Monday, December 12, 2011

Moving Over To DemGoldenApples dot Com

I am excited to announce that I have a new domain.  You can now find Dem Golden Apples at www.demgoldenapples.com.  I will still have this blog up for a while during the transition.  I still have some kinks to work out, but for the most part we will be up and running now. 

If you have not yet followed us on Facebook and Twitter please do so. 

Also in the coming weeks Dem Golden Apples will have some giveaways, so make sure you stay tuned for that on the new site.

See you there!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A 365 Thanksgiving Part 3 {Guest Post}


Click here for Part 1 of this post.

Click here for Part 2.


A Gift in the Present—

The third gift of God that should not be forgotten is here in the present. It is the Body of Christ. The other followers of Jesus around us and elsewhere are chosen to be a part of the same body as you.

1 Corinthians 12:20 says, "As it is, there are many parts, but one body…" and in verses 24b-27 "But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."

"From [Jesus] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:16)

Christians are intertwined in the Body of Christ. We may think of ourselves as independent of others, but the truth is that we are more interdependent than we think. Perhaps it is our individualized and isolating culture that gives us the impression that Christian relationships should be the same. The opposite is true. We grow together. We work together for the strengthening of everyone’s faith. We rejoice and mourn together. We are an inseparable body of Believers who work together, share together, live out our lives together.
           
Each of us also has a responsibility to pursue unity with one another by avoiding certain behaviors that would break the cohesive bond we share:
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (So instead of those behaviors that break others down, what should we do for other Believers in Christ?) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:25-31)
We have a responsibility to other Christians.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24, 25)

Have you considered lately what you could do or say to encourage a fellow Christian to be more loving and to act more holy before God and men? I ask the Lord before I arrive at church to guide me in my conversations to point others toward Him. Since we are members of one another, we owe it to our neighbors to caringly point them to Christ. Have you shared with someone how God has been faithful? Or asked someone what the Lord is teaching them lately? Invited them to a small group, men’s or women’s events?

Another distinguishing characteristic of Christians is described in 1 John 3:18: Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” As our Spanish pastor explained to some of the men on our monthly Saturday breakfast, “Love is not blah, blah, blah, but Boom, Boom, Boom.” Love acts!

I periodically ask myself, “What would a Christian do that no one else would do?” Serve someone? Go the extra mile in our work? Pray for someone who hurts you? Turn your cheek with forgiveness when mistreated?

We are also called to goodness, one of the fruits of yielding to the Spirit of God—a nature that exudes good deeds from a heart of love. Galatians 6:10 says, “…as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."  When we see a need, we try to meet it. When we see a need among fellow followers of Christ Jesus, we really need to try to meet it. The way Jesus said that “all men will know” who His disciples are is by “loving one another” (John 13:35).

Boom, Boom, Boom. Not blah, blah, blah.

How have you faired at learning of the needs of Christians (and your neighbors) and meeting them? Would you be known as one who does good, one who acts with love? I pray that we are a body of many parts that acts with love, here and abroad.

As God pours into us, we must pour out, lest we become stagnate. Oswald Chambers, who spoke the words in the famous, My Utmost for His Highest devotional, once shared, “God’s goal is to make us exactly like Himself, not to make us plump grapes, but ones He may squeeze.” Of all the goodness, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and friendship that our Father has poured into you for many years, are you in turn offering the same kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and friendship to those in your world?

Without you, our church is not as strong. You play a part in my growth and your neighbor’s growth and in caring for our needs (as we for yours). I am here for your strengthening. You are here for ours. Are you using your gifts: your hands to serve, your ears to listen, your mouth to teach, your lips to encourage, your pen to write words of gratitude?

Just a few ways for you to consider serving those who lead you within your church: write a note of encouragement to the pastors and staff and your children’s teachers. Give a card or a balloon with a kind message. Send an email. Offer to help. Commit to praying for your leaders here. Share that with them. Let’s be a people who love with action!!

Boom, boom, boom, not blah, blah, blah.

{This next paragraph was an example of how my husband - author of this guest post - lead us in action at our church the Sunday morning he shared this message.  He left it in here as a way to spur those of you reading this to consider the same.  It was a great time of prayer, and in fact there was applause at the end.  I suspect there was also an applause in Heaven...  Then the conclusion, so keep reading.}

Are you ready to do your part for those around you? Now is your opportunity. We are going to do an activity together, which I have never done on a Sunday morning, so we’ll see how it goes. In your seats, we are going to spend some time serving one another by praying for each other. We are going to turn one way or another (to the front, back, left, or right) and look around to ensure everyone has a group to join. In that small group, we are going to pray for one another’s needs—however big or small. We invite you to pray for others’ needs. If you do not feel comfortable praying, just ask God to bless and care for them. He hears your prayer—the short ones are just as important as the long ones. Be sure to share your name since we sometimes sit next to people whose names we don’t know. Then, when you have made a group of three to seven people (no more), ask what needs they have. Take a few minutes praying. I’ll let you know when we are starting to wrap up, and I’ll close our small group prayer time. While this may feel a little uncomfortable, it is your sacrifice of service for others. So let’s serve one another in prayer now and make a little group around you.

Conclusion

When the speed of life blinds us to God’s goodness like whipping past a sign on the highway, remember. When events in life seem bigger than the Almighty, remember. When we feel the ease of His blessing, remember. When we feel the stress of finances, remember. When we begin to doubt Him, remember: Jesus’ blood shed to redeem your once-dead spirit, His promise of a home with Him in Heaven, and for the Body of Christ around you. May worship spring forth noticeably from your lips, attitude, and actions toward God and toward others!

To close, let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:  "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."

Rarely do we see the words in Scripture, at least in the New Testament:“This is God’s will for you…” But we see it here. What is His will? Offer God your thanks, your worship…all the time, in every situation—ones you understand and ones you don’t. And like Mary who broke the jar of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus, and the one leper who was made whole and returned to thank Jesus, He is pleased and glorified as we come to Him with a heart overflowing with gratitude for what He has done for us. Let’s remember His continual goodness each day, throughout the day.

What do you have to thank God for today?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A 365 Thanksgiving Part 2 {Guest Post}


If you have not read Part 1 of A 365 Thanksgiving, you can find it here.  The third and final part will be posted in a couple of days.  And now for Part 2...

A Gift in the Future—

The second gift worth remembering is a gift God will give us in the future. It is a home. A real place. A reality called Heaven. When some people scoff that there is nothing beyond our own graves, Scripture gives us a clear picture of what indeed awaits us after our final breath.
To help us remember some magnificent qualities of Heaven, I’ve begun each of the 9 characteristics with the letter “P.”
1. Heaven is a Prepared place. Jesus shared with His disciples, In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). The joy about this assurance is that, although we may not know what type of mansion awaits us, our Savior personally readied a dwelling place for you, Followers of Christ. Your name is on the mailbox. It is yours. It is prepared just for you. He made it so.

