Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Live Beyond The Mask

Susan wakes to the shine of sun streaming through her window. The dog is licking her cheek. The warmth of the blanket brings a comfort that she wants to remain in forever. Maybe if she lays perfectly still this moment will be lasting. But she knows her feet must hit the floor. She must stand today.

Maybe a shower will do the trick? No, not yet. She hurries back to the comfort of her bed and the gentleness of her pup. A friend who loves her in spite of who she really is.

What if people knew who she really is? Would they still love her? Would they still respect her? She has attended church and sat in the same pew for twenty-five years. She has taught Sunday School and lead in women's ministry. She's out going and beautiful. She is always wearing a smile. That mask covers so much. No one sees. Maybe no one cares. Would they even recognize her if they could see the sins of yesterday upon her forehead? The reality?  She knows what's underneath.

The prostitution when she was young. The abortion after a night that cannot be remembered. The drugs that hooked her hard. Her past is shattered. Pieces of devastation that exploded beyond herself and wounded many others. The tears that she brought to her parents. The worthlessness that still seeks her to bring her down.

As Susan curls in bed, she is reminded of who she was. Satan is there, tempting her emotions. He wants her to remain in yesterday. She isn't that girl any longer. Grace has covered her. Her sins have been removed, but they have not been forgotten. What is it that reminds her? The words and conversations of others.

She hears the people at church talk about the sins of others, but never their own. She hears how they speak of women who have given too much of themselves in search of love. She hears the voices around her judge those going through drug abuse programs. What if they knew that was her? Would they see past her transgressions or would that be their focus?

Susan seeks Christ on a level that most of us simply haven't reached. She lives as though her life is Christ's. She is the girl with a faith that is seeking a heart like Christ. She follows His Word. She lives it. She reaches out beyond her circle and loves into the hearts of those hurting. She can see in the eye of man the hurt he is living with. She knows the masks all too well. She has felt the judgement that goes with imperfect people.

She still stumbles. She fails when the world seems to crush upon her hopes. She wants to serve more. But she isn't given that chance. So in the stillness of the night she wonders, "Why would Jesus love me?" Others see her personality and how she flutters about like a rhythmic butterfly on a mission. But then night falls and all changes. The hurts come tumbling back. She questions herself and ponders those what if thoughts.

All Susan wants is to be real with people. But she feels that she cannot. Why? The fear of rejection. She has been rejected so often in her life, she doesn't think she can go through that again. If only she was encouraged by the words of others. If only people wouldn't say much unless it was in a positive light. Do people really consider who is around them hearing the words they speak?

Just yesterday she heard a woman ranting on the sin of women who abort their babies. There wasn't love spoken. No grace to be shown. Only the sad fact of what she already knew. She had sinned. A sin she will live with for the rest of her breathing days. A sin that brought the consequences of no more children to be born from her womb.

What if people really knew she struggled with wanting to drink her troubles away? The whiskey is there before her. The shot glass remains empty. Untouched, but thought about on those days of hard.

She just wants to share her story. Susan wants to be real. She knows that she can't be the only one. She knows this pain is all too real and if she could only share from her heart. Down from the depths of the hell she has felt, just maybe others could be changed. Maybe they would no longer feel alone, but accepted as sinners in need of grace. Sinners in search of God's healing. Sinners in search of more than this world or people can offer. Children of God wanting to move in a radical way for Him to bring others to know there is a better way.

She spends time in prayer seeking her Lord and Savior. She finds the strength she needed to head for the shower. Today is the day the Lord has spoken. He's asking her to remove her mask and share her story. He is asking her to reach out in truth. If she will let go of the fear He will fill her with a rich hope that sees beyond her past and allows her rest in His comfort of forgiveness.

She realizes she must live her life to the fullest and not worry about what others will say or if judgement crosses their lips in secret. She can't worry about the stares and glares of others. Remove the mask and true beauty is shown. Grace is alive when the mask is removed. No hiding out any longer. Susan knows her story can reach the hearts of the youth. She knows there are women in the pews who have been touched by abuse and heartache. Just what if that man in the third row hears her story and realizes the girlfriend he abused is the daughter of the King of kings. Just what if the words she shares gives him new insight and he can see the road of destruction ahead. If one person is touched by her story, just one, it's all worth it.

Susan is choosing faith instead of fear today. She is choosing to allow God the room He needs in her life to bring about beauty from the ashes. She is choosing to reject the judgement that comes with honesty. She wants others to see what a real and intimate relationship with Christ has done in her life. She is a work in progress. Some days that work is on over time while on other days the movement is a bit slower. But it all depends on how much she is willing to give to God. Today she decides it's time to give ALL.

A life surrendered is a life of truth. Mistakes of the past are opportunities for Christ to do mighty works that bring light to the eyes of others.

Friends, give it all to to Jesus today. Don't fear being real. It's real that this world needs. It's in the real that we find true grace and the beauty of ALL Christ has done, is doing and will do in our lives. Give Him room and watch the beauty that comes!

"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." Romans 8:1-2

"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins." Romans 3:23-24

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Finding Grace In My Mess

The day begins and I am already questioning myself. “So, you think your a good daughter?”

I leave that question unanswered as I move on to the next, “Would you win the wife award for the week?”

Oh, I don’t even want to go there. Lets move on, please.

“Mother of the year. Would it be you?”

Over and over again, this self doubt hits me in the gut. Am I really who I say I am or am I just a struggling mess? I’d say pretty much both. I try to walk in truth. I tend not to put on a face. I learned long ago that doesn’t work, but what about this perfection thing?

Each day is a struggle. But you know, I’m finding that it’s okay. Life isn’t easy. The key is to find beauty in all that surrounds us, yep, even those struggles.

Think about it. As long as we are keeping ourselves in check, what more can we do? Friends, we can only do what we can do. We can’t ask any more or less of anyone. We try our best and take each moment with a fresh breath.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received from me, or seen in me-put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

We breathe in Christ and in prayer and His sweet grace, we breathe Him out.

Don’t allow Satan to fill you with self doubt today. Don’t allow his whispers to stay close at heart. As he whispers, remember the Lord’s voice is what matters and He says, “You can do it with Me”. There is nothing too big for our Savior. Nothing too small that He doesn’t take notice of and sweet one, your heart is important to Him.

It’s not so much in what we can give, but the heart of the giver.

