Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey day is over.... am I still thankful?

Well, turkey day is over. It comes and goes so fast! However I have been cooking three casseroles and a chocolate cake tonight (which by the way may not be as delicious as planned because my home made chocolate icing did not want to set up right!). We are visiting my dad this weekend for thanksgiving dinner with him, so the calorie intake is just not quite over for us.

My family and I had a wonderful thanksgiving, and I hope you did as well. As I sit here in my kitchen, the day after thanksgiving, at 11:30pm, wiping flour off of my brow and taking Advil for an aching back from standing in the kitchen so long, I am simply and utterly thankful. I have so many blessings to be thankful for, that I cannot even count them all. I wonder - why has God blessed me so? What have I done to deserve my blessings? What did I ever do to deserve any mercy or grace from God? Why am I blessed?

Even though I always find myself asking these questions, in my heart I know the answer. I do not deserve a thing. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

I am not always a patient mom. I am not always a loving wife. I am not always the best daughter, sister, friend, or neighbor. I have skeletons in my closet, sins in my past, and sometimes bitterness, resentment, discontentment, and jealousy in my heart. I know that I deserve nothing. But it is knowing that, which makes me love my Lord even more. Knowing that I do not deserve any blessings, much less the millions that I have been granted, makes me so thankful for my Jesus. Why does He bless us? Because that is what He does. Even though we have never and will never deserve it.

A few weeks ago, I entered "Thanksgiving Day" into the calendar on my blackberry phone. All of this week, that calendar reminder has been there on my screen. Now, I didnt need a reminder about Thanksgiving, I am not quite that absent-minded - however, I needed to remember why I am thankful, so in that calendar entry, I had typed in the verse Hebrews 12:28. I wanted to be reminded why I should be thankful in my heart, not merely thankful for the physical or emotional blessings that I have received.

Hebrews 12:28 says this from The Message Bible, "Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He's actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won't quit until it's all cleansed. God himself is Fire! "

The New Living Translation says it this way: "Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe."

Sometimes I lose sight of what I am supposed to be seeing. I forget what I have. I forget what God has really given me. I forget to be truly thankful - for my eternal life, not just for my earthly blessings. I need to be thankful when Im angry at someone, when someone has hurt me, when things are not going my way, and when I cant have the things that I think I need or want.

I am thankful for the hope that I can have when things seem to be hopeless. I am thankful for the peace that God gives me in the midst of a crisis, which I could not have on my own. I am thankful knowing that the bible tells us that all things work together for the glory of God, and for knowing that there is a purpose for everything that happens in life.

I am thankful for Gods forgiveness, not just for my sins, but for forgiving me for doubting His will and and His ways when I watch people I love experience pain and suffering. I am thankful that He understands my feelings, and longs to remind me that He loves me despite my failed attempts to fully trust Him and depend on Him.

I think I may plug that verse into my phone as a daily reminder from now on. I hope that it helps me to celebrate Thanksgiving every day, not just every November.

We have a kingdom and a God that cannot be shaken, no matter how much our life seems to be shaken up. Now that is something to be thankful for all year long.

Turkey day is over.... am I still thankful?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Christian Prize

I personally do not like reality shows... in fact I despise them and have made it a personal commitment to not watch anything that falls into the category of "reality". However, one day last year I found myself watching the strangest reality game show I have ever seen.

Six women had been selected to participate in this game, which consisted of putting their hand on a $10,000 wedding dress and not removing it, in the hopes of being the last one standing, and thus the only woman to go home with the beautiful gown.

As the women endured the agony of standing upright for hours on end with their hand tightly gripping a piece of the dress, they were consistently faced with new challenges by the game show hosts, such as being forced to wear high heel shoes, stand on a small wooden box without lifting their feet, and even holding a bouquet over their head.

In addition, at varying intervals of the game, the women were tempted with exquisite shoes, expensive wedding cakes, elaborate trips and romantic excursions, with each temptation being an effort to get them to lose sight of their goal of winning the dress and focus on ending the hardships they were enduring.

After 24 hours of standing in uncomfortable high heel shoes, bearing the painfully cold winter night, having no sleep and only brief moments of rest, their strength to continue towards their goal gradually diminished. The fervent willpower they had exhibited at the beginning of the game was nothing but a memory as they became consumed by their hardships - that they were tired, cold, hungry, emotionally unstable, and their feet, legs and back were in pain. Two of the women had gotten so weak and tired, that their mental capacities were affected, and they accidentally let go of the dress without even realizing it. It was during their weakest moments, that the host stepped in to try to entice them with appealing temptations.

