Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Blessings of God

One of my favorite songs is the song entitled, "You Have Been Good" by Scott Krippayne.

If I never get to see another rainbow
Or share another life with a friend
If I never stand barefoot by the ocean
Or get to kiss my child goodnight again

If I never have another prayer that's answered
Or have another blessing come my way
If this is all I know of heaven's kindness
Father, I would still have to say

You have been good
You have been good
And I may've wondered how could it be

You have been good
You've been so good
So many ways You've been good to me

You've shown me mercy upon mercy
Grace upon grace, time after time
And I know all too well what I'm deserving
Yet, You are still so patient and kind

You have been good
You have been good
And I may've wondered and how could it be

You have been good
You've been so good
So many ways You've been good to me


The Lord has been SO VERY GOOD to me. Like the author of this song, I can honestly say that if the Lord chose to never answer another prayer or send another blessing my way, I would still be blessed beyond measure by what He has already done in my life.

Each blessing makes me humbly aware of my inability to truly thank God for all He has given me. To try, would take my whole lifetime, plus all of eternity. Yet, giving thanks to God is one of the most beautiful privileges you and I have been given. With so much to be thankful for, our hearts and our prayers should be overflowing with thanks.....but are they?

Last week, as I was driving home from work, listening to the radio, I caught the tail end of a short promo for an upcoming Focus on the Family broadcast. The guest posed this question to the host (and to all of us listening in):

"What if the blessings of tomorrow were only the blessings we gave thanks for today?"

I know. What an awesome question. I don't know about you, but this question revealed to me just how many blessings of the Lord are overlooked each and every day. I experience them (like seeing a beautiful sunset, sharing in a laugh with a friend, savoring a piece of pumpkin pie, smelling my husbands signature cologne), yet I fail to give thanks for them.

One of my old email addresses use to be thankfulheart@........, yet as I continued to try and fully grasp the depth of this question, I realized I'm not as thankful as I thought I was. How I need to daily cultivate a heart that is truly thankful....a heart that is ever mindful of each and every blessing, each and every day.

This Thanksgiving, may the Lord give us eyes anew to truly see ALL of His blessings. As He reveals His gifts of love, may He in return, hear unending words of thanksgiving and gratitude overflowing from the lips of His children.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Even At The Door

One of the perks of having a husband is having your very own small game hunter. At least that’s the way I like to refer to the man of my house. Anytime an eight legged creature or otherwise unwelcome guest is spotted, my husband is beckoned and viola! Bug be gone! It’s like having my very own personal exterminator. The only problem is my man isn’t always home when one of these small beasts decides to pay us a visit. Such was the case one night several weeks ago.

With my husband out of the house for a few hours, I decided to take advantage of my time alone to do some household chores, one of which was laundry. With a basketful of clothes tucked under my arm, I made my way to our garage where our washer and dryer are located. After I started the load, I headed back toward the door leading from the garage into our home. As I reached for the doorknob, I just happened to look up. There, on the ceiling looking down at me, was a scorpion. As our eyes met, I knew there was only one thing to do. I darted into the house as fast as I could, quickly closing the door behind me. Then, I calmly and casually strolled into the living room acting as though this brief encounter had never happened.

Try as I may, though, I couldn’t erase the image of the scorpion from my mind. I knew it was out there. I had seen it and all the pretending in the world wasn’t going to change that. I also knew this fella had legs. It wasn’t going to be content to simply hang out on the ceiling of our garage. Before long, it would decide to venture indoors. Like it or not, I knew I had to kill it before it had a chance to crawl under the door and make itself at home in our home.

Mustering up all the courage I could find, I headed back out to the garage. I picked up my husband’s weapon of choice, a long stick, and proceeded to do some small game hunting of my own. After numerous shrieks (from me, not the scorpion), this would be home invader soon fell lifeless to the floor. Mission accomplished.

As I made my way through the doorway and back into our home, I was reminded of the words found in Genesis 4:7, “sin lieth at the door”. Remember the story? God had asked for an animal sacrifice, but Cain, being a tiller of the ground, had instead offered the Lord a sacrifice of fruits and vegetables. When God didn’t accept Cain’s offering, Cain became angry. God knew if Cain did not squelch this anger before it had time to consume his heart, sin would soon follow. Foolishly, Cain walked away from God’s counsel. It didn’t take long for his anger to take over his thoughts and subsequently, his actions. In the very next verse, in fact, we read the sad details. Cain lured his brother, Abel, out into a field and killed him.

All too often, instead of eradicating the sin in our life once and for all, we foolishly allow it to remain at the threshold. Sometimes, we pretend it doesn’t exist. We go on about our life as though there is nothing to be concerned about. Oftentimes, however, we do acknowledge it, but in our arrogance, we proudly parade around it as though we are invincible and the sin incapable of penetrating the walls of our heart.

Like Cain, when we willfully allow sin to take root in our heart, the following verses of our own life will eventually reveal the sad details. Sin comes packaged with consequences. As the sin plays itself out in our life, we too may discover that our actions have "killed" something very dear to our own heart. Maybe it is our reputation that received the deadly blow. Perhaps it is our marriage that is now lifeless and dead. Possibly, it may even be our very will to live that is found gasping for it's next breath.

The scorpion in my garage didn’t stand a chance. Unfortunately, neither do you and I when it comes to sin. In our own power, we are completely incapable of battling this invader of our heart. How we need a savior.

Have you checked the doorway of your heart lately? Is there a sin lying in wait for an opportune time to make its way into your life? If so, don’t wait another minute. Call upon your Heavenly Father. When we confess our sins to God, He is ever faithful to come to our rescue. His weapon of choice has always been the blood he shed for you and me on the cross of Calvary. As we confess and then repent, God covers this sin with His precious blood, giving us the ultimate victory. With hands held high in praise and thanksgiving to our God, we can once and for all boldly declare, “Mission accomplished!”

Friday, November 6, 2009

Loving in HIS Name

After graduating from college, the Lord led me to New Jersey and to what would turn out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My college roommate and dear friend, Amy, had accepted a teaching position at a Christian school there and told me about an opening at a daycare center located next door to her school. Having never ventured east of the Mississippi, this new opportunity sounded inviting. After much prayer, I packed my bags and headed for the East coast.

To my delight, I was assigned a class of adorable, rambunctious, lovable two and three year olds. Each day was an adventure in learning…them from me, and most often, me from them. I taught these free-spirited little ones how to be still and stand in a straight line. They taught me to walk to the beat of my own drum. I taught these creative minds how to hold a paintbrush and a crayon. They taught me how to hold my head high and be proud of who I am. I taught these children who were destined for greatness, how to write their name. Four years later, Stephanie would teach me it’s not your name that's important; it’s the love you give away.

Stephanie was a beautiful, energetic three year old. Every day she came dressed in the cutest outfits accompanied by a smile that would light up the room. At a casual glance, one would have assumed Stephanie’s life was as beautiful as she was. Sadly, this notion was far from the reality of her situation. Both her mother and father were in prison and she was living with her grandparents. Even though her living arrangement had change for the better, deep inside, Stephanie still lived with the hurt, pain and abuse that had been such a part of the first three years of her young life.

All of my students quickly warmed up to me and welcomed me into their world. All, that is, except Stephanie. She kept her guard up and never let herself get too close or too comfortable with anyone. How my heart broke for her. Each day I prayed the Lord would pour out His perfect love through me, freeing Stephanie from her own prison of hurt, pain and loneliness; healing this precious little girl of her brokenness.

Weeks turned into months. As we spent time together each day, Stephanie gradually began to lower the emotional wall that had separated her from me. One memorable day, as we were taking a walk in a nearby park, I felt a little hand take hold of mine. It was Stephanie’s. From that moment on, Stephanie and I were heart to heart. The year soon came to an end and so did my time with these precious children. I had accepted a teaching position in Wisconsin and was headed to the Mid-west.

