for those lurkers on here who don’t know me, I am a worshiper… someone who thinks that there is nothing better in life than singing my heart out in worship to the God of all the universe, who just so happens to also be my best friend.*smiling here* It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to learn that the bulk of my music library is praise and worship music.

So I was browsing around online, and trying to find one with clips that made me think, “I’ve GOT to hear the rest of these songs!” The new Hillsongs CD “Mighty To Save” was coming out, but I was a bit disappointed with the last CD, and the clips for the new one weren’t grabbing my attention like I wished they did... like “Blessed” and “Hope” and “For All You’ve Done” and “You Are My World” did.

So, while I knew I’d get that one anyway, trusting that it would be better than the clips showed, I wanted to find something new.

I wandered over to Integrity’s website to see what they had, and they were featuring a new first-time release called “Living For You” from a church called Gateway Church in Dallas.

The write-up said that it’s one of the fastest growing churches in America, being huge already and only six years old and stuff like that, but, in all honesty, that doesn’t mean much to me. It almost makes me skeptical sometimes.

But it’s a fact that the only churches who have the ways and means to release live music CDs of any quality (musically) are usually big churches.

Sooo… I clicked on the links… and found one of the most powerful CDs that I’ve heard since Hillsong’s “For All You’ve Done” was recorded in 2004.

I could go on and on here about the songs on Living for You, and how much I like them (8 of the 13 songs on the CD I consider 5-star), but I wanted to share how the last song on the CD has ministered to me.

It’s called "Who You Are." It plays with the power of an anthem, yet it’s so easy to learn that it only took two times through and I had most of it memorized. (Yes, I hit repeat as soon as it had finished playing it for the first time… and the second time… and the third time. Then I was anxious to go back to the beginning of the CD and hear the others again. *smile*)

This song just seems to release hope into my spirit when I listen to it and sing it.
The words to the chorus go like this: “Because of who You are \ I can live with hope \ Knowing that You’ll always be \ God of all my dreams \ Everything I want to be \ Is found in You.”

That phrase, “God of all my dreams” spoke to me so much.

It has a double meaning.

One meaning places God inside the dream, and one places Him outside of it… one meaning originates within us, and the other within God. Our part of it is to make God the God of our dreams… to keep our dreams for our future and for our children and our loved ones submitted to Him and His will... to make Him the center of our dreams.

BUT… oh the wonder of realizing that God is infinitely capable of making the dreams of our heart come true! He is so much bigger than our dreams. Though we should place Him inside the center of our dreams, He can’t be contained there. In fact, He holds our future and the realization of those dreams in the palm of His hand! In reality, all of this is nothing more than what Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I guess it just ministered to me in a fresh way, coming through a song.

Here it is:
 

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A useless warrior...

Once someone in an e-group asked all of the “prayer warriors” on the list a question. It was something along the lines of: "How do you keep up with all of the prayer requests that people ask you to pray for?"

Now I do NOT consider myself to be a prayer warrior, but nonetheless, I felt I had a little bit of insight to offer, so I started typing. As it turned out, it was a good question for me to try to answer, because as I typed what little I had, God started giving me more... so I was both receiving and sharing at the same time.

You see, I used to have that problem, too. I tried keeping prayer lists, but then I felt like I was just handing the list to God... which made no sense because He could read it on my paper just as easily as He could hear me read it aloud. So I'd try really praying something specific each day for everyone on the list... and it took so long that whoever ended up at the end of the list never got prayed for. So I tried splitting the list up between days... and so forth and so on. Of course, I'd repeatedly "drop the ball" and never even get started on the list. It seemed like I got hit with guilt because I wasn’t succeeding, no matter what I tried… which made it even more tempting to just quit entirely.

But gradually I began to realize something. I began to see that each of us is not a one-man army. There are thousands of people and things that need prayer, BUT there are also thousands of praying people out there who are capable of praying! I finally realized that I am not called to be a part of every battle that I see. God has specific battles that He has called me to be a part of, and plenty others that He has called others to be a part of. Imagine a battle where every soldier was rushing around trying to fight on every single front at once... it's impossible! He wouldn't be any good to the commander at all… he'd be a completely useless warrior! Instead, he must fight in the battles that he is ordered to fight in, and trust that the commander has assigned adequate soldiers to whatever other battles are going on.

When I realized this, a huge burden of guilt rolled away... I realized that I am not supposed to pray for every prayer request that passes my way! I am only supposed to follow the orders of my Commander and intercede as He leads me to.

Then an equally astonishing revelation followed... I saw how the devil can actually use prayer requests to distract us from the battles that God has sent us to! For example, God may be calling me to intercede for several unsaved members of my family, my pastor, and the abortion issue... and instead of really fighting in those battles in the way that He wants me to, I sometimes just do a little hitting around and then rush off to pray for Iraq, Israel, the little girl that's lost on the news, the friend that has financial difficulties, etc. Yes, those things DO need prayer... but we must listen to our Commander, and trust that, if He hasn't called us to pray for the little girl that's lost on the news, then He has called others to do it. if He hasn't called us to intercede for our friend with financial difficulties, then He has called others to help fight that battle. In the same way, He may NOT have called others to pray for those unsaved family members, so if we don't do it, no-one will!!!

Doesn’t this make sense? I'm not saying that I quit sending up quick prayers for the requests that I hear about... I'm saying that, as I send up that first quick prayer, I check to see whether it’s something that the Lord really wants me to "go to war about" or if He tells me that this one is not my battle. I wait to see if He gives me a burden for that person or circumstance.

So when I finally realized this, my prayers started getting much more powerful and effective. I began to see that when I focused on the requests that He laid on my heart, He would then direct me in those battles... instead of just praying "God bless them" or "send them money," He would give me insight on how to pray... to pray that their eyes would be opened in a particular area, to come against certain things, etc...

