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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

THE CHRISTMAS SURPRISE

Matthew 7:7-11  "Don't bargain with God.  Be direct.  Ask for what you need.  This isn't a cat-and-mouse game we're in.  If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust?  If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?  As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing.  You're at least decent to your own children.  So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?" (MSG)

(Note: This is a true Christmas story that happened to my family. -Christie)

THE TRUCK

"Mommy?'

"What is it Jonathan?"

"Mommy, it's going to be Christmas soon and I want to have a truck to play with."

"Sweetie, I don't think I'm going to be able to shop for toys this year.  Things are going well, we have plenty to eat, I just don't think there will be any left for extras.  I have an idea, though,  you can go into the living room and pray about this.  Tell God that you want a truck this year and see what he tells you."

"But Mom, how will I get a truck that way?"

"God is my provider.  I am just the one who takes care of what he sends us.  If some extra money comes my way, then I will know that it is for your Christmas gifts.  That's how you will get your truck."

Those were strictly words of faith because that was all that I had to offer on that warm November day in Rio Hondo, Texas.  The toll of household bills, my college tuition with expenses of daycare for my youngest and gas for my two hour commute kept things pretty close in my budget.

Recently, I switched to a new daycare after the one near the university neglected to take my toddler to the restroom or even clean him up after an accident.  So, I dropped substitute teaching, so I could stay home and spend more time with him.  You can see why this year left me without resources for extras like gifts for underneath our Christmas tree.

My three year old disappeared into the next room.  I tiptoed nearer to peek at him.  He was standing with his hands together and his eyes squinted shut.  Inspired, I joined him, adding my own plea for enough money to buy just a few gifts this year for my children.  One of them had to be a truck.

My little blondie tore a path back into the kitchen.  With a glowing face he climbed up into my lap.  His hands cupped around my face and he looked me squarely in the eyes.  "Mommy, God said, 'Yes'."

"Really?  You are sure that you heard him say that?"

"Yes ma'am.  He said, "Yes." 

"Alright then, if any unexpected money comes my way, I know it is for your truck.  I prayed for your sisters and brother as well."  Lifting him up in a hug, I continued, "I am so proud of you for going right to God and asking him.  He is a loving heavenly father and it pleases him when we come expecting good gifts from him.  He is not a liar.  When he told you you would have a truck, then he will keep his word to you."

Now, I believed God could do this, but I also had some misgivings.  As a parent, I didn't want to see my young son disappointed after praying for something that he truly longed for.  I wanted to see how God would fulfill this wish of his and so I vowed I would not say a word to anyone outside of the children about this.  I would wait and see.

I kissed his chubby little cheek and put Jonathan down, then stepped over to the counter to finish slicing a tomato for the lettuce salad.  At least I didn't have to wonder if there would be food on the table.  My small town grocer, Mr. Hartzog, asked me to always come in and use credit for milk, juice, cereal etc. if I ever needed to.  He did not want the kids or myself to go without while I concentrated on the last two years of my teaching degree.

Footsteps of my three older children could be heard as they pounded down the wooden stairway.  FIrst came Jennie, my oldest at eleven.  She set the plates around the table and then directed Audrey, her seven year old sister, to get the silverware out of the drawer.  Nathan, my nine year old, looked up at me with a shy grin as he fished a piece of carrot out of the salad before pouring the water.  Now, Jonathan's job was to sit still until we all were seated, then we held hands, and said the blessing.

Traditionally, my youngest would get to say their own blessing and we never knew what would come up in this prayer.  Tonight, "Dear Jesus, thank you for the truck you said I could have this Christmas,"

Of course this brought questions fromt he other three and Jonathan quickly told them that when he prayed and asked God for a truck to play with that God responded with a "yes".

Nathan quickly exclaimed, "I sure would like to see if God answers that little kid's prayer."

I sensed that this was a teachable moment, so I encouraged them all to ask God to provide for their gifts as well.

After lying beside Jonathan in his lower bunk and answering a multitude of questions about how God would go about sending me money all the way from Heaven, I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. and slipped into bed.  Final exams were on my mind.  The early hours before daybreak were my only chance to study alone in quiet.

Yet, I struggled with a few doubts about how that paper money would "float down from Heaven" just as Jonathan had wondered out loud.  I sure did not have the answer, but I breathed a prayer and thanked God that he knew how this all would work out.  Then, exhausted from the day, I fell asleep.

The next week I crammed for final exams coming up soon.  My days were spent focused on reviewing for all of my classes.  That is, until I picked up Jonathan at the daycare.  Soon after the hugs, he would always come up with the same question, "Did you get it yet?"

The first time he asked, I was preoccupied and couldn't think of what "it" was.  Then he clarified, "Mom, did God give you the money yet?"

This continued on every day throughout the week.  His eager questions kept me praying that God would be faithful, so that these sweet children would know that God would provide and answer our prayers.

I was in the mood to to drive to my sister's church to hear her as she led the loud worship music that I loved so much.  I called her to let her know that we were coming her way.  I always melted into tears and felt washed clean and full of joy after singing there.  My faith needed bolstering this Sunday night.

It was getting late with an hour drive ahead of me I waved to Diana and gave her a thumbs up for the worship band.  Diana was still playing her guitar while people prayed at the altar.  I went to gather Jonathan from the nursery and when I turned around, there was my sister in front of me flashing a silly smile.  "Oh no you don't.  You're not getting out of here without a hug from me."

Happily I returned the squeeze.

"One more thing," she added, "Don and I want you to have these two checks.  One is for food so you can get your baking ingredients for Christmas candy, cookies, and your meal.  The other check is for you to use buying presents for the kids."