Four years later, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit my friend in New Jersey and to once again go to the daycare where I had taught. As I experienced the familiarity of each classroom and gazed into the eyes of the children now attending, I couldn’t help wishing I could once again see the children who had touched my heart four years earlier. I casually shared this desire with one of the current teachers. Naturally, the children in my class had long since moved on to other cities and schools. One child, however, had enrolled at the Christian school next door. Imagine the joy I felt when I learned this child was none other than Stephanie.

We excitedly made our way to the school and then to Stephanie’s classroom. I anxiously peeked through the window in the classroom door and began scouring the sea of children for this one familiar face. From the far corner of the room, a young girl turned around to speak to a fellow classmate. As she did, she spotted me peering through the window and immediately came running in my direction. I burst into the room and ran to meet her. Stephanie buried her head in my stomach as she embraced me with every ounce of her being. When she finally lifted her head and turned her beautiful face upward to look at me, I couldn’t believe God had blessed me with this unexpected reunion.

As I looked into her eyes, I asked in total amazement, “You still remember me after all these years? You were just three years old when I last saw you.” Then Stephanie said the words I will never forget; words that brought tears not only to my eyes, but also to the eyes of my husband as he witnessed one of the most priceless moments of my entire life.

“I don’t remember your name,” she said, “but I know you love me”.

How fitting that Stephanie didn’t remember my name. My name wasn’t important. Who I was didn’t matter. Amazingly, I was simply the one, hand picked by God, to touch the heart of this precious child with His healing love. What an awesome honor I had been given. My name had long since been forgotten, but it was obvious the love she had received never would be.

As I stood captivated in this divinely orchestrated moment in time, I humbly thanked God. I thanked Him for leading me to New Jersey. I thanked Him for bringing Stephanie into my classroom and into my life. I thanked Him for His incredible love that sets the captives free and heals the most broken of hearts. I thanked him for the incredible honor we have all been given: to love others in HIS name.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Gift of Today

“Stacy, I need you to fast forward this part.”

The request came from a four year old. He and his older brother were watching a movie we had checked out from our local library earlier that morning. Even though both boys had seen this movie several times before, it had still made its way into our book bag and now, into their DVD player.

“Why, honey?” I asked. “Is this part upsetting to you?”

“No. I just don’t want to watch this part. It’s boring. I want to hurry up and look at the funny part.”

“Well, you can’t hurry up!” His six year old brother now jumped into our conversation. “You have to go through the part you don’t like so you can get to the funny part. It’s all part of the movie and that’s just the way it is.”

I never cease to be amazed at the simple, yet profound words of wisdom commonly spoken by children. Countless times, my heart has been pricked and my thoughts sparked by their keen observations and raw honesty.

Ohhhh kaaaaaaaaaaay,” the younger brother replied. “I’ll look at the TV, but I’m not really going to watch it!”

And so it is with life. How many times have you and I wished we could simply hit the fast forward button and speed through a time in our life that wasn’t exactly pleasing to us? How many times have you and I looked at life, but not really lived it? If the truth be told, most of us, whether we realize it or not, are inevitably living our life in fast forward.

“What?” You say. “Not me.” I hate to burst your bubble, but does T.G.I.F. ring a bell? Thank God it’s Friday? I thought so. If you are like me, there have probably been numerous times in your own life when you have climbed out of bed Monday morning already thinking about the upcoming weekend. If I can just make it through the week, then I can enjoy the weekend. Sadly, five whole days – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – are passed over in an effort to hurry through the part we don’t like in hopes of getting to the part we do. Before we know it, our entire life has passed before us or worse yet, passed us by.

Every single day is a unique and precious gift from God. Just like a snowflake or the prints on your thumb, no two days are alike. We only get one chance to live this day. In the light of that great revelation, isn't it absolutely bizarre that we don't choose to be more selective and more intentional about the way we spend each moment God has so graciously given to us?

Sure, we both have obligations, such as work and family responsibilities, that may dictate to some degree how our 24 hours of time are spent, but ultimately, you and I are the only ones in control of our day. It is you and I who have been given the final say as to whether we will spend this never-to-be-lived-again moment of time

happy or miserable,
thankful or complaining,
giving or taking,
doing or watching,
enjoying or enduring,
living or going through the motions.

The choice is ours and ours alone.

“But wait,” you say. “That’s not true. You don’t know how demanding and difficult my boss can be. You don’t know the pressure I’m under financially. You don’t know about my illness. You haven’t seen my to-do list. You just don’t know what I am going through.”

You’re right. I don’t. But I do know this. When the sun sets this evening, our today will vanish only to become yet another one of our yesterdays. It will be over, never to be lived again.

Life passes all too quickly. Each day begins and ends before we have barely had time to make its acquaintance. Shouldn't we choose to live every single moment of today, regardless of whether the moment is good or bad, happy or sad? Why should we long to hit the fast forward button, when one day, we will inevitably long to press rewind and live moments of our life all over again? Time is ticking. Let's start making the most of this precious gift and truly start living!

This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

True Refreshment

A few months ago, after a long day at work, I couldn't wait to get home, trade my shoes for a pair of flip flops, and step out into the shade and relaxation waiting for me on our back patio. Each afternoon, I would unwind from work by sitting outside, sipping on a cool drink and taking in the beauty of our yard. Imagine my surprise, when I drew back the blinds and reached for the handle of our sliding glass door, only to find sunlight flooding not only our backyard, but every single inch of our patio. How could this be? What had happened to our shady backyard?

Evidently, while I had been slaving away at work, someone else had been slaving away pruning the trees in the yard that backs up to ours. The huge cottonwood that had once provided shade for both our yard and our patio, now barely made any shade at all. The heat from the sun was intense and so was my disappointment.

While the tree was most certainly in need of a “haircut”, I questioned the timing. Now?! In the middle of July? Now?! When shade was in hot demand? Now?! When each afternoon, I counted on the long branches of this tree to provide me with a cool oasis in the midst of the southwestern desert heat! NO! This was all wrong. How could this tree let me down like this? I needed it to stand up tall and be a tree!!! I needed some shade to kick back and relax in! As I stood there looking out my sliding glass door, covered from head to toe by the sunlight now streaming in, God used this moment to illuminate my own life and speak to my heart.

Everywhere we look and every place we go, we find people in need of a spiritual oasis. The struggles, trials and heartaches that often accompany life can be relentless at times, beating down on us until we are weak, dehydrated and desperately in need of a time of refreshment. God created you and me to be an umbrella of His love to those in need. Our prayers, our words of encouragement, our helping hands or listening ears can help to shield a hurting heart from the heat of life. Just like I counted on the cottonwood tree to be there for me, people in our lives are counting on us.

How many times have I disappointed others by failing to provide them with the “shade” they are so desperately counting on? How many times have I taken care of my own needs without giving any thought to the timing or the subsequent consequences of my actions in the lives of those around me? How many people have come to me hoping to find shelter from the heat of the battles in their lives only to be disappointed with my lack of interest, lack of compassion and lack of support? As I slowly closed the blinds, I realized God was doing some pruning of his own… in my heart.

Maybe God was calling me to stand up and be the child of God He had created me to be. Maybe, instead of going out into my backyard, God was challenging me to step out my front door and into the lives of those around me. Maybe God was desperatley trying to open my heart to the simple truth found in Proverbs 11:25, NLT:

“those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed”

Maybe, my finding shade wasn’t nearly as important as my giving it away to others.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Two Words That Change Everything

Last night, while I was getting ready for bed, I tuned in to my favorite Christian radio station. A woman was sharing a story of God’s faithfulness. I listened as she told of God’s miraculous intervention in her life during a time when all looked hopeless. As she recounted God’s goodness and told of the supernatural way He had worked in behalf of her and her children, she very casually spoke two words. Two small words, and yet this phrase completely captured my attention, transforming my thinking and ultimately, my faith in God.

I don’t know how her story ended. As I tried to truly grasp the implications of these two words, my mind became totally consumed with this new knowledge God was imparting to me through her testimony. I kept repeating the phrase over and over, out loud, and each time the words penetrated my ears, the truth behind them penetrated my heart. I suddenly found myself strengthened in my inner most being. I literally felt the touch of God on my heart. I knew, at that very moment, my relationship with the Lord had entered a deeper, more intimate, faith-filled level.

