Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Learning To Follow A Pattern

Do you love to crochet? Maybe you're a knitter. I enjoy creating scarves and afghans for my favorite people. I get excited as I walk into a shop to pick out new yarns for a project. I let the colors speak to me. I ponder what it would look like all finished. Creating something new stirs my heart. Once I get started on an afghan I almost get lost in the stitches. I take this time to pray for the one I'm creating a piece for. Then to give it as a gift brings so much joy. To see a friend wrapped in  a scarf I created, to see my grand-children and children all snuggled in an afghan warms my heart. 

It takes time to create something from a string of yarn. Amazing what happens with a hook and yarn and a bit of imagination. Color comes together and a pattern begins to form. At first it doesn't look like much. But once we continue in the process beauty appears. 

I have always used easy stitches for my projects. Now that I have mastered them I want to move on to more difficult patterns. But, here is my issue. I've never learned how to read a pattern. I've tried. When I look at a pattern all I read is, blah, blah, blah. It makes no sense to me. I look at it in total confusion. So, instead of moving along to new stitches I continue to stick with what I know. 

I'm that hands on girl. I need someone to sit next to me and show me each stitch. Once you take time teaching me one on one, it's not too long before I've got the hang of it. The problem with this is it does take time. It takes time and patience to sit next to someone and teach them something new. 

Yesterday I was blessed to sit with a friend who also loves to crochet and knit. She is one talented lady. I brought all my scarves and yarn and ideas. She was amazed at all that I had created without a pattern. She said to me, "Oh, honey, once you learn to read a pattern, you'll be able to do everything". She had such patience with me. In the photo I'm sharing you can see that I have started a new scarf. This is from a pattern for an afghan. She took that pattern and brought it to meet my need. We still followed the instructions. The pattern still the same. We just took it down to size. But in reading the pattern the possibilities are endless. 

In learning each stitch and knowing how to read that stitch on the pattern makes it easy to add other stitches. Pretty soon you have a row. Then your on the second row and third. Pretty soon your placing a border around it and your creation is complete.

"For I know the plans I have for you-this is the Lord's declaration-plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." 
Jeremiah 29:11-13

For me to create just this small piece took about four hours. This was time spent with my friend teaching me to read the pattern and then following the directions. I would create a row and see that I forgot a stitch. I would let out what I had stitched and start again. I can tell you this happened quite a few times. I was ready to give up. My sweet friend encouraged me. "No, honey, don't give up. It takes time to learn. Once you understand the pattern, you will learn how to follow it". 

Praise Jesus, when we skip a few stitches or don't quite get it right, His grace is there for us. He gently guides us back and sets us on the pattern before us once again. We have a God of second and third chances. He knows the pattern is hard. He too knows what it's going to take to stay on course and finish strong. 

"The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Romans 5:20-21 

For all of you who create masterpieces of beauty this may come easy to you. You may have been crocheting for years. For me, this was difficult. So, I had to take my time. Some things come easy to us and others are more difficult to follow. It helps us to have a pattern and what's most important is how to understand that pattern. Before we follow it we must learn to understand. The more we understand the more we want to follow. I had to understand each stitch. During our time together she never once got frustrated with me. She said, "Honey, what you don't understand today, we'll get to next time we meet". 

Doesn't that sound like our Jesus? "Let's meet again? What you don't you understand today, you will soon. Give it time. Spend time with Me and I will show the pattern of life. Everything may not make a lot of sense starting out. Somethings may be hard. But don't give up. One day it will all come together and you will see what I have been creating for you." 

After spending the morning with my friend I drove home and simply pondered Jesus. I thought about the plans He has for me. It's my choice if I follow along His pattern or if I skip that and do my own thing. In skipping out on reading and understanding His pattern I'm going to be missing out on some extraordinary blessings.

"Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God's revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature-for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil." Hebrews 5:12-14

I can just stick with what I know and that's fine for a time, but if I don't learn more, if I don't explore Him in more detail, I will never see all that HE has for me. I am to always be in continual growth with Him. Sometimes that means slowing down and soaking it all in. Others it means that I can move ahead and keep going. What's wonderful is the fact that I can always repeat a stitch I learned long ago. Somehow going back gives me an opportunity to learn even more. And what I learn I too can share with others.

I have a long way to go on this new project. I'm sure I will have to redo a few stitches here and there. Maybe backtrack a bit, but with determination and a great set of instructions I'm on way to something extraordinary. Surrounding myself with others who love to crochet will give me the encouragement I need for the journey in creating beauty.

We all have to start somewhere. What's amazing is that our Teacher meets us where we are. He wants to spend time with us. He is patient and understanding. He wants us to learn and grow, but in our own time. Not according to someone else. He's willing to put in the time. And that's the best kind of Teacher to have. 

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path." 
Psalm 119:105

"I love Your instruction! It is my meditation all day long."
Psalm 119:97

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and he will guide you on the right paths." 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hands of Faith

I have always loved the story found in Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18-26, and Luke 8:40-56 that share with us the story of two remarkable healings.  A woman who had suffered for twelve years and was healed, and a little girl, the age of twelve, who was healed. I've written about them many times. Each time I read over this story I am once again blessed with God revealing something new to me. 

I have always marveled that the woman suffered for twelve years and the young girl was the age of twelve when healed by Jesus. I don't believe in coincidences. Why was it important for the age of the little girl to be known? Everything in God's Word has importance. I have always pondered what the connection is. 

Jesus had just crossed over the western side of the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd of people had already gathered. Okay, can you vision Jesus crossing over and the people knowing about His coming? They are seeing Him approach. Jesus is about to step on the land that their same feet are touching. The crowed is growing, but there is Jairus. He falls at the feet of Jesus. This I love because I have been on my knees before the thrown, crying out to my Savior, many times in my twenty-three years of being a child of the King. He has always met me right where I am. But Jairus is actually at the feet of Jesus! He is there crying out for his only daughter. She has become ill. Jairus is sure death is waiting. Can you imagine this family? Her mother at her bedside? They call others to come and pray. Jairus has hope. He rushes to Jesus. The One he knows as Healer. 

This unimaginable time for this family has come upon them quickly. How many of us have been awakened at night by our coughing child? Temperature rising. We are in a rush to call the doctor. We grab for the Tylenol and a cold cloth that we hope will bring the temperature down. I remember staying awake many sleepless nights with my sick children. Praying over them. Leaving my hand upon their chest, waiting for the next clear breath. 

But as Jesus is about to go with Jairus, a woman approaches. She is distraught, weak, and empty. It hasn't been an overnight battle for her. It has been twelve long years. This isn't a woman with family and friends surrounding her bed. She has been alone. She is unclean. Untouchable. She is a woman of faith. It is her very faith that has comforted her and has given her strength to carry on. 