Why am I sharing this now? Well… to be perfectly honest, I’ve been slacking off in my prayer life lately. I still chat with God throughout the day quite often, but I let myself get so busy that I quit checking for instructions from my Commander. I’ve realized this recently, and God has been challenging me… asking me to step back under His command.

I don’t want to be a useless warrior…

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Everyday Miracles...

Everyday Miracles... that’s what my Mom called little things that happen in the daily lives of God’s children that would have probably happened differently if God hadn’t stepped in.

My Mom died last fall on September 10th… just five days before her 53rd birthday. While we were working on preparations for her memorial service we found that she had written a little book of testimonies and called it Everyday Miracles. She had then shared this book with a number of her friends… but she forgot to mention it to us! We were quite surprised, especially since she had said for years that she wanted to write a book!

We made copies of it available at her memorial service, and several dozen people asked for emailed versions of it, but all we knew how to do was send the Word document that Mom had formatted, and print off copies for Office Supply stores to ring-bind.

The requests for it kept slowly coming, however, so I started looking for some way to at least format it as an e-book. God provided by having someone tell me about Lulu, which is a self-publishing service.

So now I have the pleasure of sharing my Mom’s published book with the world. It has been fun - and somehow precious - to have been able to do this for her… to publish her book for her, since she never got the chance to do it.

So here is her little book… available as a free download or as a perfect-bound paperback at cost:



Everyday Miracles - by Karen McIver

Do you ever wonder if God really takes an interest in the daily lives of regular people? If so, then this little book is for you. Inside these pages, you will find 15 little stories of what the author calls Everyday Miracles. These are examples of how God does take an interest in the daily lives of His people… enough to reach down from Heaven and supernaturally alter circumstances.

Karen McIver was considered a miracle baby by doctors in 1954 when she became among the first to survive a Wilms’ tumor. She continually surpassed the expectations of doctors over her 53 years as she got married, bore and raised five children, and led a very full life. Perhaps this is why she was so able to see the small miracles that happen in the daily lives of those who have surrendered themselves to Jesus Christ. She called these happenings Everyday Miracles.

If you'd like to read the whole book, you can download it at:
http://www.lulu.com/content/397549

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

For women only...

I was in Wal-Mart today, feeling in the mood for something new to read, so I wandered over to the book aisle... and I ended up with a book that I think every Christian woman should read... especially if she's a wife who desires to really, truly, be the wife her husband needs. Here's how I happened to end up with it.

Wal-Mart has a decent Christian section, so I checked it out, mostly looking at the fiction books to see if an author there interested me. But right above them were these two little books that caught my eye. One was called For Women Only and the other For Men Only. I picked up the one For Women Only and read the back:
________________________
...the truth about his inner life
he desperately wants you to know...
________________________
"What's going on in there? Ever been totally confused by something your man has said or done? Want to understand his secret desires and fears, his daily battles that you know nothing about?
      In a woman-to-woman conversation you'll never forget, Shaunti Feldhahn takes you beneath the surface into the inner lives of men. This book is about the things we just don't "get" about guys. With findings from a groundbreaking national survey and personal interview of over one thousand men, For Women Only is full of eye-opening revelations you need to not only understand the man in your life, but to support and love him in the way he needs to be loved. Grounded in biblical hope, you will discover how to love your man for who he really is--not who you think he is."

That was enough to make me open the book and start reading... I won't start typing out the whole book here, but I will quote the two paragraphs on the second page that really made me want to read it:

      "Have you ever been totally confused by something the man in your life has said or done? Have you ever wondered, looking at his rapidly departing back, Why did that make him so angry? Have you ever been perplexed by your husband's defensiveness when you asked him to stop working so much? Yeah? Me too.
      "But now, after conducting spoken and written interviews with more than one thousand men, I can tell you that the answers to those and dozens of other common perplexities are all related to what is going on in your man's inner life. Most are things he wishes you knew but doesn't know how to tell you. In some cases, they're things he has no idea you don't know. This book will share those interviews an those answers. But be careful, ladies. You might be slapping your forehead a lot!"

Sooo..... have I got you interested? I hope so! Truthfully, I'm not sure exactly why those two paragraphs interested me so much. I've read the Mars & Venus books and learned a lot through them about how different men are from women... but those books aren't written by a Christian. So maybe that's why this little book (only 200 pocket-sized pages) interested me. But it did... so I read part of the first chapter there in the store, and then picked my rotisserie chicken back up off the floor where I'd set it and carried both over to the cash register. I came home, kept reading while I fixed rice and veggies to go with the chicken, kept reading while I ate, and finally finished the book while hubby was watching his movie.

And I am very, very glad that I bought it.

The thing about this book is... it's so simple and straightforward... and it's really "straight from the horse’s mouth." See... the author was doing research for a novel with a male main character, and she wanted the character to be realistic, with realistic struggles and problems that men deal with. So she started researching for the novel... and she started uncovering things that she couldn't believe were normal for men to think... so she used her influence to get some major surveys going with carefully crafted questions (so they weren't "set up" for pat answers) and found more and more that, as she said, "she hadn't happened to pick the weirdest 100 men on the planet!" With the help of her husband and pastor and other trusted male friends, she worked to truly understand exactly how normal and real these truths were... and then she set out to explain them to women in a way that women can understand!

This book is NOT a "get your husband to do what you want" book... it is rather an explanation of the wonderful way in which our husbands were created by God... which just so happen to be so different from us that we are understandably confused! I really loved the way she wrote it from her heart to the hearts of women who really truly want to help their husbands be all that they can be. She explains why our best-intentions so often backfire... and ways that they are backfiring more than we realize... yet in a way that just filled my heart with so much encouragement and hope. One of the most amazing things was which things men assume we understand... things that are so foreign to most of us women that we'd probably never even imagine it up if we tried!