How could two small words make such a radical difference in my life? Simple. These two words change everything! Most likely, they will change you, too!

But God.

But God.

Say it aloud and let the truth and reality of these words penetrate your own heart.

But God.

No matter what is going on in your life, or what you may be going through, know and remember that all things must surrender to the power and authority of our God. Right now, at this very moment, stop and think about what you are struggling with today. Whatever it may be, I guarantee it is no match for our God. The Bible is living proof of that!

The Israelites had Pharaoh’s army breathing down their neck and the Red Sea in front of them, BUT GOD…..

David had only a little bitty sling shot with which to slay a giant of a man named Goliath, BUT GOD…

Daniel was served as the main course to a den of lions known for their ferocious appetites, BUT GOD…

A widow was out of time and out of money, with only a houseful of empty containers she had collected from her neighbors, BUT GOD…

Jonah was sinking in his sin of rebellion and headed for the bottom of the ocean, BUT GOD…

Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, BUT GOD…

Time and time again, when all looked hopeless and those in the midst of the situation felt most helpless, God showed up and did the seemingly impossible. Does your situation appear hopeless? Are you feeling helpless? Take heart. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Instead of ending the circumstances of your life with a period, replace the finality of your thinking with a comma of hope, followed by your declaration of faith! Boldly look your situation in the face and speak the only two words that are able to breathe life into your faith and power into your life.

I am (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…

I don’t see how I can (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…

I don’t have (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…

I am scared that (fill in the blank), BUT GOD…


So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead! Let God write the ending of your story. If you do, I have no doubt He will finish all things that pertain to you with a true exclamation of His glory and His marvelous grace!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Wisdom of a Father

Several years ago now, when my father’s health was declining, my mother found herself carrying the heavy load of caregiver along with her other daily responsibilities. Eventually, it became apparent to all in our family, that she was in need of a time of respite. My mother asked my sister and I to return home, care for our father, and give her some much needed time away. We agreed and hesitantly, she packed her bags and headed for the home of my father’s sister.


Each evening, my mother would call to check on my father and to see how things were in her absence. The first few phone calls confirmed that we had made the right decision in “sending” her away. Her voice still sounded tired and she mentioned she was sleeping a lot. Several days into her trip, however, after some much needed rest and relaxation, her phone conversations became more lively, full of laughter and excitement. My aunt, her hostess, was going out of her way to make sure my mom was waited on hand and foot and my mom seemed to be thoroughly enjoying this arrangement. Each day she would tell of the delicious food they ate, the wonderful places they visited, and the lavish attention my aunt was giving her. One night after speaking with my mom, and hearing all about her day, my dad asked to speak to his sister, the gracious hostess. What he told her made us all laugh.


“Don’t be spoiling her too much now. I’m the one who has to live with her, you know!” Of course, he was teasing, but the thought behind the laugh opened my mind to a spiritual truth. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

More than my aunt wanted to bless my mother, God longs to bless us. He delights in showering His children with blessings. Yet, even something as beautiful as a heavenly blessing, when given to a heart that fails to recognize or appreciate it, can begin to have a very repulsive human stinch. We have all smelled it and it isn't pretty. No wonder we refer to someone in this condition as "spoiled".

Often, when God's blessings runneth over and we find our self in need of nought, we become untouched by the generosity of our Heavenly Father. Blessings pour into our life and we barely take notice, much less offer words of thanksgiving to the giver of all good gifts.

Other times, however, the problem is not that we don't notice the blessings. Quite the opposite. Oddly enough, when we have received so bountifully from the hand of God we can come to a place in our relationship with the Lord where we begin to expect such blessings, then become bitter when they don’t rain down on us as we feel they should. We become spoiled by the selfless love of our gracious God and our actions and attitude attest to it!

Yes, God loves to lavish gifts upon his children, but like my father, He is very wise. He understands what we don’t. The rest of the world has to live with us!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blessed are The Tears

Here in sunny southern New Mexico, the weather is usually, well..............sunny! Not today, however. The skies are dark and overcast, with an occasional drizzle or light rain. You won't hear me complaining, though. It's been so long since we were blessed with rain, I am thrilled with the change in our weather.



The welcomed moisture, albeit moderate at best, has not only cleaned the dust from the air, but filled it with a wonderfully fresh aroma. No more stale air, here! And surprisingly, despite the gloomy darkness, everyone I meet seems upbeat, revived and rejuvenated. It is as though the rain has left the whole town feeling new and alive again. It's amazing what a few good sprinkles can do!



The same can be said about tears. Yes, tears. So often we try to keep our life sunny - free of overcast skies and teardrops. We somehow feel tears will only ruin our day and get everything in our life soggy. How, like the rain, we should welcome the rainy times of our lives.



The song, Blessed are The Tears, by Christian recording artist Bryan Duncan, speaks so deeply to my heart, especially on rainy days. The chorus to the song is:



Blessed are the tears that fall

Clean the windows of the soul

And usher in a change of heart

And bring a joy that angels know



Blessed are the tears that fall

Wash the stains of life away

Forgiven and forgotten now

A new creation's here to stay



Blessed are the tears that fall



Tears, like the rain, can do wonders to wash the dust, the hurt, and the stale air out of our life. They are also God's way of bringing much needed healing and refreshment to a heart that has become parched from the winds and heat of life.

Are you experiencing a rainy time in your life right now? If so, don't draw the curtains of your soul and hide inside until the storm passes. Instead, walk out into the downpour, leaving your umbrella safely tucked in your hall closet. Feel the drops. Let them soak all the way down to the deepest place of your heart. As God waters your spirit with His forgiveness, His peace, His hope, His love and His joy, you will see new life start to sprout up where only despair and gloom once tried to take root. Welcome this season into your life and allow it to renew you and revive you.


Thank you, Jesus, for loving us enough to send the rain into our lives. Help us not to miss the blessings you have lovingly placed into each and every tear.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Blessing

Two years ago, I had the honor of giving the commencement address at an 8th grade graduation at a school where I had served as both a teacher, and up until that year, a principal. I was approached by the students in this class and personally given this invitation. I was both humbled and honored.

Over the years we had spent together, I had observe each student excel academically and fine tune their various skills and talents. I had also watched as this group of children had transformed into teenagers who were independent and self-confident. I was proud of the Class of 2007 and yet, not quite ready to set them free.

Life brings change, though. These students would be leaving our school in pursuit of higher education, and in the days that would follow this night of celebration, I too, would find myself emptying my desk, clearing out my bookshelves and packing my things in pursuit of God's next call on my life.

As I prepared my speech, I asked the Lord to give me the words. While this was just one small milestone in their journey through life, I did not take this ceremony lightly. I knew the Lord had opened a door of opportunity for me to not only speak words of life into these young hearts and minds, but into the parents, the staff and the school. I had been given this one, last moment in time and I wanted the words I spoke to last an entire lifetime.

I chose two closely related scriptures as the foundation for my address.

Micah 6:8
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Deuteronomy 10:12
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.

As I spoke, I tried to provoke each person in that building, young and old alike, to live a life worthy of their calling - to take what God had given them and use their life to make a difference in this world and in the lives of others. I reminded them they were created to do what only they could do. Never before, and never again, would someone just like them live on this Earth. This was their moment in time. God had created them with a divine purpose and it was up to them to fulfill it.

As my time came to a close, I ended with the words to the song entitled, "The Blessing".

"This is your true calling", I reminded them. "You were created to be a blessing, but it's up to you. How will you choose to live your life? Life is short. Make each day count. Choose to be a blessing."

----------

As I sit here writing this, I can't help wondering where each student is and how they are doing? Are they keeping up with their homework and doing their best? Are they withstanding the temptations that come with the passage into adulthood? Are they happy? Are they still connected to Christ? The choice is theirs, and theirs alone.