I just stared in disbelief and then a huge grin broke out on my face.  "Thank you!  I'll call and talk to you after I get back and tuck the kids in bed.  You just can't begin to understand what this means to us!"

I practically floated out to the car.  The kids soon quieted down for the hour long drive home, but I couldn't wait to tell them the news.

"Jo-o-n-nathan."

"Yes Mommy?"

"Jonathan, aren't you going to ask me something?"

"What?"

"What do you usually ask me every day?  Well, God sent two checks to Mommy tonight."

After I told them all of the details, Nathan let out a loud squeal.  "I can't believe that little kid prayed for a truck and got us $200!"

That's not the end of the story.  I called Diana and thanked her for the money and told her about how excited the kids and I were now about the holidays.  I explained to her about Jonathan's request and how we had been waiting to see just how this all would work out.

This year my parents, missionaries in South Africa, decided to fly home and spend time with us for Christmas.  My Uncle Bob and Aunt Esther flew in from Arizona to see us all during my parent's short time home in the USA.

Needless to say, the kids ended up with a bounty of wonderful gifts, but the zaniest part was that every single package for Jonathan contained some kind of truck.  No one had been told either!  We didn't even need a check for that part of the prayer to be answered.

When my uncle and aunt arrived a few days after Christmas, Uncle Bob proudly carried in a large handmade wooden truck for the boys.  We all laughed out loud and they looked at us quizzically until we explained about my toddler's prayer over a month ago.

My heart soared in praise to my faithful heavenly father who didn't disappoint an eager little prayer warrior.  This lesson would never be lost on the kids or myself.

Just let the little ones come unto Him.  He knows how to take care of them all.






Friday, November 30, 2012

GIVE ME MORE STUFF

Proverbs 25:21-22 If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he's thirsty, bring him a drink.  Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you.

Do I give to get?  Do I get too much stuff?

Think of it.  The clothes bought, the trees trimmed, the bargains, the books shared, our children's appearance, and their activities.

Do I parade new clothes for fun or praise?  Are they merely an expression of my tastes or am I reaching for approval and honor?

Do I adorn my home to add to its comfort, to please my eye, and how it suits me, or is it a status symbol? (Don't get me wrong... my eyes delight in beauty and labors of love, but still I wonder.)

I think of these things when I walk down the aisles and see so much abundance.  I enjoy the beauty of lush rugs, new colors of fabrics for windows or bedspreads.  I feel the silkiness of a plush toy cat and smile thinking of a child hugging this while lost in her dreams.

I love the smell of spice laden candles that send their fragrance on ahead to meet me.  French bread hot out of the oven woos me as I roll my basket near the cashier at the grocery.

But, then I think of children who sleep on the street huddled close to their mother for the night.  What do I really need and why am I drawn to so many things?  Why do I have to have so much when I cannot share these things with many outside of my circle of family and friends?  What am I thinking?  One more towel, or dish, or pans when there are families who want just a clear handful of germ free water to quench their thirst?  What could I do instead that would make a difference to someone else?

Honestly, I really do love to give.  I enjoy seeing pleasure in the eyes of my family when something specially thought of gift was given to them.

I often think that is an insight to the ways of my Heavenly father.  He is delighted to dream up new things for me to enjoy.  He delights in me as he watches me discover new ideas, try new recipes, and cultivate relationships.

God has bestowed many gifts upon me in my lifetime, yet so many more are waiting for recognition and discovery.  Most of gifts from God are actually mine for the sharing, not just for me to horde.

The reason I say this is more than just because of the obvious need that is out there, but because I think when we are in tune with a passion for life that is God given, we have a witness inside that is pure joy.

Musicians know the fullness of joy as they sing or play their hearts out.  This joy spreads out beyond them to me who is within their hearing.  They bubble over and it trickles down to me so that I too am warmed by it.

Artists stroke, chisel, weave, invent, shape, and in the midst they are lost in the imagination of the endeavor.  Deep in the recesses of profound contentment.  Lost to us as they find their center. 

This is the spirit of the giver.  This desire to give out and express.  The random ideas for kindness that pop into the mind.  Then when the giver takes a risk to follow through, they seemingly have lost all reason, but find and experience of deep joy.

A couple years ago, I waited in line at the grocery.  My mind emptied itself of the list of ingredients I needed with my basket filled, so I scanned and observed the people around me.  An elderly woman dressed nicely was in front of me.  An idea suddenly came to me.  I hesitated at first, then I decided to follow the urging.  "I am paying for this woman's bill," I declared to the checker.

A little embarrassed, the shopper explained to me that she could manage her own bill and that she had plenty of money to pay for it.  I smiled, "No problem, it's just a little gift for you."

As I went to my car, I noticed this tiny woman I'd helped as she  loaded small bags into her trunk.  She looked up at me, then waved.  I walked over to her.

"God just wants you to know that he loves you and that you are not alone.  Can I give you a little hug?"  She opened her arms with misty eyes and indulged.

I left with a smile on my heart that the Cheshire Cat would envy.  This was not me... believe it or not,  I am more reserved than this and quite shy.  The warmth and joy I experienced was unexpected.  I would have been content with the giving, that was all I wanted, but as I drove out of the parking lot, I felt that I was the recipient of the greatest gift... it was a rare moment.

I still get caught up when I am searching through shops... I love to browse like you, but I also stop and wonder how different my life would be if I would open my heart up more often to these giving moments.
The best gifts in my book are times spent together talking about dreams, a soft pat on the back, a nod when something is well done, cooking from scratch when there is time, energy, and inspiration.  Going over homework and taking the time to reteach in an encouraging way, stopping words of criticism, thinking first then doling out long overdue compliments.

Handmade gifts can be enjoyable to receive like granola, hot cocoa mix, dried soup mix, or just painting a ceramic mug.  I spend more time thinking about the person while the project gives me needed therapy throughout the process.

So, when the rush and the crush of the crowds get me down, I stop and try to gain a better perspective.  Meditating, I consider whether or not I am just getting stuff, or sending a true love message.

Give a back rub, ruffle the hair of your little darlin', offer unasked for assistance.  Just be involved and attempt to be more present in the lives nearby.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?

Revelation 5:12 "Then I heard every creature in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power,  forever and ever!'

Excitedly I applied my makeup.  A part of the worship team was traveling to a little church in another Valley town and I was one of them.  A Hawaiian worship team member, Lyle, was stretching his wings and had been tapped to lead us.  Lyle sang melody and played guitar.  I sang harmony, with just a couple more vocalists.  Then there was a drummer and bass player.

My home church at that time filled with more than 1,500 on Sundays, so we looked forward to minister to this smaller congregation.

We pulled up.  Hmmm.  It was a store front and not a very wide store front.  Well, many good churches have started this way.  What difference does it all make?  Whether a teeming meeting center, a prison chapel, a modest living room, or this rented business space, our mission was to elevate the King of Kings and to come into the presence of God.

Still, as we unloaded the sound equipment, instruments, and the music stands I could not help but wonder about the people who came here to seek solace within these walls each week.

We warmed up and found that the acoustics were not really the best, but everything was calibrated to sound as pleasing as possible.



A few people started to arrive while we were worshiping and praying over the service.  They received us with hugs and grinned as they thanked us for taking the time and trouble to drive so far.

I didn't feel anything special about our pre-prayer time or the practice.  I even felt a little sleepy after the ride over, but on the way we all were preparing our hearts and praying over the people who would arrive and join us.

I can remember hearing us sing, and though our sound was down some from what we were used to, I had difficulty hearing many from the 12 or so there.  I also remember thinking how small the group was and that the church looked empty with so many more vacant chairs staring at us than those that were occupied.



I breathed in and focused on the messages we were singing and I prayed that we would bless and encourage these faithful souls.  I was praying silently as I was singing and enjoying the serenity of weaving the voices as we harmonized by ear.

Then I heard it.  It was so distinct that I turned my head to look to my left.  I was expecting to see a new group of worshipers on the other side of the room.  But no one was there.  Yet I could hear clearly... other voices singing beautifully, passionately intertwining their melodies with ours.

I looked around to see if anyone else recognized the extra voices.  No one else seemed to be experiencing anything different.  Could I be imagining things?  No, as I closed my eyes and fervently sang on as if I was just singing alone to God himself I felt my body warm and then the smell of vanilla began to faintly stir around me.  Again, I heard the additional voices.  This time a little softer than before, but still very clearly not just from our group and the church members.



Those precious moments could not last long enough, but the chorus came to an end.  My heart stirred.  My whole being energized from the presence of God, but a little grin crept from one corner of my mouth to the other and I just had to chuckle aloud.  Praise God!

Sometimes, when I am asked how I know God exists and why I am so sure of my faith, I just have to let the grin roll out and chuckle.  Uh huh.  He reminds me ever so often that I am his own and that he is mine.  Just little glimpses here and there that solidify my faith in what he says in his word.

Some day I will hear heavenly beings worship and praise with no holds barred.  What a glorious experience that will be!  I will never tire of it.



There in that barren, folding chair adorned room,  I tasted a bit of the glory of holy beings without guile, without wrong motivation, with all eyes on Jesus, with all their might joining along with our humble little ragtag group, and turning it into royalty.



Remember who you are.  We are only here for a while and then we return home.
                                


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

DARK NIGHT FLIGHT



Proverbs 14:26  "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."  

"Frank!  Frank!" my Mom screamed!  When my normally quiet mother broke out of her calm, controlled self, fear gripping her heart... my eyes stared gaping wide into my sister's.  Our jaws simultaneously dropped open.  The sudden realization that my family and I might not be alive much longer was wordlessly communicated in that glance.

Just then, our four-passenger Cessna aircraft entered some clouds near the Marion Airport where we were to land.  On our flight from Dayton, Ohio to Indiana we enjoyed fair skies so far and no bad weather showed up in the forecast when the flight plan was filed.

But now, our visibility had changed.  Dad was puzzled.  He was about to begin our approach for the landing strip, when unfriendly clouds enveloped us.  Immediately the wind tossed our plane.  Down drafts and updrafts unnerved us all.

When Mom yelled, she had seen a hole in the clouds and could tell that we were diving toward the ground.  Dad, a VFR pilot (visual frequency rating), had both eyes glued to the instrument panel.

I clenched my hands and began breathing a prayer for our safety.  I asked for dad to know what to do next.   Suddenly, I was aware that my priorities in life were way off.  My thoughts raced.  I asked forgiveness and for God to take over the plane, my life, and my future.  Now, I felt ready for anything.

In a matter of seconds, our rapid descent halted and we shot up like a careening car racing along a roller coaster.  Higher and higher we climbed... this was the second time the wind yo-yoed us up. 

Wisely, Dad said, "We're going south to land in Indianapolis.  We'll rent a car and drive home from there."

Grim-faced, we peered out the windows.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we soared into a clear night sky sprinkled with starlight.  My heart beat loudly.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

I know angelic beings transported us to safety that night.  In that harrowing experience, my shallow self-concern and independence was exposed... man, I was so full of myself.   Before now, I was caught up in my new found freedoms and intellectual exercises that made me feel superior to my simple faith in God.  But, I rediscovered the emptiness of my self-sufficiency.   

The next day, I returned to work a little before noon at Crossroads restaurant.  As I entered the kitchen, a girl who lived up on the hill near the airport excitedly told my boss this story.

"Last night, my family heard a plane diving right over our house!" she grabbed Millie's arm, "We ran out the front door to get a better look and there was this airplane only about a hundred feet from our house!  We screamed our heads off and then suddenly, it just disappeared up in the clouds." 

She began to shriek.  "We were that close to being killed!"

Howard gaped at her while the frying breaded tenderloins sizzled.  Millie's brow wrinkled in disbelief.  The dishwasher stood staring, a plate held still in mid-air.

Tucking my order pad and pen into my apron pocket before heading out to wait tables I chimed in, "Her story is definitely true, because I am an eye witness.   I was on the inside that airplane!  Two families were saved last night!" 

As I think about that night, I want to pray again, "Lord, open my heart.  I need to be guided and filled with more of you, everyday."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

THE BEGINNING



Proverbs 8:33  "Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it."

I am sure you can think of narrow scrapes in your life.  Just like you, I have several that stand out.  The memory of many of these is so vivid it seems like they happened only yesterday.

For the past two months I have been laid up and on my back quite a bit during daylight hours.  I find this frustrating because it limits the amount of sitting time that I have to write.  The plan was for me to write this fall and winter, after our seasonal business closed in September.  Yet, on my last day of working in our shaved ice stand, I hurriedly did an inventory of our leftover supplies.  In my haste, I moved several heavy boxes so that I could have a complete list for the buyer, who was coming over the next day.  Yes believe me, haste makes waste.

Well, as you can imagine, this is how I hurt my lower back.  A couple days after the inventory, I found myself in terrible pain.  This particular "interruption" in my daily life seems to go on and on without mercy.  Finally, after nine weeks, I can appreciate this time on my back.  I know now that is a gift for reflection and revelation.  Come to think of it, the other intrusions in my life have been much the same.

I just have to finally trust and wait it out to see exactly what God is up to this time.  The realization is starting to dawn on me.  I am such a doer.  I go-go-go like a wind-up doll that does not know how to shut off the switch.  This summer I worked so hard to help my husband with our business and keeping up with all at home as well.  Then all the errands involved with a new school year to help my son, in eighth grade, get clothes and supplies.  Then, my youngest daughter is starting into college and I gave her advice along the way. Finally, during this hectic time in July and August, I had no energy or mind left for much else.

I asked for healing prayer for my lower back and I have seen my chiropractor so often that we have become fast friends.  Though there is some improvement, it is slow.

Dr. Bob gently pointed out one day that it might help if I slowed down a little.  I was not moderating any of my activity at home.  I would get an adjustment then go home and do laundry, clean the house, go out and trim the flower beds, drive 80 miles some days running back and forth for school events that my son was involved in.  He asked me to try to lay down last week and stay on my back as much as possible to give it a chance to stay in place.  Imagine that.

This seemed like a reasonable request, yet I didn't know how trying it would be for me to lay still.  I read quite a bit, but became bored and so I gave in to sleep.  Then I found that even though I had slept all day,  I was still ready for bed in the evening.  My body was tired, but my mind was the thing that truly needed rest.  I realized that God was trying to slow me down and getting me to a point where I was in a frame of mind to meditate and rest.

Fast and furious has always been the story of my life.  As a teacher, mother of six, taxi driver with several kids in sports, a wife, and part of the time a single mom, I stayed super busy.  I volunteer and am active in music, and writing.  It's no wonder my heavenly father has had to shake things up a bit every once in a while to get my attention.

Today I reflect upon God's ability to reach in through my circumstances or the interruptions in my daily routine to speak a special word to me.  I wanted to share a few of these turning points when God spoke into my life.  Sometimes he gave me a word of wisdom, at other times more courage to continue on.  At the end, I found myself filled with an uncanny joy or peace that would have been impossible to conjure up.  This peace I experience is his fingerprint of mercy and love.  For I am his child.  He guards me with a father's love.





Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NOT IN THE "MOOED"?

When is the last time you ever woke up and your feelings tried to take you out before you'd even swung your legs over the edge of the bed and placed your feet on the floor?  Have you ever wondered like I have, what would happen if you had not given in to these emotions? 

This summer I found myself facing a challenge that was staring me down.  My husband and I opened up a small seasonal business this year.  But, after a month I decided that I was not in the "mooed"(mood) to go forward with this anymore.

Isn't our snowball stand the cutest?  The upside was that we had a great team of people working with us.  The aesthetic renovations really made it attractive.  The products we used were great.  The first two weeks were really slow and we had stacked employees, and they didn't have enough business to have more than one person there at a time. Those were our errors, and were an easy fix.

Then there was the city permit that would only allow us to stay at our location for 90 days.  This would hardly make a dent in the monetary outlay we had made.  We had hoped for 8 mos a year to run the business and to close during the cooler months.

The next hit was writing paychecks out of our pockets rather than from the sales as we had hoped.  I could not see how get through and get on with it.  When I felt the lowest and the weakest, the realization dawned on me, that it was not only about what I could do.  It actually was all about what God wanted to do.  Was I willing to trust and really believe that He was capable to tackle this with us?  Either I would begin to believe or not.  We chose to believe and pray.

Immediately, peace took over and the sales looked a little better.  Business picked up and we started having many return who were from the neighborhood.  By the 6th week we were able to make payroll with just a small supplement from our personal account.  The third product was a joy that came after stepping out in faith.  I want be in the mooed to believe, so why do I wallow in fear and self pity at times?  Our minds just need to be rebooted for thinking that the impossible is always possible.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.  Well... then why not go straight through those tough times or circumstances and let God prove just how true it is!  Better to walk by faith rather than by sight.  All I have to do is trust.  ALL???

I'm not in this alone.  I have a faithful, loving God who is right there beside me.  He will never leave me alone no matter what I face.  I have his promise on this.  Then, God gave me a dreamer for a husband who has more faith and balances out my practicality to take a few risks like this.

So, next time a trial pops up and takes me by surprise, even when I am not in the "mooed" to push on, I will just remember, this little lesson... I can do ALL things through Christ Jesus.  I can walk on.  I can see this through.  I am not alone.  I have his angels who are charged with watching over me.  I am his child who He cares for and will look after and take care of.  I will not give up.  I can.  I can.  I can.  His promises are true. 

So, you know what I have to say to myself when I do not feel in the "mooed"?  If I test things, rethink, and find that I am not walking outside of His will, then I will give up the gloom.  I do not walk in my strength alone... I am walking in His.

Oh, by the way, we are praying that the city will renew our permit and if this is possible, then we see it as a green light and are trusting that our little stand will be a new tiny landmark in this community.  My husband has dreamed this up, I have also worked to make it materialize, my son added his enthusiasm and delight at working around shaved ice and syrups, and God gives the increase for our labor. 

Now, I am in the "mooed"!


Monday, July 16, 2012

CONNECTIONS


     Busy school schedules, business demands, little league, and homework are all pushed aside for a week.  This is a week of connections for me.  We worked hard to get to a vacation spot to spend Father's Day with my dad and mom.  They traveled from Arizona.  We traveled from central Texas.  We met in the glorious San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado.  Our crew from Texas included My husband, his granddaughter, my youngest son, and I.

     This trip allowed us to shed the stress and oversight of a new little business for a few days.  We also get to spend days 24/7 with our young passengers to get to know them better and enjoy the sights and experiences through their excited eyes.
      A most precious connection of course was making it in time to wish my father, who does not look his age, a Happy Father's Day!  We enjoyed hiking up to view and explore the area near Treasure Falls.  

    
     Driving to the summit of a nearby mountain, a snowball fight at he Continental Divide, warming up in the hot tub, games played around the dining room table, movies, taking turns cooking hot meals at night, an evening cowboy supper with stories and singing around the campfire makes the time pass faster than a bullet train.
     We got to know the area pretty well while biking one afternoon.  Even the kids took a turn napping from all the exercise and fresh air!  What a fun day!  My husband and I enjoyed the workout as well as giving the kids our undivided attention.
      From miniature golf to hot air balloons to a mountain train ride.  The activities are great, but memories, and especially the time spent renewing family bonds is what it is all about.  We are closer, happier, and full-filled.
    
    

Saturday, May 12, 2012

YOUR FAITHFULNESS IS LIKE THE RISING SUN




Your faithfulness is like the rising sun  
I can count on you to be there every day
When hanging on while the struggle is on

Your outstretched hand pulls me up
 

(chorus)
 

I know who I believe in
I know you're always near
Mercy strong and love surrounds
No one else can compare

You're faithful like a tree reaching for light 

Whatever trail I take you never leave me
If I run into the darkness: you are there
Your loving presence lifts me from despair.

(chorus)



I know who I believe in
I know you're always near
Mercy strong and love surrounds
No one else can compare

Your faithfulness it warms like a smile
When you are nearby peace flows like deep waters
You come and still my pounding heart and mind
  A calm floods me as a glassy lake at dawn.



(bridge)
 

Jesus only you can free my mind
Jesus, you have pow'r to save my soul
Jesus you transform my broken parts

Take and reshape me then take me and use me
Take and reshape me then take me and use me



(chorus)


I know who I believe in
I know you're always near
Mercy strong and love surrounds
No one else can compare








Sunday, April 29, 2012

DELIVER ME FROM ME

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

I know the Lord's prayer.  It says deliver us from the evil one.  I know that is just a passing phrase to some, just part of a famous prayer, or part of the pomp and circumstance for others.

For me...it has been my life.

Since I took a stand and gave my heart and life away as my gift to a loving God.  I also made an enemy that day.  The more I searched out God's words to me, the more I heard his voice, and the more that I trusted and cared for no other as I cared for him, then the more I have been stalked in a vain attempt to discourage my joyful heart.  Time after time I heard him snarl, "Ah ha!  This will throw her." or with a nasty grin he'd brag, "This will bring her down.  She will give up now."

I wish that I could say that he failed completely.  I cannot.  Many times I allowed sadness, sorrow, and doubt to settle in my room.  They are draining companions that hover close waiting for the opportunity to haunt me or to flick the switch that begins reruns of the past followed by the what ifs and if onlys wandering aimlessly throughout my mind.  Too many times fears and false estimations of myself reigned.  Too much time wasted away before I caught on and banished the lies.

No, the title says it all.  I know the truth and Jesus could have set me free each time had I asked him to.  Today, I am addicted to this freedom bought with his precious sacrifice on the cross.  So, why did I tolerate so many episodes with lies wrapped around my heart?  Why did I wait to walk out of the fog and into his glorious light to embrace who he made me to be?

I forgot what God said about me.  He created all and he said it was good.  I was made by God, so I am good.  I am his child, his beloved, so he cares for me and is always there to defend me.

Lord, deliver me from me.  My thoughts are so small.  My vision so narrow.  How vast is your love toward me!

As I cleaned and packed more of my classroom today, I was also cleaning and packing all those fears.  Fear that wants me to shiver and wonder what will be next.  What is my purpose?

Instead, the courage the Spirit gives to me dispels those old thought patterns and shouts clearly...the best is yet to come.  Walk with me and see what I will show you.  You will never be disappointed whenever you step out with me in faith.

So, I trade in the old model for a new one.  The dingy, dented fenders of my youth, the dings on the doors from disappointments, the chips in the windshield where I still struggle to forgive, the faded paint of my convictions...I trade it all in and in return...I ride a white horse with a flowing, braided mane full of red and blue streaming ribbons.  Etched on the saddle are the stories of my life.  Funny, as I look closer, the ones I considered my failures are what brought me closer to God and made me stronger, too.  These stories are my medals and my mementos, for they forged me into who I am.

God wants to deliver me from me. I get in the way of renewal.  I get in the way of miracles.  I get in the way of peace.  I get in the way of the fullness of life.  Most of all, I get in the way of the adventure that he designed each day of our lives to be.

Adjust my vision to the King's prescription.  Never let me lose sight of him and who he is.  Deliver me from me!

DISCOURAGED? LOOK UP

Just when everything is going along well and you think life is picking up a bit, that is when you find yourself in a muddle again.  Have you ever found yourself in this cycle of events?  What do we do when circumstances come along that are unfair, are undeserved, or where you are totally misunderstood?

I found that this is not anything new.  This type of thing has been happening on the Earth since the beginning of time, but the example I want to follow is found in the New Testament.

Mark 3:1-6

Jesus came into a synagogue on the Sabbath.  He saw a man with a shriveled hand and had compassion on him.  He noticed that all the Pharisees were staring at him and he knew they were waiting for him to break the Sabbath laws by "working" or healing this day.  He turns around and cannot believe their lack of concern for the well being of this man he would like to heal.  They only want to find a way to trap him.

So, Jesus poses two questions.  In the first, he asks if it is better to good or evil on the Sabbath.  No answer.  Then he continues to probe with another question to see if he can get past their plans to discount him long enough to actually care about another fellow human being.  He asked if it was better to save a life or to kill.  Still no answer.

All eyes were on Jesus as he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."  He stretched it out and all could see that his hand was completely restored and normal now.

So what did the Pharisees do now?  Did they rejoice with the man?  Did they marvel at the miracle that just occurred before their very eyes?  Did they give God thanks for his good gifts?  NO!  After viewing God's healing power right before their very eyes, they hardened their hearts even further and they went out and plotted with followers of Herod just how they could kill Jesus!

This seems hard to believe, doesn't it?  Jesus, who only loved, healed, delivered, and showed compassion is a target for their hatred and lust for earthly power.  They could not stand his popularity and it did not matter that God was using him in a miraculous way to help the crippled, the diseased, and the demon possessed.  

All that these religious leaders could think of was how to get rid of him so they could go on with their plans and politics.  They would rather to go back to their meager existence to promote their plans for fame and riches.  Tossing aside this inconvenient supernatural interference of God's messenger, these short-sighted men traded a rich fruitful life, and a relationship with God that would benefit others around them, to remain empty, shallow, and self-centered .  Little did they realize that he was the long awaited Messiah.

How did Jesus respond in the face of blatant hatred, misunderstanding, and criticism?  He looked these men in the eye.  He questioned them.  Then he carried on with his life and ministry despite their evil intentions.  

Jesus, the son of God is our perfect example.  In the face of all of this heartlessness bent on ruining him, he asked them stop and consider their ways as well as their stands in life.  The evil in others did not deter him from standing true to his purposes on Earth.  He obeyed his Heavenly Father and illuminated God's plan for mankind.  This sinless one gave his own life in payment for our sin, rather than allowing the human race to be punished for an eternity.  God reached out and wanted to restore his children to himself.

What is our mission in life?  When we are living in obedience to God, do you think that we are any less hated for the light that we shine in their darkness?  No, we have the example and the formula for handling criticism and what to do in the face of opposition.  Challenge and stand up to the resistance in Jesus name.  Continue to do the ministry and remain obedient to the last thing that God has shown you to be and to do.  Trust God to vindicate you and to bring you through any situation.  Ultimately, we are all in God's hands.  Our life is not our own.  Our reputation is in his hands as well as our past, present, and future.

Walk humbly.  Walk upright.  Keep your eyes of faith focused on the only reason that this world has any sanity: God with us.  Soon we will graduate into a better existence, but for now we have to continue in this tainted sinful world.  

Even Jesus with all of his wisdom, knowledge, and power could not over turn the evil in the hearts of some men.  How can we propose to be immune from persecution from other men and women?  There will be times of trial.  Stand firm in the peace that passes understanding.  Confront those things that you should and can.  Leave the rest to God to tackle.  His resources are boundless.

You will come out on the other side stronger.  God will show himself in your behalf.  Others will be changed by watching you and your reactions.  Leave the results to God and you will never be disappointed.  We serve a God who takes what was meant for evil by some and turns it into good for his people.  Look for the good that God is doing right in front of you and rejoice that you are a threat to the kingdom of darkness.  

Jesus said in Mark 3:35, "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."   Be thankful to be considered family.

Remember when Jesus slept out in the boat with his disciples and a storm
 came up suddenly?  They woke him and he told the waves, "Quiet!  Be still!"  Then the wind stopped completely and the sea became calm.  


The disciples were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!"  

Oh, just remember who Jesus is.  Remember, and be at peace as you put your life and all your situations into his loving and capable hands. He understands.  He cares for you and will remain steadfastly beside you.

(Again, I want to thank my son, Philip, for the picture I have used along with this blog. What a great reflection taken in this photo!  You deserve an "A" in photography class.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PRECIOUS SERVANT






My dear sweet aunt who never could say no to anyone who needed help, who always cheerfully did all wholeheartedly for others, finally has been promoted to meet her Lord and Savior where she will be basking in His love and care for her. I love you Aunt Janet, and enjoy your new life in Paradise! You are missed by so many lives that you have touched!

Love, Christie

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Than Shadows




So, do I find myself impatient?
Is there an unexplained urge to be unkind?
Do I feel that jealous bug relentlessly biting?
Have I bragged too much on myself today?

So, do I feel superior than most around me?
Is it rude words released that spin and seek a target?
Do I find that I want to benefit my shallow needs above all else?
Have I hastily blown up again and let that short fuse explode?

So, do I snap and spew demeaning phrases on those I love?
Is it more comfortable for me to hold grudges than to let them go?
Do I continually put people in their place with their past weaknesses?
Have I ever thrilled to hear that a good person fell into sin?

So, do I enjoy willfully giving into sinful passions and desires?
Is that really the truth I told, honestly? or do lies creep in?
Do I allow juicy tidbits of negative gossip to slip in and sully a reputation?
Have I been suspicious of the true intentions of a faithful one?

So, do I always expect the worst possible, instead of the greatest good?
Is it hard for me to see anything great waiting out there for me?
Do I give up easily on my friends? Do I fail at hanging in there when it's tough?
Have I let someone close to me down by unloving acts that pierce tender hearts?

So, maybe we both see ourselves, somewhere in the midst of all of this.
Is it okay to remain in the shadows?  No, much better to reach for the prototype.
Do we locate a way out of this rut of ugliness that looks for a way to sneak out?
Allow God, the author of love, come in, for he alone brings out our best.


So, maybe I think we should give it a try.  Let's try to find that better part.
Is it so far fetched to imagine that we own intentional power for good?
Do we realize just how much we can bring to the table in our lifetime?
Have the fortitude and the gumption to let LOVE shine in each interaction of life.


So, we're on our way to downloading loving thoughts, actions, deeds, and more.
Isn't it exciting to access and view our potential through lenses of love?
Do we exhale in gratitude?  Sigh! Days never again will be pointless and stale.
Have a time sporting delightful smiles, while joyful feet dance a jig today, tomorrow, and forever.


I Corinthians 13 tells us what love is all about.  The power and the inspiration to live out LOVE comes from God.  A life dedicated to Him and cleansed of our sin by Jesus Christ will begin to start a transition from the sinful bent we are acting out, and we will slowly learn and return to the original design that our life architect had for us.  You are a thing of beauty in His eyes.  He sees us as we were made to be.  He knows the heart he placed in us, to do brave deeds and to aid others in distress.  We are world changers in disguise.  Time to take the disguises off and find out who we really are so we can roll up our sleeves and make this world a better place.  

LOVE.  LOVE one another.  LOVE yourself.  LOVE others as you love yourself.  LOVE God.  LOVE came down and gave all to LOVE us into the Kingdom again.  Get all washed up, splash on that LOVE cologne, spritz yourself and all you touch with the sweet scent that will spread to all the nations and back again.  Be in LOVE now and forever.


PHOTO CREDIT goes to my son.  He's pretty sharp with the camera.  Good eye, Phil.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Dozen Ways to Strengthen Your Family

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -Martin Luther King, Jr.



A DOZEN WAYS TO STRENGTHEN YOUR FAMILY
(This was taken from a Leelanau County Newsheet near 2001.  No author was given credit for this.)

 1.  Spend time with each other: do things together as a family.
 2.  Plan ahead with your family so things will happen and not just happen.
 3.  Establish a reasonable balance between outside activities, work schedules, and your family.
 4.  Talk with each other and listen carefully to understand each others viewpoint.
 5.  Show each family member consideration and appreciation, especially in everyday ways.
 6.  Respect each person--his or her ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
 7.  Develop pride in your family.
 8.  Resolve problems and conflicts in a constructive way.
 9.  Help each other and be willing to let others help you.
10. Contact and build ties with other families.
11. Take part in community affairs and use community services.
12. Develop a spiritual focus within your family.

Just some common sense ideas and reminders for a tune up, or just to tweak a good family into a great family.  God bless and get face to face with people.  Put away technology on a regular basis to keep in tune with your loved ones, and to build a strong family unit.  Stronger families are sure a great heritage to pass along to our descendents.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do We Dare to Dream?

Do we dare to dream of a world so perfect?
Do we realize how tainted and limited is our gaze?
Do we fantasize and stretch our imaginations to discover
The wonders of this lovely planet without disgrace?


I dare to let my thoughts race toward images aglow.
I daily want to lesson my limits.  Someday I will fully envision

For now, I strike out on a walk-about peering past the fog.
These thoughts, the sights, the sensations lift me higher than any high.


The Spirit says, "Come.  Come on and experience a refreshing."
The Bride says, "Come.  Come and take my hand, let's go together."
Those nearby say, "Come. We too are weary of this painful existence."
Then together we go.  Sojourners, we view the unseen through the water of life.


This reflection was made after reading the last chapter, chapter 22 in the book of Revelation.  God has planned a way to restore the Earth and all mankind who accept his gift of another chance at the creation that He envisioned when he made the Earth, Adam, and Eve.  I want to see this and be there.  Come along and take his hand and mine as we stroll toward this glorious day in freedom.



Pray to God, tell him you believe that Jesus is the son of God and and ask for his forgiveness of your sins.  Then, you will be assured of being with God throughout all eternity, instead of condemned to eternity in hell.  God loves you and desires all of his children to take advantage of the freedom from an eternity of suffering that was bought by the pure sacrificial lamb, Jesus.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SCOFFERS: BEWARE, RATHER WALK IN LOVE WHILE YOU WAIT FOR HIS RETURN


Scoffing is a plague to avoid at all cost.
Symptoms: Follows selfish ungodly desires,
Always causes division, 
Prideful, follows mere natural instincts,
And walks in the flesh, totally devoid of the Holy Spirit.

Cure: All Christians, build yourselves up in your most holy faith,
Pray daily in the Holy Spirit,
Keep yourselves blameless in God's love,
Wait on our Lord Jesus Christ and his mercy,
Wait on him to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt their salvation or their God,
Snatch others from the hideous fire and save them,
To others show mercy, always mixed with humility and reverence,
Hate all sexual immorality, depictions of it, even the clothing stained,
And worn during fleshly, corrupt acts. 





Worship: To him who is able to keep you upright and from falling,
To him who will present you faultless to God,
To him who will present you in Heaven with great joy!
To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and all authority,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who was here before all began, now, and forever.
(Jude 17-25)

Vision: "Like a son of man" dressed in a robe
That reached down to his feet with a golden sash draped around his chest.
 Shining white hair like wool, as white as snow in the afternoon sun
With his eyes ablaze like torches in a cave.
His bronze feet glowed like a fiery furnace, and a voice like the rapids over rocks.

Held in his right hand were seven stunning stars
While out of his mouth emerged a sharp double-edged sword.
His face shone like the sun in all its glory.
To look upon him was to fall down as dead.
First and the last, once dead now alive forever, now with the keys of death and Hades.
(Rev. 1:13-18)

Do not miss out on the glory that is waiting for us.
Do not wallow like a sow in the mire of sinful pass times.
Do not harden your heart for it may be any moment now.
The son of man will come in all of his glory for all who are faithful.

The rest will be left on the Earth to face a terrible Tribulation like no other time.
Those left behind will cry out for the rocks and the mountains to cover them.
They will suffer immensely, though most will believe now, they will be slain.
Terrible wars, death will take a fourth of all that is living
Natural disasters never dreamed of, asteroids crashing on the Earth, 
Stars falling to the Earth, the sky will recede
Islands and mountains will be removed by these events,
The moon will turn blood red and the sun to black.

In Heaven, all will be silence and then the time of turmoil will end for those who believe during this horrible time.
(Rev. 6-the seven seals) 
The hard of heart who never bend a knee to the King of the Universe,
They will be judged and sentenced to an eternity of torment in Hell.
All the satanic hosts will be unleashed to torture relentlessly, forever and ever.

This seems grievous, and heartless to speak of this.
Instead see it for what it is.
This is mercy speaking.
Come, embrace the Savior who came to break the curse of Eden's sin.
He extends the invitation, longing to spare all his beloved and offers us a life eternal to enjoy in a paradise that we could never imagine.

Come, open your heart, receive.  Be at peace and filled with joy forever.

(From scoffers to believers:rather than despair, have the hope of eternal joy and glory.)







 



Thursday, January 26, 2012

RESOLUTIONS

Resolutions are good intentions and some years I let them drop off just after a couple of weeks of my lame attempts to change.  Then, in later years they became goals to be worked at and achieved, so not to worry if perfection was not accomplished every day.  I learned that they worked much better when they were thoughtfully created in a time of meditation, reflection, and sometimes in prayer.  After a self-inventory, realizing a lack in areas I set out to touch up, fix up, or to stop the procrastination by becoming more of the person that God created me to be.

Separating my thinking from worldly thought is not easy, but by taking the time to get outside of myself,  to see it from a better perspective, I find that I am actually beginning to weave in pieces that make the tapestry of my life absolutely stunning.  The little effort to love more, give more, prioritize, focus on developing my talents and gifts, as well as sharing them with neighbors adds to the zest of life.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

So, I stumble around here and there.  So, I don't always get it right.  So, I am not a world icon or known by every tabloid (thank goodness for privacy).  Lovely times here and there, funny moments, silly, capable, clumsy, perfection, rejection, acceptance, no clue, all the answers, melted in God's presence, it all just depends on which day I reflect on.  This perfect gift of a new day gives me more reason to resolve... to walk out this fresh start now before my Heavenly king.

I stand alone and breathe in His glory.  This in itself gives me reason to resolve and to aspire to mirror the warm liquid love that surrounds me now.  I feel his delight when I dance, sing, hug, encourage, plead for God's mercy, trust, give, paint, create culinary masterpieces, write, laugh and play with  grandchildren, root for my son's team playing basketball, share endearing words with my loved ones, or even work to stay healthy and keep my shape in tact.  He inspires beauty and greatness in me each time I get a glimpse of my true kingdom and home.

Resolutions?  Yes, I resolve to daily be conformed and transformed by the renewing of my thinking and what follows will be the actions brought on that hopefully reflect the heart felt ideas that are birthed each day in his presence.  I resolve to continue to allow my life to blossom and change in contour and dimension until I reach the point of entry into my eternal kingdom with my Lord.