She reaches for the hem. If she can just touch Him. 

Jesus feels the touch. He stops and turns. Should she dare to look upon Him? He knows she has touched Him. I believe Jesus already knew this precious woman of faith would be waiting. Whatever we are facing, Jesus is already there. His steps are not made by chance. Each one is marked with an everlasting impact. 

But what about Jairus? I can imagine his urgency for Jesus to hurry. Jairus was well respected. He was known in the land. He was an important man. I can imagine he is wanting Jesus to leave this untouchable woman and race to his daughter. But with Jesus, there is not one who is more important than the other. As Jesus is healing this woman of faith, He is already there with the daughter of Jairus. His Spirit is all-knowing. He is ever-present. Jesus could take His time. 

I love the picture of Jesus and this woman of faith together. She has suffered for long. People have given up on her, but with her faith she knows that Jesus doesn't give up. She believes He will heal her. "Daughter, He said to her, "your faith" has made you well. God in peace and be free from your affliction." (vs. 34) Do you believe? His healing doesn't always come in the time frame as we wish. Jairus was wishing for now. Jesus has perfect timing. If He had rushed or maybe taken a shorter route He would have missed seeing the woman of faith who was needing Him so very much. 

I can just imagine Jairus saying, "Finally. Can we please hurry?". The people from the synagogue were telling Jairus that his daughter was already dead. Could it really be too late? What if Jesus hadn't stopped? But when Jesus hears what they are saying He says to Jairus, "Don't be afraid. Only believe." (vs. 36) Faith in Jesus changes everything. It changes how we react. It changes the heart. Faith helps us to take our eyes off our circumstance and see that nothing is too big for God. 

"Lord, let my belief be bigger than my unbelief. Let my faith be bigger than my fears."

People are gathered at the home of Jairus. They are about to see something extraordinary. That sleeping girl is about to rise. What's amazing is that Jesus immediately says, "She needs to be given something to eat" (vs. 43). 

"In every situation we have a choice. There is no circumstance God can't handle." 

"Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you." 
Philippians 4:9

"Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through 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." 
Philippians 4:6-7

The woman of faith and Jairus both made the choice to go to Jesus. They knew without a doubt He was the answer. We see both of these people healed. Life restored. That isn't always the healing we receive. Again, everything in God's perfect timing. One had suffered for twelve long years and another instant. When we go to the Lord in prayer, we are with Jesus. He is with us. He is listening. There is nothing too small for us to take to Him. He wants the details. Big or small, years or instant, He knows our suffering. He cares for each of His children and regards no one with extra love. He loves each of us as if we were His only child. 

Sometimes our healing isn't on this side of heaven. There are times when He chooses to heal by taking those He loves to be home with Him. We can't always understand this, but what we must do is trust Him. 

So, what is it that caught my attention in this reading? That it doesn't matter if one has suffered for twelve years or for overnight. Sometimes those overnights seem like eternity, don't they? Suffering is suffering. Twelve years is a long time to suffer. Overnight is a long time to suffer. 

I can imagine this little twelve year old darling having a wonderful life for her twelve years. Smiles and giggles. This could have been the first time she was ever ill. We don't know of her life before this. We can only imagine. Dream and ponder. I believe Jesus loves when we ponder over His Word. For these parents and their child being sick all that mattered was that she was better. They couldn't get to Jesus quick enough. Their suffering couldn't be consoled by others. It was Jesus, only Jesus, who brought peace to their suffering hearts. 

As this little girl played and danced with giggles for twelve years, in her lifetime, this woman of faith had suffered the same about of time. Can you imagine? I believe many of us can relate. I have suffered from migraines/chronic pain/anxiety for over twelve years now. Healing as I envision hasn't come, but I believe God has moved through me in this suffering. He has brought me through each time and has never left me alone. He gives me strength to breath and yes, to embrace all that touches my life. For there is purpose in everything. I may not understand that purpose, but I believe over time the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and uncovers unexpected blessings in our suffering. 

This woman of faith had lived the last twelve years unlike the little girl. She was alone. Do you think she ever felt hopeless? Could it be that it was her faith that carried her through and gave her hope? 

Whether it has been overnight for you or years of suffering has touched your life, Jesus is here. He is waiting for you to reach out to Him. He will be there for you. His strength will lift you up and His mercy will indeed give you new vision and a heart that no longer sees the suffering without purpose, but an opportunity to call upon the One who will bring healing in unexpected ways. 

Both of these healings brought many others to not only see the work of God, but to see hurting people turn to the One they know that moves on their behalf. This is huge to an unbelieving world. 

Jesus laid His hands upon one and one with only her fingers touched the hem of His garment. 

It was faith that healed them. 

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuse in Him!"
Psalm 34:8

"I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." 
Psalm 18:1-2

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When Was The Last Time You...

The trees are about to speak to us. Their glory is about to shine forth in an extravagant way. They are shouting out to all of creation; "Look! Open your eyes and enjoy. See the splendor before you. Take time. Slow the rush. Live in this moment. Soak it in deep. Explore the opportunities around you to simply experience God." 

We live as if we have forever. The seasons forever change. We cannot stop them. They were created by God. Each one to serve a purpose. Signs to teach us. Times to embrace.

We put off treasures that we could enjoy today. We delay today as we plan for tomorrow. We give excuses. 

We'll get together sometime soon. 
I'm just too busy right now. 
You know how it is.
There's never enough time in the day.
I must get all this house cleaning finished. 
I must work all the overtime I can get. 
It'll just have to wait. 
Maybe next year we'll take that trip.
I can't play right now. 

When it comes right down to it, we are busy with what we want to be busy with. As people we don't think that today, the next moment, our life could change forever. We rush through without thought. It's almost natural in our world today, isn't it? 

The leaves fall without notice. But if we stop long enough we can see them dance. 

When was the last time you grabbed your husband's hand and danced in the living-room? When was the last time you just got silly at the table with your children? When was the last time you left the grass to grow and the laundry basket full and enjoyed a moment of surprise? 

Today everything is texting and emailing. We love social media. But when was the last time you called a friend? When was the last time you penned a letter with ink on lined paper? Do we even purchase stamps for such anymore? When was the last time you sent a card? We seem to do everything easy. Whatever takes less time. We don't want to give too much of ourselves. After all, it's our time and our life, right? 

The weekend comes and what do we do? We are stuck in our busy. Inside that busy life we are forgetting to live! 

Satan sucks us into his trap of everything is about us. We begin to think that, don't we? Well, if they aren't going to call me, why should I give them a call? I've never received a card from them. Our problem is that we want others to reach out to us, but we don't want to to do the reaching. We truly like our excuses. It makes us feel important to say, I'm just too busy. 