And the choice is mine and yours. What impact will we make on our world? Will our life be spent in selfish ambition or reckless abandonment for the sake of Christ? What legacy will we leave behind? May God give us the strength to live our life in such a way as to bring glory to Him and justice, love and mercy to our fellowman.
-----------------
The Blessing

By John Waller and Troy Denning

Let it be said of us
while we walked among the living
Let it be said of us
by the ones we leave behind
Let it be said of us
that we lived to be a blessing for life

Let it be said of us
that we gave to reach the dying,
Let it be said of us
by the fruit we leave behind
Let it be said of us
that our legacy is blessing for life

This day, You set life, You set death right before us
This day, every blessing and curse is a choice now
And we will choose to be a blessing for life.

Let it be said of us
that our hearts belonged to Jesus
Let it be said of us
that we spoke the words of life
Let it be said of us
that our heritage is blessing for life
We will choose to be a blessing for life.



Will we build up, tear down?,

the moment of truth is now

This day, You set life, You set death right before us
This day, every blessing and curse is a choice now
And we will choose to be a blessing for life.



For your Kingdom


For our children


For the sake of every nation


We will choose to be a blessing for life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Real Deal

My grandma, born and raised in the deep South, was a spunky lady, to say the least. She had a dry, witty sense of humor and was famous for her one-liners. While her words always brought a laugh, they also revealed her wisdom. Long after the laughter faded, her words resonated in my heart.

As a young, single woman in my early twenties, I often traveled by myself. I thought nothing of getting in my car and driving seven hours North to see my parents, or ten hours East to spend time with my sister. My parents, however, worried about my safety. Time after time, they cautioned me of the dangers of traveling alone. One time, this familiar topic of conversation came up while we were visiting my grandma.

"I don't know why she insists on traveling by herself," my mother said, as I sat right beside her on my Grandma's turquoise couch. "I keep telling her to get a man's hat and place it in her back window. That way, it would at least look like a man was traveling with her. For all they know, he could simply be taking a nap in the backseat!"

Without skipping a beat, my Grandma leaned forward, looked directly at me and remarked, "Forget about the hat, honey. Get a man!" Laughter spilled into the room. Then Grandma continued. "Who wants a silly ole hat when you can have the real deal?!"

And of course, for all practical purposes, Grandma was right! I understood my mother's reasoning and felt her love for me in this odd request, but I had to agree with my Grandma. What good would a hat do? It was, after all, just a hat. At a quick glance, it might give the appearance that a man was along for the ride, but appearances and reality are two totally different things! Could a hat change a flat tire for me? Could a hat take the wheel and drive for me if I got tired and needed a break from the driver's seat? Could a hat protect me from a would be assailant? No, the hat was merely for show and would only provide a false sense of security. I didn't need a hat, I needed a man!

As ridiculous as I found my mother's idea to be, I couldn't deny that the joke was on me when it came to my spiritual life. I had grown up in a Christian home and had attended church from a young age. I knew all about God, the Bible, and what it meant to look like a Christian. In fact, anyone driving by my life would have been sure to notice my Bible, my Christian lingo and my Christian ways. But, if they would have gotten close enough to peer into the backseat of my heart, they would have discovered all these were just for show. I was traveling life alone. I had religion, but what I needed was the man, Christ Jesus.

It wasn't until my earlier thirties that I traded in my religious facade for a true, vibrant, living and breathing relationship with the Lord. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God became real to me for the first time in my life. Now, my Bible is no longer on display for all to see, but instead, it's words are hidden in my heart, guiding, leading and transforming me little by little, day by day. The words I speak are no longer spoken to impress others with my spirituality, but rather to impress upon others the beauty and freedom that can be found in a relationship with Christ. I pray each day God will take the wheel of my life and live in and through me.

I am no longer satisfied with a religion that is just for show, and why should I be? Think about it. Can religion forgive my sins? Can religion create a new heart in me? Can religion live in and through me? Can religion feel my hurt, understand my fears, or speak to my heart? No, only Christ can. Why would I want to settle for anything less than the real deal?...and why should you?
---------------
Oh, by the way, in case you are wondering, I took my Grandma's advice and got a man. Now, I not only have Christ in my life, but a wonderful husband, too! No more traveling alone for this girl! From now on, it's the three of us sharing every single moment of this amazing ride called life!

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Hope is in Thee

As I hung up the phone, I could hardly breathe. The news was simply too wonderful to contain. I felt as though my heart would burst with joy and excitement. My husband and I were going to have a baby...a dream come true.

This wasn't the first time I had heard these words from the doctor or experienced this overwhelming flood of emotion. Twice before, I had been able to surprise my husband with this same, wonderful news and watch as his face lit up, and his eyes sparkled. We both have a deep love for children and having one of our own was a dream we both shared and talked about often. Twice before, however, I had also known the deep sorrow and silent grief that rips your heart apart when you lose that little life before you have ever had a chance to meet your son or daughter face to face, or embrace and tenderly kiss them.

This time was going to be different, though. I just knew it. I could feel hope running all through out my body, from my head to my toes! I had lost my father eight months earlier, and I felt as though this was God's way of bringing new life back into mine and joy back into my heart. I could hardly wait to tell my husband and the rest of the world.

Even though my faith was strong, and my hope sure, I have to admit, there were moments when I would start to worry about losing this precious little one, too. When those moments came, however, God was always faithful to send a reminder to keep me hoping.

Like the time I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, waiting to have some routine blood work done. I started to feel anxious, but before I had a chance to dwell on these feelings, a beautiful little girl, about three years old, came and sat down right next to me. We talked and laughed and had the best time. After a few minutes, I asked her what her name was.

"Esperanza" she replied.

"What a beautiful name. Your name means HOPE in English, doesn't it?" I asked. She just smiled, but her mother nodded and said, "Yes, it does."

Instantly, my fear vanished and hope ruled my heart. God was with me and everything was going to be just fine. Weeks flew by and soon, at my six weeks Dr. visit, I was able to not only see my baby, but to hear the beating of it's heart.

"Your baby has a very strong heartbeat. Everything looks and sounds terrific!" the doctor declared.

Still, as days went on, fear tried desperately to steal my joy. With each moment of fear, however, God was faithful to send me a hope-filled moment to hold on to.

Like the time I was driving home from work and caught myself once again fearful of facing yet another miscarriage, and another heartbreak. Turning a corner, a sign at a church beckoned for my attention. There, for all the world to see, were God's words of hope.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 15:13

I pulled over to the side of the road, found a pen and paper, and copied down this powerful word from God. I decided, right then and there, to commit this particular scripture to memory. The next time Satan tried to bring doubt or fear to my heart or mind, I would hold up my shield of faith and quench his fiery dart by boldly proclaiming the hope in my heart.

Weeks turned into months...three to be exact. Then, my hope died, right along with the death of the tiny life I had carried inside me. I was devastated. This time was suppose to be different. How could this be happening again, especially after God had been so deliberate in His attempts to encourage me to keep hoping, to keep believing? I felt totally and completely numb. To be totally honest, I felt as though God had been teasing me. He knows the end from the beginning. He knew this pregnancy was going to end just like the two before it, and yet he kept dangling hope out there in front of me. My numbness soon turned to anger and bitterness.

Time went by and I struggled to keep my relationship with the Lord vibrant and strong. I had walked with the Lord long enough to know his true character: all love, all mercy, all wisdom, all the time. I knew God loved me and wanted only the best for me. I knew He was always working all things for my good and His glory. I knew what Satan meant for harm, He could and would use for my good. My head knew all of this, but my heart, oh my heart. It felt betrayed. It had dared to hope.

Then one night, as I was reading in the Psalms, God, in his tenderness, revealed to me the true substance of the hope He kept placing in my heart during those three months. I suddenly realized that my hope had been completely misplaced. All that time, I had been placing my hope in the life I carried, not in the ONE who was carrying me. God did know how this pregnancy would end. He knew my heart would once again be broken into a million pieces. He knew all of this and because He did, He was preparing me for this loss by placing seeds of hope into my heart. Not hope in my baby, but hope in HIM! Tears filled my eyes, once again, as I found myself on my knees thanking God for being all loving, all merciful, all wise, all the time.
Over and over again in the Bible, we find verse after verse leading us to the only one we can truly place our hope in.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Psalm 39:7

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Psalm 146:5

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. Jeremiah 17:7

Now, almost four years later, I would love to be able to tell you that my heart no longer feels the pain of these losses, but that wouldn't be true. Not a day goes by that I don't feel the hurt. Yet, through the hurt, I have chosen to keep placing my hope in my God. As I allow the God of hope to fill me with joy and peace in believing, I abound with hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been disappointed by God? Have you ever felt as though he dangled hope in front of you only to lead you to heartache? If so...I encourage you to take a closer look. Could it be, like me, your hope was misplaced? The world and all that is in it will let us down, abandon us, and leave us broken hearted, but our God....who is all love, all mercy, all wise, all the time, never will. Put your hope in Him and I guarantee, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Let's Talk About It!