Press on, friends. Don’t worry about yesterday or what’s ahead of you today. Just as the Lord was with you yesterday, He too is with you today and will remain with you. Take hold of His power, mighty strength and sweet grace. You are not alone today. Remember to keep the main thing the main thing and what is that? Jesus Christ. You say, it’s hard to keep focus on Him? Dear friend, repeat His name over and over again. Sing songs of His praise. Open His Word. Remove all doubt. He’s got it ALL under control.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

God loves a mess. How do I know? Because He loves me. He loves me when I am standing tall or on my knees. Sweet grace. He can take that mess and create beauty beyond our wildest imagination. He knows we are tired and weary. He knows the frustration that hits us when we least expect it. He knows the pain we feel and the lowliness that touches our heart. That weakness? Yes, He knows and He understands.

We feel angry and upside down. I would rather stay home today instead of going to the hospital. Selfishness can roll off of my attitude. My tongue can get in the way of my smile. We are human. God created us with emotion.

We don’t have to face today alone. I might feel like a mess today, but the Lord can shine through that. I keep hearing His voice. That sweet and tender love that only He can give. You know it. You have felt it in your time of despair. Hear Him? He is saying, “I’m here my love. I’m here.”

Don’t walk in fear today. It might be cliche, but it’s true none the less. Let go and let God!

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Love That Goes Beyond A Black Friday Event

We love words like, Black Friday. A shopping expedition. A search for that perfect gadget to fill our home. Me personally, I haven't been out on Black Friday. I'm just not a huge crowd person. Thought about traveling out, but I just couldn't bring up the courage.

We search for the biggest bargains. Cheap is what we want. We want to fill our homes with stuff and begin that great adventure of Christmas shopping. We spend a huge amount of time presearching for the sales so we know exactly where to go. Some even camp out for that one and only gadget they have been dreaming of.

I love to hear the words, "Lets to shopping" as much as the next girl. Which there are a few guys out there who could out shop us all. I'm afraid, my words of "Lets go shopping" at times over shadows the words, "Jesus loves you". I often wonder when I stand in front of the Lord one day, which of these two phrases is going to be spoken more from my mouth. I need to be leading my family and friends more to the Lord than the express lane with filled bags of bargains. Isn't it more important to lead them to a life of outragious love and unlimited resources of grace?

Now, this is all and good, but we are missing something here. Instead of a Friday search what about a heart search? Salvation is free!! It's the only free gift worth having and one that we simply don't deserve. It's a gift that is life long. No batteries needed. I guarantee you will not seek out a refund for this one.

Those new sweaters will fade. The gadgets will be replaced by next years upgrade. The soles on those new boots will wear down. Most of what we purchase will be tossed out next year to make room for more. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that shopping is bad or Black Friday is a day we should pass up. It can be enjoyed greatly. I'm just saying, what if we did more of what we were here to do? There is no upgrade. The salvation of the Lord will never have to be replaced. It brings eternal life. That was purchased for us through our Savior, Jesus Christ, who buy the way, paid in full. There is no debt for us to pay. He just wants us to accept His gift. From there He will show us what life is really about and it has nothing to do with a sale aisle.

This is a gift we can share. A gift worthwhile that shares a deep and passionate love. It goes beyond today. It's a legacy to leave behind. A heirloom if you will. One to pass down to generations to come. This is something that can't be purchased on line or in the two hour check out.

What if we simply spent as much time seeking our Savior as we did for that perfect object to fill our home? Revival would break out. Lives would change. But first, we must surrender our wants and our self seeking ambitions. For some this is too difficult. Sadly, I was once that girl seeking in every direction for that object to bring me the greatest joy ever felt. The problem was I was searching in all the wrong places. This gift cannot be found in a package. No Walmart bag carries this heirloom that can change our lives.

What if we spent as much time searching the pages of God's Word, His love letter to us, as we did the aisles of our favorite shop? What if shared with our family and friends the love of Christ as easily as we do that sale on Saturday? We are missing a great opportunity, friends.

If we are real, most of us don't have the money or means to be shopping in the first place. We go overboard and then wonder at the end of the year why our purchases have exceeded our bank statement. We want what the eye sees. We want what our neighbor has. We see that girl with the cutest boots ever and just know we must have a pair. Guilty as charged.

Is it wrong to shop? No, not at all. I'm just saying there is something much greater and holds a deeper value than that gold locket at Kay's jeweler. There is more to life than that humongous television screen. If this was such a wondrous day would we really see people on the news trampling others and threatening to stab people if they get in their way? We need a Savior, and He isn't found on any shelf 50% off.

His love is greater than any other. It's lasting. Life altering and most of all, life giving. Isn't it time we simply had a day of surrender? What about giving to others? What if we stopped looking for what our eyes need and looked to our neighbor for their need? What if we made a little extra food and shared it with a neighbor in need? Purchase an extra gift for a family who has nothing under their tree?

Sharing the gospel isn't so much done with a Bible in our hand and shouting what is to come if one doesn't repent. If the Lord calls you to do so, follow Him without doubt, but until then, the gospel is shared through our lives. Through our actions. People see Jesus in the words we use and the hand open. The world needs to see more of Jesus. Long ago a Christian was recognized easily. Not so much today. We look more and more like the world and that isn't what God intended at all. We should be living in such way that the world sees something in us like nothing they have ever seen before. It's a love that goes beyond.

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:16-17

Lord Make A Way

She begins by calling each child. Before the numbers are punched, the prayers are quietly said.
"Lord, make a way."

Her home, now empty nest, is filled with her husbands words of encouragement. "They will come, Darling. The Lord will make a way." She isn't sure if his words are to comfort her or to encourage his own hurting heart.

Oh, the holidays past. Such joy and laughter they hold. Memories quickly come to mind and bring a smile to the heart.

For the past few years it's been a table set for two. Gracious and sweet are their days together, but this season of Thanksgiving they are hoping for a table of seven.

As soon as she hears the voice of her children on the other end of the line, tears quickly form. Her words begin to wobble and she must take a moment to come back.

"Lord, make a way."

She on one end, her husband on the other, they hear the voices of their children. The invite is given and the words of, "Mom, we will try", are hard to hear. Will the Lord make a way? Will they come? Her heart is eager to see them. Their home has been missing them.

Each child now has their own family. Children and a career. A happy home. She couldn't be more grateful. She has done her job well. She has taught them the gift of thanksgiving.

Her prayer is still upon her lips as she makes that last call.

"Lord, make a way."

They have always shared this day with thankful hearts, but something is different this year.

"Lord, make a way."

The doctor read the report and it was not what was expected. The unexpected has now touched them. The doctor goes on as if there is no turn off switch. They hear the words, "A few months".

"Lord, make a way."

Not the words they will share. Not now. Her husband takes her hand. Kisses her tenderly and says, "The Lord will make a way". They are thankful for their forty-four years together. But who doesn't wish for one more?