Call your mother today. Check on your dad. Take a friend out to lunch. Put the leash on your pup and take a walk through the park. On your way to work, slow down, enjoy the drive. Look around at the beauty you stopped noticing long ago. Look into your husband's eyes tonight like you did so long ago. Sit down to dinner and pray with your family. Blow bubbles with your grand-babies. Fly a kite today. Put a message of hope in a bottle and let it float on down the river to be found by one who is in need of hope. It's okay to be silly. These are the moments to treasure.

Embrace every possible opportunity given to celebrate today. 

The glory of God is waiting for you to take notice. 

As you let go of the rush be prepared to be astonished at all you have been missing. 

Be blessed and experience today in a whole new way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Letter To My Friend, Bobbie

Friday, September 12, 2014 was a morning that began like all others. A family waking to the glorious day God created. Waking early. Wiping sleep from their eyes. Good-mornings are being said. Hugs being given. Preparing for the day ahead. It's apparent little Phoenix isn't quite up to going to school. Today she will stay curled up with her momma. Third grade can wait. In her momma's arms is where she needs to be today. A young man gets ready early. He grabs his rifle and heads out to seek the wooded area where the squirrels were just beginning to awaken. A bit of time out in the wilderness makes his heart soar. What an amazing way for a fifteen year to begin his day. 

Donnie knows it's time to head out to the bus. Close your eyes. Imagine his smile. Imagine this precious boy waiting with backpack on his shoulder. That first bell comes so early. The day is waiting. 

At fifteen life is full of promise. 

Earlier in the morning, around 3:30, the sun not even up yet, four men get off work. Instead of just driving home they decide to open the bottle. They drink. Decisions are made. Each of these men get into their cars. Key in the ignition. Foot on the gas.  It's a race now. Not another thought in their minds. Just self. Choices are being made in the moment that will forever change the course of a family forever. 

Instead of the bus coming around the curve, four cars racing drunk change history. The lead car , driven by Ethan Humphries, hits and kills Donnie. The other three drivers in this race are Christopher O. Kitchen, Kevin Ryan, and Gerard Trotter. Does it really matter who was in the lead at this time? It could have been any one of these four drivers. And what about their passengers? Where are they at this moment when this race is taking place? Time is moving slowly now. Ten seconds was all it took to change the life of a sweet family. 

Bobbie rushes out. She's there with her baby boy. A scene that no mother should ever have to see. She tries to push life back into him. People are there surrounding her. Screams. Breathless. It has to be a dream. A nightmare that has lasted into the morning. 

Where is Phoenix? She wasn't standing next to her big brother today. Sweet Jesus. Today of all days she was home. She is safe. But, sweet Donnie. Donnie is gone from this earth. 

Before that car hit Donnie, before his last breath was breathed on this earth, I believe he saw his Jesus, his sweet Savior. What Satan meant for evil, God stood in front of Donnie, wrapped His arms around him and said, "NO!" The heavens open and all of glory is before him. The angels sing to greet him. A beauty before his eyes that he could never have imagined awaiting him. 

A mother, my friend, is now broken. She can't breathe. Life will never be the same. Time is now standing still. Her son was stolen from this earth much too soon. Her arms no longer hold her son. She can no longer brush his hair from his face. No kiss to touch his cheek. 

They loved to dance in the living room. They loved to turn the music up loud. So close. Mother and son. A bond like no other. They share so much. A relationship so unique and genuine. Laughter filled their lives. Moments of yesterday is what Bobbie now holds on to so deeply. 

Donnie loved life. He was a young man that truly knew the meaning of living. It was like he put his all into each and every day. A smile that would charm. Just like his momma, he could light up a room. He embraced life. His family was everything. He was the son every mother dreams of having. The son that makes every daddy proud. Oh, and the big brother that every little sister deserves. 

He was that young man who truly cared. He lived thankful. He was a servant with a heart of grace. He was the kind of boy who would have laid down his own life to save another. 

Donnie's heart belonged to Jesus. He didn't just attend church because that's what his parents made him do on Sunday. He loved church. He loved Awana on Wednesday nights. I know this because I was blessed and honored to teach this precious young man. I'm sure he taught me much more about life and living for Jesus than I could have ever taught him. Never was there a Wednesday night that he didn't make me laugh. He pondered thoughts. Yes, this child that was filled with such laughter was a deep thinker. He loved learning about Jesus. He would share and never let a prayer request pass him up. He often prayed for his little sister, especially if she wasn't feeling good. He would pray for his mom and dad. This young man prayed for all that was important to him.

He spent summertime with his dad in Texas. As Awana would begin in September, Donnie was always ready to share all the fun he had with his dad. His stories could go on forever. He would often ask for prayer for his dad, step-mom, and step-siblings. Their salvation was on his heart. 

Over the summer, Donnie was again with his dad in Texas. A call from Donnie to his momma came. He had been bitten by a coral snake. He was assuring his momma that he was okay. God was with him. As Bobbie listened to her son, knowing her, all she wanted to do is wrap her arms around him, making sure he was really safe. In the doctor's amazement, Donnie was going to be just fine. Donnie had been bitten, but no poison entered. None. No harm came to him. The hedge of protection his momma prayed surrounded him. To God's glory we know that on this day He was at work in protecting Donnie from a venom that could have taken his life. A witness to his dad at just how glorious and powerful his Savior is. 

Donnie was a delight because he was true to himself. Something his momma taught him through her example of being unique and godly in everything. He captivated those around him with his outragousness. He loved a challenge. Wanna hear a boy sing? Donnie would belt it out as if he was the only one on stage. But, that was Donnie in real life. He was on stage and even at fifteen He lived for the audience of One. 

This young man was loved by so many. 

He will be missed. 

There is an emptiness that is now filled with tears.

How does a mother bury her only son? How did everything change so quickly? When we can't find the answers we trust in our Savior. He is our hope. 

But friends, the story doesn't end here. Praise Jesus there is more! Donnie's legacy lives on. God created each of us with a plan and purpose. Although we cannot make sense out of this today, one day God will show us all of His glory. Donnie lived this. He believed this. Forever isn't long when you know Jesus as Savior. Those who have received Jesus as Savior will see Donnie again. The other side of heaven is waiting. Donnie will be there to greet everyone. You can count on that. 

His prayers for all those he loved still live on. His laughter can still be heard in the heart. His kindness carries on to be an example to follow for those who knew him.

Donnie wasn't a follower of the trends and fads of this world. He didn't get lost in the junk. Don't get me wrong. He was a teenager. What was amazing about Donnie is the fact that he was real. He didn't pretend. He gave everyone a chance. He was a leader. A one of kind young man. Original. 

His home is now in heaven. I imagine him sharing so much with his Jesus and his Jesus sharing so much with him. Donnie is a child of the King of kings, Lord of lords and one day, one day soon, we will meet again. It won't be for just a moment. But for all of eternity we will rejoice with him. We'll catch up soon.