I have to warn you that, if you are naive as to some of the struggles that men... even Christian men... have on a daily basis... then this book might have some shockers in it for you. Me... I got these shockers a number of years ago, so I was only glad to see that more women are becoming aware of these things. Why? Because the difficult-to-face truths that this book explains are, I believe, necessary for women today to be aware of... to help our men and pray for them. We have contributed to men's struggles and temptations far too much through our ignorance already.

And I have to tell you that the end of the book proves just how oh-so-worth-it it is, if we will truly desire to understand our husbands and truly desire to be the wives that they need. I actually choked up at the end, and for me, that is extremely rare.

So!... Here is a link to the book on Amazon.com so you can read the first several pages if you like, and also have a mental picture of what you will be looking for in the bookstore:

for women only

Me... I am going to go pick up a copy of for men only and find out if she's as right-on in that book (which is co-written with her husband, so as to be guy-to-guy) as she is in this one. I especially want to find out which things guys have no clue about. *smile*

Tell me if this little book meant as much to you as it did to me...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Write from your heart...

I forget how young I was when I first heard someone say that everyone should keep a journal. Somehow I got my hands on a pretty new journal notebook, and I made a solemn decision to write it in daily for the rest of my life.

So I started writing in it. I wrote whatever seemed to be the most noteworthy things in my young mind at the moment. And I kept it up daily… for a week or two, if it was even that long.

I repeated the whole process a number of times growing up, until the whole thing almost disgusted me. Oh… and I also added throwing out the ones that I started because I was embarrassed by what I had written. (Now, of course, I would love to get my hands on those so I could laugh at what I thought as a girl.)

It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that I realized that a journal doesn’t have to be regularly written in to be worth while. It also occurred to me that I could keep my Bible notes from church or Bible study in the same journal. And when I realized those two things, not only did my journal writing take off, but so also did my revelations of God. I found that when I wrote my thoughts and questions down on paper, it slowed me down enough that I was able to also start hearing God’s voice. See… I tend to be one of those people whose brain is constantly going a million miles an hour. On the rare occasions that it slows to a crawl, my husband usually asks me if I’m all right because I act like I’m in a daze compared to my usual self! LOL

Realistically… saying I think a million miles an hour is exaggerating… it’s probably a lot more accurate to say that it goes at about 800 words a minute. I once timed myself reading at about 500 words a minute, and I’ve found myself thinking things in-between lines of a book, so that should be about right. Sooo… even though I type at “only” 100 words per minute, it still forces my brain to slow down. When I kept my journal with pen and paper, instead of on the computer like I do now, it slowed me down even more. (I got tired of how long it took to hand write things out when typing is so much faster, so I switched two years ago. Plus, now it’s searchable. And when I pour my heart out in an email to someone, I can copy and paste that into my journal as well! I’m a child of the digital age, all right! *smile*)

So what I found was that when I forced my brain to slow down by writing/typing out my thoughts and feelings and questions, I gave God a chance to get a word in edgewise! That’s putting it bluntly, but I think it also puts it accurately.

Now I fire up the computer to write in my journal whenever I’ve got something majorly on my mind. Sometimes it helps so much, just to “get it out.” And I write in it when God shows me something fantastic… and when I’m going ‘round and ‘round in my head about something and I’m not getting any closer to a solution.

And when I don’t feel like I have anything to write about… when I feel empty… like God is a million miles away… I can open it up even then. Because if I ask God to show me a little something special, and then open my Bible… all I have to do is read until a verse makes me pause for some reason. Sometimes I pause with a “wow” and sometimes with a question, but if I start writing those thoughts in my journal, then I find myself writing things that I’m only just then realizing for the first time… and by the time I’m done with my journal entry, I realize that God has spoken to me again. Then I go write that date in the margin of my Bible… so any time I come across that verse and want to be reminded of what God showed me about it, all I have to do is open my journal to that date, and there it is.

My journal is not constant at all… I’ll go for months without writing much of anything, and then I’ll write pages every day for weeks on end. But that’s okay, too. Now I can go back through four years of journals and I see the value in them. Even the entries that seem young and childish to me now, are still valuable because I can learn from them. It is also a wonderful way to really see how far God has brought you.

So I’ll add my name to the list of those who recommend journal keeping. If you’ve tried in the past, or thought about it, but never gotten into it, then give it another shot. Just let go of any pre-conceived ideas of what it should be like. If you’re not someone who puts your ideas down on paper easily, then just stick them down there like a list… whatever works for you. I’ve heard of artists whose journals are filled with sketches of images that meant something to them, along with a few words explain what it meant. Even a bulleted list of verses that mean something to you, along with whatever God showed you in them will be valuable to you.

Just write from your heart…

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Birthdays are...

... fun? ...horrible? ...looked forward to? ...dreaded? It seems that the word "birthday" brings up a wide range of emotions, depending on who you're looking at when the subject comes up. And usually the younger the person the more their face shows excitement, and the older the person the more their eyes roll and they look like they'd like to avoid them altogether.

Well... today I leave my 20's behind. That feels really weird saying that, as I never really felt like I was in my 20's! When I was young, I had this idea of what it would be like to be 16... then my 16th birthday came and I was unimpressed. LOL! So I thought I knew what it would feel like to be in my 20's. But most of the way through my 20's, I felt no different than I had at 18... even though I was married with kids. I remember thinking on my 26th or 27th birthday that I finally felt like I was over 20! So today I turn 30 and it means absolutely nothing to me. I still run around with my kids, I can still do cartwheels and roundoffs and handstands, I can turn flips on the trampoline, I can still sprint pretty well, and I'd still love to have a chance to do backflips off a diving board... I guess I'm still a kid at heart.

I told my husband this morning that if I had any expectations at all of being 30, it was that I'd definitely be grown up by then. He laughed and said, "So do you feel grown up, Mommy?" (Emphasizing this, of course, because I've been a mommy for almost a decade already.)