Last week, I received a phone call from a close friend. We had such a wonderful time catching up on the events in each others life, and of course, laughing together. Friendship is a wonderful thing. Truly a gift from God to bless our life in ways unlike anything else can do. I hung up the phone refreshed, revived and ready to face the day.

As we were reminiscing about times gone by, I was reminded of a powerful lesson taught to me by a five year old, wise beyond his years.

It was BJ's first day at preschool. He was only two and this was his first adventure away from the familiarity and security of his mother. As soon as his mother walked out the door, leaving BJ behind, his tears had started to flow. And flow they did....on and on and on, like a steady river.

I tried everything I could think of to bring comfort to this precious little boy. I tried showing him around the room, pointing out fun toys and puzzles. He wasn't interested. I tried introducing him to some of the other children. He wasn't ready to make their acquaintance. I tried reading him a story. He was only interested in his own story....life in a new place, without his mom.

All through out the morning, BJ would cry, then stop momentarily, only to stammer, "I want my mommy" and then, start crying all over again. If only I could get his mind off his mom and onto something else in this room, I thought.

A short while later, another student, five year old Benjamin, walked over to where we were sitting. BJ, still visibly distraught, had for the moment at least, hushed his crying and I was hoping to keep this tear-free moment going for the rest of the day!

"What's wrong with him?" Benjamin wanted to know.

"Oh, he'll be fine," I said, "It's his first day, so everything is new to him and he's just feeling a little uneasy about being here.".

No," Benjamin replied. "That's not what's wrong with him. He misses his mommy."

In a split second, the word I had been trying so desperately to avoid was out there. I was sure at the near mention of the name, "Mommy", BJ would once again burst into tears.

"Uh, let's not talk about that, OK, Benjamin? I think talking about it will only make BJ feel worse. Let's talk about something else, OK?" I now found myself feeling just as uncomfortable as little BJ.

"NO. I can tell this is really bothering him and I think we should talk about it" Benjamin said, as he moved right up next to his brand new classmate and looked him straight in the eye.

"You miss your mommy, don't you? Well, you know what? When I first came here, I missed my Dad. But don't worry. My dad always comes back to get me, and your mom will come and get you too. Now, dry up those tears. Wanna play with me?"

To my utter amazement and total surprise, BJ wiped his eyes, climbed off my lap, then took hold of Benjamin's hand as they wondered off to play. I sat there totally speechless. For hours, I had tried to bring comfort to BJ, yet foolishly, I had totally missed the mark. Instead of tackling the issue head on, I had tried to skirt around it, and avoid it completely. Who says we can't learn from children?



Benjamin, having gone through a similar experience, was well equipped to handle this situation. He knew exactly what BJ was feeling, and spoke to the heart of what was bothering little BJ the most.....fear of abandonment. Once Benjamin reassured BJ that his mom would eventually come back for him, he was free to play and have fun.



How many times have you and I skirted around issues, not wanting to bring any more pain or discomfort to those around us? We casually talk about the weather, share in politics, or talk about the cost of groceries, all the while missing the mark totally. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to talk about it.



Yes, it might be awkward at first. And yes, it may stir up painful memories or buried hurts, but in the end, it will bring comfort and healing. There is something powerful in talking to someone who has been there and experienced first hand what we our self are going through. There is also something equally powerful about sharing your own experience and your testimony with someone who is now walking down a road you have already traveled.


I am a firm believer that pain has a purpose. We will all suffer pain in some form or another in our lifetime.The choice, then, is not will we hurt, but rather what will we do with our hurt. We can choose to allow the hurt to take root in our heart, producing loneliness, bitterness or apathy, or we can choose to find the purpose in our pain, and instead use our own experience to help someone else. Then, and only then, will our pain begin to reveal it's purpose. Purpose, in turn, will brings with it strength, restoration and healing. The Bible tells us to comfort one another with the comfort we have been given. The only way we can do this is to talk about it......openly and honestly.



Is there some hurt in your life that you have been carrying around way too long? Why not find someone whom you trust, and talk about it? Is there someone you know who could use a listening ear and an understanding heart? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words they need, and then approach that person. Let's quit ignoring the issues of our hearts. Why should we choose to settle for only pain, when God has so much more in store for us, if we are simply willing to talk about it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fear Not, Part 2

God has given each of us the privilege of being His hands and feet to those in need around us. Just open your eyes and you will see opportunity for giving and sharing everywhere you look. I have always been keenly aware of these opportunities, yet shamefully, I must admit, I have usually turned my face to these calls for help and avoided them altogether.


No, that's not exactly true. Whenever I've been given the honor of helping someone in need of food, clothing or money, I have always been more than willing to share what God has blessed me with. This kind of giving is easy. It's not hard to drop off a box of food, or write out a check. I guess the type of giving I'm referring to is the kind that requires giving of yourself.


For the past six months or so, my neighbor has been courageously fighting a battle with cancer. I know this not because I have spoken to her, but because her husband has been sharing her struggle with my husband during chats over the fence that separates our yard from theirs. Knowing she has been facing this, you would think I would be doing whatever I could to help her, right? Wrong! I have instead willfully chosen to turn my face to her and her obvious need.

Do I feel guilty about this? You bet! Yet, day after day, I remain silent, doing absolutely nothing to help her. Why? It's simple. Fear. Fear of invading her privacy. Fear of saying or doing something wrong. Fear of making her uncomfortable. Simply put.....fear of making her situation worse and not better. I rationalize my total complacency to her need by convincing myself she would be much better off without me. And believe it or not......I actual believe this to be true. So, I stay away.



More than ten years ago, my mother in law was fighting her own battle with cancer. Her eyes were growing dim and her strength all but gone. While her family was in the kitchen sharing in a meal, I was sitting at her side. Feeling so incompetent to be in this position, it wasn't a place I would have chosen to be. Yet, God placed me there for this moment in time.


As I gazed upon her frail body, lying there in her bed, I noticed her neck, which appeared to be in an awkward position.


"Are you OK?" I asked. "You don't look very comfortable. Would you like me to try and adjust your pillow so you can rest your head more comfortably?"


With all the energy she could muster up, she nodded her head "yes".


Immediately, fear flooded my entire being. What am I going to do? How can I possibly move her without hurting her? If only someone else was here with me. I don't know what to do?


With a whirlwind of thoughts, doubts and fears racing through my mind, I leaned over this precious woman, gingerly placing my hand under her head. As I tried to figure out how best to reposition her on her pillow, she reached out with her own hand, placing it firmly on my shoulder. Then, using what little strength she had, she said slowly and deliberately, "DON'T BE AFRAID".


I lifted her head, readjusted her pillow, and gently laid her head back down once again. She looked up at me and smiled. Those three words, DON'T BE AFRAID, were the last words she spoke to me. Two days later, she passed away.


I have carried those words in my heart ever since. Dying words meant to speak life. Yet, unfortunately, I have allowed these words and the power they bring to lie dormant in my heart. Ten years later, I am still choosing instead, to listen to the lies of Satan. Lies that only serve to imprison me in fear and render be totally useless as God's hands and feet to those around me. My neighbor needs me, and I am not there for her.

And that is my whole point in writing this. I want to be used by God no matter HOW he chooses to use me. Be it lending a dollar or lending my heart. Until I am willing to give of myself, I will never be able to live up to the true potential of my calling...to serve my fellowman. This giving of myself will most likely not be easy and will most likely make me extremely uncomfortable, but then again....it's not about ME, right?! It's about forgetting all about me so I can instead focus fully on the one in need.