2. Paradise (to the criminal on the cross): “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” So what is paradise like…?
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” (Revelation 21:1-5)
What makes this Paradise overwhelmingly awesome beyond human comprehension?:

3. Presence! (The dwelling of God is with man. He will be in the midst of us. By far, this is the greatest aspect of Heaven. No physical separation anymore. We are in the throne room)

4. Peace! (No death, crying, sorrow, pain—His presence overwhelms any past care or stress. We are enthralled with the Almighty and nothing there distracts us from Him.

5. Provision! Our Husband, Christ, cares for His bride. If David here on earth said “My cup overflows…” imagine how much more our cups will be unable to contain the whole presence of the Almighty Creator who breathed the universe in existence when these physical bodies are replaced with a new glorified body that can be in God’s very presence! Our Shepherd provides for our every need and our eternity’s longing will be for our Divine Husband, who fills all with Himself.

6. Praise:

"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!'” (Revelation 7:9-12)

7. Packed! (A great multitude no one could count—those are just the believers who are martyred during the coming 7-year Tribulation. There are still more worshippers that will join this enormous group). For those who don’t like to be in a big group, you won’t mind in this Place. Our personal dislikes, annoyances, and fears will not be allowed through the door of Heaven.

8. Powerful! (The King fills His kingdom, receiving all our worship, praise, thanks. It is loud, filled with glory of God. Lightning. Thunderings. Shaking. The power of God is on display right now and will continue.

9. Purity! (No sin. No desire for lust. No temptation will draw us from our devotion to Him. It will not be possible. We are consumed with God Father and Lamb. He is holy and all creation is consumed with Him.

“Heaven is for Real,” a recent NY Times Best Seller, is a book written by a father of a then-4-year-old boy who was given a glimpse of Heaven as he was in surgery due to a burst appendix. While not canonized Scripture, there were numerous details in the book that lined up with the Bible’s description of God’s future home for His sons and daughters. I found such joy and awe in reading about the reality of this Home on the other side of our final breath on earth. I can understand more fully when Paul wrote in Phil.3:20: “Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” What utter fulfillment of all our expectation on the Day He escorts us Home! In fact, the boy who was given the vision of Heaven, after his return, told how no pictures of Jesus that he saw really looked like Jesus, until he saw this one painted by an 8-year-old name Akiane. She also had been given visions of Jesus. How amazing if this indeed is the face that will greet us after our final breath here on earth.

"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians.15:19)

Praise God that every Christian right now holds the promise, “Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27) We, too, have the assurance of Heaven because of Christ in us. He is our hope. He is in us until we arrive there in person.

I love verse three from the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul:

“And Lord, haste the Day when the faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back as a scroll. The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend. Even so, it is well with my soul!”
Thank You, All-Loving Father for the assurance of Heaven for your sons and daughters!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A 365 Thanksgiving Part 1 {Guest Post}


And now for my first ever Guest Post...  It's from my husband.  I've raved about him many times here, and he was blessed to be able to deliver the sermon this past Sunday while our beloved pastor and his wife were out of town.  I loved his sermon and thought it would be a great followup to my Thanksgiving 2011 Series here at Dem Golden Apples.  I will post it in three parts to help you have time to read it all over a few days - it's sermon-length after all. 


"A 365 Thanksgiving" by Jeremy:

Ps.100
1Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 
2Worship the Lord with gladness;  come before Him with joyful songs.                 
3Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, and not we ourselves;         
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
4Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.         
5For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

There are times in our lives that we do not feel like worshipping or saying “Thank you, God” for what He has brought to us…By a show of hands, has anyone here come on a Sunday morning to worship, but your heart was not “in the mood” to give God praise...? I’m glad that I’m not the only one…

Over the years of walking with the Lord, I’ve learned how essential thanksgiving is in my relationship with Him. I learned that worship and thanksgiving do not start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. It is a 365 experience, a daily choice (and even moment-by-moment choice) to look upon God for who He is, what He has done for me, and what He has promised. As we come together today after Thanksgiving a few days ago, we seek to live before God a life of thanksgiving, a life of praise to the God who created us.

What I wonder, though, is probably what happened today among some of us--what hinders us from shouting for joy, worshipping with a glad heart, and singing joyfully? Let’s look at Psalm 100 again. Do you see any reasons to thank God?  In verses 3 and 5, the writer remembers God’s providence/control, His protection, His goodness, love, and faithfulness to him. As a result of truly understanding the impact of these truths, out springs worship! Noticeable worship—joyful songs, shouting, praise! If we find our souls dragging spiritually, give God thanks. If we feel blasé, worship Him for His love, whether you see Him or not. Thank Him for His promise to always lead you and forgive you. Sometimes we worship God in faith, not feeling anything, but giving Him a sacrifice of praise—sacrifice because it doesn’t come easy; it’s hard to do at that moment. Worship Him anyway. And remember a few things…perhaps we should remember three beautiful gifts He has given to us.

In the way of Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, there are three gifts from God that elicit from our hearts overflowing thanksgiving and worship—a gift in the past, in the future, and in the present. This is by no means an exhaustive list--just three that God impressed on me to share with you today out of millions of visible and invisible gifts. As we touch on each, feel free to use the notes page in your worship folder to jot down what the Lord has done for you and is speaking to you. When something is written, we’re less likely to forget it. And we must never forget one gift from God in the past.

A Gift in the Past—
(The Bad News and The Good News)

One gift from God that should never be forgotten begins with who we once were. We may look pretty good on the outside now, seemingly good at heart, giving to the church, somewhat involved, with a smile on our face, but this is not where we came from. At some point in our lives, each of us was hopelessly separated from a pure God because of our sins.
Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Wait, “no one who does good”? Certainly not! I have a good heart. Some of my co-workers and neighbors have good hearts—kind, friendly, generous, good people. Yet, this measuring stick of goodness falls against other people who are comparatively worse than us. More importantly, how does God view our goodness??
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

All our good deeds equate to a bloody rag that, according to Old Testament Jewish law, makes a person unclean, unable to approach God. No good act of ours ever measures up to God’s perfect standard of goodness. We are not good enough. He demands a perfect life to be acceptable to Him.
Therefore, as Romans 3:23 says, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We were dead in sins, says Colossians 2:13, unable to respond to God due to separating sins. In fact, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4, "the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."  Here lies our debilitative state: dead, blind, unrighteous, sinful, and separated from God. We were hopelessly lost.
So what is God’s gift in the past? The (Good News) is that God has not left us in that state. Because of God’s kindness, He made us alive in Jesus Christ. He forgave us of all our sins.
Just when we thought we could reach God with our own goodness, Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.
In Isaiah 43:25, God speaking: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
"I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness." (Isaiah 61:10)
Colossians 1:12-13 says, "...joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" - our past sins, today’s sins, and future sins - FORGIVEN by the cleansing blood of Jesus. The King stepped off His great throne, laid hold of our sins and cast them from us as far as the east is from the west.