She begins planning the dinner on, "Mom, we will try", believing without a doubt, "The Lord will make a way." Preparations are made. Shopping lists created. To do lists drawn out. New recipes and old alike will be prepared. Candles and music. A table setting from a fairy tale is what she envisions.

She has taken on a new joy as never before. A thankfulness not quite like any other. She looks forward to each task and nothing is a job too big, but each one is a sweet remembrance of her love. She goes about each one as never before. Yes, before she would complain of the work. So much cooking and not enough help. Not now. No more.

She wonders why it took her so long to come to a true thankful heart. One that is pure and sincere. Why did she always look to this day as work to be done instead of a joy to partake? Her lists are expanding and she is growing tired.

"Lord, make a way."

Her husband is by her side. He is preparing next to her. They are breathing in each moment.

The day has come. It has arrived. The stir of gravel is heard. She smiles. He says, "Lets go". She removes her apron and they head to the front door. Not the usually hurried walk, but it's as though each step has a new timing. A new purpose.

A peace has covered their home. A hedge of protection and love. God has blessed them with family. They have each made their way home. The Lord did make a way. The doors slam shut as the grandchildren run out. Standing on the deck they hear, "Nanny! Pa Pa!" It's as though they are hearing the words for the first time. Nothing escapes their senses. Their hearts are taking it all in. No more are the hurried days.

Today they will celebrate thanks with a new song in their heart. Not one of sorrow. But one of joy. One of true thanksgiving. A celebration of life lived and life given.

The table is set. The kitchen a mess. The candles are burning. The pies are cooling. The turkey is almost ready to serve.

She has a new gentleness when she wraps her arms around her grandchildren. She looks into the eyes of her children with a new hope. She cherishes each moment with a new grace.

Cheers can be heard over the football game. Banter from the grandchildren brings her to think back when. "Lord, help me. Give me strength."

Turkey is ready to be sliced. The mashed potatoes served with grandma's gravy. Everyone is eyeing the table as they all take a seat. Before the dishes are passed, the blessing will be given. They take the hand of the one seated next to them. They all listen as their father gives thanks. Tears glisten as his heart is full with thanks.

Before the laughter begins as the stories of old are shared, she speaks with a new tradition. "Let us all share why we are thankful this year." Everyone lights up. They are eager to share. The grandchildren shout out, "Me Nanny, Me, Me go first". That is one thing their family has always done well. Give thanks.

"I'm thankful for my Nanny and Pa Pa."

"I'm thankful for my mommy and daddy."

"Well, mom and dad, I'm thankful for the years of love you have given."

They continue to give. They even go back and say, "Can I share more Nanny?" She looks at her family with such pride. Such love.

She speaks with her soft voice, "I want to share a prayer of blessing".

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

What a beautiful day it has been. A day of love and shared thanks to the Lord they love and serve. She asks, "I pray each year this blessing will be said and each year a new thanks will be added."

The day is closing to an end. What a glorious day they have shared. The Lord did good. He brought them all together. He made a way just as He always had and will do. Tonight she will have much to share with the Lord. But for now she soaks it all in and prays that her legacy speaks Jesus. She prays her love will remain for years to come. May they always remember the love.

Lord, give us Your grace and peace this Thanksgiving. May this season hold new tradition and promise. May we share this day in hope and love. May we give and may we serve with joyous hearts. May we take time with those we love. There is enough hurry in the world today. Let us celebrate with happy hearts. May we love as if there is no tomorrow. May we forgive as if we only have today. Help us to slow down, taking time to give thanks, and to embrace what is really important in life. May we breathe in all You have for us today and celebrate Thanksgiving with a new heart and a new focus that will last for years to come.

Lord, thank You, for making a way.

(You can find this article now in Christian Women's Voice Magazine. Click on the link and find out how you can receive this great magazine filled with blessings for every age.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

So Big

I remember taking my children's hands and stretching them out and saying, "Momma loves you this much". Love stretches wide. In fact, it holds no boundaries. It goes beyond the boundaries. It's past those boundaries that we find the greatest love of all.

I seen a beautiful friend yesterday. She was holding her granddaughter through the resale shop. Oh, she is just precious. Sweet baby girl reached out her arms to me. My heart melted. A Nana knows this great love. I think at times it takes grandchildren to really teach us that love goes beyond all boundaries. Just ask any parent who comes to pick up their children from Nana's house. LOL

See, when I seen my friend, grandma's arms were getting tired. She had been carrying this little bundle of joy for a while. If your a Nana, you know you pick up and carry your grandchild no matter how tired or weary you are. But it reminded me that my Savior's arms are never tired. They never grow weary. It's in His arms I find strength. I find grace wrapped in love. They are wide enough to handle everything my Goliath is dishing out.

Over the weekend I spent time with my cousin. She shared a beautiful story with me. As she was walking through the park she seen a young woman playing in the leaves. This young woman was making a leaf angel. This struck a cord with me. Stay tuned for my leaf angel photo! She wasn't worried about anyone around her. She was living freedom. With her outstretched arms she was grabbing life in the moment.

So, my heart has been stirring and pondering the Lord's great and mighty love. No matter where I am or what I am doing, He remains the same. He's like Stretch Armstrong. When I'm out of His presence, He is reaching and pulling me back in. His arms are always and forever opened wide. He's always ready to take me in His arms. I find true beauty in this very simple action. He loves beyond all measure. He is ready to go the distance to bring me closer to Him. Whatever it takes. He has already paid the cost, so whatever else it takes is a victory already won.

Today I had lunch with one of my favorite ladies. My Sunday school teacher. She is my mentor. She is my friend. She sees me and her arms open wide with a love that covers me with a smile.

When is the last time you felt the arms of someone around you? Friends, Jesus is holding out His arms today and saying, "Please, come". There is no hurry with Jesus. His arms are always open wide and ready for us to climb in. I can picture myself upon His lap, tears streaming and just soaking in His mighty love of grace. I can see His hands, strong yet tender with mercy. He is ready to battle for me. He is ready to stand in the gap. Within His arms we find all we need.

It was my Savior's outstretched arms upon the cross that showed me what real boundless love is. He took upon the sins of the world so that we could find salvation through Him. It is His outstretched arms that intercedes for us daily.

Next time you think of the little childhood song, "So Big", think of just how big our Savior's love is. God is big enough to handle our biggest Goliath. You don't have to face it on your own. The Lord will stand before your battle. His grace will go beyond our sin. His strength will carry us through. His love will allow us to soar.