The thought came to me, that this silly game show is a symbolization of the life of every woman. We each have so many goals in our hearts – to be a Godly woman, a passionate devoted wife, a patient and loving mother, a great employee, a good sister, a trusted friend. But at times life is hard, and it is during these times when we are broken, and desperate for relief of our pain, that the enemy comes in to steal, kill and destroy.

It is during these difficult times, those times when we are struggling in our marriages and relationships, that our willpower is weak, and we are more likely to succumb to temptations and turn our focus away from Christ.

When we are so desperate for a change, or a resolution to or problems, that we lose sight of the goal, it is then that we inadvertently let go of the prize. When our guard is down, and when we are weak and broken, the enemy will sweep in with empty promises that seem so appealing at the time, but as soon as we let go of the prize and lose our focus on Christ, the door is opened for Satan to continue pulling us in the wrong direction.

The “prize” for Christians, is knowing that we have Jesus living in our hearts daily, helping us through those rough times, and knowing that one day we can walk away with the ultimate reward, which will be eternal life in the heavenlies. Our heavenly Father is ours, to have and to hold. We merely have to choose to have him in our hearts, and to hold him so dear to our hearts that no temptations can separate us from choosing to follow Him

The Christian PrizeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dealing With Sibling Rivalry

1 Peter 1:22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each deeply with all your heart. (NLT)

Yesterdays Proverbs 31 devotion and my blog post was about disciplining our children - something we do not enjoy doing, but that is necessary to raise healthy, loving children. But what about when everyone in the household seems to be at odds with each other! It not only takes a toll on our hearts and emotions, but eventually it leads us to tire of the situation, and tire of trying to make things right, possibly even making things seem hopelessly out of our control.

Sibling rivalry tends to take a toll on my disposition more than anything else. I always find myself saying "Why cant we just all get along!" But I suppose since God made us all different, with unique personalities, and then sin made us self centered creatures, conflict is destined to happen!

Let me give you a brief run-down about something that happened in our house once:

6:15am: I was abruptly awoken by the phone ringing-school was cancelled due to weather. I could sleep in and the children and I could enjoy a peaceful day at home, sipping hot chocolate and snuggling by the war fireplace.

8:15am: Children come downstairs and crawl in bed with me. 8:20am: Children begin struggling over who gets to hug me the most. For fear of injury, ended that quarrel and leaped out of bed to make breakfast. As my daughter pulls the griddle from the cabinet, the coffee pot tumbles out, shattering into a hundred pieces. 8:30am Shattered glass cleaned up.

8:35am Asked my son to get eggs out of refrigerator. As he rushes to retrieve them, the lid falls open, a dozen eggs crack all over the floor.

8:45: Finish mopping the floor after cleaning up the eggs. Hear spoons going wild-argument occurring over who gets to stir the pancake mix.

9:00am: Grumpy due to no morning coffee. Seriously contemplating renting a bulldozer to scrape ice off the roads so school could reopen. I found myself asking, what happened to the peaceful day I had envisioned?

On this frustrating morning, I had to desperately pray for patience! I would rather clean up ten milk spills (or broken eggs and coffee pots) than hear my children quarrelling. So what is a mom to do?!

I yearn for my household to be filled with peace and happiness, not quarrels and punishments. I yearn for my children to understand the importance of loving each other and treating others with kindness, consideration and love. Most importantly, I desire for them to understand that being a faithful servant of Christ does not end when you accept Christ into your heart. True devotion to Christ is showing our ability to put aside our own desires and frustrations, and respond to others in a loving way – including brothers and sisters.

We sat down for a family discussion. I explained that by loving each other, they are also showing love to God; and when they are mean to each other, that God feels that as well. The bible tells us that whatever we do to the least of these, we are also doing unto Him.

As they learn to treat their brothers and sisters with love and respect, they will be equipping themselves to better love and respect all of their Christian brothers and sisters - not only those in our biological family, but those in our spiritual family as well. Lastly, I mentioned that when they treat each other lovingly they are treating Christ lovingly through their actions. Their faces beamed when they heard that they could make Jesus smile, just by being kind to one another.