 What we were powerless to do, God did for our unsaved souls.

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ…" (2 Corinthians 2:14-15) 

"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Let’s listen again to what God has given to us as a gift if we would receive it: He shone His light in us to give us light, we smell like Jesus before Father God, we are part of Jesus’ victory march over sin, we are qualified to be sons/daughters of God, rescued!, clothed in righteousness, sins removed, made alive, forgiven!

The blood that Jesus Christ shed for us grants us these gifts. We were darkness. If we have believed and trusted in Jesus for our salvation vs. hoping our own goodness will get us to Him, we are accepted by God entirely. No more striving to be accepted by Him with good works. The good work was done on the cross. When once we were foreigners and not able to cross into God’s perfect presence, Jesus became our Passport, our Visa, our Green Card, our Bridge to salvation. Praise God we are totally accepted by Him in our sinfulness! Jesus was the perfect sacrifice when we could not be. What a reason to give God thanks.

The hymn written by Horatio Spafford, It Is Well With My Soul, tells it well.

“My sin, O the bliss, of this glorious thought. My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!"

Thank You, God, for Your saving kindness!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Our History and Our Future

Day 23: Our History

Even though I have been writing these Thanksgiving posts as a way to focus on being thankful and hopefully glorifying the LORD by sharing what He has done in our lives, I don't want to fail to mention that there is great historical significance to Thanksgiving Day.  I hope it does spur you on toward thankfulness, but I also hope part of that thankfulness comes from the history of this day. 

There are a lot of pieces to the story of the Pilgrims, the Native Americans, and about that first Thanksgiving feast that are no longer known by so many Americans.  Most of us being taught in public schools where some truths have been left out more and more over the years don't even know the whole story.  In fact, if you were like me, there are some things I was taught that just simply are not true.

The roughly 100 pilgrims who originally set out for America were followers of Christ who were seeking freedom that was not being given to them in England.  Over half of them died within the first three or four months of being in America!  They suffered greatly and had a very difficult first few months in their new land. 

I recommend reading this overview of this history from David Barton, noted historian, here.  By the way, his organization, called Wallbuilders, is a great organization I highly recommend when it comes to American history.

Also Moody Radio out of Chicago (named after D.L. Moody) has a great Thanksgiving program called Remembering the Pilgrims.  You can download it and listen here.  It was very interesting!

While I want to spend Thanksgiving (and the whole month up to it) remembering the first Thanksgiving feast and reviewing with my family the history since, I also have been reminded to be thankful for my own history.

We all have good and not so good (maybe even bad) points in our own history.  Some of those may haunt you.  Some of those most likely changed the course of your life ever since.  There is a quote I have heard before, though I cannot find the exact quote or the name of who first said it:

A man who doesn't know where he came from will not know where he is going.

Knowing our history as a world/nation/community/family and individually is very important.  It's not just knowing the historical facts, but also learning from them.  I hope I have learned from my history.  Facing my history and learning from it will help me face the future better.

I also want to continue to recognize the importance of knowing biblical history.  Unfortunately there are many who think the historical books of the Bible are boring, unimportant, and/or not worth the time and effort to read, study, understand, and learn from the stories contained within.  This cannot be further from the truth!  Until you dig into these historical books of the Bible yourself, you will be missing out on the profound, valuable, and fascinating history that is still so applicable today!  I really love learning the history of Israel and before that the history of how God created everything and what took place after that.  There is so much to learn, and it is a shame that so many do not realize this.  I love the studies that come from Precept International.  I recommend those to anyone wanting to learn and understand the Bible more.

From there I love learning about our Christian heritage that was built by all of those who followed Christ throughout history.  These are also fascinating stories about God's provision, protection, sovereignty, and guidance throughout the lives of these who have been written about.  I want to learn from their lives, as well.

I am so thankful for the recording of this history - all of it.  I also look forward to teaching it my children as they grow.  I often wonder how much better off we would all be if more of us knew, understood, and learned from history.  Instead many of the same mistakes are continually repeated unnecessarily.

Thank You, LORD, for our history.  May we handle it with care and gratitude and not forget what you have done.


Day 24: Our Future

So where are we going now?  What is ahead?  Of course there is only so much we can know and even plan for when it comes to looking forward.

I am thankful for my future because I know this:  God is in control and only does what is good even when I don't like it or understand it.  Furthermore, I know that my eternity is secured in Heaven forever because of my relationship with Jesus.  No matter what ever happens next, that is my ultimate home for all time.  What a joy to have that assurance and promise from Him!  It changes everything!

I don't know where our nation will be heading next.  I don't know exactly how all of the events that will lead to the end will come, but I do know how it all ends and who will still be in control and on His throne: Jesus. 

I am thankful for whatever future the LORD has for my family.  I love my husband and children so much and am reminded often to pray more for what is next, for the future.  I pray that they will know truth and walk in it always.  I look forward to seeing the plans that God has unfold. 

As we approach Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, I look forward to contemplating this year and the one to come.  I never want Christmas to just be one day.  It is a special day that should be celebrated as special, but it is more than just one day.  This is why we like to participate in Advent, as well.  It helps us to prepare our hearts for Christmas. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  May your future be filled with evidence of God's grace and love and may you recognize Him like never before.

"I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving." (Psalm 69:30)

This is my song.  Now and forever.  I pray it will be yours, too.  Thank You, LORD!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Prayer and Heaven

Day 21: Prayer

I am so thankful for prayer. 

The word prayer gets tossed around quite a bit these days.  People says things like, "I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers."  It takes real intentionality to actually follow through on that promise.  Some prayers can be just words with no real connection behind them like a memorized series of words that come out of the mouth with no thought necessary.  It can be easy to fall into a prayer rut or to feel inadequate when it comes to prayer and not even know where to begin.

Prayer is a conversation that involves talking and listening.  Prayer is not just a wish list sent up to the sky, but a divine encounter with the one who Created me.  Some prayers are short while others are long.  Prayer is essential.  It must come before, during, and after anything! 

I am so thankful that the LORD has given the gift of prayer to those who call on His name.  Not having prayer would be even worse than a pilot who has lost contact with Air Traffic Control.  The pilot can attempt to rely on his own judgement and what he can see and understand, but most likely he will be up against a battle that would be much easier if he could just get in contact again.  Some situations may even be impossible to come out of safely without contact and effective communication.