But I guess I do finally feel grown up. I've changed a lot this past year since Mom died. I don't know how much it has to do with losing her, how much it has to do with leaving my 20's behind, how much it has to do with passing our 10th wedding anniversary, or if it's just where I'm at in my life. I find that I expect to be treated as an adult now. Maybe it's funny that it took until after I was 29 to really expect that, but I've always looked young for my age. It hasn't been a year yet since the last time someone asked me if I was out of high school yet. LOL

But enough about me. What I really got on here to share was something about birthdays that I learned from my mom in the days after she died. You see... my mom was a miracle baby. (You can read her whole story on her site if you're interested. I modified it slightly when she died, but it's still up and running.) The fact that she wasn't expected to live at all... and then live to be a teenager... and then live past her 20's... well, it gave her an appreciation for life that most of us don't have. When she turned 50, she got up on stage at church to tell the 1000+ members that she'd turned 50, and then she went home and threw her own party! She did this because she saw every birthday as the perfect opportunity to celebrate the fact that God had given her another year of life.

She died on September 10th, last fall... five days before she would have turned 53 years old. Usually memorial services are held 3 or 4 days after death, but the way things worked out, her memorial service ended up being planned for her birthday. So many people, when they heard this, thought "ouch" on our behalf... you could see it in their eyes. But in those few days, I realized the significance of what Mom always knew about birthdays... that is, the alternative is death. Death seems so far away from most of us, yet the reality is that none of us know how many times each day that God protects us from the devil's attempts on our life. Every day that we get in a car and reach home safely, God has protected us. Every second that our heart keeps beating is a gift from God.

My mom didn't get to celebrate her 53rd birthday. That birthday was the first one she'd missed. But we celebrated for her. We believe that a memorial service for someone who has left earth for heaven should be a celebration, and knowing Mom, if she could have picked a day for us to celebrate her life, she would have picked her birthday. That's what birthdays were for, to her.

So I decided then... and today I'm re-affirming... that I will never dread a birthday. Each year that I turn a year older, I will thank God for what He has blessed me with so far. I will look forward to the next year and whatever plans God has for it. And I will thank Him on behalf of my family that they have not yet had to learn how to live life without me... because I sure wish that my mom could have celebrated a few more of hers.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Taking God at His word...

My last post got my sister and I talking, and we both agreed that our conversation would make a good blog entry... to see how many other people are realizing the same things we are.

As she wrote in her comment, "I have been impressed recently as to the fact that insecurity and lack of faith are both off shoots of pride. Ouch. Both are not taking the Lord at His word. One as to ourselves, and the other as to Him. Thanks for being honest."

I wrote back and agreed. I started getting impressed by this a year or two ago... I started realizing that many of us (Christians as a whole) should be ashamed of the prayers that we pray. I think it was after one of my kids had asked me if I would get them lunch or something. Of course, I told them yes, but it wasn't lunch time yet, and still they continued to ask me if I would take care of it. I got frustrated... "I already told you I would... why do you keep asking?" I remember saying, "I've already answered you, I'm not going to again, even if you ask again. You need to trust that I'm going to do what I said I would do."

Then I realized how often we do that to God. We get into a tight financial situation and we start praying that He will provide... that's the most common one by far. But that very request proves how little we take Him at His word. I mean... He already said He would provide for us... and we're still asking? It would be far better if, instead, we asked Him to show us how to follow His leading better... or to help our unbelief... or even if we just changed our begging to praising and thanking Him for whichever promise contains His answer.

Of course... that leads to the whole issue of "what about those times that God DIDN'T provide?" I know that there are people who have been in circumstances where they feel this has happened. All I can say to that is the same thing I remind myself of when I am tempted to think this. First... whom am I to say that I know what I need more than God does? Do I really dare to trust my own judgment on what I need in my life more than God's... even to the point of claiming that God has lied? I don't dare do that! And then the other answer comes to me when I think of children who are given the vegetables that they need to stay healthy, but who refuse them and rant and scream because they aren't getting the pizza and ice cream they want. I think we do that to God more than we realize... He's got what we need and has placed it right in front of us, but it's not what we want, or what we're expecting, so we refuse it. If we go hungry in any way because we have refused the provision that God has supplied... that doesn't mean He didn't provide it!

But I'm grateful that even when we miss His provision the first time around, He still, so often, gives us another chance, and yet another, because of His unending grace and mercy.

Apparently this struck a chord in my sister. Here was her reply... "Somehow I think more needs to be said in churches about taking the Lord at His word. How many times did God say, 'Have I not said?' and 'God is not a man, that He should lie ... has He not spoken, and will He not do it?' and in the wilderness, Jesus' fighting faith was what God said. Very powerful, this. We assume He's like us and says 'oh, I'll do that' at a whim when really what we mean is, 'I'll try to remember to do that when I have time,' or 'if I feel like it and its a good enough reason.' We don't assume we're calling Him a liar if we believe anything less than what He said. But that's really what it is. If reality were known ... if the foundation could be laid bare for what it is ... we don't think He's really good for His word. A man says of another, 'Well, I loaned him 50 bucks, but he'll pay me back. I know he's good for it.' And most of the time that's more trust than we give the God of the universe."

So what do you think?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Brutally honest with God...

My brother just wrote in his blog about two miracles that have happened in his life. He asked people to write in and share theirs. I shared mine, but it got me to thinking.

There have been plenty of times in my life when God has answered my prayers, but those times are not as many as the requests that I have made of Him. Yes... like everyone else out there, God doesn't answer all of my prayers... at least not with a "yes." But I am sometimes almost surprised when He does, because they are often the times when I am not feeling "super spiritual"... when my request wasn't made fluently... when I wasn't filled with faith, etc. Many of the requests that He seems to specifically answer with a clear "yes" are those made out of desperation... when I'm at the end of my rope and I don't even know what to pray, let alone what to do. When I'm past telling myself to trust Him... when I'm beyond arguing with myself whether my prayer is being prayed in faith or not... when I just blurt out what's in my heart. It's not like He doesn't already know exactly what's there anyway.