It's also about forgetting my obvious incompetence and instead, focusing on the Lord, who IS able. He is able to do all I could ever thing or imagine and then some!!! I know I am not able to meet the needs of others.....but the great I AM certainly is! All I need to do is surrender to my need for Christ to work in and through me, and He in turn, will be faithful to use me to meet the needs he brings before me.





I love 2 Corinthians 4:7 -

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."




No, it's not about easy and it's not about us. It's about surrender. Surrender to all that is holding me back, and possibly holding you back, too. Be it our pride, our selfishness, our laziness or our fear. All are simply tools of Satan to keep you and I turning our heads, and walking away. It's about surrendering our own meager talents and abilities, and instead relying on and trusting in the limitless power of our God. It's about surrendering the urge to turn our face and walk away, and instead, moving forward, in God-confidence, to minister and be used by God. It's about making a difference and making our life really count! It's about being Christ's hands and feet to a world so desperately in need of HIS touch.


I've wasted the lasted ten years of my life, and countless years before that. I don't want to waste one more second.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fear Not

God takes us to many places in our lives. Currently, I have been given the awesome privilege of serving as a Nanny. I am employed by a wonderful young couple who have been blessed with three small boys. One son attends a Christian preschool in the mornings. A few days ago, when I arrived around noon to pick him up, I walked in on a conversation between his teacher and one of his fellow classmates.

"Joshua, it's ok, now. You can take your fingers out of your ears."

Noticing I had entered the room, the teacher shared with me that the school fire alarm had been malfunctioning, sounding numerous times over the course of the morning. It was obvious by the look on Joshua's face, and of course the fingers in his ears, that the alarm was getting to him.

"Joshua. Finish coloring your picture, Honey."

Joshua, who had no intention of using his fingers for anything other than preventing the loud, shrill sound of the alarm from penetrating his small ears again, just sat there.


"Really, it's ok, Buddy. I think the men have fixed the problem. I don't think we will hear it anymore today."

"But what if there's a fire?" he asked.


"Honey, the fire alarm isn't going off because there is a fire in our school. It's just not working right today. It's ok, though, because there are some men here fixing it. There is no fire. Our school is fine. "


"But what if there IS a fire?" he asked again.


"Well then, we will simply do what we did earlier today when the alarm went off and we practiced our safety drill. We will go outside where we will be safe. It's ok, Joshua. There is nothing to worry about. Finish your picture, Sweetheart."


Still, Joshua sat totally immobilized by the fear which had gripped his heart.


"I don't want to die in the fire!!!" he finally screamed.

Walking over to Joshua and gently taking his fingers out of his ears, the teacher knelt down beside this scared little three year old and looked him right in the eye.

"Don't worry, Joshua. I'm right here. I promise I won't let anything happen to you. I'll take care of you, Joshua. I promise. Teacher is right here with you."


For the first time since I had entered the room, a look of peace flooded Joshua's face. It was ok. He didn't need to worry. Teacher was here and she would take care of him. He was safe because she was right here with him. Joshua reached for his blue crayon. Soon, he was back to work coloring his picture and sharing in conversation and laughter with his classmates.

As I'd witnessed this scene, I'd realized I am a lot like Joshua. I have a tendency to let the cares and worries of this world grip my heart, leaving me paralyzed in fear, unable to enjoy all that is going on around me. I become consumed with fear and allow it to steal the life (not to mention the joy) right out of me.

As I watched Joshua, I was reminded of a acronym I once heard for the word fear:


F - false


E- evidence


A- appearing


R - real


This was certainly the case with Joshua. Joshua was fearful of a fire that didn't exist. I, too, am fearful of things that probably don't exist either, or most likely will never even happen. Yet, even though what I fear is not usually real, the fear itself most definitely is!


Maybe you are like Joshua and me. Maybe you also struggle with fear. If so, how can you and I learn to escape this fear, once and for all, and live in the freedom and abundance of life that Christ wants us so desperately to experience?

It's quite simple, really. Joshua found his peace when he realized his teacher was right there with him and would take care of him. We can partake of this same peace by keeping our heart and mind fixed on our Heavenly Father, who promises to never leave us, nor forsake us. Even more than this teacher could ever hope to be there for Joshua, our God IS there for us. We don't have to fear ANYTHING in this life, because our Father is with us.


I have heard it said that the phrase "Fear Not" is found 365 times in the Bible. 365 times! That is one time for each day of the year......or each day of our life. Obviously, God wants us to live a life free of fear.

Fear tries to take us prisoner, causing us to think irrationally and respond unwisely. We need to remember that most fear comes from Satan. The Bible tells us that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but rather one of power, love and a sound mind. Only when we choose to keep our focus on Christ, knowing and believing that He is always with us, will we be free from the torment of fear. As we rely on Him to take care of us and to work all things out for our good and His glory, we will be able to let go of fear and instead take hold of the power, love and sound mind freely available to us through Christ.


The choice is up to us. We can either choose to sit around with our fingers stuck in our ears, fearful of what might happen, all the while missing out on what IS happening, or we can rest in the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, embracing and thoroughly enjoying each and every minute of our life!
Now..... where did I leave my crayon?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fully Satisfied

As I was paying the cashier for the gas I had just pumped into my car, I was approached by a young man in his early twenties.

"Excuse me, Ma'am. Is that your little green Honda?" he asked.

Not sure who he was or why he was interested in my little green Honda, I apprehensively answered, "Yes."

"Did you just fill up at that pump?" he asked next.

"Yes, I used that pump, although I didn't fill up. I only purchased about eight gallons. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I used that very same pump right before you and I DID fill up. It cost me over $50.00! But, when I drove away, nothing registered on my gas gauge. It doesn't show that I purchased any gas at all. I think something is wrong with that pump. While I talk to the cashier, would you mind checking your gas gauge to see if you got the gas you just paid for?"

It seemed like an odd request, but I nodded my head "yes" and headed outside to my car. I put the key in the ignition and anxiously watched my gas gauge. Slowly but surely, the needle moved away from the "E" as it made it's way closer and closer to the "F". Unlike the gauge in this young man's truck, my gauge showed I had gotten exactly what I had paid for, about half a tank of gas.

Looking up from the gauge, I saw the young man walking toward my car.

"So, did your gauge move or is it still sitting at the same spot as when you drove in?"

"The pump seems to be working fine," I answered. "My gauge is showing I have about half a tank, and that's the amount I put in. Maybe something is wrong with the gas gauge in your truck."

"Maybe." He replied. "Although, I don't see how the problem could be on my end. I just bought this truck! It's practically brand new. I'm pretty sure the problem is with this pump." And with that, disgruntled and upset, he turned and walked away.

Satisfied with my purchase, I pulled out of the station and went on my way.

Later that evening, as I was reflecting upon the events of the day, I thought about the incident at the gas station. Both the young man and I had went to the station for the same reason. We had parked in the same place, used the same equipment, talked to the same attendant. Yet, only one of us left there satisfied.

Spiritually, the same is often true of us. Trucking through the day to day journey of life, we look at our "heart gauge" and suddenly realize our hearts are on "E". Knowing we are in desperate need of a fill up, we head to church, or read our Bible, or spend time in prayer. Some walk away from this "fill up with God" full and satisfied, others are left feeling empty. Why?



Like the young man at the station, we often fall victim to a faulty gauge. Stop and think about it for a minute. What do you use to gauge Christ's presence in your own life? Is it your emotions? As humans who are emotionally wired, this is often the instrument we rely on. Yet, probably nothing is more unreliable or fickle than our feelings!
When I entered the gas station that day, I had no reason to believe I would leave there still on "E". Why then, should I believe, when I enter into the presence of the living God, the Creator of the Universe and the Lover of my Soul, I will walk away with anything less than what my heart needs and desires the most?


God promises those who hunger and thirst for righteousness WILL be filled. Regardless of what my emotions may be telling me, I must believe God has filled me to overflowing with His love, forgiveness, wisdom and grace. I must believe I have been strengthened in my inner man to once again run the race set before me. I must believe God is at work in me and through me. I must believe I have received what I came for!