Prayer is so vital.  Even though I know this, I still often fail to apply this knowledge and stay in constant contact.  Thankfully the LORD is gracious enough to remind me often.  Hopefully as I continue to learn this lesson, the times that I neglect spending more time in prayer get shorter and shorter because I recognize sooner my mistake.

I love that prayer can be just one word - "Jesus!"  I love that when I don't know what to say I can just sit there and say, "Lord, I don't know what to say."  I love that prayer can take hours.  I love that there is constant intercession for me always (Hebrews 7:25 and Romans 8:27).  Jesus prays for us 24/7! 

It has been so exciting when we have seen God answer prayers.  He always answers better than we could have imagined.  This doesn't mean that He always answers in the way I wanted or according to what I was asking for, but He always offer what is best.  I then have the choice to take it or leave it.  Taking it with gratitude is always the best option.  I don't know everything.  He does.  It's not always easy when His answer is different than what I was hoping for, but it comes down to trust.  Do I trust Him enough to chose His way instead of mine?

I love specific prayers because it allows me to see God move in more specific ways.  We often make a list of our needs, spend time praising Him for who He is and how He has blessed us, confess any sins or shortcomings asking for forgiveness, and then lay the list out before Him asking for help for these specific areas.  We use this list as a way to turn over these things to His control trusting Him to take care of it in His way and in His time.  It is such a joy to update that list and record how He answered.

This is another good reason to keep a prayer journal.  It is so easy to forget what God has done in the past if we don't intentionally record it.  We have a wooden box with these verses on the front:

"We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders." (Psalm 78:4 NLT)

"But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren." (Deuteronomy 4:9 NLT)

We want to remember what the LORD has done and tell these stories to our children and grandchildren.  We want them to remember, too.  He deserves the glory for always giving us more than we deserve.  He takes such great care of us, and one of the ways we know this is because of prayer.

I cannot imagine my life without prayer.  I cannot imagine a day when I could not talk to my Heavenly Father.  What would I do?  Would I rely on my own understanding instead of trusting in Him?  Life would be so much more difficult without His guidance, without His loving words, without His truth, and without this ability and gift to communicate with Him like I can with no one else.  Only He sees the deepest parts of my being and loves me anyway.  It's remarkable.

Prayer can also be very uniting.  Praying with my husband brings us closer to each other.  Praying with my children, especially after one has disobeyed and needed correction, brings us closer.  Praying with a friend or family member can show them how much I care and love them.  Praying for my enemies helps me love them even when I don't want to and even when I don't like what they do.

I personally don't really like the cute little plaques that can be purchased that say, "Prayer Changes Things."  It can be misunderstood, I think.  The actual prayer doesn't necessarily change things.  It's God who uses prayer to change hearts, like mine, and through prayer we see circumstances change and God glorified.  Our focus must be on Him and not on our prayer.  It's a subtle difference, perhaps, but one that must be made clear in our own hearts and in our conversations with others.

One of my favorite scriptures about prayer is:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7)

Thank You, LORD, for prayer!  Please teach us and help us understand the value and need for prayer all the more!


Day 22: Heaven

Wow, the promise of Heaven.  The promise of Heaven is for those who have called on the name of the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord and have been redeemed as a result.  Heaven is real and is far better than we can understand here and now.  I am so thankful for Heaven.  I am thankful that I will again get to see those I have loved who are already there.  I am thankful that I will get to meet the very people who are mentioned in the Bible and those God used to pen the Bible.  I'll get to meet my miscarried child there.  I am thankful that I will get to meet Jesus face to face.  It's too much to fathom.  Eternity.  Forever.  What does that even look like?

We use the word forever so incorrectly.  "I haven't seen that movie in forever."  "It feels like forever since I have eaten anything."  Our finite minds have a hard time grasping the infinite.

Jesus gives us so many examples in scripture of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  We are told that He Himself is the light there.  There is no sun (Revelation 21:22,23).

There is so much I could go into about Heaven in this Thanksgiving post.  However I feel that it would be better to go into more detail at another time in a separate post.  There is much more that we can know about Heaven, much of which is greatly misunderstood without careful study of the scriptures, and I would not want to do anyone a disservice by not going into more depth on the subject of Heaven.  I will do that at another time.

In the meantime I want to thank the LORD for preparing a place for me and for all those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. 

If you are not sure that your eternity is secured in Heaven with Jesus, visit this website and learn more about what you can do to saved, redeemed, and free from the bondage of sin and death.  It's the most important decision you can ever make!

Thank You, LORD, for Heaven.  Thank You that there is more to life than just what we see here on earth.  I don't understand it all, but I trust You to tell me what I need to know now and to help me live with an eternal perspective for Your glory!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: A Good Movie and A Good Book

Day 19: A Good Movie

When it comes to movies there are very different ideas about what makes a good one.  There are movie critics and reviewers who will offer freely their opinions, but I find it doesn't always mean I will agree after seeing the movie myself.  Especially now the movie industry is heavy laden with crude humor, violence, and many inappropriate scenes and story lines that I really am not interested in putting in my head.  Once something goes in your head, it's hard to ever get it out. 

I am very thankful for those movies that I catagorize as good.  A good movie to me is one with a creative story line, good acting, good editing, good cinematography, and a message that matters.  Humor and good one-liners go a long way, too, but at the end of the movie I would like to be glad I watched it.  I don't like the feeling of watching a movie and then regretting it afterwards.  I'll never get that time back that I wasted on movies that for one reason or another made me regret spending my time on it - especially if it cost me money.

It is so nice to just relax with my husband and watch a good movie.  We have seen some good ones lately that I was glad I watched.  One of those was Soul Surfer.  I hadn't seen it until a couple of weeks ago even though I wish I would have supported it while it was in the theaters.  What an amazing story!

If you are unfamiliar with the story, the movie is based on the true story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton.  When she was a young teenager she endured a shark attack that left her without one of her arms.  Determined to get back in the water again, she persevered and continued surfing eventually turning pro.  The movie was very well done, there were quite a few known actors such as Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, AnaSophia Robb, and Carrie Underwood.  All of the elements I mentioned before that make a movie a good one for me were present with this one.  We really enjoyed it.

Another good movie we enjoyed recently was No Greater Love.  I really didn't know what to expect with this one, but it turned out to be really well done.  This is a great story about forgiveness, true love, and God's providence.  It had me drawn in and made me cry at times.  It was an enjoyable movie, and I recommend it.

I really want to go see Courageous.  I have heard nothing but great things about this movie.  In fact it is still in theaters and has been there for weeks longer than many people expected.  After all of the good reviews I keep hearing I recommend going and seeing it before it leaves the theaters.  When there is a good, wholesome movie that people are enjoying we need to support it in the theaters.  This shows movie makers that people actually care about these kind of films.  I think Sherwood Pictures keeps getting better and better with each film they release. 