In Exodus 14:21 we see how Moses outstretched his arms to push back the Red Sea.

"With a strong and outstretched arm His love is eternal." Psalm 136:12

"There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your aid, the clouds in His majesty. The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He drives out the enemy before you and commands, Destroy." Deuteronomy 33:26-27

"Therefore tell the Israelites: I am Yahweh, and I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgement. I will take your people as My people, and I will be your God." Exodus 6:6-7

A few days ago I was outdoors watching the birds. I must tell you, I love watching them. They are simply captivating to me. I was watching this small creature flit to and fro, quickly batting his wings. He would flutter in a burst, dive down a bit and fly quickly back up. I thought, "Is this hard for him? Seems like an awful lot of work". Then I was reminded of the eagle. Majestic and graceful. The use their wings, but they take flight of the biggest mountains. They flap those gorgeous wings until they catch air and then they simply soar. Seems much easier. I would think there would be much trust in just taking off a mountain. But isn't that how are walk with Christ is? It's built on trust. If He is our sure foundation we can take flight and soar above all the muck and mire. Flying might not be easy, but it's much easier with Jesus being the strength beneath our wings.

Think about the arms of Jesus. Think past our own abilities and see Jesus for who He is. He is our refuge and strength. He is Yahweh. His arms go far beyond the widest seas. Drink in them. Soak in them. Live in them.

A Heart Searching

My heart is heavy and light all at the same time. I'm searching. Searching for all the Lord has for me. He is changing me. Molding me. I'm not that girl I was twenty years ago. That girl living lost. I now see my entire life has been a journey. A journey that has set me to where I am today.

God placed that perfect journey before my first breath. Although His plan perfection, I wasn't following. I took lead. But I found Him. I soaked in all He had for me. I open my eyes today and just wait for the exploration to begin. I see things different. It's like my view has changed from the view of that twenty four year old babe that first knew of her Jesus.

I have been dreaming. I envisioned, in hope, to become one of the ladies of my church that helped me grow. That gave me vision. Those ladies who lead me in example and warmed my heart with love. These ladies I speak of are no longer here. They have reached the other side of heaven and are now waiting for that great reunion. I always hoped to be half of the women they were. Their legacies still live. Their steps still leading. The echo of their voice can still be heard. I hoped to be one of those who left a deep legacy of love behind.

The church, that I have attended for twenty years, grew me. This church lead me in joy. Helped me to discover Christ and uncover His deep, vast love. This church was there for me in those hard, crippling times, when I couldn't see past the darkness. The lessons I have learned. The friendships made. The grace that has been given. The service that lead me to give beyond measure. All these and more will remain lasting with me forever.

There are times God calls us onward. He calls us to leave our favorite pew. He calls us to think outside our comfort zone. This is me. I am that girl fearful to leave the comfort, but encouraged and excited to see what the Lord has in wait. God is always at work. I don't want to miss out on anything He has. I want to be that girl that takes His leading and moves with Him. I want to go where He is calling.

On this new journey of visitation of churches I have begun a journal of hope. A journal of keeping. It is building with each week. I see a new vision before me. One that is moving outside the box of comfort. It's meeting new people and seeing how others worship. At times it almost feels like intruding. Being that new girl isn't always easy, but what I'm finding is that people are loving and ready to accept me into their house of hope. So, each week my family will visit a different church. The plan? To visit a new church, to think outside the box, to go places I hadn't expected to visit. But the Lord is calling. Although I can't see the broad spectrum as He, I know and trust that He is in control of this great new journey.

There are times where hurts build up. They are forgiven, but that scar remains. I'm learning that God's arms are much wider than my own. His forgiveness and grace travel beyond any vision. He loves with no boundaries. His love is limitless. It is timeless. It is perfection. In the missteps of us sinners, saved by grace, His beauty remains. His hope is alive. He can take those hurts and create a new found beauty. A greater compassion for people. It is through those very hurts I have experienced His divine love. It is through these hurts that I have found a deeper relationship with Christ. He has given me a greater desire to soak up His Word than ever before.

I want to be used of Him. I want to be His willing vessel. I pray my life can be pleasing to Him and may I never seek the accolades of man. May I never stand before man thinking I am greater. For it is in my moment of weakness that the Lord's strength shines mighty.

There comes a moment in our walk we must ask ourselves, "Why do I go to church?" I want to be changed. I want to be inspired. I want to walk with Christ. I want to dive in to His Word with new passion. I want to reach out. Those wants hold a lot of I's, but within those I's, is the deep passion to find Christ and all He has and to be His vessel. To reach out in new ways and serve with a new joy.

Friends, if you are on this journey, may we find all Christ has for us. May we forever search for His plan and purpose. May we live with grace, forgiveness and love. May we reach beyond all boundaries and live the impossible through our all possible Jesus.

Don't fear change. Don't live with regret. Don't just go through the motions and settle for the same. Don't compromise, but expand Jesus living in you. Lets take this new day and live new in a Jesus who was willing to beyond all measure so we could see His glory and wonder in all around us.

God's blessings

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find Me." Jeremiah 29:11-12

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lessons Learned From An Ugly Pair Of Shoes

You gotta love daughters. That bond. Those truths. The laughter. I am over the top blessed to have two beautifully, amazing daughters.

I use to have a pair of black flats. They were so comfy and cozy. I would wear them with everything. As soon as my oldest would see these shoes she would say, "Mom, no. What are you thinking? Take those off". There were a few times I would go to find my shoes and I'd find myself on a great search. Yes, you got it. My daughter would hide them.

It got to be a joke between us. I would take them out just to get her riled up. She swore she was going to toss them one day when I wasn't looking. Okay, I have no idea what ever happened to those shoes. Just sayin'..

I was at my in laws one day and was heading out to the field with my husband when I realized I had on new shoes. Here comes my mother in law with a pair I could wear to the field. In that moment that they were placed in my hand I burst into laughter. They were almost identical to the black shoes I had worn so often. I put them on my feet and thought, "Oh, if my daughter could see me now".

I carried those shoes home with me. I had them sitting in the corner. Okay, yes, I was thinking they were really cute shoes, but I knew without a doubt, they were not. LOL My grand daughter came out to stay a weekend and what do you know? She found those shoes and placed her feet in them. All we heard the entire weekend were the tapping of her tiny feet in those black shoes that she proudly announced, "I'm wearing Nanny's shoes!"

Funny how just one thing can stand out to us. As my daughter looked upon me standing before her, she saw that everything was in order except for my feet. My ugly shoes didn't match up with the rest, but how funny that my grand daughter thought them to be the bomb!