Today as add to this letter it has now been 101 days this family has been without Donnie. This nightmare continues still and isn't stopping anytime soon. Can there be justice for such a hellish act? There are no more Thanksgivings spent together. No longer treasured Christmas moments. No more photos shared. No laughter ringing out in the house. Everything is different now. Now this family fights for justice. The justice for those who unjustly took the life of their precious son. This momma will no longer be able to make her baby a birthday cake.

There are no words I can bring to my beautiful friend. I wish I could take her pain away. Back up and beg God for another day, another time. I can only wrap my arms around her and be there. I wish there was more I could do. There isn't anything that can bring comfort and peace right now. Only Jesus. I pray. I pray for Jesus to cover her. To wrap her in His {everything}. My heart aches to see her broken. Please, Jesus. Please hold her. Lift her family up and surround them with love. She is now carrying this unimaginable pain that no mother should have to bear. Bobbie, we will walk this journey with you. Those who love you. Those who call you family and friend. We will pray with you. You hold on to the promises of God. His strength is mighty. His arms are wide. This isn't our home. Babe, we are just passing through. In this time as we wait upon our Savior you hold on tight to everything you believe in to know is God's truth.

Dear friend, you are my hero. You are so brave. My heart is with you. Your faith is shining through even in your darkest of days. To God the glory. To God the glory. We always shared how blessed we were to have amazing sons. Babe, you did your job well. You have done well. No regrets. You gave your love. All of it, you gave. You pointed your son toward the Savior and he received him with open arms.

You cry out to Jesus and you hold on tight to all you know that is true. 

I love you.

You can read more of this story by visiting the following link:  Lord, Please Heal My Friend and Bring Justice For Donnie.


Friends, please pray for Bobbie and her family as the Spirit leads. It would be a blessed encouragement if you could just jot down this address and send a card of love to the Boyer family. Please address it to:

Bethel Baptist Church
c/o Bobbie and Jeremy Boyer
569 Bethel Church Road
Lonedell, Missouri 63060

Friday, September 19, 2014

Christmas Tree Giddiness

"Oh, Nanny, look! Look at the Christmas trees. Aren't they so pretty? I wish I had a Christmas tree like that one in my house." I'm sure you can picture the excitement of my three year old granddaughter as she sees all the lights and ornaments. 

While out with my daughter and grandchildren, Peyton's giddiness over the beauty of the trees could be heard by everyone. When she's excited she wants everyone to be excited with her.

To me, in that moment, my first thought was, "You have got to be kidding me! Already? We aren't even out of September!" Okay, that was a BIG thought that held a wee bit of aggravation. I know what you're thinking. How can I get angry over a Christmas tree? Well, I think the stores take advantage and to them Christmas is nothing more than money and more money. To the Christian Christmas means something valuable and holy. It's the celebration of the birth of our Savior. 

I love Christmas. I love the beauty of the season. I am a cold weather loving girl. Give me a snowy blizzard and I am one happy chick. But in September? I've not even had a chance to be excited over Thanksgiving yet. There are no pumpkins on my front deck. No autumn decorations out. None. I like to take my time from season to season. Now, everything is just thrown in and summer contains every season possible. 

But....after getting home and relaxing a bit I had time to gather my thoughts. When I don't rush my thoughts God always seems to give me a different outlook. How about you? I just love to ponder. I let everything soak in and after a while I'm a changed girl.

So, here's my pondering thought. What's so wrong with the Christmas tree being up so soon? Yeah, I know all the thoughts you're thinking too, but just what if we as adults held in our hearts just a little bit of the excitement my granddaughter has at seeing a Christmas tree? She was over the top thrilled. There was a glow in her eye. Her smile was bright and her enthusiasm catching. 

I know. There's a time and a place for everything. Christmas comes once a year. We should treasure the day. In our world today Christmas is a huge market for money. All this is true, but what about the message of Christmas? The cheer? The excitement? This is something as Christians we should be sharing every day. See, for us it isn't just a tree that's decorated. It has meaning. It brings us to joy and celebration of the heart. 

I don't know. Sometimes I think we just like to gripe. Don't we? It's too soon or not soon enough. People want to say, "Merry Christmas", while others want to say, "Happy Holidays". Does it really matter? In the entire scheme of things, does it really matter? I will say, "Merry Christmas", to all that cross my path. I'm just saying that if we aren't careful we can become a Scrooge year round. 

From a little girl's perspective, she wasn't thinking about presents. She wasn't thinking about anything but the beauty that was before her eyes. That's it. At three she doesn't yet know the importance of dates. All she knows is Christmas isn't here yet because her Scrooge of a Nanny told her Christmas isn't for another three months. She was excited in the moment. What's so wrong with that? 

She taught me something of value yesterday. I can be excited even when no one around me gets it! Christmas isn't just a date to celebrate and then it's over. Christmas should be in my heart and my Savior should be celebrated all year long. 

So, if you see Christmas trees decorated right along next to the pumpkins, don't be a Scrooge. Let that glimmer in your eye light up and just simply enjoy the beauty. Take time to think about your Savior and all that He is to you. Take every opportunity given and celebrate Him!

"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice!"
Philippians 4:4

Paul (90 Days on His Journey of Faith) by Beth Moore

Do you love studies? Well, friends, this is one you want to grab up! It didn't take me 90 days to get through this study. I sat each morning and absorbed Beth's words into my soul.

First I must share how beautiful this book is. This signature series is just exquisitely gorgeous.

Beth has a gift to create inviting. Hospitality on paper. Penned from the heart to the heart. I have read Acts before. Many times. Read the books penned by Paul. I have always admired him and found him fascinating and inspiring.

Beth's words are wonderful and powerful. I walk away with a better understanding of Paul and of God's Word. I read these words with an open heart. Praying for God to show me His Word and to be changed. He did and I am. I was touched sweetly, convicted, and found the same treasured grace in Jesus that Paul also found.

Paul's life is truly encouraging to the Christian. We see his life as Saul. The sinner saved on the road to Damascus. We witness his transformation. His blessings and trials. The joys and fears of his journey. Beth gives the reader a wonderfully open portrait of the man Paul was. He was sold out for Jesus. His journey of yesterday is extremely inspiring to us who are traveling this life today.

She begins by sharing the scripture verse for the lesson. She doesn't do all the work for you. She invites you to pick up your Bible and dive in. She begins with the book of Acts and with each lesson she shares more and more scripture. She gives a short verse and then a few questions to ponder. I found these questions to be heart digging.

After you spend time in the Word, and then pondering Beth's questions, she shares Paul's journey. We see his steps. I can tell you that my view on Paul's life is so very clear now. At the end of each lesson Beth adds a prayer. Such beauty from her heart and added scripture bring this book to life for the reader.