A good movie stays with me and keeps me thinking.  A good movie challenges me to remember its message.  A good movie is just plain fun.  There are many good movies out there.  I think it is very exciting when independent companies are successful in putting out a good film that grosses enough for them to make another one.  I pray more companies like Sherwood Pictures will have the funds to make movies that make a difference instead the many films that just provide people with two hours of worthless or at least indifferent entertainment.  Some people like that I guess, but I am thankful for a good movie.

Thank You, Lord, for the amazing talent that goes into making a good movie.  Please provide more of them for people to learn truth and be entertained at the same time.  Thank You, Lord, for good movies.


Day 20: A Good Book

I also love a good book.  I am always amazed by authors who write good books.  It takes a lot of work to produce a good book that people will read.  There is a lot of time devoted to it, a lot of patience, and then a long road of exposure for people to even know the book exists.  It is remarkable to me when the front cover of a book boasts, "1 Million Sold."  That is a lot of people reading one book.  Usually this happens over the course of many years, but depending whose hands get on the book that time can be shorter. 

We have so many books.  There are so many books on my shelves that I have read and would like to read again and many more that I have not read, yet.  They are on my list, and I do hope I get to them. 

When I begin reading a book that already is good right off the bat, I have a hard time putting it down.  I want to know not only the ending, but the middle, as well.  Usually the books that are not so great (in my opinion)  I end up trying to finish in order to have a completed opinion about it, especially for reviewing purposes.  However I find myself painfully getting through those and often skimming quickly to get the jist hoping it will get better.  I feel badly for authors whose books I feel that way about.  I rejoice with the authors whose books I love and enjoy telling others about them.

One of my favorite books is by W. Philip Keller called, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.  This book is so good!  It is a little, inexpensive book (You can find it at a bookstore for $5) and one I hope to read again and again through the years.  I wrote a bit about the subject covered in this book here and followed it up with part two here.  This is such a great little book!  Keller has many other books that I look forward to reading.  I have also read his Lessons From a Sheepdog, which was also excellent.  I can't recommend him enough!

I also enjoyed Culture Makers: A Worldview Approach to Re-Engaging the World, by Josiah Vencel.  I have read it twice, and I highly recommend it.  In fact, I happen to see this book as one that will always be either on my shelves to re-read again unless I have lent it out for someone else to read.  I couldn't explain it any better than this description from the book itself:

"God did not call Christians to sit on the sidelines of society. But that is precisely what has happened for nearly a century as believers have forgotten about their divinely appointed role in the world. Yet history testifies to the remarkable salt-and-light influence of Bible-believing saints who have applied their faith in all areas of life, not just within the walls of a church. Christ came to transform you into an agent of reconciliation ... not just to save souls, but to redeem entire cultures for his glory. If you¿ve ever wondered how to apply your faith consistently, to think about life christianly or to engage the world for Christ, Culture Makers will not let you down. Culture Makers will answer questions such as: Is there a biblical way to see all of life? What is Christianity¿s role in society? How do my personal beliefs shape culture? How do I respond to unbiblical points of view? How can the biblical worldview revitalize my faith? And so much more. Discover your place in the world. Fulfill your calling. Become a culture maker."

Recently my husband and I both read the book Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo.  This book recounts the events surrounding a little boy's death, visit to Heaven, and return back to life (all in about three minutes).  This book is a quick and easy read with a lot of moments where I just had to read on to find out what was next.  We both really enjoyed this book.  It has also spurred great conversations about Heaven with others.  This is a great weekend read.  Actually I read it in a little over a day. 

As we approach Christmas break I have been thinking about what books I want to tackle during more down time.  I am still not sure which books I will be reading on my own, but we have some Thanksgiving and Christmas books I look forward to reading to my children.

I love how my children enjoy being read to daily.  We've been reading to them since they were babies, and they love it!  There is such a joy when I get to sit on the couch with children in my lap reading good books to them.  These books are almost never what I call "fluffy" books - just a few words with little meaning or educational value behind them.  I love reading good books to them that help them think, imagine, learn, and enjoy that time together.  Even my toddler says, "Rwead. Pwease," with a book in her hand as she starts climbing in my lap.  I hope they continue to love books.  I look forward to them learning to read and enjoy them on their own, as well, but I hope we always share read aloud time, too!

I have to be careful with what I read.  I chose to not read some books that have been recommended to me because I know I couldn't handle the subject matter and/or it is contrary to what I want to fill my mind with:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

This is the measuring stick by which I measure what I will chose to sit down and spend my time reading.  I am so thankful for good books!  Thank You, Lord, for giving authors good ideas that glorify You and promote Your truth.  May You continue to give more ideas and provide the means for those ideas to be published and sent to the hands of readers who will be changed for the better as a result.  Thank You, Lord!

I hope to produce some good books of my own in the future.  May the Lord be glorified and may His will be done in His timing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Laughter and Fun

Day 17: Laughter

I am thankful for laughter.  I enjoy laughing.  I also enjoy hearing others laugh when they are laughing at something that is really funny.  Laughter can bring so much healing.  It relieves tension, it helps us breathe and relax, it unites people, and it usually brings good memories.  Sharing laughter with others is a great way to build relationships and enjoy others.

It's no wonder that people often say that laughter is the best medicine.  It may or may not be the best, but it certainly is helpful.  The Bible says it like this:

"A joyful heart is good medicine..." (Proverbs 17:22a NASB)

Good laughter can lead to a joyful heart, which is good medicine.  I say can because it does depend on what is causing the laughter.  Good, clean laughter in good, clean fun is the kind of laughter for which I am thankful! 

I want to be clear that sometimes laughter does not bring joy.  Laughter that is compelled by evil or mockery is not good laughter.  Laughter that is at someone else's expense is not the kind of laughter that brings joy to anyone.  As I have grown and as I have continued to fall more in love with my Lord, I have realized that the jokes, movies, pranks, and language that used to make me laugh are no longer funny to me.  In fact, that kind of humor often makes me sad.  It makes me sad because if I engage in that or witness others doing so, I realize that the very sins that put Jesus on the cross are being laughed at by so many.  Is that really funny?  If we take a look at what we are laughing at we may see that perhaps our humor needs some reconstruction.

Even Jesus was laughed at when He was here on earth right before he brought a little girl back to life:

"He said, "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him." (Matthew 9:24 NASB)

Now I find much more satisfaction in laughing at what really is funny and enjoying the gift of laughter that God gave us.  I love hearing my children laugh, sometimes hysterically.  There is nothing like that little kid giggle.  It is just so cute!  I also love hearing my husband laugh.  It's fun when something I say makes someone else laugh.  Everyone likes to feel like maybe they are witty every now and then right?