So, what can I take away from those ugly shoes? Walk in beauty. Simply be me. Allow the Lord to guide my steps and may my walk be in step with my talk. I can't portray that I am a lover of Christ if I'm knowingly walking in sin and give a good example of what it is to be a Christian. I need to remember that each step I take, I have a beautiful grand daughter who is watching. I need to make sure that as her steps mimic mine I am giving her a wondrous example of what it is to be a daughter of Christ.

Just as those ugly shoes were comfy, the sin in my life can become so comfortable that I don't notice it any longer. I just put it on with the rest of my wardrobe. I may not notice how ugly it is, but others do. Many times that is the first thing that others see. For this little one who stands by me, it is my step that she often sees before anything else.

When I hear those little feet tapping across the floor it gives me a great reminder to watch my step and give this little lady, a shoe that is worth stepping in. May I too teach her that there is grace for those ugly shoes we wear. See, she has a Prince who has a slipper that is just perfect for her and that is the slipper I need to teach her to wear.

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children."
Ephesians 5:1

" Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."
1 Corinthians 11:1

" Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
Psalm 119:105 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If I Must Be Wounded Please Do So With Love

Can you believe she did that? Did she actually say those words? I just can't understand why she would do such a thing. I mean, she's a Christian. She goes to church. What in the world was she thinking? Well, I'm sure she wasn't thinking. That's the point. And another thing, what about the reflection she is sending to those of us who attend church with her?

Is this a conversation you have heard? Maybe you have even said these words. If we are honest, and lets be. We have all been there. On both sides of this conversation. But, boy does it hurt. Why are we so trigger happy? Forget about throwing stones. We enjoy pointing that finger and standing our ground. Sometimes all it takes is a look. If you have been on the other side of that condemning look you know all too well the pain it leaves behind.

But, what I have found is, the whole story isn't privy to our eyes. Most of the time what we see isn't really the whole picture. We are just seeing a small portion of what is really taking place. I mean after all, we aren't with this person we are judging twenty four hours a day. We don't see each step they take. Most of all, we don't see their heart. We may see an action of sin, but we are not aware of what the Lord is doing in the heart of this one we love.

Our hearts may be in the right place. Of course we want to see our fellow brothers and sisters soar with Christ. But our best course of action is prayer. It's fellowship. It's one on one time. It's giving and it's being totally trasnparent. It's opening ourselves up and being vulnerable. It's shedding the mask we ourselves wear and it's walking together with Christ.

We must remember, we all learn in different ways and each of us are unique. We may be able to be brutally honest with one and they walk away with a great gift, but we must truly know who we are speaking to. Sometimes our words can be taken wrong. No one wants to feel as though they are being watched all the time and if they slip up someone is going to be there to point it out to them.

God is constantly at work. He is about the heart of His children.

Sure, we may see an action and think the worst, but what does that say about us, really? If we are not careful we can cause our brother to stumble even more by judging him and stepping in to correct a behavior we think we see. But lets back up.

Our main focus should be our walk with Christ. We live our lives for Him and only Him. We allow the Holy Spirit to move through us. It is our mission to show the world Christ through our lives and how He is present in our life. It is not our job to point out every sin of another. We must be very cautious in wounding a brother. This must be done in love and it must and always be done when the Holy Spirit provokes us to move. It is He that gives us the words. It is He that sends the message and when He is at work, the message will be received in love. Without the Holy Spirit present these are just words.

Our words are powerful. Leaders lead by example. We are not to measure ourselves by the  standards of those around us. We are to measure ourselves against the Word of God.

This is what I have learned. We must be very careful when we step in and try to teach the child of another. There is going to be a day when our child is of that age. When our child stumbles. How would we want our child to be accepted? We must give those parents the respect they deserve and we too must give the Holy Spirit room to move in the heart of man. Just because one is a friend that doesn't mean we must go to them and tell them everything they are doing wrong. Let me say it this way. If you cannot encourage me and join me in joy when good things are taking place in my life, please do not try to correct me when I am doing wrong.

The simple fact is; we all want to be loved. We all want to be accepted. Loved beyond all measure. We want people in our corner cheering us on. We want people praying for us. We want to see them in our corner when we are trying. When we fail, when we stumble, we want them to be there in love. Most of the time we don't need our sin pointed out. We know it's there. But with the grace of God we will get to where He is calling. We will get past our struggle with prayer warriors on our side.

Words have the power to lead another person closer to Christ. They too have such power they can turn one away. Our words must meet and equal our actions. We cannot say one thing and do another. Our example is everything. If we are not careful we can come across as being very pious. If we are going to go to a brother who we see stumbling, may our hearts be in the right place with the Lord. May sin be moved out of our reach and may our life be a living testimony of what Christ is doing in our life.

We cannot go to another and try to correct their sinful behavior when sin is present in our life. Instead, let us share our own struggles. Let us be real and speak about the areas in our own life in which we battle each day and how the Lord is there to guide us and teach us. When we use our own lives for example it gives a greater picture of what Christ is doing and can do.

We are to love, to walk in grace, to cover others with mercy and to use our words carefully. In raising five children my perspective on many things has changed. I haven't wandered away from the Word of God. If anything my vision has been made more clear. I now see with more grace. I hold more compassion. Of course we want to see our children soar. We want to see all people soar for Christ, but this is a journey. Many times we must work though lots of muck and mire to get to a place where we are ready to accept all Christ has for us. I cannot expect a twenty year old to see through my forty five year old eyes. Goodness, at twenty the brain isn't even finished growing and as far as Christian growth? Everything in Christ's perfect timing.

What happens is, we are fixers. Believe me, I know this all too well. We think we know someone well enough and so we jump on and try to tell them all the wrongs they are doing and how they should be walking. Wowza! What a way to injure a brother. Where was I in cheer leading for him? Where was I when he really needed me and I was too busy with other things? If I'm not giving the example of Christian living for this person to see daily in my life, he isn't going to be too apt to really want to follow my teachings and wisdom. This is why we must be cautious.

The heart is tender. When the heart is hurting we need to give this person room to figure things out on their own. Our best gift to them? PRAYER and letting them know we are there for them at any time. There are times we just need to be an ear for this friend. We don't need to do all the talking. In love we need to be praying.

People who are bombarded with criticism don't accept that as love too often. It can be that we want someone to succeed so badly that we do everything we can to make them see. We can't make another person see anything. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. I can tell you I have learned more from falling on my face than I have from the wisdom shared by others. There are times I must learn on my own. It's then I remember the words of others. When I fall, I don't want to see the disappoint on the faces of those I love. I want to see them encouraging me to get up again and try with a new eagerness. Not to please man, but to walk closer to the Lord.