God is more than able and more than willing to dispense His goodness and His blessings into our empty hearts. We simply need to approach His throne of grace, open our heart before Him, and allow Him to fill us up. Are you In need of a fill up? Why not head straight to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Believe God will be faithful to meet your needs, then head back onto the highway of life, happy and fully satisfied in Him!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eyes Wide Open

Plans for a peaceful end to a relaxing day came to a screeching halt when my husband came to a sudden stop while driving up our driveway. There in plain sight, soaking up the heat from our concrete drive, was a snake. If I had been the one behind the wheel, not only would forward progress have stopped, but backward progress would have started immediately!

Our new guest, although uninvited, had obviously seen the "Mi Casa es Su Casa" plaque above our front door and had decided to take us up on the offer. Actually, we have no such sign, but I don't think that bothered this slithery creature. It was just a matter of time before it would be hanging up a sign of it's own; one that would read, "Home sweet Home." Needless to say, we were not excited about this new addition.

My husband, Steve, bravely and cautiously stepped out of our vehicle and walked toward the front of our car. I chose to let my eyes do the walking for me, while the rest of my body stayed belted in the passenger seat, safe and secure. Expecting to meet this guest face to face, my husband was surprised to discover it had made tracks and was now on the move. Out of the corner of his eye, Steve caught a glimpse of the tail end of this serpent as it slipped into the nearby bushes. The snake vanished quickly, taking our peace of mind with it.

For the rest of the summer, life as normal could not be found at our home as long as our new visitor kept eluding us. Now, each time we stepped outdoors, this creature was the first and oftentimes, the only thing on our mind. It was out there. We knew it. We just didn't know where it would show up next. We had been surprised by this creature once and didn't want to be caught unaware a second time.

Taking out the garbage, which "pre-snake" was a nice excuse to venture outside, had now turned into a mad dash out and a mad dash back in. No time to stop and smell the roses when our new guest might be somewhere tiptoeing through the tulips! Nights of sitting out on our patio gazing at the stars were replaced with nights of sitting on our couch watching TV and staring at "stars" far less inspiring. Our garage door, which we usually left slightly ajar during the hot days of summer, was now locked down tighter than Fort Knox. Each time life took us outside the safety of our home, our eyes would quickly begin their job of meticulously scouring the yard for any sign of the snake. Thankfully, we never did see our yard guest again.

From the way we were acting, you would have thought we had never seen a snake before. Snakes, however, are not an oddity where we live. Here, in the southwestern part of New Mexico, they are almost as common as a cactus or a tumbleweed. What WAS odd was our total complacency toward this known danger prior to our snake siting.

Living with a new heightened level of security that summer got me thinking. Like the snake, Satan is a known danger in my life. The Bible warns I need to always be on guard so this enemy of my soul will not catch me unaware. Yet, how easily I let my guard down, forgetting this original serpent can show up at any time and any place in my Christian walk. How often I leave myself vulnerable for attack by neglecting to fortify my heart with God's words of hope and promise. How carelessly I step out into my life without first focusing my eyes on my Saviour and scouring my heart and life for signs of spiritual danger. Foolishly, I allow myself to become complacent, living my life totally oblivious to Satan, who is a constant threat to my very existence, both now and for all eternity!

Yes, the snake who sought to take up residence in our yard that summer and the serpent who is constantly looking for any opportunity to move into my heart are very similar indeed. However, despite their obvious similarities, there remains one striking difference. The snake meant no intentional harm. Satan does. Even more reason for me to be sober, and be vigilant and to keep my eyes wide open!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I AM

What did the Lord call you to do today? Are you feeling as though the task is much greater than your ability to accomplish it? If so, be encouraged, my friend. God will never ask of you what He is not wiling or able to do through you. Simply trust in Him, allow Him to work out His plan, and through you, the world will see the great I AM. This is the theme of the following song by one of my all time favorite Christian artists, Ginny Owens.... and my thought for you today.

I Am

No Lord, he said, you've got the wrong guy
Simple conversation gets me tongue-tied
And you're telling me to speak with a maniac king
Or could it be I've lost my mind


Besides, I am weak, don't you want someone strong
To lead them out of Egypt when they've been there so long
And anyway, they won’t believe You ever spoke to me
It's not your problem, God replied
And the rest is history’


Cause there's a bigger picture you can't see
You don't have to change the world, just trust in Me
'Cause I am your creator, I am working out my plan
And through you I will show them, I Am


Now Lord, are you sure?
He's just a shepherd boy
Too small for battle gear with a giant to destroy
What on earth can he do with five stones and a sling
It's not your problem, God replied
'Cause I can do anything


There's a bigger picture you can't see
You don't have to change the world, just trust in me
'Cause I am your creator,
I am working out my plan
And through you, I will show them


I am the first, I am the last

I am the present and the past

I am tomorrow and today

I am the only way



Great Lord, she said, I'm just a simple girl
You say that I will bring your son into the world
How can I understand this thing You're gonna do
It's not your problem, God replied


'Cause, there's a bigger picture
And you don't have to change the world (oh no)
I'm your creator, I am working out my plan
And through you, I will show them


There's a bigger picture, you can't see
You don't have to change the world, just trust in me
’Cause I am your creator, I am working out my plan
And through you, I will show them, I Am

I AM

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Faith is the Key

(Note: This article first appeared in the June 2007 edition of P31 Woman. If you would like more information concerning this magazine or Proverbs 31 Ministries, visit them at their website: http://www.proverbs31.org )
Sally had done it now. With one step of her little black paw on the front door lock, she had locked herself inside the car, and worse of all, had locked me out. To make matters worse, the engine was still on, and now in this new found situation, my fear and anxiety had turned on, too! What a sight we must have been. An excited little puppy pouncing on the inside of the door, looking out the window at me, while I stood there, a helpless grown adult, looking in at her!

It had all started when I decided to stop and check my mail at the group of mailboxes located at the end of our cul-de-sac. It was mid-July. With temperatures over the 100 degree mark, I had opted to leave the car running with the air conditioner on. I hopped out of the car, with only the mailbox key in my hand. When I returned back to the car and reached for the door handle, Sally excitedly jumped up on the door to greet me and had inadvertently created a chasm as deep as the Grand Canyon between us. What could I do now?

Pray, of course, and pray I did. Instantly, the thought came to me. The key to unlock the door is right in your hand. But as quickly as this thought had come, doubts had come, too, rising to the forefront of my mind, drowning it out. That key will never fit in the lock for the car door. It's just a mailbox key. Why sometimes it's even a struggle to get it to fit in the mailbox lock. Open a car door? Nope, it will never work.

I decided to walk around the car and check the doors and windows. Maybe I would find one of the other three doors had been left unlocked. Perhaps a window might be opened just enough to aid me in solving this unfortunate dilemma. But, after checking each door and window at least twice, I was the one still standing outside the car, anxious, frantic and hot, while my puppy was the one on the inside, calm, cool, and collected.

Repeatedly, the same thought, The key to unlock the door is right in your hand, kept trying to push it's way through the crowd of doubt and self-reliance flooding my mind. Ridiculous. Absurd. It will never work. There has to be something else I can do. But what? What could I do? I kept trying to think of a way to get into my car, while stubbornly refusing to listen to His still small voice.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I decided to "give in" and try the mailbox key. After all, what would it hurt? I could at least try to use this key to open the door, couldn't I? So, slowly and almost reverently, I inserted the mailbox key into the keyhole........and it turned. The door lock popped up and the wall between Sally and I came tumbling down.

How I could have saved myself these past minutes of tension, frustration and sweat! The answer to my problem had come as soon as I had prayed. The Lord had been faithful to send help the moment I had needed it. I was the one who delayed. I was the one who hindered His assistance by my pride and a spirit of self-reliance. Truly, the key to unlock the door had been right in my hand the whole time.