This study is set up for a 90 day study. Reviewing doesn't give me 90 days. So each day I soaked in a few hours each morning until the last page was turned. I'm sad to see this lesson come to a close. But I will now be traveling on with David and doing this study for review. Can't wait to share all that I have learned and loved about this one!

This book is a keeper. Once you place it in your hands and open the pages you will understand the beauty I am trying to describe. This would make an amazing gift, a great study for a SS class, and a small group setting. I would have loved to have a few friends gathered around me to ponder the lessons along with me.

This book was a gift from B&H Publishing Group for sharing my review with you. 

Beth Moore is a writer and teacher of best-selling books and Bible studies whose public speaking engagements carry her all over the United States. A dedicated wife and mother of two adult daughters, Moore lives in Houston, Texas, where she is president and founder of Living Proof Ministries.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let's All Be Brave (Living Life with Everything You Have) by Annie F. Downs

Annie Downs has a gift for reaching young women. Her writing style is hip. She shoots with truth and shares the bravery she needs in her own life. That isn't always easy to admit. We like to think we're brave, but it takes a humble and genuine girl to say, "Yep, I need some courage for these hard days". 

I enjoyed her writing style. I think this book is geared towards young college age girls, but anyone can truly walk away with a bit of inspiration. 

I love that Annie shares the coffee house she penned each chapter at. It somehow brings a warmth to the book. As though we are able to see Annie sit down with her cup of coffee and ponder the thoughts she shares. 

I find her very inviting. You know, that girl that easy to talk to. The one who isn't afraid to be herself, to share stories where she has skinned her knees, and one who is comfortable to laugh at herself. 

This is an easy book to sit down and enjoy. Annie basically just shares her thoughts, her faith, her struggles, herself and the God who has made her the woman she is today. 

We could all use a bit more bravery to face each day. Annie shows us how with the Lord's guidance. Although she shares her stories, she points the reader to a relationship with Jesus. To have a woman of God share stories of herself finding bravery when it counts is a huge blessing in today's world. 

This book was a gift from Zondervan for sharing my review with you. 

Annie Downs is an author and speaker based in Nashville, Tennessee. Flawed but funny, she uses her writing to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God. By weaving together personal stories, humor, and Scripture, she invites the young women reading to experience fulfilled lives with a God who made them on purpose and loves them deeply. When she’s not writing books or traveling for speaking events, Annie spends her days writing all over the internet—blogging at AnnieBlogs.com and incourage.me, sharing truths about her life in Nashville as a single Christian woman and the stories that are woven into each day. Annie is a huge fan of singer/songwriters, burritos, the Internet, her community of friends, and sports of all kinds.

I shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Wow!! This is McCabe's debut novel!! Debut! Girl, you ROCK!! The cover is beautiful and telling. I absolutely loved this novel. I want to read more from this writer. Excellence!! 

I think I experienced every emotion possible. The writing is superb. I couldn't read fast enough. Once I began reading I knew I was going to love Rosetta. A character that embodies love, strength, and beauty. Rosetta is a woman to be honored and treasured. 

If you enjoy historical fiction this is a selection for you. McCabe takes us back in time to the Civil War. We often read and hear about the men of the Civil War, but not much about the women. McCabe highlights the women of this time and brings us to look back with praise and honor. 

This is one of those beautiful stories that belongs on the big screen. McCabe gives a writing portrait that creates a wonderful glimpse into another time and place. She gives the reader the gift of visualizing Rosetta's life. We feel her emotion. Her anger is real. Her love is passionate. What an inspiring novel!

This book was a gift from Crown Publishing Group for sharing my review with you. 

Erin Lindsay McCabe studied literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and taught high school English before completing her MFA at St. Mary's College of California in 2010. She has taught composition at St. Mary's and Butte College and resides in Northern California with her husband and son and a small menagerie that includes one dog, four cats, two horses, ten chickens, and three goats. 

Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes

This book is geared more for younger women, high school and college age. Women of all ages can read it and walk away with a sweet journey with knowing Ruth more. But, I think younger women will grasp hold of Sarah's story and be able to see an example that isn't easily found in today's world. 

Sarah does a great job in connecting with the reader. She is transparent as she shares her own life. This is a book about collisions. Life isn't always as we plan, but if we focus on Jesus we see His greater plan. We see this in Ruth's story. Sarah shares scripture and gives us glimpses of Ruth's life. We open our imagination to a Ruth we can still relate to today. 

I enjoyed learning about Sarah and how she has grown as a young woman of God through all of the collisions that has touched her life. I must be honest and share that I wanted more of Ruth.

The take away from this book? Be true to yourself and above all, seek Jesus. 

This book is a gift from Bethany House for sharing my review with you. 

Sarah Jakes oversees the women's ministry at The Potter's House of Dallas, the church led by her parents, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Mrs. Serita Jakes. She regularly blogs at sarahjakes.com and occasionally serves as a TV host on The Potter's Touch. Sarah is a mom of two and lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Learn more about her and her ministry at sarahjakes.com.

The Desire by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

I LOVE this series. Love it!! Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley have come together to bring a series that is real and has the potential to be powerful for the reader. They share issues that families face today. Issues that many times we are afraid to share. We keep these things hidden and try to remain perfect in a very imperfect world. 

Could you read, "The Desire", as a stand alone? Yes, of course, but you will be missing out. This is a series that begins with, "The Dance", and follows with, "The Promise". (check out my reviews). This series follows a family. It begins with introducing us to everyone, but in the first of the series the focus is on, Jim and Marilyn, the parents. The second installment takes the focus to, Tom and Jean, the oldest son and his wife. Now we get close to, Allan and Michele. Michele is the daughter of, Jim and Marilyn. 

The title gives us a clue of the main theme. Desire. Jim and Marilyn want a child of their own. But there is more that they desire. With great writing, and inviting characters, we are able to walk this journey with Jim and Marilyn. 

There is so much that I love about this series. In this novel I enjoy that the writers bring the question of desire to surface. Are our desires always God's? Do we at times get confused about what direction God wants us to travel? We see what our heart wants so badly. Nothing wrong with desire. But, we must learn to wait on the Lord and see what His plans are. Too often we skip ahead and try to make our own thing happen when it doesn't seem to be happening fast enough. We like to make plans. Our problem is that we often don't invite God along. 

We see this family come together once again. Struggles will always be in our lives. But, there too are many blessings that flow. This is a series that will not only be entertaining for an afternoon read, but will give you life lessons along the way. Love books that make me ponder. This is a one of them. 

Hey, this isn't the end to this series! We'll get to grab up book 4 in the spring of 2015. Enjoy!!