It's such a fine line. Have you ever crossed it? Have you been injured by a brother? Was it you reaching out to another? When it is done in the right manner heaven gains glory. When we step in on our own without much prayer there is going to be loss. When those words are spoken to that already hurting heart, that heart is going to now be in despair. We must be willing to love beyond measure.

We shouldn't become angry when a brother doesn't listen to us. I have found with our own children that my husband and I have taught our children well. They would come home from church and say, "Hey mom, guess what I learned?" They would proceed to tell me in detail what they learned. I would stand before them in joy, but I would also know that I had taught my child that very thing. Why didn't they hear me? Why was this something new? The Holy Spirit was preparing their heart to hear it again. The Holy Spirit pricked when He knew they were ready to receive the message. It was then that the light bulb clicked on and they were taking that knowledge and in wisdom they now understood how to use it.

Too often we think it's our job to correct a friend. Too often we jump in and in our hurriedness we rip out the seams that are being sown already. Mending takes great time and a tender touch. Those threads can be weak at times, but God has a way of bringing it all together. He weaves a stitch that remains.

We are to pray for our brother and sister in Christ. We are to love as Christ would love us. Are there times when we should go to our brother? Of course, but there are also times when unless that person has come to us and asked for our opinion we must remain silent. Silent doesn't mean not doing anything. We still remain in prayer. Being on our knees for our brother is showing more love and kindness than speaking to him and pointing out his list of sins.

If we are Christians we know and understand we are sinners. We all struggle in some area in our lives. For this reason is why I say the more we share the more we grow. The more we are ready to be humble about our sin life the more we are going to give others room to be real and feel free to talk about their personal walk with Christ.

There are days I am flying high with Christ. I know at that moment I am right where He wants me to be. There are other days I totally push aside the Holy Spirit and I know I am. I am convicted not by the expectations of others, but by my Savior.

So, what I am trying to say here? May we pray for our brothers and sisters. May we give God room to move and stir their hearts. Might we be the examples others are in need of and may we be willing to share our own life as an example of what Christ can do.

Christ encourages. Satan discourages. We can do more for the kingdom of Christ through encouraging others than we can pointing out their every sin. We can reach out weekly and help one another be accountable. We can do a Bible study together. We can even send texts of encouragement.

When we don't see someone at church, may we not just assume they were not at church. May we not say, "Hey, where were you? I didn't see you in church". Instead when we do see friends at church, lets say, "I'm so glad your here with me today. God is so good. Lets see what He has for us." All we have to do is let others know we are thinking of them and we enjoy being with them. We must make an effort to reach out and encourage in every way possible before we send ourselves out to correct our brother.

One word of kindness does much more than a hundred words of discouragement. I'm just saying, lets walk in love and remember that hearts are tender. If a hurting heart is hurt even more, that damage might not be repairable. This is why our words must be spoken in love and caution, awaiting the Holy Spirit's instruction. Instead of having us go to our brother, He may be calling us to prayer.

If all a brother ever hears is, all he is doing wrong and never encouraged by all he does right, he isn't going to be very accepting of those words. After awhile he is going to all but stop coming around us. This isn't what we want. Lets learn together. In teaching young people I learned far more at times by listening to them. Just allowing them to open up and giving them a place of trust to talk. There are times all we need is one to step out and say, "Let me pray with you, brother".

"So lets stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall." Romans 14:13

"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Morning Son Makes All The Difference

Have you felt as though you are in the pit of darkness? Night settles upon us and we can't seem to see the stars for the tears that cloud our eyes. Hurt echos through the night. Pain strengthens and we wonder when morning will come. Been there, friend? I have been there in that darkness that seems like it is about to swallow me. It's in that moment the anxiety takes hold of me and I'm standing in fear. I fall to my knees and cry out to God. It may be more of a whimper, but He hears me. I hear Him say, "Morning, sweet daughter. Joy comes in the morning".

Have you wondered about morning? I have. I have woke and nothing has changed. The same pain is there. A shot in the heart has left an open wound, bleeding and in need of healing. The same circumstance surrounds me. So, what is this about morning that is different? Because I'm pretty much seeing the same punch in the gut I went to bed with.

But I begin to focus on the verse that carries the words, "Joy comes in the morning". What does the morning hold? How is it we tell morning from night? The sun rises. Each and every morning the same sun rises. When the sun rises the fog lifts. When the sun rises warmth blankets the ground. The dark is made clear. We hear a newness. Singing birds, calling forth a new day.

When morning comes it's all about how I see it. What's in my vision? If I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son is what I see when I open my eyes in the morn. When the Son stands, when He rises, everything changes. He takes the lead. The control is His. When He rises all else fades away. He brings healing. He brings forth hope. In Him I find redemption of the nights horrors. In Him I see with new eyes.

It's only when I change my focus that my vision changes. It's up to me what I see. I can chooses to see the pain and circumstance or I can choose to Christ and the peace He brings. He can remove the fog that clouds my vision of what's really there in front of me.

"For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning." Psalm 30:5

In Christ I can find joy. When He rises the birds sing Hallelujah. When He rises He offers Himself to me, His child, and wraps me in His love. In the suffering that I have lived it is no comparison to the joy that the Lord has brought to my life. Today I can look back and even in those darkest hours Christ was there. He didn't leave me. He has used each and every trial to lead me to the woman I am today. He is still molding me. Creating in me a humble heart of love.

When I wake I remove the sleep from my eyes and put my glasses on. It takes a while for me to see clearly. See, when I wake after a night of sadness or anger, it has given me time to let go and think new. It's given me time to accept the peace of God and entrust my day to Him. Have you gone to bed feeling so strained, but you have offered up prayer before you close your eyes?

We wake, the sun shines through the window and we can feel that no matter what, today, God is in control. No matter what comes or what changes occur, He is going to lead us as He stands before us as our Savior. He is Yahweh! He is the Beginning and the End. The Alpha and the Omega. There is nothing that happens that our Lord does not see. He knows our deepest pain and He is there. Never doubt. For He is there, standing in the gap for you and for me.

We get so focused on a hurt that we forget to see His glories that are new every day. We focus on the pain and we forget the gain that was brought to us through the pain that Christ felt. Friend, don't give up. He is there to not only see you through, but to offer Himself as your grace and strength.

Oh, how sweet it is to feel the warmth of the love of Christ surround me. There is nothing that can take Him away from me. Friends, we must live as though the Son is always shining. Even when the Son sets, He rests upon us. He brings comfort. Healing hearts. He lifts burdens. He tears down bridges leading to nowhere. He covers us and protects us from those Goliaths that attack.