I look forward to times with family and friends during the holiday season when more of us get together than usual.  It will be fun to spend time with the people we rarely get to see and most likely there will be much laughter.  I love those memories of laughing so hard we're crying.  Those are fun times.  I hope your holidays will be filled with laughter, as well.

Thank You, LORD, for giving us laughter!  How boring life would be without anything to laugh about.   


Day 18: Fun

I am also thankful for good, clean fun.  Fun is a relative term I suppose.  What is fun to me may not be fun to you.  However we can all find something that is fun.  My ideas of what is fun have also changed over the years.

I have a lot of fun with my husband and children.  I enjoy spending time with them, especially when we just have time to hang out and enjoy each other without many time constraints or places to go. 

I also find traveling very fun.  I haven't done as much traveling, since my children were born, but before that I enjoyed visiting eighteeen countries and twenty-something states for various reasons and with various people.  It wasn't all fun, but overall there was a lot of fun had on each of those trips.  I am very thankful for those times.

I have learned to appreciate fun more after I learned to appreciate work more.  Work is necessary.  We all have work to do whether it is a career, staying home with the children, cleaning, etc.  One phrase we teach our children, especially when they protest their chores, is "Work first, then play."  The play is so much more enjoyable after the work has been completed!  This really is true.  Work completed is such a relief that frees one up to then go have fun. 

I find that in our society there seems to be a pressure to make sure your children are always having fun.  Why?  Is this realistic?  Don't they need to learn to thrive in the times that are not fun?  Perhaps if we taught our children a balanced approach to fun there would be more adults who understood the need to work well and then play well.  Both are necessary.

Anyway...  I love having fun.  Sometimes I don't get enough of it, but I realize that other times I need to relax and have more fun in the everyday tasks that can get mundane. 

Isn't it great that the Creator of the universe made us to enjoy fun?  I love that.  He also made us each to find different things fun.  One person might find reading a good book fun.  Another might find sky diving fun.  There is such a variety of choices and many ways to enjoy life and have fun (some of them safer than others).

Thank You, LORD, for fun.  Please help me glorify You while I am having fun.  You are such a good God!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Food and The Computer

Day 15: Food

Boy, do I love food.  I am very thankful for food.  Not only do we need food, but food is fun and enjoyable.  Food is nourishing (well it is supposed to be), food is social, food is fun, food is a part of our everyday life. 

Think of all of the variety of food!  There are so many kinds of vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, cheeses, and combinations of them all.  There are so many styles of cooking, traditions, cultural cuisines, diet options, and on and on. 

I am sure I have only scratched the surface with the amount of vegetables I have tried.  There are so many, and I have tried a lot.  Some varieties are only available in other countries and cannot be brought into our country.  I am constantly amazed by this.  What a creative God to offer so many choices of root vegetables!  So many choices of fruit!  It is incredible.

Because there are so many choices I find myself wanting to try as many as possible.  I want to taste as many types of food as I can.  With that being said I do have my limits because of location, money, and the desire to eat a diet that is Kosher.  Still it is fun to explore the cullinary world and enjoy.

It's funny because when I got married over eight years ago I could barely cook a single meal.  I knew how to do some things, but I was pretty boring when it came to the kitchen.  I very quickly wanted to learn more and grow in my cooking and baking skills to provide more balanced and tasteful meals my both my husband and me.  It was a challenge at first, but slowly I began to enjoy it.

Now fast forward from where I started, and I now actually have the know-how to enjoy making as much as possible from scratch.  Thankfully I have been taught along the way to make pretty much any dinner we want (within reason), bread, cookies, donuts, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, and most of what we eat for meals and snacks!  It has been a fun journey.

During pregnancies I tend to not want to cook as much or be as creative.  Usually I end up bored after a couple of months of that.  That is where I am now.  I need to be creative again and enjoy cooking and even eating again.  I have to eat so much right now that I get a little tired of food.  Kinda funny.

However I remain thankful that the LORD provides food for us to eat and eat well.  Amazingly, on our budget, He makes a way for us to continue to eat all-natural and mostly organic foods.  Sure we cut out other things like cable because eating well is more important to us than watching television.  When we shop, though, we use coupons, get good deals, and use our food budget as best as possible.  Usually we save about 50% on our total food purchases.  This is another reason why cooking from scratch is a good idea.  It saves a lot of money!

I'm so thankful for food.  I am thankful for how our bodies use it, and for how good food tastes good.  I'm also amazed that God uses a mother's body to feed a baby.  It is ridiculously amazing.  Thank You, Lord, for food.


Day 16: The Computer

I tend to be pretty old fashioned (perhaps you gathered that at some point), and I usually get a little hesitant about some types of technology.  However I recognize the good that comes from so many advances that have come with technology.

I am thankful for the computer.  It is crazy how much progress the computer itself has had since the first one made its debut.  It was the size of a large room!  Now one can carry a computer in one's pocket!  When you think about how little time has passed since then it is pretty unbelievable.  Even though computers can be overused and seem to have overrun our society, and even though they can be used for evil purposes, I am still thankful for the ways computers have been used for good.

There are a lot of ways that computers have been used for good and continue to be, but my focus here will be mostly on how I have benefited from computers.

First of all, it is pretty easy to type out everything I would like to communicate through this post, have it spell checked, upload a picture, and then publish it for literally people from all over the world to read.  I could not do that without this laptop here. 

Also as I continue to work on writing the book I am working on, it is much easier to type it all out on a computer than handwriting it or typing it on a typewriter.  Then once I am done, Lord willing, I will be asked to email that manuscript to a publisher after having an editor edit it on a computer and emailing it back to me.  Furthermore after it is publised it can be sold online through many venues, ordered and sent to stores through computer programs, and scanned at a store where someone will probably use a debit card to pay for it.  All of this takes computers, and all of it has been made much easier by them.

Of course it is also nice to communicate with others through email and social media outlets.  There are people I would not be in contact with at all if it were not for the computer.  Sometimes I get tired of these avenues of communication because many rely on them too much and forget about actual voice or face to face communication. 

The spread of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ has also been radically advanced through technology.  There are many websites, organizations, and even online Bible text that have helped others come to know the saving love of Jesus like never before.  I am thankful for this, as well.  Prayer requests can also be quickly communicated through email.

You most likely will not see me carrying around a computer, unless I am at an airport, but I am thankful for them.  I chose to have my computer just as my computer and not my phone, etc.  However, I am thankful for it.  Actually this one in particular we bought for under $500 with a protection plan a year or so ago.  I am thankful for that good deal, too! 

