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.)


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