This novel was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of many books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, The Discovery, and What Follows After. He has won three Carol Awards, and three of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel.

Gary Smalley is one of the country's best-known authors and speakers on family relationships and has appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, and TODAY, as well as numerous national radio programs. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of many books, including the Baxter Family Redemption series with Karen Kingsbury and The Dance and The Promise with Dan Walsh. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 50 years and live in Missouri.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

HCSB Study Bible Personal Size, Black/Tan LeatherTouch Portfolio

First I must thank B&H Publishing for allowing me to review this beautiful Bible. There isn't a study Bible out there today that can compare with a Holman Study Bible. It is my absolute favorite Bible. I have a Holman Study Bible in the hardback form. It is simply AMAZING!! What is it about this one that I love so much? The size is perfect. This Bible is exquisite in every way

This is the black/tan 'leather touch' edition. Although 'leather touch' it is very sturdy and would last a lifetime. You can click on any link that I add here and check out all of the details and even get an inside view. You can find it on Amazon as well. 

I have also reviewed the Holman HCSB Ultra Thin Reference Bible, which is gorgeous.  A leather-bound edition that also another great choice if you're searching for a reference Bible. 

The HCSB translation is my favorite to study. This Bible has everything. It is filled with every tool you need to understand God's Word. 

  • I love the color photos
  • I'm a visual learner, so this Bible is perfect for me. 
  • I too love to dig in deep and this Bible has everything I need to do so. Another great aspect is the Greek/Hebrew Word Studies. They aid greatly in understanding the Word. 
  • The timelines are wonderful. 
  • Something that I found to enjoy are the essays on issues of today. They give a great theological view point.  
  • The maps are colorful and large. 
  • Although personal size the print isn't too small. 
  • Maps/illustrations/charts to guide you in a great Bible study.
  • Bible reading plans to choose from. 
  • A great concordance that has a wide selection.
  • I LOVE the introductions to each Book of the Bible.
If there was one thing I could say that isn't a highlight, that would be that the pages stick together. Let me explain. When you take your new Bible out of the box and open it you will find that some of the pages  stick together. Mostly the pages of the introductions and the essays. But, with a little patience, they come apart pretty easily. I found that if I fan the pages and then smooth out those that are sticking together from close to the bind outward, it's easy to take them apart. Once you have taken the time to do this they never stick again.

Friends, I encourage you to check out this Bible. It is the greatest study Bible I have found. It too would make an excellent gift to those who love studying the Word. You will not be disappointed by purchasing this extraordinary study Bible!

This Bible was a gift from B&H Publishing for sharing my review with you. 

Nowhere To Turn by Lynette Eason

Lynette Eason ROCKS at suspense! Another hit for Eason. She is that writer that you expect nothing less than excellence. She weaves a story together with characters you enjoy knowing. Okay, maybe the bad guys not so much. But she has strong characters. Characters with purpose and passion. The story always points to God's perfect timing and how living a faith-filled life empowers us in our journey. 

I get so excited when she has a new release. This is a series that I'm loving. The Hidden Identity Series is one that will keep you turning pages and on the edge of your seat. I've been blessed to review all of Eason's series, "Women of Justice", "Deadly Reunions", and her newest series, "Hidden Identity". The first book in the "Hidden Identity Series", is entitled, "No One To Trust". (Check out my review). 

The cover is very telling. Where do you go when you're on the edge and shadows are all around? Ah, do you see the light casting a shadow on the figure approaching? That same Light protects and guides! Love this cover! 

This is one of those unputdownable quick reads. I say quick because once you begin reading you don't want to wait to find out what happens next. This entire book is filled with suspense. Evil surrounds the main character. She is searching for a way out. For someone to protect her. But trust in is a HUGE issue. These characters all have a hidden identity in one way or another. Of course some are evil and they are trying to hide their schemes. But some have a past that they would rather stay hidden. Others, like the main character want to hide what is happening to their lives in the present. But as we see nothing remains hidden for long. The main character feels weak and defenseless. She is so much more than what she's been told she is. She is strong and courageous. When all around her seems dark and no way out she cries out to Jesus. The One who has always been on her side and guiding her to a life that no longer has to be hidden. The new is revealed when the hidden is truly seen for what it is. 

I would highly recommend any novel penned by Lynette Eason. She brings out the best in her characters and leaves the reader with a new strength and reason to roar into a greater faith!

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series and the Deadly Reunions series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She has a master's degree in education from Converse College and she lives in South Carolina. Find out more at www.lynetteeason.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days by Holley Gerth

Holley Gerth has become a sweet favorite of mine. I've been blessed to review all of her books and now this newest gem. When it arrived, I took it out of the box and smiled. This is absolutely cheerfully cute! This little hardback edition is pocket sized. Perfect! It would be impossible to pick up this book and not instantly feel better. 

For me this is much more than a devotional. Sure, you could use it as such. Read it daily for inspiration. Set aside one evening a week to enjoy a sweet concoction of Psalms and Holley's encouraging words. I will most likely keep it on my desk for moments I need to just take a step back and breathe. It too would make a great gift!!

I've shared about the packaging. Now, for what's inside. Who doesn't need a dose of Psalms when the day is looking haggard? One of the devotionals is entitled, "God is Bigger Than Your Problems". The Psalm that Holley shares is: "The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth." Psalm 97:5 Next, Holley shares a personal story. It's followed with a section of, "What My Heart Is Saying To You", and then, "What My Heart Is Hearing From You"

There are many topics. Each are sure to touch you in one way or another. A dose of cheerful joy. A life lesson. Thoughts to ponder throughout the day. Holley's words are soothing balm for the heart. They lift instantly and encourage the reader to fix their eyes upon Jesus and soak in His Word. This is what I love about Holley. She places the spotlight on Jesus. She shares from the heart. Her words flow easily and her stories are personal and meant to connect with the reader's heart. 

I've had the pleasure of reading, "You're Already Amazing", "You're Going To Be Okay" and "You're Made for a God-Sized Dream". Check out my reviews. Every time I pick up a book penned by Holley I learn more about myself and I grow closer to the Lord. 

This book is a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Holley Gerth is a bestselling writer, certified life coach, and speaker. She loves connecting with the hearts of women through her popular blog and books like You're Already Amazing, You're Made for a God-Sized Dream, and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. She's also cofounder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring. Holley lives with her husband, Mark, in the South. Hang out with her at www.holleygerth.com.

Move On (When Mercy Meets Your Mess) by Vicki Courtney

Cleanup on aisle one! Now who hasn't been there? Messes are everywhere and most of all, right smack in our own lives. As soon as I opened this book and read the Preface I knew I was going to travel on a journey. A messy one, but one that was going to be filled with grace. 