I'll just copy over the miracle testimony that I left on my brother's blog, as an example... it's not a spectacular testimony like people like to hear, but it's REAL... real in that it happened to my husband and I, and real because it happened through - and in spite of - our doubts and uncertainty. I still don't know why God chose to answer these prayers, but the answer started when I was brutally honest with God and admitted our failings... when I prayed a prayer so frank that it might have been termed more of a challenge than a prayer. But He honored it!

My husband has had difficulties with his knees for years. Well, 2-3 years ago, one of them started giving him lots of pain and swelling occasionally, to the point that it was getting difficult to work and drive, etc. Finally he went to a doctor, who ordered a knee MRI, and then told him that he had torn the meniscus under his kneecap and he needed surgery, because they did not heal themselves. He had two options, one of which would be major surgery, cost a ton, and he'd have to take anywhere from 2-4 MONTHS off of work. That repair job might last him most of his life, but it wasn't likely. The other option would be a slightly less major surgery, cost only half a ton, require only 4-6 weeks off of work... and perhaps not even take care of the problem. If it did, then it would only be temporary.

I, of course, didn't want us to go through either. Either would have entailed even more pain, neither would fix things completely, he wouldn't have done well at ALL trying to stay off of his feet for months, and I would have had to get a job to make ends meet. It just seemed so much better if God would just heal it. Of course, we asked Him to do this, but we didn't have any ground-breaking revelations giving us certainty, etc.

My husband talked about it and thought about it for a while, and finally decided that he didn't have much choice other than to have the surgery, because he couldn't hardly work as it was. I remember standing in church when prayer requests were being taken and his father (our pastor at the time) included his knee in the list. As he was praying for it, I stood there, knowing that my husband didn't have any faith that it was going to be healed, and not even sure that I did. So I prayed quite frankly with God. I said, "God, I know You can heal his knee, but if You are really going to do it, then You've got to find a way to tell him Yourself and stop the surgery, because he won't believe it from anyone else." Nothing spectacular happened, and the day went on.

That very night my husband woke me up to tell me about a dream he had just had. I won't explain the whole thing out, but suffice it to say that God seems to speak to my husband's family through dreams, and He had sent one to my husband that night. My husband ended the conversation by telling me that he wasn't going to go through with the surgery. At that point, he still had no faith that it would be healed... he hadn't gotten that far... he just knew that the surgery would be a mistake. I, however, knew that God had answered my prayer, and therefore He was going to heal the knee. I just didn't know when or how.

Weeks went by (I don't remember how many), and his knee still bothered him, although not as much. Then we had a visiting pastor come. After the service, he asked who needed prayer. Everyone was stubbornly holding back and not going forward, as usual, so God started telling him what problems people had that needed prayer. One of the things that God told him was that someone had problems with their knee and God had healed it. I think He even specified which knee. Well... my husband knew that was him, and he apparently received it... he has had absolutely no problems with that knee since. *smiles* (We'll see what happens with the other knee which still bothers him mildly every once in a while. See... told you this was a real story.)


Monday, July 31, 2006

Like a child...

I'm sure we're all familiar with the scripture where Jesus says that we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven... but I have to say that you get a whole new multi-faceted view of this scripture when you have children of your own.

My youngest is five, and since she's the "baby," she still does things that the other two quit when they became a big brother and sister at a much younger age. But I was realizing the other day that I probably have very little time left to enjoy some of her baby ways.

For example... almost every morning when she wakes up, she comes out to find me, wherever I am, and she climbs up on my lap as though it's reserved specifically for her. It doesn't matter what I'm doing... eating breakfast, reading, still in bed sleeping, trying to fix my husband's lunch... she's right there expecting me to either drop what I'm doing or find a way to do it around her, because my lap is her spot and she's there to claim it.

Now it would be easy to think that this is rude, and that I need to teach her to be more considerate of what I'm doing... but I'd rather think about the meaning behind it. She wants to start her day with me! In some way, the fact that she started life completely dependent on me for everything still makes her come to me for security before she starts her day. And let's face it... for nine months, my "lap" was reserved specifically for her, and for quite a while after it may-as-well have been hers, for I was the only one who could feed her, and I was usually the one to care for every other need that she had.

What if we woke up that way? What if, before we were even fully awake, we found ourselves seeking out the One who takes care of us... just to climb up on His lap for a bit of secure snuggling before we started our day? Not because we know we're "supposed" to, but because there is nothing that makes us feel quite as content and secure as hearing His heartbeat and feeling His presence surround us?

What if we lived the rest of our lives the way my children do?

What if calling for God when we're scared was second nature the way it is for my kids? They don't have to tell themselves that they should call Mommy and Daddy... they just do because to call anyone else would be unthinkable.

What if, when we're enjoying something, we found ourselves with the overwhelming desire to share it with God? "Hey God, guess what! I got a promotion! And it sure is a beautiful day!" Have you ever tried to get something done when your child is excited about something? It's nearly impossible! Every second they're interrupting you to tell you something else about whatever it is that's filling their mind at that moment. Maybe God wants us to "bug" Him that way!

What if, when we are confused and don't know what to do, we didn't hesitate to run to God for help... rather than fighting and trying to figure it out by ourselves first, and then trying self-help books, and then the latest guru, and who knows what else. My kids feel no shame or hesitation in asking me for help... often before they've even tried it on their own! What holds us back? God is a great cook, you know... He's helped me fix meals that I thought were past hope. And He's also good at laying ceramic tile, and laminating countertops, and sewing, and cleaning, and teaching, and writing... you name it... if I've gotten stuck in something and thought to ask Him for help, He's gotten me out of it! But I wonder how many problems I've muddled my way through without Him?