Thank You, Lord for the computer.  May more people use it for Your glory, and may Your truth be spread because of it even more.  Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Order and Rest

Day 13: Order

Can you imagine if there was no order?  Think of the order of the seasons, the unspoken order of the animal kingdom, order (even though it is not always upheld by everyone) in society...  We need order.  Without order, eventually we will feel unsettled, uneasy, and in need of...order.

I love studying the Bible and realizing more and more how ordered God is and how He made everything to have an order.  Even the way scriptures in one book of the Bible directly corresponds to scriptures in another book of the Bible is a clear indication of how God is the same throughout.  The protestant Bible is composed of 66 books, written by nearly 40 authors inspired by God, and over the course of years.  Only a God of order could have used that to make a life manual that is so congruent throughout each page.  I am so thankful that I have a God of order.

When there is order in the home, life is much more peaceful and satisfying.  When the children know what boundaries are established for them and what is expected of them, our home life is more ordered.  When discipline is needed to re-establish that order, everyone feels better afterwards.  This is because order has been restored.  It is amazing.

Think about the times traffic lights have been down.  People don't know what to do.  They forget simple traffic rules and there is a threat of chaos because no one really knows when it is their turn to go.  Usually at these times a police officer is sent to direct traffic, and again we have order.

I have had times like that in my own life.  Something went haywire or a storm blew in and the lights that keep the traffic in order stopped working for a time.  In those times I need my Lord to re-establish that order and bring peace and proper function again.  I am so thankful that He does this!  I am so thankful I can call on Him to direct traffic and get everything back in order again.  He is so restorative.

I am so thankful for the order that comes from knowing Jesus as my Lord and being able to call on Him daily, thoughout each day, to establish His order in my own life and the lives of those I love.  He is so kind.

Look at the way He set the world into motion with a quiet order that continues still.  Don't you think He can handle the day to day concerns of your life, as well?


Day 14: Rest

Order doesn't only bring peace.  It also brings rest.  Rest is not just physical, although physical rest is very important.  Rest is also a refreshing and peaceful state of trusting in the LORD, no matter the circumstance.

This past weekend I had the privelege of going on a women's retreat with some ladies from our church.  The theme throughout the weekend was, "Rest in the LORD."  I was looking forward to this for weeks because it's been a busy few months, and I knew some good time with my friends and time alone with no precious little ones to take care of for a couple of days would be renewing.

I knew we would have some free time on one of the days, and I continued to ask the LORD what He wanted me to do with that free time.  Should I bring my laptop and write?  Should I bring some books to catch up on?  Should I use that time to cultivate the friendships that have been building?  Should I pray?  Should I go on a nature walk?  There were many things I could do, but I wanted to know what He knew to be the best use of that time for me.  He told me what to pack and what not to pack.

Even when the free time came, I was still uncertain of what to do.  I loved having the free time available, but I also didn't know what to do with myself.  It was kind of funny actually.  Hours and hours of free time to spend however I wanted was both wonderful and strange at the same time.  I usually only get an hour to myself at a time, and usually I spend that on something on my to-do list.  I do choose to just sit and rest or read at times, as well, but this was a huge opportunity.

After asking the LORD again, "What do I do with all of this glorious time?"  He gave me the idea I needed.  Just lay on the bed in your room, leave the door open to let the breeze in, and listen to music.  We had cute little rooms at the retreat center, and the weather was so beautiful!  The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and the breeze was blowing.  So that is what I did.  I took out my music and began to listen to Ginny Owens and Chris Rice. 

As I began to listen I also began to remember other times in my life when those songs were in the background.  I began to think of the times when I was a new believer crusing around in my little truck listening to those songs and learning to love the LORD.  I began to think of times in college when I was learning who I was while listening to those songs.  I began to think of my time in London when I would walk throughout the city or sit under a tree at Hyde Park listening to those songs...and many others.  I thought about the people, the places, and the times in life since I started following Jesus.  He reminded me of His faithfulness and of His tender care for me as I lay there listening.

It was refreshing.  It was relaxing.  It made me thankful. 

From there I read some scripture, journaled, went to lunch, went back to the room for a two and a half hour nap, drew with some colored pencils, worked on my Bible study on spiritual warfare, and talked with some friends.  It was such a wonderful time of taking care of myself, resting, and spending time curled up with my Heavenly Father.

It was also enjoyable to hear from other women how they spent their free time and how God was with them, as well.  That was refreshing, too.

Although spending that much time by myself is not something I can do often, it did remind me of the need to remember to make whatever time I can for just sitting and resting.  I recognize the importance of this, and thankfully I don't feel guilty about doing it.  I do however let other things take that time up, sometimes in the name of productivity, and I need to learn again how to manage this better.

If you drive anywhere on a public highway you are bound to experience people who obviously have not been resting.  They get mad when you are still sitting at the green light a second after it has turned green or if you are going the actual speed limit.  They are missing out on the rest that comes from just chilling out and taking life one moment at a time.

Where are you in this?  Are you resting in the LORD?  Do you know how to?

I am so thankful for rest.  Even the LORD rested on the seventh day after creating the universe!  How can we think we don't need to rest if even the Creator of everything rested?  Thank You, my Lord, for rest.  You know I need it because we all do.  I am thankful, and I don't want to miss this.

There are many, many scriptures on rest, but here is the one we focused on most during the women's retreat:

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (Psalm 62:1,2)

Rest in Him today.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Music and Dance

Day 11: Music

I am so thankful for music.  I don't think I go a day without music at some point.  Often there is music playing in our home throughout the day.  We love to sing in our car, around the house, and sometimes wherever we are (especially my husband).  We are a family who loves music. 

Music evokes emotion.  This is why I am careful to chose which types of music I let into my household, car, and mind.  Music stays with us.  This is why many commercials and companies have jingles to get their message stuck in our heads.  There is a mystery to music.  How does it have so much influence?  How can it bring on specific emotions?  It always amazes me when I am suddenly transported to another time or place in my mind when listening to a song.  Music brings back memories - good or bad.

You probably will not be surprised that my favorite music to listen to, dance to, sing to, and keep in my mind are songs that remind me of truth.  I want to listen to songs that remind me of who God is and who I am as a result.  I love songs that belt out His praises and worship Him for how great He is.  I love singing along to these.  I love hearing my children sing (or try) the words of these songs.  So many children are exposed to music with lyrics that are far too mature for them, and it breaks my heart.  Those words stay in their minds and as they grow their ideas and perspectives are shaped by them.  What are your children listening to when it comes to music?

I also love music without lyrics and with lyrics in other languages.  I first make sure that the lyrics in other languages still are congruent with my belief system because I want to support that which is good and true.  I love music from other cultures, and I love exposing my children to it.  Music without words or with words I cannot understand usually inspires imagination and creativity.