How often we come face to face with locked doors in our lives. A rejection by a spouse. A pink slip from our employer. A rebellious child. A life threatening illness. We see no earthly way of unlocking this door, so we stand helplessly on the outside looking in. We plead with God to help us, and when his answer comes, we choose our own solutions which seem more logical, and more reasonable, only to find they are unsuccessful and futile. God whispers his direction and guidance time and time again. The key to unlock the door is right in your hand. And so it is. For God has given to each of us a measure of faith, and it is faith alone that is needed to unlock these doors in our lives.

A few weeks later, my curiosity got the best of me. I kept wondering if God had truly worked a miracle in my behalf, or if that mailbox key was just similar enough to that of the car key that it had worked when tried. Once again, with the same reverence as before, I slowly approached my car and tried to insert the very same mailbox key into the lock. This time, to my surprise, it wouldn't even begin to go in the lock, much less unlock the door. But then again, why should it? That key, after all, is just a simple mailbox key whose only purpose is to allow me access to my mailbox so I can retrieve my mail. Nothing more. Nothing less. Faith is what unlocked my car door!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Purpose to Pray

Today, I am wearing one of my favorite pairs of shoes, my Miranda shoes. No, Miranda is not a famous designer of footwear, although she might grow up to be one someday. Miranda is a former student of mine, and the shoes, a constant reminder for me to pray for her. Let me explain.

Miranda was an excellent student and learning came easy for this energetic, independent 3rd grader. Easy in every subject except Math, that is. For some reason, Miranda struggled with mathematical concepts. The only thing that came easy for Miranda during Math class was frustration! So, at the first parent-teacher conference of the school year, I offered to tutor Miranda each day after school, at no cost to the family. Her mother willingly accepted my invitation, and the tutoring began.

The school year flew by quickly and I was proud of the progress Miranda had made. At an Educational Fair held the final week of school, I was approached by Miranda's grandmother. She gently squeezed my arm, smiled, and handed me an envelope. Then, she slipped into the crowd gathered in the gym to view the various projects and exhibits on display. That evening, I opened the envelope to find a beautiful, handwritten note thanking me for tutoring her precious granddaughter. To further show her appreciation, she had enclosed a check.

A few months later, while shopping at a local mall, I came across a pair of black shoes. I had been wanting to replace my old ones and these were just what I had been looking for. I tried them on and they fit perfectly. There was only one problem. Our budget was tight and I didn't have any extra money to spend on them. Then, I remembered Miranda and the generosity of her grandmother. Months earlier, when I had cashed her check, my husband had told me to tuck the money into a "hidden" place in my wallet so it would be there when I wanted to buy something special. Money in hand, I headed to the check out counter.

As I waited in line to purchase my shoes, I thanked God for the money I had received. Then, I smiled and prayed a special prayer just for Miranda. These shoes, in a round about way, had brought Miranda to my mind and a prayer for her to my lips! At that moment, I purposed in my heart to say a prayer for Miranda each and every time I put on my "Miranda shoes". I also purposed to pray for others in my life, every time I saw something that made me think of them.

How many times has something in your day made you think of a family member or a close friend? While driving to work you see a car that looks identical to the one your friend drives. While eating at a restaurant, your waitress has the same name as your Aunt. While watching the evening news, you hear the name of the town your friend lives in. Are these simply coincidences? I don't think so. God has given us the unique privilege and the awesome responsibility to pray for others.

So, this morning as I put on my Miranda shoes, I prayed for precious Miranda. A couple of days ago, when I received an email from a special friend, I prayed for her. This morning, when I saw a little girl who reminded me of my own sister at that young age, I prayed for her. Yesterday, while shopping for groceries, I saw a pregnant lady, and prayed for a friend of mine who is expecting a little one of her own.

How humbling and exciting to remember that our God can use ordinary things in our lives to do extraordinary things in the lives of others when we allow ourselves to be used by Him to pray for someone in need. Today, why not purpose in your heart to pray whenever God chooses to use you?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Big Mouths and Little Ears

For eighteen years, when I got out of bed in the morning and went to work, it was to a place where little hearts and minds looked up to me as "teacher". This was a title I always prized, and yet at times, felt so unworthy of. For with this title came the utmost responsibility to mold young lives not only for life in this world, but also for eternity.

When I stood before my class, it was Jesus I wanted them to see. Yet so many times, I got in the way, or should I say, my big mouth did. I was made humbly aware of the tremendous influence I had on my students, each time I would hear words I'd spoken coming out of their mouths. Words of impatience. Words of condemnation. Words of disappointment. Words of hurt. It was quite obvious I had a big mouth and their little ears were listening!

The Bible tells us the tongue is the smallest member of the body, and yet the hardest to control. How true this is. Yet, knowing that the power of life and death are in the tongue, we so carelessly enter into conversation. We speak first and think second, if we bother to think at all. How we like Paul need to pray our words will always be seasoned with grace and will be edifying to all ears, especially little ones. Like David, our prayer should be that the Lord would set a guard before our mouths.

As Christians, we need to realize our words do not only condition the hearts of those who hear them, but also reveal for all to see, the spiritual condition of our own heart. An unhealthy mouth is merely a symptom of a spiritually unhealthy heart. It was Jesus himself who diagnosed this life-threatening illness in Matthew 12:34, "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Our words are a reflection of our heart and our only hope is found in a new heart. In Ezekiel 11:19, God promises to take our stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh. A heart that is tender, compassionate and keenly aware of the words that flow forth from it.

As a teacher, and most importantly as a Christian, I need this new heart. I need to sit at the feet of Jesus each day learning anew His language of love. A language that speaks life to the hearer. Words of affirmation. Words of encouragement. Words of dignity and praise. Words of hope.

What were my words really saying to those precious little ones who had been entrusted to my care? What are your words saying to those in your sphere of influence? What kind of heart is touching theirs? If ever in doubt, we need simply to listen to our mouth and it will tell us. Remember, even if our own ears aren't listening to the words we are speaking, we can be certain, plenty of other ears are!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

God's Heart of Love

Yesterday morning, before I left for work, I lovingly placed a small, red plastic heart in the coffeemaker. Yes, you read that right.....the coffeemaker. I pulled out the container normally reserved for the filter and the coffee, and placed "my heart" there instead. As I walked away from the kitchen and headed out the door, I couldn't help but smile as I thought of the surprised look sure to be on my husband's face when he made coffee later that morning.

Before the coffeemaker, the red heart had been spotted when, one evening, I returned home from work to find a beautiful flowering potted plant sitting on our bathroom window sill. The heart was propped up against the purple pot, in plain sight for all to see.

Before the plant, the red heart had surprised my husband one morning when he bent down to pick up the newspaper. Both the heart and the morning news were waiting to greet him on the sidewalk leading to our home. Before this, I had discovered the heart in the refrigerator, atop a container of leftovers I had planned to take for my lunch that day.

The heart exchange is something my husband and I do on a regular basis. It was never discussed or planned, it just happened. We have been doing it for so long, I'm not sure how it actually got started, but it has yet to lose it's "magic". The heart is a symbol of our love for each other, and I'm not sure which is more rewarding - leaving the heart to be found, or discovering it!

As I tucked the heart into the coffeemaker, I thought about God and the beautiful and faithful way He, too, tucks reminders of His love into each of our days. Sometimes, God's love is seen in the obvious, like the beautiful flowering plant, showcasing His love for all to see. Other times, however, His heart may be tucked into the mundane, day to day places of our lives like the refrigerator or the coffeemaker.

In every situation, and in every place, God's love is waiting to be discovered. In a beautiful sunrise. In a baby's laugh. In a promotion. In a good meal. These are the obvious places. Yet God's love is also found in the not so obvious. In the dark of night. In the tears of suffering. In failure. In times of desperation.

In the refrigerator times of life, when all seems cold, and we are shaking with fear, God's love is there. In the coffeemaker times of life, when the stress and demands of day to day living cause us to percolate and steep in the heat of the battle, God's love is there. God's love is even waiting for us when we receive news that leaves us uncertain of the future. If we just look, we will see His heart.

Last night, with a wink and a smile, my husband informed me his morning coffee was the best he had ever had. That was my intention, to sweeten his day with a reminder of my love for him. Today, keep your eyes open for reminders of God's love for you, and this day just might turn out to be the best today you've ever had!