And why does God want us to come to Him like a child? Can it be that maybe He finds pleasure in the same things that my husband and I do when we see our children?If He does, then He can’t help smiling when we come in the morning and sleepily crawl up on His lap. He never thinks twice about dropping whatever He’s doing to stop and help us when we need it. When we’re scared, then there’s nothing that could stop Him from rushing to re-assure us and comfort us. Maybe He runs off to tell the angels every time we learn something new, just to brag about us to someone who will listen.

And you know what the most precious thought of all is, to me? That He looks in on us when we’re sleeping and smiles just because we’re so precious and so beautiful.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Beautiful God...

I got to fly for the first time in years, last week. I have to say that it was awe-inspiring. When the plane rose up above the clouds for the first time, I was awe-struck. It's a whole new landscape up there. I sat there, overwhelmed almost by the view, but knowing that it's just a small reflection of God.

Then I thought of how amazing it really is that I was even getting to see it. That God had made the human mind capable figuring out how to fly! I guess it's part of being made in His image. After all, he created animals that do it almost from birth... but then, they have no idea of how amazing flight is.

Throughout the past few weeks, I've found myself noticing again how many amazing things we take for granted all the time, and how many beautiful things surround us that we ignore, enjoy, and sometimes are even tempted by... without even realizing that they reflect God.

I am a passionate lover of beauty. There is just a certain satisfaction that I get out of seeing, hearing, and experiencing beautiful things. I don't think I'm all that unusual, either... I just think that most people never really stop to think about why they enjoy the beautiful things of life.

Take the human body, for example... we all know that there are beautiful women and good-looking men out there, and we enjoy it if it's our spouse or child, and feel guilty if we notice someone we think we shouldn't have, etc. Yet how often do go beyond that to the realization that God has got to be so much more beautiful. After all, He is the One that made us... in His image! God is perfect, as no human is... I don't think the human mind is capable of imagining how beautiful God is.

Consider the human voice... as I write this, I'm listening to a recording of "The Prayer" - sung by Josh Groban and Charlotte Church. (You can listen to the whole song on David Foster's website... just click the box in the lower left corner to select it.) They have two of the most beautiful voices in the world. And it's not just me that thinks so... thousands more around the world agree. Yet how many of those thousands stop to think of how amazing God is to have created instruments capable of such beauty? Especially when you think that both of them had show-stopping voices long before they got the training they have now. The credit has to go to God. Why He chose to put Josh's incredible voice inside such an ordinary, almost geeky-looking kid is beyond me, unless it's to teach us not to underestimate anything He has created.

Now "To Love You More" from Celine Dion is playing. I love that song... not for the words, but for the beauty of the violin that sings with Celine. This song is a duet between a beautiful instrument that God created and placed inside an ordinary human, and another beautiful instrument that He taught man to create and play. He is incredible!

I could go on and on about the things whose awe-inspiring beauty we enjoy without even thinking of God... the view from a mountaintop over valleys and more ridges beyond... the view from a valley, looking up to the moutaintops (I love mountains, can you tell?)... the woods in Pennsylvania filled with wild mountain laurel, blooming all over the mountainsides... a rose in perfect bloom... the way the wind blows through a field of tall grasses... the song of the plain little sparrow... the night sky lit up with lighting during a storm, or by millions of stars when it's clear... a sunrise...

And how many beautiful things do most of us get to enjoy only because of modern technology? You'd think that, as the decades go on, we would become more and more aware of how amazing God is, rather than the current trend in the opposite direction. A decade ago no one knew what Saturn looks like when viewed from the close distances that the Cassini spacecraft reached... no one knew what the earth looks like from the surface of Mars. A century ago, only those few who lived along Norway's fjords knew how beautiful they were. Very few people had any idea how beautiful the sea life is in the oceans. None of us knew what the view from Everest was like. Not to mention the airplane views that humbled me just last week. Even the technology itself gives credit to God... He created the brains capable of understanding what was necessary to create airplanes, photos, space crafts, etc.

Why do we love romantic movies and love songs so much? Because a pure, true love story is perhaps the most beautiful thing that exists. There is something about the idea of an unselfish, all-consuming love that draws us. Why? Because God loves us like that. He is love, personified. Yet how often, when we read or watch our favorite love story, or remember back to when our own first began... how often do we recognize that we are enjoying something that is a reflection of God? We would not be capable of loving if He was not love. We wouldn't even be able to enjoy a good love story if He was not the awesome, beautiful God that He is.

And you know what is even more amazing? That of all this, He counts us as His most precious creation...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Trusting God...

What does it really mean to trust God? When some part of your world is caving in… when you find yourself being forced to deal with things that you never in a million years thought would touch you… when you find yourself thinking things that you never would have believed you could think… how do you trust God then?

If you really believe that God is all-powerful, then you can’t help asking why He allows terrible things to happen. That’s when you reach the crux of the matter… is God a liar, or are you willing to trust Him for real? Sure, it’s easy to say we trust Him when things are going great. But we find out what’s really in our heart when things come against us. Then it’s either get angry at God and call Him a liar, or trust Him. There really is no other option.

He said that He cares for us more than the lilies of the field (Luke 12) . He said that He is faithful to us, and won’t allow more to come against us that He knows we can handle… (1 Cor. 10:13 – the Greek word that is translated temptation also means a trial, so this verse applies to both temptation to sin AND difficult circumstances that we must endure.) This verse brings us to the difficult-to-face fact that anything and everything that gets thrown at us comes only after receiving His “okay.” You can read how Satan went to God asking permission to attack Job… I don’t think it’s any different with us.