Music lifts me up.  Music has helped me through difficult times and has expressed the joy my words cannot in exciting times.  I even enjoy just one guy drumming on a bench at a bus stop.  Music moves me.

There are so many references to music, song, instruments, and singing in the Bible - too many to list here.  Music is important.  We'll even be singing in Heaven!

Here is one of my favorites, though:

"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

I am so thankful for music.  Thank You, LORD!

Day 12: Dance

I fell in love with dance back in middle school.  Actually it first started with baton twirling and then led to more exposure to dance.  I started out with mostly hip hop and jazz, and through high school began to learn more about ballet and modern/contemporary dance.  Finally in college I started taking dance classes and began the process of becoming a dancer.  I am so thankful for my experiences and education in college.  I had such great instruction from my teachers and from fellow students.  I learned years and years worth in just four years.  I am very grateful because I would not be who I am today without the fun and learning experiences of dancing with a pre-professional dance company in college. 

Since then I have danced professionally at churches and other events, but a special place remains in my heart for those first dance concerts where I was completely both terrified and at home on stage.  Modern dance quickly became my favorite, and it remains so still. 

Dance is not just about performing on a stage for an audience, though.  Dance is another expression of worship.  Often at church while singing along to the songs we sing, in my head I am dancing.  I am dancing and worshipping the LORD through the expression of dance.  Sometimes I really just want to bust out right then and there, but because I don't want to distract others I usually just tap my foot and move in place. 

I also am thankful for ballroom dances like swing, salsa, tango, fox trot, and many others.  My husband and I enjoy dancing along when we get the opportunity for those, like at weddings.  There is just something about dance that touches my very soul.  It is a part of who I am.  I love that, and I love when I get to share that with my husband.  He has a lot of natural talent, which I praise the LORD for.

I pray that as I continue to dance, I can also encourage others to do the same.  I look forward to choreography and making dances for others.  I love watching my children dance around to music, and I always try to help them feel free to just dance.  It doesn't have to look like a professional ballerina to be called beautiful.  Dance comes from within because of a joy or sorrow that need expressing.  I always enjoy going to dance performances, and it is even more fun to go as a family.

I am so thankful for dance.  I thank the LORD for giving dance to me in my life, and I want to dance for His glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Good Ideas and Creativity

Day 9: Good Ideas

Isn't it fun to have a good idea?  That moment when you suddenly think of something that seems like a really great idea is so thrilling.  I find it appropriate that that moment is often signified by a lightbulb being turned on.  I love good ideas.

When an idea comes, I must first evaluate it before acting on it.  Is it a good idea?  Does it fall in line with truth?  Would it bring good to others and glorify God?  These questions needed to be answered to help me know if the idea is a good one or not a good one.  Of course the more significant the idea the more evaluation and prayer is needed.  Not much evaluation and prayer is needed for a great idea of what to make for dinner tonight, but I love when I get one of those!  Sometimes the idea for dinner is indeed an answer to prayer, as small as it is.

One lesson I have been learning over the last year or so is that when I get an idea, I need to prayerfully consider it, ask the LORD for guidance on the first/next step, and then once I hear back from Him I need to do what He says.  Think of all of the great ideas that have come and gone through your mind, but you never did anything about it.  Then you see the idea you had in a store.  Someone else had that idea, but they did something about it.  What do you say then?  "Why didn't I do that!?"  Right?

It seems that often (not always) the difference between those of us who have an idea that never comes to realization and those who are currently marketing their idea is the fact that they did something about that idea!  Really good ideas take time, energy, work, money usually, and perseverance.  However, wouldn't it feel great to stand before your finished product and be thankful that you did it?

God takes care of the results, but what is my part?  What is He asking me to do?  What ideas has He given me to develop and shape into something that could be wonderful?

The ideas I am currently working on range from large to small.

Large ones include a few books I am working on and praying about publishing.  I have three that I am actively writing, but there are a couple of others being kicked around between my ears, as well.  I want to be diligent and responsible with these ideas and be wise with them.  I want to carry them out with excellence in His way, His timing, and for His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom.  If I produce a product, even if it looks great, but it is done in my own strength and for my own glory may it never succeed.  May I only succeed when I pursue His goals for the ideas He has placed in my mind. 

Medium-sized ideas right now include what to give to my friends and family for Christmas.  I love thinking and praying about what to give at Christmas.  It is such a fun opportunity to give to others, and I really don't get that opportunity much throughout the rest of the year - at least on such a large scale.  I get so excited when I get a really good idea for a gift for someone, especially when it is someone I was having trouble coming up with a gift idea for. 

Small ideas that are still very important have been helping me even in the last couple of days.  I am so thankful that the LORD has given me good ideas for daily life and routine with my home life, husband, children, and work.  It has been wonderfully refreshing to receive these ideas, especially when I really was needing some guidance.

I love good ideas, and I thank the LORD for them!

Day 10: Creativity 

Along the same line of being thankful for good ideas, I am so thankful for creativity!  I love creativity!  I so enjoy the creativity of others.  I love being able to enjoy someone's creative expressions through visual arts, performing arts, music, dance, architecture, writing, cooking, baking, photography, etc.  What would we do without creativity?  What would our world be like?

Without creativity, life would be pretty bland.

I also am thankful for times when I get to be creative.  I love making things and doing something creative.  It's refreshing to me, and it really is a large part of who I am.  God made me this way. 

As far back as I remember, I have always loved being creative.  My brother and I used to draw and write comic books, magazines, whole story lines, and much more.  We would also record songs and "live shows" that we made up on endless hours of tapes.  When my little sister grew old enough, she joined us in these endeavors.  It was a lot of fun, and now we have those as great memories and really funny tapes. 

My cousins and I also used to make up games and play them for hours.  We did this so often that when I became a camp counselor years later no one knew the games I was talking about.  I realized then that we must have made up more of them then I remembered.

I enjoy the creativity of others, I enjoy the creativity the LORD has given me, and I enjoy the creativity of the Creator Himself.  How can I marvel at human creativity without realizing from whom it first came?  Look at the trees, flowers, people!  Think of how many types of bananas there are, the many species of fish in the ocean and then the many species of fish in lakes, rivers, and other fresh water sources!  Isn't it amazing that instead of just giving us one or two kinds of trees, one or two kinds of food, one or two types of people He gave us the incredibly vast variety He has? 

What creativity it took to create everything we see.  Even the buidlings around us were inspired by the LORD's creativity, whether the men and women building them realize that or not.  God is the ultimate when it comes to creativity, and I am so thankful!  What excitement, variety, pleasure that brings to life!

He not only creates, but He also re-creates.  He makes new the old and breathes life into what was once dead.  He re-created me when I turned to Him.  He made me a new creation.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I praise the LORD for creativity.  It was a good idea, to say the least!