This is my first book to read penned by Vicki Courtney. When I seen the cover and that red umbrella I was intrigued. Barefoot and running. Been there. Trying to run through the rain without getting wet is like trying to make it through the mess without getting dirty. 

Vicki had my attention quickly. When she started off with a personal story, she not only shared a mess, but she gave the perfect picture of God's grace. 

She is transparent and real. I love that she doesn't just give us scripture and say, do this and don't do that. Which you will find in chapter 6, "Law and Order". But she shares God through her own life. This is how we reach the world for Christ. She isn't afraid of being honest and sharing the ugly truths of life. We cover up and pretend. Yes, that's our plastic world. Pretend doesn't make for a joyful life. Grin and bear it, but for heaven's sake, don't share it. 

Ever feel the need to be approved? Has Christian snobbery touched your life? Have you entered a church that was subscribed to the stained glass masquerade? Vicki touches on the subject that our churches have stopped being hospitals for the sick and have opted instead to become showrooms for polished pretenders

"Most of us are hesitant to examine our hearts for fear of what we might find there. We have nothing to fear when we keep the steadfast love of the Lord as our faithful guide. His unfailing love gives us the courage to admit our struggles, open our wounds, expose our shame, and confess our sin. Living an authentic, vibrant, real faith requires us to admit we are under construction but deeply loved by God in the restoration process." 

Vicki reminds us to keep God's grace in the spotlight. She speaks about transforming moments and the road to becoming the women and men God has created us to be. She shares turning points in her life where grace met the mess in the middle. 

Here are a few questions Vicki gives us to ponder the chapters we have read:

  • Can you think of a time when you went along with an expressed opinion, even though you disagreed, in order to conform and not make waves (that is, you "lost your voice")?
  • When it comes to the shoulds and should nots, in what ways are you guilty of believing others should abide by your self-imposed rules?
  • Would you say your core group of Christian friends is more likely to engage in the pretender game or come clean about struggles they are experiencing? And are there levels of disclosure? How deep do you go?
  • How would you characterize your church? Is it a hospital for broken people or a showroom for polished pretenders?
  • Can you think of a time when someone else's idol was exposed and you expressed a holier-than-thou attitude of disgust? What was the situation?
  • What is your most recent encounter with shame? What were some of the messages or "shame tapes" that played in your head?"

I absolutely LOVE this book! I want to make my way through it again, slowly taking in the precious words of wisdom that Vicki shares. This is one of those books that has the power to set the reader on a course to releasing what this world expects from us and gives us the courage to let it all go and be real in Jesus! As you can see Vicki goes deep. She goes beyond finger pointing and gets straight to the heart of the matter. This is a book I highly recommend for every heart ready to explore all God has for us and living a life of abundant grace. 

This book was a gift by Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.

Vicki Courtney is a national speaker to women of all ages and the best-selling author of many books and Bible studies, including 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter and Ever After. Vicki and her husband have three grown children, a son-in-law, daughter-in-love, and grandson.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Morning Dew Feet

As I was walking through the morning grass I realized my feet were now wet from the dew. My toes were now covered with green. 

My heart was now churning in full speed. I knew there was a lesson to uncover. I was just waiting for my morning brain to catch up. And there it was. The lesson!

Whatever my hands and feet touch it is sure to cover me. 

"God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

As I looked down at my dirty feet I noticed the clover sprinkled with dew. Each clover holding three little hearts. Glory caught in my throat. Tears were ready to escape. I knew the Spirit was moving in me. I had not been paying close attention to where my feet were stepping. 

"Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily snares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne." Hebrews 12:1-2

"Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God." Ephesians 5:1-2

By the time I entered the house and made my way through the living room to the kitchen the floor was now touched by my path of green. Every footprint left a little bit of my outside step. Oh, boy, what if I'd have stepped in something stinky. Ewe! 

I washed my feet and now was backtracking in cleaning up my mess. 

Isn't this so true in our daily walk? If we walk in fragrant flowers how sweet the smell that follows. The trail we leave behind sets a path for others to adore. We take a step in dirt and it isn't worth sharing. 

Jesus was there to give of Himself for days like this. Days we would lose track of our step. But there before us is redemption. He cleans our feet to set us on the right path. 

We are always washing our hands. We don't want to spread germs. We don't want to attach dirt to the clean before us. What about our heart? Shouldn't we be making sure our heart is clean? Somehow we forget. We ignore. We become tragically stagnant and we don't notice what has become unclean. 

We wouldn't sit down to dinner with dirty hands. We wouldn't walk into our friend's home with dirty shoes. Why don't we take as much care with our heart? 

"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

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." Proverbs 4:23

It is so important for us to guard our heart, mind, and soul. We need to be aware of what we are allowing into our lives. What touches us, touches the heart. What we allow into the mind overflows into the heart. What we live touches the lives of others. 

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

Moved by The Spirit

Can you picture the apostles walking along, side by side, talking with Jesus? It's a lovely portrait to capture in the heart. Oh, the expressions upon their faces, shining with joy, as the Savior shares story after story. While the sun is hot upon them they are engaged in conversation. The laughter they must have shared in the cool of the night. The meals they feasted on together, no matter how small or great, gave opportunity to grow even closer together. Fishing wasn't just for fun, but life lessons for them to carry as they would come to share the gospel with the world. I can clearly see them pondering thought and asking questions that stirred the heart. Jesus in His patience answering each one in perfect time. 

Do you ever wonder what it was like for them to sit with Jesus? The Savior and the apostles, friends, brothers, family. Jesus' hands reaching out to them to follow Him. Arms wrapped around one another in love and friendship. All different, each with their own gifts, coming together to walk with Jesus. I can picture friends sitting along the sand bank, stepping out on the water sandal free. Brothers seeing who can skip the farthest rock. 

Pondering what it must have been for them makes my heart yearn to walk with Jesus. Someday heaven will open up and embrace us to do the same. We will walk with our Savior. Oh, the wonders we shall experience together. Can you imagine? 

They had the Savior walking in step with them. I imagine after a time they knew what His step sounded like. They would know if He entered a room. They knew His scent by heart. His touch upon their shoulder brought great comfort. Do you think they joked with one another? I can see them encouraging one another as they traveled the roads with dusty feet. 

As I wonder what it must have been like I can't help but wonder if they would want to be in our shoes. We have not seen our Savior's face. We have yet to feel His embrace. Our feet aren't dusty from travel with Him from city to city. We are blessed to experience Jesus in a different way. We look forward to heaven, but we cannot forget that He is with us today. His Spirit is within us. We are soul to soul with our Savior. You can't get any closer than that. He is with us morning, noon, and night. Where I go, He goes. He knows my innermost thoughts. He knows the words that sit upon my tongue before they are spoken. I cannot enter into a room without Him right there with me. Side by side, me and my Savior. The Holy Spirit lives within us. He is our gift. A gift upon receiving Jesus as Savior. At that very moment the Spirit moves within us and fills us whole. The Spirit falls upon our heart, deep within our soul we can feel Him. Hear His voice? Feel His comfort? There is power in His strength. Wisdom shared in moments of glory. 