But God said something else… He said “all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) People like to offer that verse as comfort, but that’s not what I believe that verse was given for. It’s not there to comfort us, it’s there to challenge us. Those of us who know in our hearts that we love Him and that He’s called us, have a question to ask ourselves… do we really believe that God is able to turn anything around so that it ends up benefiting us? When we’re in the midst of something that overwhelms us with confusion or pain, that’s when we’re forced to face the most difficult question of all… Did God lie when He made all those promises, or am I willing to trust that He knows what He’s doing? Am I willing to believe that He knows more than I do or am I going to get angry at what He’s allowed to happen? Am I willing to let Him be God in my life?

Me… I’ve repeatedly found that when I get to the heart of the matter, I have no choice but to trust Him. There’s just nothing left worth even attempting. I honestly don’t know how He could possibly turn some things into good… but thankfully, He’s not relying on my ideas…

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Feeding the spirit...

Obviously it's been about five weeks since I wrote last. After a whole winter of praising God that none of my family caught any colds or flus, we had one of each go through the family in the past month. *sigh* So it's been a bit of a rough month.

There's nothing like getting sick to make you realize how much you take health for granted though. Getting a stomach flu also has a way of making you much more conscious of what you feed yourself, too--both physical and spiritually. At least it does to me.

My mom starting this habit when I and my brothers and sister got sick as kids. Somewhere along the line, she got cassette tapes of the dramatized New Testament, and she'd turn those on--especially the Gospels--anytime we'd get sick. Even as children, we could tell how hearing those Scripture tapes fed us. Eventually, Mom didn't have to remember to put them on. The minute we weren't feeling well, we would ask for them, because we knew from past experience that we always felt better when they were playing.

I don't remember doing anything other than just listening to them when I was a kid, but now, as an adult, having just gone through a stomach flu that allowed me to hear Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts all in the space of a day and a half, I've noticed a number of things. (Yes, I have my own Scripture Tapes now, which I turn on whenever either I or my husband or my kids are sick.)

First, while I by no means have those first five books memorized, I do have them very much in my heart. Having listened to them dozens and dozens of times through the years, there are very few verses in those five books that anyone could quote that I wouldn't recognize. I might not have any idea which book it's in, but I KNOW it's in there. This makes it much easier for the Spirit to bring verses to my mind when I need them, too. Now, I catch my kids recognizing and referring to verses that they've heard enough to be familiar with them... and that means SOOO much to a mother's heart!

Second, it is something else to be able to listen to all four gospels one right after another the whole way through in one day. It gives you a perspective that is perhaps impossible to get any other way! And at what other time in our lives are we easily able to lay in bed and do nothing else? When we're sick, our schedules are pretty much cleared without any effort on our part whatsoever!

Listening to the Gospels for hours on end made me notice differences in them that I'd never had noticed on my own before. I felt like I could step into the lives of the disciples in a much more real way. And all of it became more real to me in a historical sense... events that happened two centuries ago unfolding "before my very ears." For example, when John is describing what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, it occurred to me for the first time what that must have been like for Peter, James, and John. They grew up reading and memorizing the Torah. They knew every word of how Moses went up on Mount Sinai and God spoke to Him from the cloud... how Moses' face shown so brightly. Then one day they follow Jesus up a mountain with no clue that they're about to witness this themselves.

They're tired and falling asleep when suddenly something starts. Finally they wake up enough to realize that what they read about in the Torah is happening again. Not only is Jesus standing there with them, but Moses is there, too... shining just like he did then. And Jesus is also shining...And Elijah's there, too, and he's shining...and to top it all off, there's the cloud, too! THE cloud. I mean, they grew up knowing how Moses was the Friend of God, who knew God face to face like no other... and they're getting to witness a repeat of what they've only read about. Can you imagine?

Then God spoke from the cloud, and the fact that they didn't fall down on their face in fear really says something about where they were at, spiritually. It just became so real to me.

Yet there's another way that the Scriptures can become real to us, and that's when they come to mean something in our own lives. And now, as an adult, so many of those verses that were just part of stories when I was a kid, now really mean something to me in a personal way. So when I was laying there listening to Jesus' life unfold, and He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," then both the historical real-ness and the revelations He's given me on that verse in the past just compounded on top of each other in such a way that I couldn't get enough of it. It was that way with so many verses that I found myself just feeling completely overwhelmed with the wonder of what God did in sending Jesus.

I think my spirit got fed more during those two days stomach sickness than it has in a combined year of Sundays....

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hope...

You know when some part of your life isn't going well... and after a while you find yourself going 'round and 'round in circles in your head trying to find a way for things to get fixed... a "way out"... and you realize that there ISN'T a way out... that somehow you're trapped in a vicious circle that is feeding itself and you're powerless to stop it... know what that's like? I do... I'm there right now. No, my life isn't horrible... most areas of my life are doing really well... but in this one area I'm stuck as can be... and it's starting to affect the other areas of my life that were otherwise doing fine.

So this morning I was going around and around in my head (again) and I started to get depressed about the whole thing, 'till I finally thought, "That's it! I've got to ask for prayer from more people." I say "more" because I've already got people praying regarding this situation... thing is, they're stuck in almost the same situation to some degree or other. I know that sometimes it's good for people in the same situation to pray for each other, but I also think that there's sometimes when it's important to get people "outside" of the situation praying as well.

After I sent my prayer request emails and got to back to work… in this case, on my kid’s homeschooling… God began showing me things in-between the grading papers and such. First He reminded me that my prayer language is for situations just like this… situations when I don’t know the way out… because the Holy Spirit DOES know the way out. So there I sat in the dining room surrounded by paperwork, praying in tongues under my breath, and I found hope rising within me. God reminded me of other times in my life when I had felt this same “I’m-stuck-and-there’s-no-way-out” feeling.

The first time I really felt it was right after we found out I was pregnant with our third child. We were living in a 900 square-foot, two bedroom house with our son and daughter and doing what should have been adequate to prevent a pregnancy that we couldn’t afford… and I got pregnant anyway. We had less than $20 left over after bills every week, and our house was so cramped that there was absolutely no place for another child there.