Even if I have to give them this speech daily for the truths to sink into their hearts, it will be well worth the time and effort. We still have a long way to go in achieving perfect household harmony, but with God, I know that all things are possible.

Dealing With Sibling RivalrySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, November 17, 2008

Being A Godly Parent Includes Discipline

Welcome P31 subscribers and regular visitors! Todays Proverbs 31 online devotion is sometimes a hard lesson to swallow, because it is often hard to be a disciplinarian; frustrating to be a disciplinarian; and even exhausting to be a disciplinarian to our children.

Most moms would probably agree that it would be much easier to let the kids run wild and make their own choices, than constantly work at disciplining them and training them in the ways of the Lord day in and day out. But it is so important to remember, that as much as I know my God loves me, I also know He loves my children, and that a huge part of that, is constantly guiding, teaching, training, loving, disciplining, and molding.

Last year, God reminded me just how much He loves my children, and I want to share it with you.

My sons little friend was turning eight, and he was invited to his summer pool birthday party. I knew this family pretty well and they lived in my neighborhood, so I slathered on his sunscreen, picked out his favorite beach towel, and drove him around the corner for an afternoon of fun. My only hesitation was that he was not a great swimmer, so I explained to the birthday boys parents that he needed to stay in the shallow end of the pool at all times, and asked that they keep a close eye on him for safety. The mom assured me that they would, and I kissed my sweet boy goodbye.

Three hours later I arrived back at the pool party. I walked through the back yard and entered through the big wooden gate, only to see my little boy sitting on one flimsy, yellow, foam noodle – right smack in the middle of the deep end of the pool!

I immediately became concerned, but as the mother approached me, she informed me that he had been swimming in the deep end with noodles during the entire party, and had had a great time, so with a concerned chuckle, trying not to allow my irritation to show, I said to her, “Well, I guess that is okay, as long as he was not drowning.”

No sooner had those words rolled off of my tongue, my son lost his balance and plunged off the noodle into the deep blue water. I frantically watched for five or six seconds as he tried to grasp for the noodle, with his little head bobbing in and out of the water. I yelled for him to grab the noodle, hold his breath, and paddle to the side, until I saw the look of absolute fear and panic wash over his face and he began to choke.

Instantly, and involuntarily, I dove into the cold pool to save him, fully panicked and fully clothed. I grabbed him tightly from under the water and held him close and as I swam to the side of the pool, setting him safely on the side.

I climbed out of the pool, feeling a little weak in the knees at this sudden and unexpected crisis - and then a little embarrassed as all the other adults, fully dry of course, stood staring at me, all of them looking like deers caught in headlights. But other than a few stares, nobody had really been paying attention to what was going on in the deep end. After a few hugs, a little crying and gaining reassurance that my son was okay, we both dried off and left for home.

As I held my son safely in my arms, I was haunted by unsettling thoughts: What if I had arrived just a few minutes later to pick him up from that party? What if he had fallen off of his float, and the other adults had not seen him trying to keep his head above water? What if they had not heard him trying to yell out for help, over the laughter and squeals of the other children swimming around him? What if no one had noticed my son was drowning, until it was too late? The scene would have been much different upon my arrival to the party, had I been even a few seconds later. I shudder to think of it.

I called out to God in earnest prayer that day, thanking him for his divine timing, and the fact that I had arrived within seconds of when my son needed me; thanking him for protecting my son; thanking him for sparing my son’s life; thanking him for the gift of my son and for the gift of being a mom.

It was a reminder to me, that just as we strive to meet the needs of our children and protect them from harm, even more so is God’s desire to meet our needs and desires and shower us with protection, and that He cares for our children as much, even more, than we do. He cares enough to divinely orchestrate my arrival to a pool party with the exact timing of my sons plunge into the deep water - God cares about us and our children.

It is His love for all His children, young and old, that caused Him to send his son to die for us on the cross, and pay the penalty for our sins, so that we could have eternal life.

It is His love for us, that caused Him to not only give us mothers to love us and teach us right from wrong, but to give us the privilege of being mothers or role models who can influence young minds. Being a parent is not just an act or a season, it is a blessing, a privilege and a responsibility - and even though discipline is not fun, it is much needed.