He is risen! Live as though is is present and shining in your life.

A Hallelujah Kind Of Table

Picture this: A large wooden table set with delight. Ten chairs gathered around close. The fire place has sparked a warm host of love. You look around. Now the picture gets uncomfortable. Those gathered around the table are not friends. They are not people you would have chosen to be at your dinner party. They are enemies. They are those who have gossiped about you. Those that have held a great anger toward you and haven't found forgiveness. Those filling the chairs are those very people who have let you down. Those who have discouraged you. Those very people who have brought pain, burning hot, searing red pain into your life.

It's time..

Now is the time to sit down with them and break bread. It's time to forgive and retire the anger that boils from your heart. It's time to look into those eyes that have brought tears to your own and forgive. It's time to let go and let God. It's time to erase yesterday from your vivid memory and it's time to create new for this day, right here and right now.

Too much time has been wasted in anger. Resentment is setting your heart in stone. Guilt is causing you to fall in your own ruin. It's time to tear down the walls of the ancient city that has surrounded your life. Hang that white flag in surrender and give the same forgiveness and grace that you search for today in your own heart with Christ.

It's time..

Do I want to sit at a table filled with enemies? No..but I don't want to give Satan more room in my life. I want the Lord to use me and take my life as His own. In order for me to truly live in harmony with Christ I must let go. I must see those around me with new eyes. I must love with a new heart.

It's time to pray for those who call us enemy. It's time to rush heaven's gates with prayers of peace and forgiveness. Oh, what the Lord can do with a heart willing to give Him room.

We can't just walk away. Before we walk away we must make right what has been so wrong in our heart. We must forgive those who have hurt us. Why? Is this forgiveness for them? Are we overlooking the hurt? No. Forgiveness isn't saying the wrong was okay. It's allowing healing for ourselves. In the forgiveness we find leads to a pure love in our Savior.

There isn't room for anger in our heart. Picture that table. Can you see the smiles? Can you feel the joy? That can only happen when we make a change. When we make the choice to let go of the hurt and allow God room to move in us. He brings beauty from ash. When Jesus sits down everything changes.

There isn't any area in our life that God cannot use for His glory. But He needs us to be empty of all anger, bitterness and resentment. There is no gain in us keeping hold of such hurts. Only in letting go can we find victory.

God sets a table before us. He chooses who enters and who is allowed to sit next to us. He can take the messest table and create one of classic beauty.

It's time..

Are you tired of the struggle? Are you tired of the pain and the fight? Our battle has already been won. The victory belongs to Jesus Christ. It's time to release the chains of anger and replace them with a peace from Christ.

It's time to look upon our neighbor with love. A love that is not our own, but is far beyond anything we could do on our own.

It's time to allow Christ to live through us. Forgivess can be found. Through Christ everything is possible. Just think of what can happen when the anger is removed and the table is set with grace.

Today is the day to find freedom. It's the day to unwrap all Jesus has for us. Let it go, sweet friend. Die to that anger and allow God to release in you a new freedom. A change of heart.

It is through Christ and only Him that we can find true forgiveness. It's when we see beyond ourselves and the situation that He can create beauty by letting go. Sometimes the person we need to forgive the most is ourselves.

Life isn't to keep score and hold on to pain. Life is to be lived wrapped in a God love like no other. Today is the day. Sit at the table and let go.

"Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9

"Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!" Psalm 32:1-2

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Placebo by Steven James

This was an interesting read for me. Truth is the subject. One seeks to uncover and one seeks to bury. Gives great insight on our Christian walk. I think at times I have been on both sides of the truth, but nevertheless, the truth always prevails. Jeven is on the side of truth and uncovering not only the truth but seeking to unveil to the world those trying to bury the truth.

This story holds great premise and it written with an intelligent pen. I'm going to be totally honest here. I think most will love this book. I had a hard time diving in and relating to the characters. Not that the story wasn't well written. It was.  This novel was rooted in a LOT of science and for me and that just kind of bored me. I totally understand why the science was there. The character wouldn't be who is was if the author had left out the scientific part.

I just think this wasn't my cup of tea. The beginning was amazing. I was ready to find out more about Jeven's family. We witness how this horrific tragedy touches his life. We get to have the front seat to witnessing him uncover and outwit those around him.

Jeven is a great character. Smart and one that I would want on my side if I was diving into the scientific world of conspiracy. I just wanted more of him. I wanted to understand him better. This leaves me with book two coming out. Just maybe I will uncover more of Jeven in those pages.

I won't stop here with Steven James. I will grab up number two in this series entitled, "Singularity". James is a brilliant author. Remember, this is only my opinion. Most of you will devour these pages and soak up all this science stuff. If you have read James before, you will enjoy this one just as much.

This book was a gift from Revell for my review.

Steven James Critically acclaimed author Steven James has written more than thirty books, including Story, A Heart Exposed, and the bestselling Patrick Bowers thriller series. He is considered one of the nation's most innovative storytellers and versatile authors, and is a contributing editor to Writer's Digest. Steven lives in Tennessee with his wife and three daughters.

"Coming Home" by Karen Kingsbury

Oh, how the Baxter family has touched my life and filled it with joy. It's like they are extended family members. I've gotten to know each character just as if we were neighbors, so when Coming Home was out for review, I knew it was one I had to share.

Although this is a stand alone title, it is an extention of the series that began with Redemption. Yes, you could read this title alone and be blessed beyond your imagination, but I encourage you to go back and begin with Redemption. As series go, this is my all time favorite.

Coming Home takes us back to each Baxter family member and we get to catch up once again. Yes, it was like going home for Thanksgiving. This book holds so much more than catching up. Again we see how Jeremiah 29:11 carries this family through more than they could ever forsee on a day that was to hold such happiness.

HOPE. This is what Karen Kingsbury brings with her penned words. I'm not even sure I could call this an ending as much as a new beginning for a family I fell in love with years ago.

If you are searching for a new gem to fall asleep to or for a series to follow, I promise, this is one you will carry with you for life. Not just a story of fiction, but one that holds life lessons to carry in your heart. Stories that we can relate to. I could never pen enough words to share with you just how valuable this story and all the others are that Karen has penned. Jesus is diffenetly flowing through her pen.

This book was a gift from Zondervan for its review.