Now you have to understand that I have a fundamental belief that, since I have placed my life in God’s hands, God is now the one responsible for taking care of me. And not just taking care of me as a prison ward takes care of prisoners… but taking care of me the way a king and perfect father would take care of his first-born son. I mean… He’s the God of the universe! The Ultimate King! And He’s perfect! And He loves me enough to sacrifice His Son because it was the only way that He could have me! Now if you loved someone else’s child so much that you let your own child die because the alternative was to let this other child die… would you want that child to merely exist on starvation rations? Or would you want them live a life that was full of happiness and peace and everything they needed?

I also believe that He has the power to keep bad things from happening to me if those things would harm me (and He knows if it would, of course, since He knows everything). Therefore, if something bad DOES happen to me, God has allowed it for some specific reason, and somehow even that is an expression of His love. Tell me this… what would you do if that child that you saved wanted to eat arsenic… or to play in the road… or to do anything else that would either endanger him or her right then, or set them up for future problems? What if that child wanted to never learn to read and write? Would you allow those things, or would you try to find a way to lovingly discipline that child so that his or her future would be one of promise, rather than of failure and ridicule? God is no different… He just uses the circumstances that He allows into our lives to teach us. I know that many of the rough times that I’ve been through have taught me things that have made me much happier today than I would have been without those lessons.

So in my story, when I got pregnant, the situation looked impossible. But I am a very logical person, and somehow I even manage to apply it to my faith… it went like this…

if: A) God allowed this pregnancy, which we were trying hard to avoid, then He must really want give us this child for a special reason…

so: B) since every gift from God is good, this child is going to be a blessing to us and is something to be thankful for--even more than we normally would have been for a child.

And since: C) God would never send a gift without making all the necessary provisions to take care of it…

then: D) God must have somehow worked out a plan to give us a bigger house and a larger income! Even though we can barely afford to pay for this tiny one and our family of four right now! He’s got it all worked out!

We left the whole finances and house situation in His hands for Him to work out in whatever way He wanted to. And He did it! That year He not only increased my husband’s income by almost 50%, He also gave us a house that was almost twice as big, with a yard that was more than twice as big, in an area that was more than twice as close to everything… and between insurance and mortgages and utilities, this house didn’t cost us any more than the old one did! And now… five years later… it’s worth over three times what we paid for it!

So this morning when I was thinking how impossible this current problem looks, God reminded me of my own story. Then He reminded me of how He has taken care of my marriage… my husband and I believe that marriage is for keeps… we take the “until death parts us” part of our vows seriously. But like all marriages, we hit a very rough spot two or three years ago. I felt so stuck… I couldn’t figure out how in the world we’d ever get out of the misunderstandings and anger and such that was making married life so rough for us. If we were together for life, I wanted it to be happily together! So I went running to God and turned the whole thing over to Him… I told Him that it was His responsibility to fix it… but I knew that I couldn’t really say that unless I was willing to admit that “His way” might be in changing me… I couldn’t say that if I insisted that He had to make my husband change. That’s a rough thing to give up sometimes, you know?

And again… He did it! I honestly don’t even know how… It was a gradual process that likely involved changing both my husband and I, but we were able to celebrate our 10th anniversary last year very happily!

So this morning I realized that my current problem is nothing more than something else that God’s going take care of. He didn’t allow us to get stuck in those other circumstances just to leave us there. He allowed us to get there so He could take care of deeper problems in our lives… so we could see and know His love and power and provision and grace that much more… so we could learn things that would take us to a higher level… a better place… than we ever could before. Why? Because He loves us! He’s not content to let us be content with little things… He knows He can lead us into so much more! He could have let us stay and be semi-happily cramped in that tiny little house… He could have let us maintain a marriage that was merely “good.” But He didn’t… and He never will let us settle for the merely “okay” when He can lead us on to “fantastic!”

That’s all He’s doing now… taking us through this so we can one day step out of it, in His timing, into things that are probably better than we can even imagine at this moment… and letting us once again see how much we need Him and how incredibly awesome He really is! So I’ll keep praying and trusting, and one day I’ll have another incredible testimony to add to my list.

And THAT is what hope really is…

Monday, April 03, 2006

Beginnings...

Why did I choose "Hope Is Calling" for a title? Well... first I tried my name, then I tried my favorite Bible verse (Ephesians 1:17-19), then I tried my favorite song, phrases from the song, phrases that I call myself, bits of misc stuff...and everything was taken! Talk about feeling unoriginal! I even tried a line out of a song that I WROTE and it was taken, too! Of course... every time that it said it was taken, I went to see who had taken it and what they wrote. Some of them had precious little there, others were quite interesting... katiesthoughts.blogspot was extremely interesting to read... another Katie... also a Christian... and a bit like me! :-) Apparantly there are a lot of Christians blogging, judging by the numbers of Christian phrases and such that I tried, which were taken. *smile*

Anyway... so I came back to my favorite verse and what, to me, is the most intriguing part of it... "the hope of His calling." When that verse became my favorite, it was for other parts of the verse, such as "open the eyes of your heart" and "spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" (BTW... RevelationsOfHim isn't taken on here yet) ... and "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." But I didn't get the "hope of His calling" part. I couldn't figure out what it meant, exactly. But during the last two years, I have slowly come to think of the hope of God's calling as summing up the fullness and richness and wonder of everything that we receive of God's love when we respond to God's calling in our life. And THAT is precisely what the world needs to see.

So what am I mostly likely to blog about? Probably things that I wish I could share with others... things that I love... things that make a difference in my life... just sharing my heart.

In the meantime, I'll just post the link to my testimony, as written roughly two years ago, which is my website here: www.hopeiscalling.com/makeover. That says a bit about who I am... at least the part of me that's most important.
Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion