Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy NEW Year Everybody!!

Out with the old, in with the new!!!!

Thanks to everyone who has read & commented on my blog in 2005. :o)

Full Armor...

Someone who posted a comment mentioned a passage in Ephesians. Thank you for sharing!! We've been examining the book of Ephesians recently- great study! This week we looked at the full armor of God. Jesus IS the full armor! We are to be covered by Him! (He is also our Robe of Righteousness, but that's another illustration.) Sound absurd? Romans 13:14 says, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ". Ephesians 6:10 "Be strong in The Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the Belt of Truth (Jesus IS the Truth), put on the Breastplate of Righteousness (Jesus IS our Righteousness), and as shoes for your feet, put on the readiness given by the Gospel of Peace. (He is our peace, Who has broken down every wall) In all circumstances, take up the Shield of Faith (Our belief in Christ) with which you can extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one. Take the Helmet of Salvation, (Christ is our Salvation) and the Sword of the Spirit- which is The Word of God, (Jesus IS the LIVING WORD of God) Jesus IS the armor. David often referred to his Lord as a Shield and Defender. Jesus is the Good News, The Lamb which takes away the sins of the world, He is the ark into which all must enter in order to live, He's the Promise Fulfilled, He is the Vine, a Lover of Prodigals. He is All in All.
We are in a battle for the mind & spirit- I'd much rather have the full armor of Christ, than be wrapped in the rags of my own righteousness for defense. How about you? We are fighting the good fight of faith, but Jesus ALREADY WON the victory for us. The battle we face today is in choosing to place our lives in His hands believing He is big enough to save & strong enough to change us. Each day I must place my doubts aside & trust in the merits of Jesus. It's tough, because I'd much rather feel that I'm strong, that because of my good behavior I'm worthy to be saved. But (paraphrasing) ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Because of Jesus ALL can be saved by Grace, which is received by faith and that is the gift of God- not something we produce ourselves, lest any of us start getting a big head or feel superior to someone else. Good to know!! :o)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Stand Up & Testify...

We are each called to share our testimonies and point souls to Jesus Christ. Don't be afraid to be honest, we all have challenges. I believe the message that was manifested before the ministry of Christ began, is the same simple message for today. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand". John the Baptist was not only addressing those who were living in open sin, he was pleading for the proud heart of the Pharisee. The Pharisee was strictly religious, very concerned with lifestyle. Because of their great heritage, traditions and teachings, they were blind to see their great need for a Savior or embrace Jesus for Who He was. They were SO concerned with building a kingdom here on earth, they were slack to help the poor or lay up treasure in Heaven. So devoted were they to protecting Sabbath sanctity, they missed out on TRUE REST. This was also my experience and sadly, I found myself in the 7 woes of Matthew. There are legal-minded people in many churches who are trying to earn their way to Heaven and there are also honest seekers to be found. I know this from studying several different faiths. If you are struggling in the clutches of legalism & despair, then you will be happy to know there is freedom & victory in Christ. If you have known Jesus all throughout your journey, PRAISE GOD! (This was not my experience) Rules & regulations were emphasized- not relationship, however I take FULL responsibility for my great struggle. I should have studied the Bible for myself and been more vigilant in prayer... We can be honest about our journeys without delving into self-pity- life is too short for that! Throughout the pages of Scripture, all manner of people find forgiveness & healing, sight is restored, the lame walk, the dead are raised to life, the hungry are fed. No matter who you are, what you've been through, or what you've done, there IS hope because of Jesus. I am interested in hearing what He has done or is doing in your life!!

Too Many Fences...

I've been privileged to visit the Mid-west several times now. Montana is my favorite state! During a trip through Virginia City, Montana, we found the most unique little gift shop. It's called 'Fence-Post Originals'. A gifted craftsman makes beautiful oil lamps, salad bowl sets, candle holders, etc. from old Montana fence-posts. It's the neatest thing! While speaking with him about his craft, he told me that once upon a time a man could ride for days on his horse enjoying the land the Good Lord gave us and not encounter a single fence. Then people got greedy & suspicious. Unable to get along and share the land anymore- practicality demanded they start putting up fences and defining property lines. Now, many of the original fences are collapsing. This man takes his truck out to ranches all over Montana, picks up the old fence-posts & makes souvenirs out of them. He says he's glad to see the fences come down. I guess his sentiment stayed with me...
I often think of fences in relation to religion. There are SO many beliefs and interpretations of the scriptures. People feel strongly that their point of view is correct- everyone else has it wrong, so we have hundreds of different denominations- each just as sure as the rest that their particular faith has it right. What if we ALL have more to learn? Jesus' prayer in John 17 was that believers be united. He was so passionate about it! Yet how many friendships dare to cross denominational fences these days? I believe Heaven is near- there will be NO fences there. Why don't we learn to get along down here? God has opened my eyes to see beyond denominational boundaries. There are precious people everywhere doing the best they know how. In Jn. 17:17 Jesus says, "Sanctify them by Your Truth, Thy Word is Truth." (He's NOT talking about the Bible here as many teach, He is speaking of HIMSELF- the Christ.) "I AM the way, THE TRUTH, and the Life." In John 1:1, in reference to Jesus, we are told "In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God." We aren't sanctified by the Bible or written word, but by Jesus Christ Himself- the LIVING Word!
My husband & I have worked with Habitat for Humanity. It was a little foretaste of Heaven. A crew of people from all different religious backgrounds came together for the common good of someone else. What church each of us attended did not matter- there was mutual respect. We were united in our love for Christ and for helping a poor family who needed a home. It brings tears to my eyes even now as I think of the precious harmony we feel with those people... I'm not saying compromise truth, I'm saying we should be uncompromising when it comes to love. It didn't take long for the early church to start putting up fences. Paul repeatedly called for unity in Christ, but the Christians were inclined to take pride in following the teachings of one leader or another, and got side-tracked debating things like circumcision, meat-eating & feast days. They were divided. Perhaps there are still too many fences among us today??

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Nothing melted my heart as quickly as the sight of one of my babies reaching for me. Those tiny upheld hands, those trusting little eyes looking up at me. I couldn't help but pick them up. When people are hurting and they reach for me, I love to hold them. Few things hurt more than when I reach for someone and they won't allow me to touch them. I remember as a child, reaching out to tenderly touch my mother's face and her pushing my hands away. God is NOT that way!
One of my favorite singers, Carolyn Arends once sang:

"We are reaching for the future, we are reaching for the past
and no matter what we have we reach for more,
We are desperate to discover what is just beyond our grasp
and maybe that's what Heaven is for..."

So true! I believe there's an ache in every human heart- an emptiness that can only be filled by spiritual intimacy with the One who created us. We try to fill that restless, empty space with lots of different things. Sex, parties, movies, church duties, good causes, material goods, etc. But the joy of these things always passes. I've spent most of my life reaching.... for acceptance, for people to love, money, fitness, knowledge, for a better way to make my dreams come true. Sometimes I wish I could just stop reaching, be satisfied with what I have and who I am and relax for a while. (I'm learning this discipline, but I'm slow...)
God is always reaching out to us and never tires of doing so. That concept blows my mind! Why would an infinite, sinless, loving, all-knowing, all-seeing God reach for ME? Yet, every morning I hear Him whisper to my heart. I cannot abandon this great love. Nothing else I've ever experienced has been as satisfying. Maybe my role as a Christian is not to spend my life desperately reaching for the love of a distant God, but to allow myself to be reached by His love. God desires to know me and to be known by me. I cannot reach others with truth- until the truth has reached me.

False Pretenses...

I've been baptized 4 times now. First I was 10- my friends were getting baptized, my Mom was getting re-baptized. Though I had very little heart for God at the time, it was "the thing to do". I was disappointed when I came out of the baptismal tank to find I was still the same person. I had the impression there was something magical about the water- somehow, I would go in a sinner and come out completely different. NOT SO! The act of baptism is only a symbol- not a magic ritual. Change & growth in a Christian is the journey of a lifetime, not some instant slam-dunk transformation.
At 16, I was in private school. After hearing a powerful, forward-thinking speaker who presented the love of God, I went forward with 42 other young people and gave my heart to The Lord. I had good intentions, but I was still not converted.... I wanted to be a Christian, because I wanted to be right all the time. I wanted people to say I was a good person. I wanted to work my way up the ladder of power in our denomination and be a great worker for God. Christianity was attractive because I had sub-zero self-esteem and no sense of belonging. I wanted to be one of the "elite", the Remnant- one of the last guardians of truth. Outreach was all about proof-texting & proof-quoting people into submission to my ideals.
Third time I got baptized it was into a cultish mentality. I felt my other baptisms didn't count because I was still eating meat & cheese. Now that I was strict vegan, wearing a dress all the time, my hair in a bun, could quote much of the writings of a certain lady, didn't listen to any of that modern Christian music with "satanic drums", had removed my wedding band, only ate 2 meals a day and was homeschooling- I had changed and was ready for translation. It was with a proud heart I entered the tank- as if I finally had put all of the pieces to the puzzle in place. However, I was a deciever, because although I looked squeaky-clean & conservative on the outside- a MAJOR struggle was going on in the privacy of my home. You see, when I was 10 yrs old a sexual predator introduced me to pornography. At first I thought it was disgusting, but then I developed an appetite for the stuff. Sheer will-power & painful memories kept me from viewing it for years. Then, as a lonely stay-home Mom lured by pop-up ads online, I soon found myself indulging a taste for porn. I was addicted for months- no matter how hard I tried to walk away from it! I felt terrible guilt. So in order to feel less rotten, I kicked my self-tranformation into high-gear. The people at church were patting me on the back for my outspoken, ultra-conservative ways, but underneath, I knew it was all a cover-up. One night in an exhausted, sobbing heap, I told my husband the truth saying, "If this is all there is to religion, I'm OUT!" Deep in my heart I've always known there IS a God, but I was worn out with religion. (I was NEVER good enough. No matter how strict, there was always someone in the church willing to point out where I needed to change. Nobody ever focused on how much God loves me or taught me Christ IS my perfection.) Unless God moved in a BIG way, I said I would abandon Christianity and I would be better off dead. Well, just 2 wks after that cry of desperation, the study group we were with split-up. Suddenly everyone was moving cross-country! Holy Spirit spoke to me saying, "Tear down this wall of beliefs you built and I will rebuild it with Truth." I dropped my pursuit of prophecy, I stopped trying to emulate EGW- a fellow human being, and began studying the simple Gospels. I found a loving, humble, down-to-earth Jesus who related to sinners in a non-judgemental way. I found a Savior who said "REST" when so many others were saying "Work harder". The 4th time I was baptized, I went under with the Good News, knowing I have NOTHING to offer God but a broken heart- and God loves me anyway. The Bible has come alive for me- for the first time! I can be real, honest and truly love other people!! It's amazing!!! I'm no longer a stereotype- I'm free to be ME. Things that aren't good fall away as my heart is changed into the likeness of the One who loves me. I've received victory over both Bulimarexia and viewing dirty pictures. I don't have perfect judgement- I mess up on a daily basis, but there is forgiveness. Religion saves no one, 10 commands have no power to change us. More than denominational affiliation, perfect church attendence or plain jane appearances, God wants our hearts. I'm excited to see what God has in store for my journey. So there you have it- keepin' it real- no false pretenses. I'm NO better (or worse) than anyone else. ALL who seek Jesus will find Him. What has your journey been like?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What If?

I often wonder what would happen if:

- We find out God is bigger than the little boxes we like to put Him in?
- We admit we don't have it all together and there's more to learn?
- We focused more on listening to people & less on correcting them?
- We stopped majoring in minors and sweating the small stuff?
- The churches would admit their abuses and repent?
- There were less ladder climbing, policy-makers and more pray-ers?
- Salvation is really NOT as complicated as some people like to make it?
- Real sinners no longer shocked us and glossy, over-acheivers didn't impress us?
- We dared to mingle with other people with different views?
- We didn't have to appoint official "greeters" because every member was friendly?
- Our hearts were free to enjoy living abundantly and loving unconditionally?
- Worship meant more than sitting like statues with glazed eyes & organ music?
- Each person was free to question and seek a relationship with God for themselves?
- We realized we aren't the only people in the world who love truth?
- We gave each other the freedom to be who we are in Christ- without judging?
- What if we dropped the masks we hide behind and weren't afraid to be real?

Maybe we would really be different and would have more to offer a hurting world...

"... They will know you are Christians by your love one for another..."

Feels So Good!

Whoo-hooo, my wish came true! Check one resolution off my list. Today, we became members of the 'Y' nearby and I've got our activity schedule all mapped out. Yep, I've had the old song going in my head all day now...... everybody put your hands in the air and sing...... Y-M-C-A... da- da-da-da-da-da...... :o)

Five Years Ago...

Five years ago this week, our last precious child was born. It was early morning and we were headed to the hospital. I was BIG pregnant and it was time for sweet baby #4 to make her way into this world. After a uterine rupture trying to give birth to baby #3, the OB decided we should just skip the labor part & have a planned C-section. My first 3 babies were born by section after marathon labors and hours of torment pushing. I SO wanted to have a natural birth experience, but after section #2, I was told it would be risky to try again. My self-esteem faltered and I wanted to be successful, so I gave it all I had with my third baby. 32 hrs of labor, 2 hrs of pushing and a C-section later we had a beautiful baby girl to hold, but my foolish pride had nearly cost both of us our lives! I was a young, fit,determined person with high pain tolerance- everything pointed toward me having babies- no problem, so it was extremely frustrating that I couldn't have natural childbirth. However, I now see this as a valuable object lesson for my spiritual life. You see, I'm a hard worker! I want to be the best I can be. I like to be a "giver"- not a "taker". I did everything humanly possible to give birth & failed. Were it not for modern medicine, I would've died with baby #1. Instead of basking in the glory of giving birth, I had to put my life in the hands of my Dr. and my babies were lifted from the womb by someone else's effort. I wasn't even conscious for the birth of my first child, and I was paralyzed from the chest down- completely helpless- for the birth of the last 3. My babies were worth every minute of recovery I had to endure. So what's the lesson here?? I can grunt, strain, grit my teeth & sweat to produce fruit. I can push to be better all the time and pamper my spiritual vanity, but in the end all my righteousness is as filthy rags. I believe the ONLY way good will come from me is if I place myself in God's hands and allow Him to draw it out of me. All my efforts to give birth were in vain! My beautiful babies were born while I was flat on my back on a table and someone else did all the work for me. God doesn't NEED me, but He wants me. He doesn't want me working hard & sacrificing to impress Him. His love is not based on my achievement. He wants me to place my life in His hands and REST. That's what Christ has to offer each of us!! Are you laboring in vain?

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Piano...

My Aunt in PA. has a beautiful baby-grand piano. When I was a very little girl, I loved to hear her play. I would lay under it listening with such happiness. I also spent many hours playing it and composed my very first song on that piano. When I was 4, my Dad bought my Mother an old upright. It was a beautiful antique. It's dark, rich wood surface had intricate carvings of vines on it. Talk about a great sound! When Momma got frustrated and quit piano lessons, I was the one who played it most & eventually I felt it was mine. Daddy would say, "Go play me something on your piano." As I sat at that keyboard, I felt a calling on my life. I knew somehow that I wanted to do music and write songs that would express my great love for the timeless, all powerful being whom we call "God". Then my life fell apart. My parents decided to split and life as I had known it came to a screeching halt. The first thing to go was my piano- which was sold for $200. I remember standing by the window crying as I watched two men load it onto a truck. I felt like I was losing a friend. This was the first in a series of painful goodbyes. There have been many first loves in my life- that piano being one of them. Now I've had a few electronic keyboards over the years with good piano samples. Some girlfriends of mine even surprised me with a great new keyboard for my birthday last June, but nothing beats the feeling of playing a REAL piano. On Christmas day, some people showed up while we were eating brunch in our PJ's. They asked my man to come outside because they had some "Wood in the back of their truck to unload". I stealth-fully went to my room to get dressed, since I was not in any shape to greet unexpected guests. When I came out, there was a little upright piano sitting in my living room! Turns out an elderly man that I have befriended is a piano restorer and he, having just lost his wife wanted to give me one of his old pianos! It's very plain & needs to be tuned, but it's a REAL piano and I'm touched that someone cared enough to give it to me for Christmas! I hope to inherit the old Baby Grand from my Aunt someday. I would provide it a loving home where it would be played on a daily basis, but until then, I have a little upright to enjoy.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Heart Cries

I think it's good to understand the beliefs of others, and be respectful of every person- regardless of race, religion, gender, class or status. I have been reading the Koran. In doing so, I find there are many honorable beliefs in the Muslim faith. It is sad that hate-filled radicals have brought such dishonor to the sons of Abraham. How sorry I am to read that our sisters in Afghanistan are still so badly treated! How can men have such little concern for women- treating them as property, keeping them secluded, pregnant, ignorant and abusing them? It hurts to hear reports of the hatred & disrespect these poor women must endure! How can hatred be so strong that Muslim men will execute foreign women who, moved by compassion, come to bring food & medicine to the people of Afghanistan & Iraq? There doesn't seem to be much justice for the wives, widows & mothers in Afghanistan & Iraq. When will this suffering end? I will be the first to say that the US and other "Christian" nations have their faults. However, how can Muslim extremists call the US "the great satan" when they treat each other- their very own wives and daughters with such cruelty? Are they any better?? I think there are many misconceptions on both sides. I do not believe that all Muslims in the middle east are unreasonable, ignorant tyrants. What good are negative stereo-types? I am a US citizen, but I'm not immoral, I don't own a gun or enjoy violence. I don't feel I am better than anyone else. I respect my husband and I am respected- our marriage is a partnership- it's a beautiful thing. As a woman, I want to be treated well, be free to learn, grow, express myself and raise my children to be the best they can be. Do women in the Middle East desire any less? I hurt for the men who have never known the joy of tender, emotional intimacy, those who have never unlocked the treasures of a woman's heart. How do you bring about change & still respect culture? Are the women of Iraq any less deserving of happiness? Does the young girl in Afghanistan deserve nothing better than early marriage, rape and disrespect? How the heart cries!! The following article really moved me:

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Simple Phone Call...

Last night the kids were pre-occupied, my husband and I had retreated to our bedroom, the door was locked, the lights were dim........... OK, people, we were just WRAPPING PRESENTS! Anyway, as I was wrapping on my side of the bed, a surge of holiday memories came over me- some good, some sad. My heart hurt & I felt so VERY alone! I looked up from what I was doing and I could tell my man was hurting too. We started talking about why we aren't all holly-jolly this year. We were both just plain MISSING! Missing Grandpa, Timber, our old friends and the little house on Kincaid Road. I cried a little and kept on wrapping the kids presents. Then the phone rang and some friends from college called just to check in and see how we are doing. These are the kind of people we can be real with, so I gave them the "straight up" and they listened & prayed with us. I felt SO encouraged!! For the last several months some other friends of ours have called us just to show they care and that kind of support means the world to me- don't know how I would have made it otherwise... Many times when people call they want me to be there for them or do something on their behalf. Sometimes it's okay to be vulnerable and lean on somebody else for a little while. So, THANK YOU for caring! It's amazing how a smile, a hug or an e-mail can make all the difference between hope & despair. Sometimes I think we feel like we have to do BIG things for God. Go witness overseas, write a book, preach a sermon, donate a kidney. (These are all good things.) Never underestimate the power of a simple phone call.

Christmas Eve

We FINALLY got our tree up. Had a special service at Church today. My kids sang, then my husband & I sang. (There were other people in the program besides us) Then we had a nice fellowship meal & went home. Tonight we had friends over to sing beside the tree, drink my chocolate/mint cocoa and eat finger-foods. We exchanged some gifts & watched the new version of 'Miracle on 34th Street'. It was precious! There aren't many gifts under our tree this year, but I'm glad we are together. We sure do miss our friends & relatives that are spread out all across the country and they are in our thoughts tonight. Now some "friends" & relatives seem like they could care less. Those are the kind I'm not going to force myself on anymore. I've got a really big heart, but sometimes I'm like a cross between an elephant and an eager puppy. I rarely forget people I have known and I just want to love them, but sometimes I think I get on people's nerves and I need to get a clue when people have outgrown me or aren't interested in a relationship anymore. (It's painful, but that's a part of life...) Tomorrow morning, we will get up with our kids, watch them open their presents. I will cook a dinner & friends will come help us eat it. Then it will be over until next year... Here's hoping 2006 will be more prosperous...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Current Events...

I am officially resigning as a 'Current Events' junkie. I must get about 50 e-mails a week from this person or that who are determined that, "based on their thorough investigations", the 'Mark of the Beast' has been manifested, or that another "obvious" sign of the Second Coming is evident. (The evidence is never the same- everyone comes from a different angle- it gets very confusing!) These people are all worked up & bless their hearts, they get so excited- I know they have struggles in life just like I do and they want Jesus to come. I want Him to come too- with all my heart- I'm ready to go home!!!! However, I find current events to be somewhat a distraction from what really matters. Instead of reading the news, read the Bible. Find within it's pages God's AMAZING love & salvation! After Jesus ascended to Heaven, the disciples stood there staring at the sky, waiting for Him to return and the angels said, (I'm para-phrasing) "Hey guys, why are you wasting precious time standing there staring into an empty sky? This same Jesus who has gone up to Heaven will come back again. In the meantime, you've been given a commission to share the Gospel & spread the Kingdom, now get busy and tell the world- then He will return!" I keep an ear open to the signs of Jesus coming, but I want my eyes to be firmly fixed on the cross. I want to be busy studying Christ and loving people, not doing time on the Pope-watch. No one knows the hour of His coming so why do we repeatedly make predictions? A watched pot never boils... perhaps we should not be sky-watchers, but care-givers?!
I've heard all my life that Jesus is coming soon. I still believe He is, sad thing I was unable to be carefree as a child because of those who delighted in current events, interpreting "signs", and discussing the horrors of the Time of Trouble. My resignation from this mentality does not indicate that I am "asleep" by any means. When Jesus comes, I will be ready! I am ready this very moment because my sins are covered in His blood and I have received His robe of righteousness. So while others are scrambling around trying to fix this & that about themselves and trying to whip others into shape, I'm resting in Christ my righteousness. He will come when the time is right- His time-table, not ours...

New Years Resolution...

I know that a lot of people don't believe in making New Year's resolutions anymore, but I still do. Here are my goals for 2006:

1) Get closer to Jesus & stay focused on Him
2) Get more comfortable in my own skin
3) Join the YMCA and lose 12 lbs.
4) Be better at loving- especially my husband
5) Let go of past hurts & continue healing
6) Finish & release my first CD
7) Do more speaking engagements

Now, we'll see how 2006 unfolds... bring it on! I'm ready to say goodbye to 2005!! Do YOU have a resolution?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Check This Out!

Here is a video feed of a church service in our community that my kids participated in. They are in the bell choir that plays during this awesome Christmas program at Westmore Church of God:

When you visit the site, click the link under 'Services' that says 'Caring at Christmas'
Great sermon, good music- we were really blessed to attend & fellowship with these folks. Enjoy! :o)

Fully Dressed

I just want to say that I am SO tired of the current fashion trend! We've been looking at guys with the saggy-load in their pants look long enough. Don't really care to see what brand of underwear they are sporting! I'm tired of the skin-tight, belly-button shirts that only the stick-skinny girls look good in. The low waisted jeans hug the girls in their fat zone, so unless you look like a high-fashion model, (I don't) you have a sloppy little bulge above your jeans. YUCK! I don't like high-rise jeans either, so mid-rise are just about right for me. Anyway, before I had babies I was a serious athlete. My body fat ratio was 16%, I was a size 5/6. I could wear just about anything and look pretty good. My petite body was made to move and I was a finely tuned performance machine. Then I had baby #1... my belly was HUGE and on day 3 post-partum my hopes to leave the hospital wearing my old clothes were dashed. Suddenly I went from my streamlined self to looking like a sleepless version of Dolly Parton- my little 26 inch waist was never to be seen again. I continued to evolve & expand with each baby. I have worked hard to maintain my figure and I don't look bad for having 4 kids, but I'm definitely more full-figured than I used to be. This creates a dilemma in the clothing department. I usually buy outfits for the kids- not me, so when cold weather hit this year I found that I had about 4 warm shirts that sorta fit me- everything else was too tight in the bust. So when I got some Christmas money in the mail last night, we headed over to the local mall for some shopping. I bought toys for the kids & some shoes for my man. Then I saw a massive sale in one of my favorite stores & after 45 mins. of torment in front of the fitting room mirror, I walked out with 6 brand new shirts- for a great price! I'm thrilled!! Now I don't have to take 20 extra mins every day going "What on earth do I have that will fit me?" I haven't felt normal or at home in my body since my first pregnancy. It's been 5 yrs since my last C-section and I'm wondering if I'll ever feel "normal" again?? Maybe not, but at least I'll be fully dressed!! :o)

Still NO Tree...

Only 3 days till Christmas and we still don't have our tree up! It's been a rough year & I guess we just don't feel like celebrating. Guilt, guilt, guilt- I want to make it special for the kids. I have done some shopping for them, but it's hard to work up the motivation to decorate the house this year. For one, I really don't like this house. (I got spoiled having lived in the charming Cape Cod we designed & built- loved it, but we had to relocate.) Now, no other house will ever measure up! I don't have many good Christmas memories, having come from a broken family, so I've always looked to my husband to get the holiday ball rolling, but he's totally out of it this year. Our kids all have little trees in thier bedrooms. I bought little strings of lights & garland for them to use & they did a good job, but as far as getting out the big tree, well I'm just totally BLAH! I know it's not about the tree, but it's part of the season and I'm just not in the mood. Isn't that pathetic?! I am happy- as always that Jesus came to earth, but I'm just not very ho-ho-ho. Here's hoping that next year will be better...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Be One!

I am SO glad to live in the genteel south. I've lived in nearly every region of the US now & the south is my favorite. (I do miss New England falls & having snow at Christmas) Yes, we have our share of hickabillies & meth dealers, but over-all it's a great place to be! People are usually polite & things tend to move at a slower pace. You will rarely get honked at or flipped off in traffic down here in the Bible belt, but during the holiday season- LOOK OUT! I can't tell you how many times I've been cut off in traffic this past week. I'm pretty good at rolling with things, but it really gets my goat when the one cutting me off has a fish symbol on their car. (If you're a Christian- drive like one.) Religious t-shirts are a cute idea, but don't wear WWJD, unless you're going to take it seriously. I was standing in a looong line at the Mall this evening. The cashier was having a difficult time. The man in front of me had been waiting an unreasonable amount of time. The girl running the register was obviously flustered, her face & neck were flushed and some of the customers were getting kind of short with her. The guy ahead of me just made jokes & conversed with the rest of us, trying to keep the mood light. When it was finally his turn, the girl messed up & had to call management to assist. This nice young guy never got irritated, he spoke in reassuring tones & continued making pleasant conversation with my children & I. After the transaction was FINALLY complete, he gave the cashier a really big smile, bent down, looked in her eyes and said, "Thanks- you have a Merry Christmas & God bless you." I was next in line & she had tears in her eyes as he walked away. Now, he wasn't wearing a crucifix and probably doesn't have a "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper sticker on his car, but I'd be willing to wager that he's a believer. I am challenged once again to spend less time talking about my Christian beliefs and simply be one.

The Church Militant?

Recently I've heard some pretty disturbing things coming from people who call themselves Christians. A note on a dry-erase board at a local church said, "Fags can rot in Hell" and "God hates the ACLU & I do too". Then in conversation I heard some people say, "Everyone in the ACLU can go to Hell". What ever happened to compassion for sinners, loving our enemies & doing good to those who mistreat us??
Does being "right" ever give us the right to be rude or unloving to someone? Should the word "hate" even be in our vocabulary in regards to fellow human beings? Hatred is a powerful force to be reckoned with, but love is even stronger. I have heard people boast that we are the "church militant", but what does that mean? Does it mean posting big billboards in the name of truth, or closing our hearts toward gay people, or hating the ACLU? People can build walls against hate, but few can resist love. (I have tried this theory out on several people who hated me and with time & persistence things have changed. We're not best friends- but there is mutual respect.) Someone once said the best way to kill an enemy is to turn them into a friend. True, I don't like a lot of what the ACLU has done politically speaking, but I also don't participate in the Religious Right. We can't have it both ways. We speak of freedom, but realistically, if we want prayer in schools & creation taught and every parade & retailer to cater to Christians, then we are asking for a religious state. Separation of church & state is healthy. Yes, the secularization of our society is a sad testimony to how far we have fallen away from God, but the Bible says "Don't be discouraged, these things must happen and then the end will come." Keep worshipping, keep looking up. Maybe we should be more "militant" to keep our eyes on Jesus, be radical about loving people and leave the rest in God's hands?

A Breakthrough Moment...

Last night my husband and I lay in the darkness holding hands and praying. We asked for guidance and tearfully expressed our thanks to the Lord for getting us through a VERY trying year. Then my husband opened his heart and said, "Lord I've been going to church all my life. I don't know why I've never been able to see or accept Your love for me until now. I've sung the words of a simple song all my life, but the truth just never made it past my lips. Now it's beginning to dawn on me that You really DO love me and it's such a beautiful thing..."
I have been privileged to witness a great realization in the life of another person and it's glorious to behold! In our quest for truth & righteousness, may we never overlook the simple message:

Jesus loves me, this I know
for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
we are weak but He is strong

Jesus loves me, when I'm good
When I do the things I should
Jesus loves me when I'm bad
Doesn't leave me when I'm sad

Jesus loves me, He who died
Heaven's gates to open wide
He will wash away my sins
Let this little child come in
YES, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Celebrate You!

I've come to realize that for most of my life I have been working hard to be better. Learning and changing are good things. I believe we should try to be the best we can be. We are meant to be progressive beings- if we stop growing, we shrink. The art of 'becoming' is a never-ending journey. But every so often, I believe it's healthy to stop, rest and simply celebrate YOU! Every step you are on is worth celebrating, for each leads you higher on the stairway to Heaven.
Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Now, how can I love anyone, if I don't even love myself? If I don't love myself, I'm angry inside & hurt so badly it hinders me in reaching out to someone else. When people don't like themselves, they become very good at pointing out the faults of others in order to feel better. How can I love myself unless I come to understand how much I am loved? The unconditional love of God is SO important to experience. So, setting all BAD psychology aside, it's okay to love yourself! Much of my life I felt bad about myself. Satan really didn't have to try very hard to bring me down, because I was always down on myself! How impatient we are- what little faith we exercise in the merits of Christ! Many well-meaning Christians talk about "dying to self", but in their own strength- the only way to do that is by self-loathing & self-condemnation. "There is now therefore NO condemnation for those who are in Christ". To truly die to self is to allow Christ to live in us. Just as night gives way to the sunrise, light & darkness cannot co-exist, so as more Light comes into a heart, the darkness has no choice but to flee. God wants us to savor & enjoy our existence, not constantly beat ourselves up for not being perfect. Christ IS our perfection! You are priceless in the eyes of your Creator, Heaven celebrates you! Open your heart to love yourself and see what a difference it makes!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

My Christmas Wish...

I've been thinking a lot lately about wishes and I believe in a sense, a wish is a prayer. This has been a really tough year for my family. For starters, because my husbands work was relocating AGAIN, we had to sell the beautiful new house we designed and built after only living in it for 2 yrs. After 6 mos. of searching for a house to buy, we finally found a house that would work for a family of 6. (Not our dream home by any means, but practical) It appeared that it would be within our price range, but we ended up paying 12K more than we originally expected to pay out and ended up being in over our heads for a house we don't really like. Both of our vehicles broke down this year, our heat pump died, our dog broke his leg and required surgery, our favorite cat disappeared, the church we were going to didn't work out, our kids didn't like their new school, etc. Hardest of all, just before New Years last year, Grandpa B. died & we've missed him terribly. So it's been a rough 2005. I know we aren't the only family struggling to get by...
Money doesn't bring happiness, but it sure does allow for more enjoyment in life! Ever since my kids were wee ones, I've wanted us to be involved in the YMCA, but we could never afford it. I would love for my kids to be able to take swimming lessons. I'd love for my little girls to be able to take gymnastics and my boy to take karate. I really enjoy fitness and would love to be able to go workout. Family memberships are expensive and since the nearest YMCA is over the county line, we don't qualify for the scholarship program. If I could have my wish for Christmas it would be that we could become members of the YMCA. What do you wish for??

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Long ago and far away, a Babe was laid in stable hay, born to die, for us He came, all may live who call upon His name...
Wonderful, God Almighty, Counselor, Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Yeshua, Lord of Lords, Lion of Judah, Great I Am, Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us...

He is still my reason for the season...

Love Cannot be Silent...

You can always tell when a man loves NASCAR- 'cause he talks about it. Jeff Gordan this and Earnhardt Jr. that... It's pretty much all you hear when you meet up with him. I'm glad people have hobbies to enjoy and it's certainly fun to talk about those things. A couple in love will constantly talk about each other whenever they happen to be apart. After 13 yrs. I still love my husband and enjoy telling people about him. What people love is what they will talk about.
After much struggle, heart-searching and prayer, for a brief moment- a window opened for me and I was truly able to see Jesus. A Great Light broke through to my dark, lonely heart. The Bible is coming alive for me! I can't seem to stop talking, writing, singing about Him. I am LOVED and I am in Love with the awesome person of Jesus Christ. He has offered me acceptance when others offer condemnation, healing when the world brings hurt, freedom from the chains of guilt I wore so long. So what do you talk about? What do those around you have to say when you are with them? Are they discussing laws or the God of the law? Are they discussing all the wonderful merits of their religion or the Christ behind their faith? Did you know some people are in love with food? They talk about what NOT to eat all the time. Jesus has brought joy to my life! He is hope, comfort, peace and strength. He died for me and one day He will bring back the loved ones I've lost so I can hold them in my arms again. That's a love worth talking about...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Building on The Rock...

I've been reading a lot of blogs & Christian websites recently. There are SO many beautiful people and viewpoints out there! Many different denominations too- all who think they have "the truth". I admit that for many years I was pretty smug and thought I had God all figured out. I tried really hard to be a good Christian and wanted to be the example for everyone else to follow. I put great faith in the theologians & great thinkers of my particular denomination. But each time I thought I was doing things right, someone else would come along and point out where I was failing. I constantly felt defeated & unsure of where I stood in God's eyes. You see, there's much confusion within my church. Some preach works oriented religion, others teach faith alone, while still others espouse faith-plus-works. Everyone has a different opinion on music, diet, dress, education, worship, etc. These issues are debated until it's enough to make your head spin!! So I'm keeping it simple now and as Paul said, "I know one thing, Christ and Him crucified..." It's not about me anymore, it's not about proving I'm right all the time, or belonging to a superior church- it's about a Savior. Everything in the Old & New Testament calls us to look to Christ and not to ourselves. Some errantly teach that the rock we are to build our faith upon is the 10 Commandments- because they are made of stone. However, we know from the story when Moses struck the rock and water poured out that the rock represents Christ. He called Himself a Cornerstone. Christ IS the unchanging, immoveable rock we are to build on. He wants to live in us, cover us with His robe of righteousness. Why do we not talk about Him more??? I'm a sinner starving to hear about Him- more testimonies of how His love is changing people, giving them hope. My eyes long to see people who are like Him- humble, compassionate, patient, gentle, genuinely loving. My soul desires fellowship with others who love Him. However, many are caught up in this frenzy of "We must present the truth to the world". I agree, but why not lift Jesus higher, so He can draw all men unto Him?! Truth is best presented when we LIVE IT- talk is cheap. Many in the church claim Jesus is the centerpiece of our message, but I simply do not find that to be the case. Lifestyle issues, 10 Commandments and prophecy are the 3 main thrusts- not The Gospel. I hope we can regain our focus, lest we fulfill the words of Christ when He said, "They profess me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tuck Everlasting...

We recently saw a film that contemplates everlasting life. A family of travelers find a mysterious spring and after drinking from it, discover they are immortal- frozen in time. Whatever age they were when they drank the water is the age they will remain. They cannot grow old or die. One of the sons falls in love with a girl and wants her to drink the water so she too can live forever, but she refuses, choosing to live what little life she may have to the fullest, then be buried with the rest of her family. Basically, the premise is that immortality in a fallen world would be a torment. To never have rest from the witness of human suffering and death for centuries... Very thought-provoking! I encourage you to see this well made film. I am not afraid to die. I realized when I turned 30 that my heart wasn't in this world anymore. It has been a trial. I've seen too much, said too many goodbyes- long before my heart was willing! I make the most of each day. I love the sunset, the sound of the sea, the smell of sweet mountain air. I enjoy playing with my children, being creative and connecting with people. But the limitations placed on us in this life, genetically, monetarily and at the hands of time & tragedy are hard to bear. There is a mysterious spring- a Water of Life. I drank from it and found it satisfying. My future is certain and my hope lies in eternity, where unbound from the chains of gravity, pain, aging & death I can laugh, sing, dance, and live forever in a perfect world. Taste and see that The Lord is good...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Another Reason I Love My Kids

This evening we went to Petco to get some new fish for our tank. I'm embarrassed to admit that we had a 50 gal. tank full of beautiful fish at one point. However, we seemed to develop an incurable algae problem. After much research and many water changes, tank cleanings, etc. we still had a problem. So I took 1 drop of the algae-cide we use for our pool, diluted it in a big pitcher of water, then poured slowly into the tank. That stuff must be incredibly potent because in 2 hrs time ALL of our lovely fish were dead. I felt sick to my stomach about it!!
So we're standing in a long line at Petco and these two ladies came walking toward us- arms full of small dog/cat supplies. As they approached us, I noticed they must be mother and daughter because one was old & one was younger & they had similar features. I also saw that their faces were covered in strange, hideous skin growths that distorted their looks & made them look bubbly all over. I don't know what this condition is called, but it must have devastating effects. I wasn't sure how my 4 kids would react & I was nervously hoping they wouldn't stare rudely or gasp at these two ladies who were already so ashamed of their appearances. They carried their merchandise up as high as they possibly could and still see to walk- in order not to be noticed. They came & joined the check-out line directly behind us looking at the floor. So I just did what I always do and struck up a conversation, being careful to look into their beautiful eyes as I was speaking to them. They were both kind of shy at first, but then my 5 yr old turned from the doggie magazine she was looking at (I held my breath) but when she saw them, she wasn't frightened at all, her face lit up and she just started chatting with them. Her older sisters soon joined in. The ladies seemed to be delighted by this and we stood there chatting with them about their little dogs for about 15 mins while the new cashier fumbled to get transactions to go through. After we said our goodbyes and wished them 'Merry Christmas' we got outside the store and my littlest one said, "Mama, those were some really nice ladies weren't they!" My kids have taught me alot about loving...

Thought for Today...

The world is a big place, but there is little room
for the narrow-minded
God did not create endless wonders

and desire for us to be dreamless and short-sighted
He gave us mind, voice, body and soul

so we could delight and be delighted
may we live passionately, gracefully
and join the dance that love has started
He wants us to reach, to believe, to laugh and learn,
joining the ranks of the open-hearted...

~ Paula W. Woodruff

Missing Timber...

I was a newly-wed. We had a nice apartment on the second floor of a big house with a fenced backyard. I wanted a puppy so badly, but on a college budget, we weren't sure we could afford it. I was training for the Dallas 26K marathon. For a year I had faithfully put in my miles, watched my diet & lifted weights, preparing to represent my college in the race. I had a lot of endurance. One day on my training run, a greasy man in an ugly old car started harassing me. I had stopped beside a horse pasture to stretch & rest before the 4 mile run back to town. I was looking over the fence when I heard a car pull up behind me & stop. I turned around and this big guy in a dirty T-shirt with camo. pants was getting out & walking around the front end of the car toward me. Not good! "Are these your horses?" he asked. I told him "No". He came a little closer and my heart started pounding in my chest-- instincts screamed in my head "Better run, get away..." "I want to buy a horse for my wife and I thought maybe you'd sell me one of these" the man continued as he came closer. I thought to myself, "Any man who drives a rusted-out car with a bondo paint job can't afford to buy a horse for his wife". I prayed "God, send some cars so there's somebody out here besides us." A whole stream of cars came over the hill. The man looked annoyed. Now he was only 15 ft. away from me. Taking the cigar out of his mouth, he threw it on the ground and snuffed it out menacingly with a boot. I knew he was freeing up both hands to try and grab me. I said, "See ya" and I took off running for the nearest house. Thanks to my flaming Scotch-Irish genes, I have no shortage of adrenaline when I'm frightened or angry- my feet fairly flew over the ground as I put distance between the would-be predator and myself. I glanced back over my shoulder to see him make a bee-line for his car. The engine revved, tires squealed and he drove up behind me. I thought, "Oh God, don't let him run me down like a dog!" I stayed in the grass along the fence- which made it tougher to run. The car passed me, went over the hill, then brakes squealed, rubber burned and back he came. He was staring at me as he drove by, then I heard the same thing and he came up my side of the road again. "Lord help me- this man is pshycho!" I was coming up on some houses and walked up to the first one as if I lived there. The car went over the hill again. Nobody was home, so I quickly ran to the next house- same story. I hid behind some bushes to see the car go by again- the man was staring out the window trying to spot me. When he was outta sight, I took off again & didn't stop until I was back on campus.
I told the police, then my husband about the incident and they all said, "From now on you either get a running partner or you run on a treadmill where it's safe." Treadmills are BORING and I don't enjoy running with someone. Here was my opportunity to get a DOG! I said a prayer & 3 days later I saw a free puppy ad. I called about it & when I saw the puppy I fell in love with the cutest little yellow Lab mix you ever did see! She was 6 mos old. I trained that dog, and she grew to be the BEST running partner I ever had. Nobody ever messed with me after that. Timber did all kinds of tricks & obeyed well. Her only bad habit? She liked to roll in duck poo! Timber must have put in about 1000 miles or more with me- we had her 12 yrs. I never did end up running the marathon- found out I was expecting just 2 mos. before the race! Timber welcomed each of our 4 children into the family with a wagging tail. She would gladly have laid down her life to protect any one of them. Just a week before Christmas last year we had to make a very painful decision. She was nearly blind, full of arthritis and had become incontinent, so we put her down. We miss her terribly! If any dog deserved to go to Heaven it would be my Timber-girl and I believe we'll see her again... If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to Heaven and bring you home again ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Terminator Strikes Again...

Former gang leader and co-founder of 'The Crips' Stanley Tookie Williams was executed in CA today. After Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to give him clemency. Williams died at age 51 after serving 24 yrs for murdering several people in cold blood back in 1981. While in prison, he seemed to regret his criminal life and wrote children's books that discouraged violence and told kids not to get involved in gangs. He was nominated 2 different times for a literary Nobel Peace Prize.

In denying clemency to Williams, Schwarzenegger wrote "Is Williams' redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?". "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption." He went on to say the evidence of William's guilt was “strong and compelling,” and he dismissed suggestions that the trial was unfair. The governor also noted that Williams dedicated his 1998 book “Life in Prison” to a list of figures that included the black militant George Jackson — “a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems.” Schwarzenegger also noted that there is “little mention or atonement in his writings and his plea for clemency of the countless murders committed by the Crips following the lifestyle Williams once espoused. The senseless killing that has ruined many families, particularly in African-American communities, in the name of the Crips and gang warfare is a tragedy of our modern culture.”

Who can say whether someone's redemption is "sincere"? Only God knows the heart. In my opinion, Williams clearly & consistently demonstrated that he was a changed man. I agree that gang warfare is a tragedy, but this judgement seems a bit self-righteous coming from 'The Terminator' himself- an actor whose films are intensely violent! Sorry, I like Schwarzenegger, but let's be consistent here. Arnold earned his celebrity and made his millions promoting senseless violence for the last 2 decades while Williams is in prison paying for his crimes and writing children's books about peace... yet Arnold is the one with the power over this man's life? The angry Pro-death crowds outside the prison wanted Williams to die for his actions, but many of them gladly paid $6 a seat to be entertained by Arnold's action and they even made him their Governer. Go figure! True, Arnold was just acting, but how many copy-cat crimes have come into play because of his shoot-em-up influence? How many children will avoid the tragedy of violence because of Mr. Williams influence?? Rest in peace, Tookie- you took it like a man. God is watching this circus and all things will be revealed in the end... justice will be served without prejudice....

Monday, December 12, 2005

'Narnia' is Awesome!

C.S. Lewis knew how to write a good story! Disney knows how to make movies and brought the story to life- from the cold-as-ice White Witch to the majestic roar of Aslan. I feel they did a good job of portraying the dramatic, action-packed moments without being too scary for young viewers. Sin and hatred are ugly and are represented by grotesque creatures in the film. When the little girl, Lucy asks "Is Aslan safe?" she receives the answer "No He is not safe, but He is good." So true of God. He could eliminate us with a single word, yet because of His goodness He sustains & blesses us. Without giving too much away, there are two scenes that brought my husband and I to tears. One is the coronation ceremony- not of Aslan, but of the children--- those the mighty Lion died to save. He crowns them and gives them each a new name. Like Aslan, Jesus died a death He didn't deserve, paid a debt He did not owe so we could be crowned someday. The Bible says that we will have thrones and reign with Him for eternity. Call this pure fantasy if you wish, but my life is better for believing it...

Dancing for Daddy...

When I was a girl, I rarely got to spend time with my Dad. I adored him! He was a long-haul truck driver who was gone all week. My Dad has a charming personality and is a devout Christian, so on weekends, he was always in demand for church duties & activities. Of course weekends also meant he had to do maintenance on his big rig- so we didn't get much time with him then either. I missed him terribly during the week! When he came home on Fridays, I was always so excited. I would wait at the window with my little brother and watch for him, then as I saw him coming up the drive my heart would skip a beat! He was my handsome hero who called me "Sugar". Sometimes he would bring us candy. Being a trucker meant he didn't get much sleep during the week and he was always exhausted when he got home. We would eat supper together, then he would go sit in his chair. I knew I had to act quickly before he fell asleep, so I would gulp down my supper, go change into the closest thing I could find that resembled a ballerina. Then I would put on one of his favorite classical records and I would dance my heart out for my Daddy. For 10 glorious minutes, I had his full attention. I would sing, leap and twirl and sometimes just play my violin for him. I really put on a show! How I adored him, how I longed for more time with him, to know his thoughts, his preferences, his character. I wanted him to know me too, but circumstances dictated that it was never meant to be... there will always be the longing of a little girl in my heart for Daddy... the greatest man I never knew. I kept the few letters/cards he ever sent to me and I've read them over and over again.
I grew up with the idea that like my Dad, God was distant and too busy for me. I felt I had to work hard to get a little of His time & attention. I did so many things that I thought would impress Him and get Him to love me. I leaped and twirled spiritually until I was burned out and ready to abandon my pursuit of Him altogether. That's when the truth stepped in and I discovered how much He loves me. He already knows me, because I am His creation. He is my provider and is never too busy to listen to my thoughts, my questions and fears. He is available to receive my love. Knowing I am cared for in this way has been such a comfort to me over the years of moving and struggling to get by with one income and a family of 6 to feed. Jesus referred to God the Father as 'Abba', meaning "Daddy". It's a very intimate term that implies a trusting relationship. The Bible is His love letter and I enjoy reading it. I live my life for Abba, He makes my heart sing and someday I will dance for Him in Heaven.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Greatest Truth...

Matthew 21:42-44- The Bible says before Jesus can return, the Gospel must go to all the world. Why do we not focus more on sharing that element? Jesus said, "I AM the way, THE TRUTH and the life." Sabbath rest is truth, but it is not THE TRUTH. The importance of eating a healthy diet is truth, but it is not THE TRUTH.
Laodicea this, laodicea that.... somewhere along the path we lost our first love experience & Revelation 2 solemnly warns us to go back to Jesus or our light will be REMOVED from it's stand. Many are bored with the simple elegance of the Gospel, go on to focus on more complex theology, then lord it over everyone else. (I'm guilty of this) Jesus said, "He who falls upon this rock (meaning Himself/Truth) will be broken, but whomever the rock falls upon will be crushed. He was letting us know that every believer must reach a place of brokenness in order to see our great need for Him. I know from experience that being broken is not a pleasurable thing, but I'm sure it's better than being crushed. Many hold the Holy Spirit at arms length, because they do not want to see the true state of their sinful hearts. They are content to embrace a certain code of beliefs and find security in being among spiritually "elite". (Been there- done that) The message I share is not popular, because it requires one to admit there is nothing we can DO to be saved, except fall upon the Mercy of God & believe He is big enough to do what He promises. There is no room for pride or self-exaltation at the foot of The Cross. Satan's greatest deception will not be about the state of the dead. His biggest deception is getting us to feel like we are good people that have it all together- don't fall for it. From a distance, many of us look like fully-mature fig trees. People who spiritually hunger look to us for fruit, but upon closer inspection, often they find no fruit- just foliage. Jesus cursed the fig tree for this very reason. His love is the ONLY thing that will ever satisfy the soul. Stepping into the warmth of His Grace is like coming home after exile in barren Artic fields. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These spring forth from those who stay connected to The Living Vine. Jesus IS the greatest TRUTH! In our efforts to prosyletize the world & build up our ranks, don't forget Jesus said, "The Stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." Is He the cornerstone of your faith? Is HE your focus and the center of your outreach??

Friday, December 09, 2005

What You Want to See...

Few things hurt as much as when people fail to give me the benefit of the doubt. This week I was accused of something I would never do. It was very painful for me! Have you ever had someone accuse you of being exactly the opposite of what you strive with all your heart to be? Not cool- especially if that person takes their doubts about you and shares it with someone else. There's an old movie- 'Pollyanna' that I enjoyed when I was younger. (The main character is an optimist) A line in the movie says, "If you look for the good in people expecting to find it, you surely will." I believe the opposite is also true, "If you look for the bad in someone, you will surely find it." Since we all have weaknesses, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize a shortcoming. But that doesn't mean we should start pointing fingers. Why don't we try to see strengths in others more?? No matter how low on the totem pole they may be- everyone has a gift that needs to be recognized, developed, encouraged.
Every so often events coordinate to paint an inaccurate picture of who you are to other people. This was the case for me. Due to an unfortunate series of odd coincidences- in 2 wks time, a few people were thinking some pretty negative things about me. Granted not one of them expressed any concerns to me, gave me the benefit of the doubt or let me explain what was going on before jumping to conclusions. I guess that's what is most hurtful. I'm a fairly reasonable person- a sensitive soul, but I felt the need to stand up and call them on it saying, "Wait a minute- you girls handled this very poorly!" When someone goes behind my back, rather than talk to me- that's an insult! It says, "You're not mature or rational enough for me to express my thoughts to you." OUCH! The Bible says God IS love. Therefore if we know Him, we will also know Love. Christians are to be known by their Love for one another. Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It is not puffed up or rude, it does not celebrate when someone is brought low. We are to encourage one another and build each other up. No matter how badly we screw up down here, God stubbornly chooses to see great potential in all of us. You will see what you choose to see as well. Recognize the good- not the evil in one another, focus on strengths and not weaknesses...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas Crisis...

Found an interesting news story on MSNBC today. Seems President Bush can't please anyone. His holiday greeting card sent out to supporters did not include the word "Christmas"- which is a definite indicator in the minds of some that he has abandoned his faith and left the Christian Coalition out in the cold. Some Religious Conservatives are miffed because they feel society at large & big businesses should be heavy-handed into keeping the term "Christmas" around. According to an article in the Washington Post, Macy's was heavily boycotted last year for not including the word "Christmas" in their sales flyer. This year they made sure to include "Merry Christmas" on their brochure to avoid the same punishment. This year, religious activists are boycotting Target for advertising 'Holiday Specials' instead of 'Christmas Specials'. Below are examples of feedback from activist leaders:

"This (White House card) clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

"Bush claims to be a born-again, Evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one," said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it."

Better watch out for these guys Mr. Pres. - with friends like these who needs enemies- eh? As a political moderate, I say, "Good for you Bush! Don't let fanatics control your behavior." Fact is, we live in a secularized society and it will become increasingly atheistic as time marches on. Why are we shocked and indignant when our views as Christians aren't espoused or endorsed by the world? Are we that insecure? Just because the secular agenda doesn't include a Nativity or Silent Night- does that have to ruin my Christmas and make it any less spiritual for me? NO! My point is, it's the age old struggle... Everybody thinks their way is the only way and there is NO room for any other views. Does being "right" ever give us the right to be rude? Why can't we live and let live? So secularists don't want the word "Christmas' and the religious set does- why fight about it? We're not in Kindergarten any more, so why all the tantrums? If the sight of a nativity is SO traumatic to a secularist or the use of the term "Holiday Spruce" is SO offensive to the Christian then maybe we need to have a little thicker hides and less hyper-sensitivity? Truly it's no joking matter & be careful what you say these days! People were ready to shoot each other over "One Nation Under God" a few years ago. Remember, Peter used a sword to defend his cause & was rebuked by the very Master he sought to protect. Our kingdom is NOT of this world! Would Jesus get distracted & duke it out over this type of thing or would He see the bigger picture and quietly keep going about His Father's work? Thousands in the southern states are suffering in the wake of the hurricanes and people are worried about words and formalities?! Sorry, but it doesn't make much sense to me. Instead of debating over the WORD "Christmas" why not BE CHRISTMAS for someone in need?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Little Girl Lost...

I'm just a little girl who grew up way too fast
One who finds it hard to let go of the past
A lonely soul, in the midst of a crowd
Questioning, seeking, reaching out
I want to rest, need time to play
but those days are over now-- all gone away
A future like ashes, I want to see a flame
Will I ever get ahead in this game?
I want to live what is right, what is REAL
It's so much more than what we know and feel
I resist the pressure to conform- to let go
for I find no contentment in the status quo
My life is a search for significance
Truest Wisdom and common sense
A heart on fire for the Great Love I know
with no time, no money and no place to go
So here I sit writing, when I should be in bed
dreams and disappointments are spinning in my head
They say "If God ordains it, He will make a way"
Surely He is guiding my direction each day?
Say a little prayer for the restless heart in me
I need to stop "dreaming" and simply "be"...

Herman is BACK!

Herman was back in the cottage when we got back from the beach. I'm SO happy to see him! (read more about him in a previous post) Sadly, he's still going downhill... His family tried to force him to stay in the nursing home thinking it would prolong his life a little more, but he doesn't want to die there. He wants to die in the little house he built- even if it means he won't live as long, so he demanded they bring him home and they did! The quiet country & faithful companionship of his 2 dogs are great comforts to him. I believe- as much as possible, people should have the right to choose where they want to be when they die. We will be checking on him everyday and helping him whenever we can until it's time for him to close his eyes and rest for good. (For those over-eager-beaver Christians out there who think I'm slacking on the job... NO, I'm not going to force-feed him Theology while he's bedridden and too weak to protest.) He's made his choice. WWJD? I believe Jesus would simply offer love and comfort him in his final days. Herman is such a wonderful man! If he asks me questions about eternal things, I'll be happy to answer, but if not- I will assist him in any way I can to make his passing more peaceful...
I know if anything were ever to happen to me, I wouldn't want to die in a strange hospital being force-fed and helpless. I'd want to be home, surrounded by my family/friends and die with some dignity...

Why Settle for Less?

During the long road trip to Myrtle Beach I saw a church sign that said, "Get Right or Get Left!" I thought... hmmm "Get right" according to who? Why be content to merely "stop sinning", when God can remove the desire to sin?? So many are satisfied to stop a behavior outwardly, but in their hearts they still long for it. If God wants to captivate the heart, then surely He can change it! A visit to the circus when I was younger taught me an important lesson about the way God works in our lives. I sat watching the Trapeze Artist high in the air. He did a lot of amazing things- flips & various releases, but he always grabbed a hold of the same trapeze. It wasn't until someone set a higher trapeze in motion that the artist let go mid-air of the one he was holding and reached out for the new one. If he had let go before there was something better to reach for, he would have fallen and his performance would have failed. God doesn't demand that we sacrifice things we enjoy, then leave us empty-handed. NO, He fills us with His love. He doesn't expect us to let go, until we have something better to reach for. When our hearts are focused on Him, the other things will fall away as His power works in our lives. Those of you who have tried to quit smoking know the battle can be difficult. You can stop smoking, but if the desire to smoke is still there- you are WAY more likely to go back to it. The pharisee was content with the outward appearence of "holiness", while Jesus knew in their hearts they were murderers. He wanted them to be completely changed- not just putting on a charade. Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." We sin because we are empty inside- and hungry. We fall into binge-drinking, sex, drugs, etc. because we are lonely, hurting and in need of comfort, but instead these things can bring us even lower. Jesus had great compassion on sinners- because He knew how life had slapped them around and brought them down. He could smile on them because He knew the solution to sin is a heart full of LOVE. I believe God is BIG enough to fill, heal and transform us- to remove the desire for sin! Why go through the motions or settle for anything less???

Monday, December 05, 2005

Good Times...

Had a wonderful time at Myrtle Beach, SC over the weekend. My husband and I sang for a Single's Retreat there. Our trip south was hair-raising as our car- just out of the shop- bucked and acted up nearly the entire way. I was praying hard! We have a BMW--- are you impressed?!? Well... it's hardly a status symbol as a 1985 with over 250K miles on it. We got it for a good price & it gets GREAT gas mileage!! We thought the problem was clogged fuel injectors, (cheap gas) but then smoke started billowing out from under the hood and the engine was WAY over-heated. Within 10 miles of our hotel, the car died & we had to stop in the parking lot of a restaurant to raise the hood, let the engine cool & try to figure out what was wrong. (Okay, I can't seem to say the name correctly- who in the world would name a restaurant FUDDRUCKERS?) My hubby soon discovered that the alternator belt had fried. We were somehow able to find an auto-parts store, where we bought a fuel filter & belt. We then limped over to the parking lot of Embassy Suites Hotel, turned the car off & let it smoke in the parking lot. To make matters worse, when the engine cooled and we tried to start the car again- we discovered the battery had DIED! SO embarassing to pull up to a ritzy place like that and have to ask somebody to help you push your dying BMW into a parking spot! Well, we determined not to let our problem ruin our weekend- we had a lot of fun with the singles group- even though we're married! By the way, I highly recommend Embassy Suites!! VERY pleased with the room, cleanliness, hospitality & service. At one point Friday night, we considered selling the car to the first person who would take it off our hands and driving a rental car home. Sunday morning, a guy showed up with some tools & we were able to get the car fixed. It drove like a dream the whole way home.... go figure....

Thursday, December 01, 2005


You know, Cats are interesting- they are sleek, beautiful, graceful & elegant looking creatures- at least some of them are. Others are cute-n-fluffy with flat faces. There are even hairless cats! (Though one must ask WHY?!) I can respect, even admire cats. I am the owner of 4. Our 2 American Short-hair mixes were rescues. The 2 Maine Coons are sisters. My mother decided they were too pesky, so we inherited them. Felines have a serious, independant, cautious nature, an aire of superiority. I kinda like that about cats, but in a way it gets on my nerves. I provide food & shelter for them and what thanks do I get? Our cats are rarely affectionate or initiate play- they lay around all day. They don't even like each other- you should see all the hissing that goes on around here! There is much work/little reward in owning them. Can't seem to obedience train them. I maintain their litter-box mess, pay their vet bills, clean up bird feathers and pick up the remains of mutilated rodents year round- GROSS! For all their otherwise dignified behavior, they eat like pigs, leaving food all over the floor. Now, you would think for all I put up with, they would let me pet them once in a while, but that's not the way it works around here. Basically, I pay good money for the priviledge of watching them sun themselves daily. Logically, it really doesn't make sense for me to keep them, but I do. Why does my household still include a feline population? It's a matter of balance. I've got 2 of the best dogs in the world- they obey me and worship the ground I walk on. Now I think God looked down one day and said, "Uh-oh she's getting a big head because of those dogs, I'd better do something quick!" So now I'm the owner of not 1, but 4 cats who sit & stare at me as if I'm the world's biggest idiot. Their tails don't wag with enthusiasm for me, they flick impatiently. When we get home after a trip, they give us the cold shoulder for a few days... What's the best way to get the last laugh? Name them very UNdignified names like Stinky, Wormhead & Dummybrain. (I've never done that, but it brings a great deal of satisfaction just to consider- ha ha) Good friends of mine in Texas & a guy in Knoxville have the BEST cats ever! I adore them!! Don't know how they do it, but theirs all have wonderful, distinct little personalities and put the meaning behind the term "cool cats". I had the best cat ever when I was 11. Bubby was a HUGE Maine Coon Tom who loved my lap, being carried on my shoulders like a mink stole, sleeping by me at night and following me around the yard. We bonded so well, he would even follow me into the tub & take a bath- NO KIDDING!! If I ever bathed alone, he would sit outside the bathroom door crying pathetically. He disappeared at 3 yrs of age- never to return- I searched unsuccessfully for months- broke my heart! Once you've had the best- it's really hard to settle for hair-ball hacking snobs...

A Sacrifice...

For years, the Children of Israel offered up innocent lambs as a sacrifice for their sins. This ritual was symbolic of Jesus' death on the Cross for all mankind. Thankfully, that work is completed now and we no longer kill a lamb each time we mess up in order to receive forgiveness! When I reflect on what was done for me at Calvary, I want to be a good Christian- DO something for the Lord to show Him how much I love & appreciate Him. This is a noble intent, unfortunately, this desire often led me to make a self-imposed checklist of behaviors. I was addicted to painful partings as I made my sacrifices to God. Clothing, music, certain no-no foods, social activities, etc. How I enjoyed the pats on the back I received from fellow church-members as many admired my intense piety. I was miserable though- because I had 'swept the house clean' so-to-speak, but without a living connection with Jesus Christ, I was empty inside. Please understand, I believe in clean living & making changes as the Spirit leads, but I was on a rampage- trying to fast-forward my way to perceived "holiness", based on my own (not God's) definition of it. (Having already been pretty conservative, working harder made me extreme- it wasn't pretty!)
How refreshing to have learned the greatest sacrifice God desires from us is to give Him "Praise".
King David wrote much about Praise- Psalm 50:14 for example, "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High.". Hebrews 13:15, 16 says, "Through Him (Christ) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Don't neglect to do good and to share what you have with others, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." Many people would merely interpret this to mean feeding the poor & sharing material things- in a sense that is correct, but what I believe Paul is really saying here is: "If you have found Grace, share it with others, don't hoard it to yourselves." The fruit of our lips should be the testimony of what God has done for us.
Many don't praise, or do so half-heartedly- simply because they don't feel they have anything to praise about. If we don't come to realize how great is our need for a Savior, we will not feel a great need to praise Him for what He has done for us. It's hard to worship whole-heartedly when we do not yet understand the glorious freedom & REST Christ has given.
Psalm 100 puts it this way, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us and we are His; we are the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness is to all generations."

Look Beyond!

One summer I decided to improve my riding skills by taking a course in jumping. I'm not much into English riding- though I have great respect for those who do enjoy it. It takes a considerable amount of skill to ride English and jump well. The instructor was younger than me and though she was willing to work with each rider, my pride prevented me from feeling a need for her assistence. I worked for hours in the dusty arena- hot sun on my back, the black helmet on my head felt like it was baking my brain. Since I'm a more experienced rider, the horse I was assigned for the jumping class was a real piece of work named 'Lightening'- 'bout as accurate as naming a Bassett Hound 'Lance Armstrong'' would be. I couldn't seem to get the 17 yr. old clod-hopper to work with me. He just wouldn't take the jumps. I was growing tired- thighs were burning from the long posting session. Finally, they switched me over to 'Saber'. Now there's a FINE horse! I got up, circled the arena and went over the caveletti poles to get the feel of him. Confidently, I headed toward the lowest jump. My heart was racing as we approached, surely I would soon be launched into glorious flight. Imagine my dismay when Saber too refused the jump- I nearly launched right out of my seat! Okaaaay, deep breath, bring him around for another try... nope- foiled again! grrrrr Discouragement started to set in. That's when the little instructor came walking toward me. I remember thinking to myself, "Thanks anyway, but I really CAN figure this out on my own!" She was all sweetness & smiles, "I watched you and I know what's wrong. You're too focused on the jump- raise your eyes and look beyond it!" That seemed simple enough, so off we went to try again. First approach I messed up. Next time around, above the sound of hoof-beats I heard a voice "Look beyond it- not at it!" I raised my eyes, using Saber's ears as sights, I focused on the arena beyond the jump. Before I knew it we were sailing! Awesome- few sensations compare!! I looked toward the instructor who was raising the poles saying, "I have a theory, humor me and try this one". So around we went again.... post.... relaxed, confident hands.... look up... oula! We cleared it- then went over several more times!! I was ready to try some higher ones, but the class dared me to make Lightening jump. I got on the lugnut, posted toward the jump, used the same focus... the old boy cleared it!! So it was me all along- not so much him. (If riders look down at a jump instead of over it, the balance is off. If you get behind or ahead of the motion, the horse will lose confidence and stall.)
Years later during a painful trial in my life those words of wisdom echoed in my mind... "Look beyond it!" What's your obstacle? Too many times we're SO focused on the problem, we can't see the other side and are unable to go forward. Each of us have different challenges to overcome, but I'm confident this is a formula for greater success in life! Look beyond it- get over it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Seeing Bright Spots...

No, I'm not drunk and I'm not on anything. ;o) LOL But after weeks of lows, today I got several "hugs" from God. First, just let me share a little of what we've been going through: 1) Both cars were in the shop 2) We just lost our renter 3) In the middle of winter, our AC/Heat pump dies and it will be 2 wks until we get a new one. 3) My man is out of town on business 4) We're nearly out of firewood. 5) We're flat BROKE and the holidays are coming up!
I'm not the kind that likes to wallow, I usually survey the damage done and move on. But lately, life just seems a bit overwhelming. I'm sure you've had those kind of days, weeks, months.... So here I am feeling pretty low and 3 good friends just call me out of the blue to connect. MADE MY WEEK! Went down to do my barn chores today and found a beautiful, shiny green egg- which means my Ameraucana hen's are laying now. A simple thing, I know, but it made me smile. Then, I received a notice about my blog and my spirits lifted a little more- click the link below if you're interested to see why:
This evening I got a call from some friends/fellow church-members who said they had a big load of firewood, so they brought it over & helped me stack it. Just in the nick of time too- only had 2 logs left. Very helpful, especially without my man here to help chop & stack. So, after weeks of life beating us up pretty hard, a few bright spots appeared today. I really needed that, Lord and I'm trusting You have the rest under control...

A New Day...

A line from one of my favorite movies says "Every new day is fresh with no mistakes." Today I awoke with determination that it would be a better day than yesterday. So far, so good.... It's amazing to think that each time I mess up & confess I can go to Jesus and receive forgiveness. In a sense, I get several new starts every day. God has given me so many chances! Now I want to flip the coin a little here- I talk a lot about how much Jesus loves sinners... I want to say how much He loves people who are caught up in legalism. Throughout the 4 Gospels, I see Jesus reaching out to the religious leaders of His day. They were often present as He spoke in different synagogues- though their ears heard what He said, their hearts didn't. Thinking themselves wise, they were spiritually blind. Jesus wants ALL to be saved. Why else would He say so many times, "He who has ears, let him hear" as He spoke to mixed crowds? The legal-minded pharisee was dead in trespasses- without knowing it. Jesus raised Lazerus from the dead in the very presence of these leaders in order to demonstrate that He can bring us to life spiritually. He had called them "white-washed tombs", but He did not leave them to feel hopeless. As a living, breathing Lazerus emerged from a tomb, Jesus proved again that He is Lord and offered an invitation to believe! Yet, for the sake of their traditions and because of wounded pride, they found reason to turn away. They weren't all out of reach though! Jesus & the religious leader Nicodemus got to know each other pretty well. They met under cover of darkness- Nicodemus would have been an outcast if anyone had seen him fraternizing with a rabble-rouser, that liberal Nazarite Jesus. Nicodemus was converted. Saul, merciless persecutor of Christians joined the ranks and suffered much because of the merciful Savior he met on the highway. I identify greatly with the pharisee- having been one- glad God didn't give up on me! A precious handful of people kept reaching out to me. So often after people find Grace, they are disgusted to the utmost by the legalism so prevalent in many people/churches. They close their hearts and turn from those who are bound by a focus on works- as if there is no hope for them. Who is to judge how long is the arm of Grace? Even as spikes were being driven into His hands & feet, Jesus' heart was holding the door of salvation wide open! "Father, forgive them... Father forgive- for they know not what they do". Do I ever have just cause to close my heart to any man? Jesus lived and died so that ALL could be saved. If the Grace we find in Him doesn't make us more understanding, more patient, more fervent to love- what good has it done? God offers a new day- a new way of life to everyone- tax collectors, whores, drug-dealers, alchoholics, liars, terrorists and yes even to pharisees. How can anyone turn their back on that kind of love?!