The definition of discipline is: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. The word discipline does not mean harsh treatment, anger provoked treatment, abuse or spanking with sticks, brooms, pans, etc.

Discipline does not mean verbal or emotional abuse, resulting in tearing down the self esteem of a child by telling them they can never do anything right or will never amount to anything.

Discipline does not mean physical abuse or neglect, or withholding basic life necessities or love from children because of misbehavior.

In fact, discipline means love. Loving discipline is what God does to us when needed, and He expects us to give children that same gift of love. Any disciplinary tactics that would not please God, could simply be abuse, not displine.

Proverbs 22:6 says "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

Ephesians 6:4 says "Fathers, (and mothers I might add!), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Scripture instructs us to lovingly discipline our children - a command from God - but God expects us to do so in a way that is pleasing to Him, and in a way that shows our children who God is, through us and through our actions.

We discipline because we love. "Fruit", in the Galatians verse above, is intended to mean "end product" or "harvest".

The children that God has placed in our lives are a form of that fruit that we bear. Whether you are a mother, aunt, grandmother, foster mom, babysitter, neighbor, adoptive mom, school teacher, Sunday school teacher, friend, or big sister - God has put those children in your life to help raise them up, by being an example, and by loving them enough to lovingly discipline them.

He has put children and teens in our lives so that we can play a part in shaping and molding their hearts, so that one day they can grow up and live a life that pleases Him, and a live a life that helps others find Christ.

If you have a hard time discplining your children or those children God has put in your path, because of some of the reasons mentioned in todays P31 devotion, pray for Gods guidance about this. Ask for His peace about what actions you should take to help mold and guide these children, and ask for His grace to guide you in your decisions.

If you have acted out in anger and disiplined in ways that are not pleasing to God, ask for His forgiveness and mercy, and for Him to guide your every thought and action in the future. Ask for Him to touch the hearts of the children in your life, and to help you be a shining example of His love.

Are you looking for some strong Christian resources about parenting or handling difficult issues that parents face? Check out the Proverbs 31 library - you will find solid, Christian books and audio resources to help you be the parent that God has called you to be.
(Tune in tomorrow for a post about dealing with sibling rivalry!)

Being A Godly Parent Includes DisciplineSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Disease of Busyness

Good morning all you busy bees. Thought I would share with you a picture that a friend took of me recently without my knowledge - no Im just kidding! That is not really me below - but it very well could be. It actually looks like something I would do!

My good friend Amy forwarded this picture out to all of us, and titled it the modern Proverbs 31 woman! I thought it was hilarious, but also very fitting!

We are all guilty of being too busy, but if you are anything like me, it takes something crazy like this picture to remind me to get my priorities straight! Seriously, like I said, this picture could be me! I take my laptop everywhere I go, spend way too much time on it, always writing, checking email, organizing things, surfing the web, and everything else that can be done on a laptop.

Aside from obsessive laptop usage, I typically tend to overcommit myself; volunteering for extra things at church; overlapping schedules for the kids sports activities; too much tennis in one week; trying to meet deadlines for writing devotions and blog posts; corporate training engagements; ministry engagements; laundry; carpooling; house cleaning; mending; socializing; and so on and so on.

All these things are good things, but when I find that I have allowed myself to get caught up in the disease of busyness, and as a result, begin feeling down, discouraged, and overwhelmed - only then do I start to think ...... where is God in this busy life of mine?

How often I forget that my busyness can become a lifestyle that crowds out God. I came across a quote once that said this: "The disease of busyness entails a lifestyle that’s so congested that the infected individual can neither enjoy nor nurture a healthy relationship with God.”

Despite how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, busyness does not make us a better person, better mother, better friend, better employee, or better Christian. Busyness is simply the act of being busy. Busyness is simply what we do to fill up our time.

Although todays culture would like us to think otherwise, God did not intend for us to live a life of hurry, fatigue, and distraction from Him. He did not intend that we put all of our energies into doing more, getting more, and being more. But for most of us, we get caught up in the disease of busyness either accidentally or be default of living, and it infects our lives to the point that we have no idea how to get healed!

I believe there is only one antidote to this disease: CHOICE. Some things we must do, but other things we can choose whether or not to do. We can choose to make God our highest priority, or we can choose to make keeping busy our priority.

As women, we like to say yes. We want people to think we are helpful, resourceful, dependable, willing to serve, and able to jump at a moments notice. We tend to rank our level of busyness right up there with the importance of a college education - but is that what the Word says is important? Nope.

Say this word out loud: NO. Say it again: NO. Get it? Sometimes we have to say no! Sometimes we have to say no to someone asking us to do something, even if it is a good thing to do, and that can be hard. But God asks that we come to Him with all of our requests, problems or concerns, including whether or not to take on another task or responsibility. We can choose to allow to guide our lips on whether or not to say yes and what things we should add to our plate on any given day - if any!

If after asking God about a decision, you feel prompted to say no, then pray that God will keep feelings of guilt from creeping into your heart - because we are great at feeling guilty about letting people down!

All we really need is Gods approval, and to make sure that we are acting in Gods will for our lives and our relationship with Him. That is an important fact to keep in mind when we feel compelled to say no to something that lets someone else down, even when we know it is in our best interest.

Are you infected with the disease of busyness today? Do you feel like there is no antibiotic for your form of busyness? Just start by praying. Ask God to show you where you should be serving and where you should be devoting your time and energies. Ask Him to make it clear which obligations or commitments you should let go of, so that you can make more time for Him, more time for your family, and more time to do the things that He has truly destined for you to do. Lastly, pray for a peace to be able to let go of that thing or things that God makes clear to you, and then pray for the courage to actually do it.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

This is a great verse to remind ourselves of - it might even prevent us from taking our laptops to the toilet! Take a rest today, friend. Take that antidote today of making good choices - choices that line up with Gods will for your life.

The Disease of BusynessSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Breakfast Buddy

Do you have a breakfast buddy? This term evolved in our house a couple years ago when I would try to convince my then 7 year old son to get up and get ready for school. The every day murmurs of "I hate school", and "school is boring", and "I dont want to get up", was starting to get old.

One day, I had an idea, and told little Michael that if he hurried, we could sit down and eat breakfast together, instead of grabbing pop tarts as we rushed out the door in our normal early morning chaos trying to beat the tardy bells at school. His face lit up, and he seemed excited about that! Then I got excited, because I not only found a way to motivate him to get up without groaning, but it gave him something to look forward to, and we had a few precious, peaceful moments to spend together.

Ever since then, I hear those sweet words practically every morning, unless he gets up early on the weekends while I am still sleeping and quietly sneaks off to play the Wii without any sisterly interruption. Many mornings, I open my eyes to him standing at my bed, looking directly into my face, and saying "come on breakfast buddy, Im hungry".

Recently God impressed upon my heart that He wants to be my breakfast buddy too. I am sure God has stood at the foot of my bed in the early morn, and summoned me to be His breakfast buddy, but instead I chose to roll over the try to go back to sleep. The Bible even tells us that He wants us to get up early in the morning to spend time with Him, but most of us would rather choose more zzzzzzz's over getting up and focusing on something.

Last week on one cold morning, the heat was running, I was all snuggly in my bed, and the covers seemed especially comfy.... but I awoke at 4:30am. I tried to go back to sleep, but sleep just wouldnt come. I felt in my heart that God wanted me to be His breakfast buddy that morning, and after a awhile, I finally gave in.

I got up and started a pot of coffee, anxiously awaiting for the perking to stop so I could put my new peppermint creamer in it, and sat down on the couch with my Bible. I flipped through various passages, each one speaking something to my heart that would help me get through the day, or give me some comfort about a problem I had been facing. I felt rejuvenated the whole day, and even though I had risen early, I was full of energy. It was even better than breakfast!

Have you been in need of a breakfast buddy lately? Have you felt God calling you to spend time with him, but busyness or negligence seems to stand in the way? I dont think that God can ever have too many breakfast buddies, so think about answering His call tomorrow morning.

I still eat breakfast with my little man/breakfast buddy every day, and as much as possible, I try to make God my breakfast buddy too. I also know that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there also. Only two bowls of cereal are on the table, but I know that three chairs are filled.

Breakfast BuddySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, November 10, 2008

Taking Out The Trash

Happy Monday! If you have linked over to my blog from the Proverbs 31 daily online devotional, then welcome friend!! And welcome back to all of my regular friends as well! I hope you will enjoy todays post and come back again to visit - and it would be even greater if you sign up as a subscriber! I would love to partner with you in focusing on Gods messages in our lives each day and getting to know you!

In keeping with todays topic of messiness, Ill take a moment to tell you about another type of messy frustration we tend to experience around my house.

Unfortunately I live in a county which does not require a leash law. At any given time, various breeds of dogs, some friendly and some not so friendly, are roaming freely around the neighborhood. They frolic and play during the day, and venture into the forbidden mysteries at night. Forbidden mysteries for dogs include important places like backyards, wood sheds, and the ever so delightful special dog treasures – trash.

Countless mornings I have walked outside to find an array of memories scattered throughout our yard – memories such as last week’s dinner leftovers, old magazines and empty toilet paper rolls. What we consider trash, the dogs consider treasures! Needless to say, I am not thanking God for dogs during these moments, instead I am hoping to locate the culprit and smack him with the broom. Then I begin to blame myself, because if I had not let the trash overflow to begin with, this big mess would have never even been available for nightly scavengers to find.

Have you ever considered that situations in our lives are often just like that scattered trash? During difficult periods of life, we allow trash to build up inside of us, such as unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, resentment, frustration, and jealousy. We allow last week’s problems or pain from childhood experiences, to scatter all over our hearts and make for a big mess. As a result, this “trash” in our soul, not only invades our heart, but overflows into our life. It not only affects us, but it has an impact on the people we come in contact with.

There have been days in my life, where I knew I was scattering my “trash” around to everyone around me. I fussed at my husband for not doing household chores (like taking out the trash!), I complained to my friend about my problems; I was impatient with my children. The trash in my heart was affecting others, my own heart and my relationship with Christ. Scripture tells us to confess our sins daily, to spend time in God’s word, and to treat and love others as we would want to be treated and loved. When our hearts are full of this soulful trash, we are not loving ourselves, therefore we are incapable of whole-heartedly loving others and our relationship with Christ is hindered as a result.

Whatever is in our heart, will eventually overflow into our life, and be displayed through our words and actions. I don’t know about you, but if I am going to scatter something all around me and my home for all to see, I certainly would prefer that it be love and kindness, than trash from my heart. Do you think it might be time for you to take out the trash?

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (NIV)

Taking Out The TrashSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, November 8, 2008

God Knows Your Name

Last year my family went on a vacation to the Caribbean, and one beautiful day we ventured onto the white sands and crystal waters, prepared for a beautiful day of sun and fun.

This particular beach offered lots of family activities, including paddle boats, kayaks, snorkeling and a water trampoline. Two of my children were not interested in jumping on the water trampoline, due to its’ long distance from the shore, however, my fearless ten year old daughter was pleading with me to allow her to play on it, and reassuring me it was perfectly safe.

Against my better judgment, but being confident of her swimming abilities, I agreed. About fifteen minutes after she had swum off into the distance, I lost sight of her. I strained my eyes looking for her, trying to pick her little head out of all the other bobbing heads in the ocean, but they all looked the same so far away. Finally out of sheer panic, I convinced my husband to swim out and look for her.

After what seemed like forever, he finally reached the trampoline, and although I could not see his face, I could see his body language change, as he searched for her on, around, and even under this huge blown up water toy. He jumped off the trampoline and began swimming to another water activity even further into the ocean. He was yelling out her name, and even total strangers joined in and began calling her name as well. Simultaneously on the sand, I was begging the beach guard to take the rescue boat out, and he finally did, but could not locate her.

Twenty more minutes passed, and I had fallen into a sheer state of panic and despair, tears streaming down my face, barely breathing, and repeating out loud, the words, “no! no! no!”. My other two children clung to me, crying and worrying about their sister. My oldest daughter was blaming herself and regretting that she had not gone out with her to play in the water.

In my heart, I fought off the fear that my daughter had perished in the strong currents. I prayed and cried to God for his mercy on her, not to take her little life, but instead to save her. Rescue her. Bring her back to me safely.

Minutes later, as my heart was beating out of my chest, I saw them - my husband, and my little girl, swimming towards the shore. My legs felt weak, and I dropped to my knees. I thanked God for this blessing, and for His mercy on us. When they finally arrived to shore, I grabbed my precious daughter and held her tightly in my arms. Her confusion quickly turned to tears, because all the while, she had just been having fun, and had no idea that we were fretting over where she was. She had been completely unaware that we were frantically searching for her.

Later as I thought back on this scary ordeal, I thought about how God must ache for His lost children. He loves His children more than I can love my own, and scripture tells us He is yearning to rescue those who are lost (Psalm 50:14-15). Many people live out day after day, completely unaware that God is searching for them and frantically calling their name.

If you have never truly accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, dear friend, know that He is searching for YOU today, and He wants you to find Him. Maybe you read my blog frequently or other Christian blogs, simply for daily encouragement and to give you something positive to think about. But you are missing out on what God has in store for you if you do not know Him as your Father.

If you feel like you are drowning in the sea of life, take heart in the truth that Jesus is searching for you, anxiously waiting for the moment when your eyes will meet, and He can wrap His loving arms around you, and rescue you. He is patiently waiting for you to hear Him calling your name, so that he can rejoice in knowing that you have been found.

God knows YOUR name… He is calling YOU… are you listening?
Luke 15:5-6 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep”.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Overcoming Disappointment

I watched with great excitement. My little man was doing a great job at his football game, but regardless of how good the team was doing, he looks so absolutely adorable in his little football uniform!

Saturday was the last day of the season, the last bowl game. It was a big game for all the nine year old boys on the team, and they were pumped! They played a great game, but in the 3rd quarter, the opponent got a touchdown. As hard as we tried, we couldnt get the ball over the line, until just before the game was over, and then "bam!", we got a touchdown. Ive never seen such small boys jump so high!

The game went into overtime, and each team was given 4 plays, and the one with the highest score after their four plays, wins the game. On the 3rd play we got a touchdown - whoo hoo! But unfortunately we missed the extra point. Then it was their turn - on their 3rd play they got a touchdown, and in the last few seconds, they got a 2 point conversion. Game over. From jubilation and excitement, to disappointment to discourage in a matter of seconds.

Sadness filled all of our hearts. Great disappointment instantly set it. As the other team rejoiced, jumped across the field and held up their trophies with excitement, our boys meandered off the field, with slumped shoulders and devastation on their faces. I was so glad I had my sunglasses on, which hid the tears that were welling up in my eyes.

As my sweet little boy in his hunky-looking uniform walked by with his team mates, he hung his head low and tried to choke back the tears. His cherub face washed in sadness.

It was just one ballgame, but my heart broke for him. I wished so badly that I could take away his disappointment. I wished so much that they could go back in time and play that play again, blocking better, having stronger defense, and winning the game. But the game was over, and disappointment attacked.

I remembered this today as I thought about all the things taking place in our country and the elections of all of our new officials. One team is elated at the final score of the game, the other team is facing great disappointment.

Despite knowing that God rules and controls all things, our hearts can still get bogged down with disappointment, as we desperately wish the outcome were different. We feel weighted down as we walk in the shadows of discouragement.

If we are not careful, that disappointment can sometimes overshadow our faith. We wonder why God didnt do things differently, why He let things happen that we didnt want to happen, or why He didnt make things better for us. Disappointment can plant little seeds of doubt in our minds, that seem harmless and maybe even unnoticeable at first, but if left to grow, can flourish into full blown doubt, leaving us feeling defeated and defenseless.

We could consider disappointment like a test, allowed by God to see if our trust in Him will waiver, or will it remain strong. Will we still believe in His goodness when things arent all that good?

If our joy depends on our circumstances, we will always be disappointed. People let us down. Government lets us down. Spouses let us down. Children let us down. Friends let us down. Family lets us down. Football game strategies let us down. The only One that does not let us down, is Jesus.

So how do we deal with disappointment? How do we deal with major setbacks, losses, and discouragements in all areas of our life? How do we keep from planting those seeds in our hearts that could eventually grow vines that choke out our faith?

I think we should simply look at the good, and let go of the bad.

Attitude is a powerful thing. If we choose to find something positive, it can overshadow the negative. We can lie in a pool of discouragement over all the things that have gone wrong in our life, or we can pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and trust God to make a masterpiece out of a seemingly useless pile of clay. If we focus on thanking God for all the good things in our life, that list of blessings will most likely overshadow the disappointments.