Can you hear Him say, "Child, look! Look at My glory?" He encourages us to open our eyes to see all He has for us and inspires us to open our ears to hear His voice. He is there to guard us with His hedge of protection. He warns us against steps that will bring us harm. He is there to help us overcome temptation. "You can do it, My child." 

Imagine the love of our Savior to leave us with this precious and holy gift. He goes before my step. He stands guard over my heart. He keeps me still as I feel His presence with me. When I want to lash out in anger He is there to quiet me. If I only listen. 

He never leaves us. Never. When we walk into sin He doesn't check Himself at the door. He walks with us. Can you hear Him? He's telling us to remember who we are. We are children of the King of kings, Lord of lords. We are redeemed by His blood. There is nothing we cannot do without Him. He encourages our steps. He opens doors and brings opportunity. When we have sinned He is there to convict our heart. Not to condemn us, but to bring us back to Him. Can you hear Him? "Watch out! Please, dear child, don't go there.

The Holy Spirit pours Himself out within me moment by moment. I am never alone. That is comforting.  It is so encouraging to know wherever I step He is with me. My God spot is filled and forever engaging with me. I have learned His voice. Sweet words that sooth when anxiety hits me. Fatherly words to keep me from evil. Whether in the quiet of the day or when I'm surrounded with noise, His voice is always present. 

Whether I am faced with battle, trial, or blessing, the Spirit is there with me to experience every moment! Just think about that. That should bring joy and peace to the heart of the one who has received Jesus.We are God's vessel as the Spirit moves us. We obey His voice. We are comforted even though trouble lingers. We trust the Lord as we know that His Spirit is within us.

As I go about my day I have conversations with my Lord. I open my heart to hear His voice. When I'm broken I hear Him wash me with words of promise and healing. When I am struggling with sin I feel Him move in me, guarding me, protecting me, motivating me to follow Him. He leads me out of trouble. He makes way for me to have precious moments with Him in prayer. He is my strength and my courage. All I must say is His name and He's there. Jesus, sweet Jesus.

"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn't see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you." 
John 14:16-18

"I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you." 
John 14:25-26

"Don't you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body." 
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

At Least I'm Not Like Her

Sitting in our pews we find comfort. We search around with our eyes until there, right before us, is someone we can compare ourselves to. Then we begin to whisper with our heart. 

Oh, wow, I can't believe she wore that skirt to church. 

I can't believe she has tattoos on her arms. 

Look at that couple. They aren't even married, but they are living together. 

Yep, there's Tom. I seen him last night walking out of the bar and look at him now dressed in his yellow tie and new suit. 

There's Mary Jane. Did you hear about her family? Poor thing. She and her husband are divorcing. Turns out he was having an affair. 

Check out Marcie. That girl is something else. Always chatting it up with someone. I can hear her gossiping all the way over here in my quiet little pew. 

I can't believe Nancy and Tom have five children. They are having such troubles with them. People like that don't even deserve kids. 

Do you see how much weight Betty has gained? 

Carl is over there smells like cigarettes while his Bible is in his lap.

I'd thought Becky was off of those drugs by now, but she looks as if she is on something today.

Look at Alice. She thinks because she is secretary she is better than everyone else. Doesn't she know her son is gay?

Sound familiar? Ever have conversations with your heart? Oh, no one else can hear. It's just you and the heart, looking about and making sure there are others who should be aware of their sin. 

Shameful people. Why do they even attend church? 

"This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"- and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life." 1 Timothy 15:16

Paul is sharing with Timothy from his heart. A heart that once persecuted Christians. One that now is filled with humility and gratitude. Saul may have searched for sinners at one time. Sinners to persecute. But now, Paul searches for hearts in need of Christ. That road to Damascus was a changer. Blinded for three days. He could no longer search for those in need of persecution. He couldn't look outward. He was now coming face to face with his own sinning heart, as God shown grace upon him, with love and tenderness, forgiveness reached his heart and life changed for him. No longer the man to search others, but with his humble heart realized the sinner that he was...is...A sinner redeemed. 

We cannot compare sinners. Sin is sin. It's ugly. It's real. We like to pet our own sin. Pretend it isn't much. We find every excuse for our own, but accuse others. Why? It doesn't make our sin seem so bad. We can find comfort in looking at others. Our aim? To make ourselves feel better. God's aim? To save the sinner. 

God's grace never draws a line with a willing soul. 

"But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" Romans 5:8

The pew is starting to get a little uncomfortable isn't? I can tell you this; if your pew is getting too cozy it's time to get up and move. Change views. A view that gives a direct line to the heart within. 

"Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Matthew 7:5

It's easy for us to judge others when we don't know or even understand the entire circumstance. Everyone comes with a past. Everyone has a story. The journey is our own. The purpose of our journey is to meet up with Jesus and accept Him as our Savior. We must take our eyes off others and seek within before we can begin to grow into the women and men God has created us to be. Part of that journey is realizing that we are ALL sinners. No one is greater. Didn't the apostles have that very argument? 

"Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest." Luke 22:24

Why can't we seem to grasp that there is no one who is a better Christian than another? Just as we cannot compare sinners, we cannot compare Christians. There is no such thing as a super Christian. Let's be real. We all sin. We all struggle. It's too easy to judge others, but friends, we cannot expect from others what we ourselves are not willing to give. 

Our walk with Jesus is our own. We have to stop looking at others to make ourselves feel better. We have all been there, right? I know I'm not the only one. The thing is, we must be honest. Why not be transparent? Allow the world to see that, yes, we do struggle! When we begin to be honest with ourselves we can begin to be honest with others. 

Next time the thought of, "At least I'm not her", pops into our mind, remember...His grace reaches far and wide and you know, she just may be thinking the same thing about me. 

Salvation is for all. Yes, all of us sinners. 

Next time we are sitting in our pew, instead of looking around in search of comparisons, why not bow our head in prayer. Remember, Jesus doesn't compare us to His other children. Focus on the reason we are at church. We got up and readied ourselves so we could worship the King of kings, Lord of lords. Let us get into the Word and search our heart wide and deep. Settle our own accounts with God and allow God room to move and work in others. 

"Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained." Philippians 3:12-16

The more we strive to follow Christ's example and the more we remain focused on Him, the less we will be looking to others for comparisons. As Christ changes our heart, from day to day, to be more like Him, we will begin to see others in His image. We will judge less and love more. Let us look for the beauty in others and always be ready to extend love in our Lord's example of extravagant grace. 


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