Karen Kingsbury New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist, with over 20 million books in print. Her Life-Changing Fiction™ has produced multiple bestsellers, including Unlocked, Leaving, Take One, Between Sundays, Even Now, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, and Ever After, which was named the 2007 Christian Book of the Year. An award-winning author and newly published songwriter, Karen has several movies optioned for production, and her novel Like Dandelion Dust was made into a major motion picture and is now available on DVD. Karen is also a nationally known speaker with several women’s groups including Women of Faith. She lives in Tennessee with her husband, Don, and their five sons, three of whom are adopted from Haiti. Their daughter Kelsey is married to Christian artist Kyle Kupecky.

The Christmas Pony by Melody Carlson

I just spent the morning reading, The Christmas Pony, by Melody Carlson. What a treat while we are having an October summer here in Missouri. This book brought to heart the sweetness of Christmas. Oh, I love the snow. As I read I was picturing myself right along side Lucy making snow angels in the newly fallen snow.

The book begins with Lucy asking for a pony for Christmas. We see Christmas through Lucy's eyes. There are unexpected surprises and heart's change to come. It might look like chance, but everything in God's perfect timing.

This was a sweet gem of a read. It was tender. The characters are believable and each brings something of value to the story. Lessons are to be learned here in Maple Grove.

Lucy is that girl who dreams big and hopes new. She sees past the circumstance and believes there is more than the trouble of today. She is ready to find the blessings waiting.

My favorite part was when Lucy couldn't have the part she wanted in the town Christmas play and a character staying in the boarding house, gives her advice that sets her sadness free and gives her a new perspective. She is now able to enjoy her new part with a humbleness of Christ.

We follow a short time with the Turnbull family and their Christmas guests. We get to see Christmas blessings that were unexpected, but hoped for in the heart of a little girl.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. She is the winner of a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. Melody and her husband live in Oregon.

"A Wreath of Snow" by Liz Curtis Higgs

I devoured this book in just a few hours. Once I began reading I simply couldn't put it down. This is a lovely book. Brings Christmas to the heart early. I love reading books that carry such a passionate message. The message in these penned words? Forgiveness. Forgiveness of others and forgiveness of ourselves.

With that said I am sure you will be able to relate to the characters in this beautiful story of grace and redemption. God never gives up on us. Through His perfect timing He brought these characters together. Liz brings a story that is so real and so transparent that your heart meets Jesus thought every word.

I loved the cover and the title? Oh my, being covered in snow is like being covered in God's grace.

We see a family that has been torn apart by tragedy. We see that sometimes tragedy is caused by others and sometimes it's caused by ourselves. Throughout this story we see hope and what is held in God's redemptive love. He restores us when we are ready to surrender and let go, trusting Him and His truths.

This story was so sweet and tender. The words were smooth and wondrous.

What glorious happenings can occur with just one walk through the snow. Margaret Campbell has run from home. She has felt the sting of pain and can't bare any more. Gordon Shaw has run from his actions of long ago, unable to forgive himself. On a train ride, both trying to escape more hurt, the Lord brings this train ride to a halt and brings His plan to life.

A sweet story that will cause you to look a little deeper into the meanings of all Christmas holds.

This book was a gift from WaterBrook Press for its review.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fill The Gap With Prayer

"For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven't stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him." Colossians 1:9-14

Just what if we followed in the steps of the Colossians and prayed for one another? What if before we uttered a word of anger or of gossip, we first offered our hearts in prayer? If we get real here, we can't gossip and pray at the same time. Anger cannot roll off the tongue if a gentle prayer is being raised to the heavens.

Wouldn't we begin looking at our brother with different eyes? What if we prayed for each person we encountered. Even better, begin our day asking God to bless all those that cross our paths. What if we were to begin our prayer for our heart. After all doesn't it begin with us? Isn't that where change begins? We must open our heart and surrender all to the Lord. It is with a humble heart that God does His work. He moves in us to create in us a beauty magnified by His grace. Once He is moving in us He will move through us, touching the hearts and souls of man, for His glory and honor.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any praise-dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:4-9

We need to walk as if Christ is before us. We need to speak as if He is present and alive in us. We need to act as though we are His vessel. We can be an extension of His hand of mercy and His gift of strength to all we meet.

Sure, we may think it's just too hard. Easier said than done, right? Through Jesus all is possible! Jesus makes it possible. He makes a way. We don't have to wrestle with anger or tangle with defeat. It's time to let go of all the junk that we allow in our lives. We carry enough, don't we? Isn't our load heavy now? Why add on more? Lay it down today. Let the battle go and give up trying to make all things right.

Remove all things that hinder your walk and renew your hope in Jesus today. Faith comes by walking with Him. The closer we stand with Christ the clearer our vision becomes. It's amazing how He removes the glaze of anger that has covered our vision. Jesus can stand between us and our enemy. Jesus can stand in the gap between us and that friend that has brought anger. It is Jesus and the bridge of grace He builds that changes our perspective. He extends His hand to us. Why would we not extend our hand to another?

Prayer is powerful. May we cover everything in prayer. It is through prayer that we build patience and gentleness. It is through prayer that our burdens our lifted and joy is found. It is through prayer that we find peace that covers all offense. There is nothing to be gained by walking in anger. There is no gain in pointing to an enemy. We need to change our focus of what real gain is. The only gain we need to consider ourselves with is the heavenly gain for our Savior.

If we give Him our hands He will use them. If we give Him our steps He will count them for His profit. It's through prayer that we find Jesus and His will for us. Prayer is His continued love flowing, rushing outward, touching everything with nothing but His precious gift of love.

Look at all that prayer holds. EVERYTHING! Prayer cannot be answered if it is first not spoken. Why not simply pray for EVERYTHING, leaving nothing behind. Ask for God to place a hedge of protection, to open doors, to close doors, to prepare our way, to make situations opportunities. Why not prayer for clear vision? For God to change our hearts and make a way for ALL to see Him move in our lives. Yes, through those days of sunshine and those we wish we could do over. There is nothing too small to pray over. Prayer should be as to us just as breathing is. Prayer could be a song of the heart. A non-stop blessing.

Those we pass by in the market. Those sitting behind us in traffic. Ever wonder why our minds wander to people we haven't through of for years? Prayer! We are to interceed for others. Prayer brings us together and the wondrous part is the fact that someday, one day when we are heaven bound, just what are we going to think when we behold all the prayers that were said on our behalf? Prayer is a gift wrapped in a beautiful bow. There are times for it to opened immediatly and others for it to be uncovered years later. Prayer is answered in God's perfect timing. How awesome to be part of that?

Every moment gives us an opportunity to bring someone to the throne room of God. What a gift. What a treasure. Let's not lose it, but grab hold and be the vessel of great and mighty wonders that the Holy Spirit places in our heart to share with our Savior!

"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13


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