Saturday night, as I hugged my sweet little boy goodnight and comforted him with my embrace, he asked me to tell him a bedtime story. I told him about a little boy who was so disappointed about losing his football game. As I said that, his smile turned into a scorn. I then began to tell him about how that same boy had played a great game. How he had made important contributions. How he had tried his best.

I spoke of how that little boy practiced really hard over the next few months, and started a new football season the next year with a great attitude. I told him how that disappointed little boy became the greatest player on the team, and at the end of the season, his team won the big tournament game and then went to an awesome pizza party to celebrate afterwards. His sweet little smile returned, and he closed his eyes and rolled over to go to sleep. After all, he is just a little man, learning to live in a big mans world.

Are you dealing with disappointment today? Tell yourself a bedtime story. Fill it with dreams of how you want things to be, miracles that God can perform, and happiness that is within your reach if you believe in Gods sovereignty. Describe all the wonderful things that you would like to see happen, and count the blessings you have today that will help you achieve those dreams.

Nothing is too big for God. Today try to let go of the bad, and grab onto the good. Reach for God, and you too can be an overcomer, with the right attitude.

Ephesians 2:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Praise God

Yes, I am saying praise God today. No, my preferred candidate did not win the election. No, I dont think America necessarily made the right choice. And no, I am not without fear about what the next four years will hold.

However, I can still praise God. I know that God has been an integral part of this entire election process, from the small town officials to the presidential campaigns. I have seen religion play a bigger part in this election than I can recall in any other election in my lifetime.

I read an article from The Christian which was discussing all the "God talk" taking place over the past year. The article ended with this statement: Earley concluded: “It’s hard to know which is worse: that candidates think that talking about religion will make evangelical Christians forget why they care about politics – or that they might be right,”

Based on the outcome of the election, it appears that his prediction came true. I am shocked at the volume of evangelical Christians across this nation who chose Obama - a man whose beliefs were sketchy at best, who is pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, and pro-a lot of things that the bible speaks strongly against.

I am certainly not saying that McCain is a perfect man, nor without fault. We can all agree that Obama and McCain are both sinners,falling short of the glory of God, and in need of a Savior, just like you and me; however, the choice of whether or not these two men accepted that Savior should have been our deciding factor in who is going to run our nation - and the positions that were taken on the important issues, were merely a reflection of the persons true heart.

Instead of focusing on that crucial factor, many people, including faithful Christians, appear to have gotten caught up in the game of politics, and began playing the game based on the worlds rules, instead of standing up for what was right according to Gods set of rules.

Earley's statement above (Pres. of Prison Fellowship Ministries) spoke of a possibility which I believe came true today - many Christians apparently forgot that the reason we get involved with politics is to exercise the privilege and blessing of playing an important role in helping the United States of America continue to be one nation under God; to be a group whose faith is strong, and who will continue to fight for what is right in Gods eyes, and not be swayed by the changing of culture, promises to change the economy,or improve other national issues ; to be a united force who stands up for what is right because the Bible said so, not buckle to the pressures of a culture who wants everything to be deemed acceptable so people will not feel any guilt about committing sins against God or other human beings.

However, what is done is done. And what is done was apparently Gods will - and even if it wasnt Gods original plan, nonetheless, He allowed Obama to be elected. He allowed many of His children to get sucked into the belief that euphoria and problem-free living would come from electing a candidate who did not awake each morning, get on His knees, and ask for the help of the almighty Savior to make decisions to run an entire country, and impact the we world we all live in. Sad, but true.

As Christians, it is now our reponsibility, and our choice, to pray. However much we prayed before and during this election, we now need to pray ten-fold. I will be praying for Obama. I will be praying for his wife and children.

I will be praying for him to find Jesus as his personal Savior, if in deed, he has not done that, but simply led some to believe that he has. Only he and God know the answer to that question. But I intend on continuing to pray for our government, our great nation, our future, the world that my children have to look forward to.

I will pray that our new president will make some positive changes that will benefit everyone, not just some.

I will pray that he will be convicted and guided by a higher power that will help him make decisions that affect the lives of millions - those born, and those unborn.

I will pray that he will rely on the one and only God to guide Him as he sets out on this journey to run America and make history.

But regardless of what happens, I will still believe in the power of my God, and I will always believe that God uses all things to His glory. Prayers need to keep going up, today, next week, next month, two years from now - for our president, our country, our future.

I will continue to believe that God can and will use our new USA President to bring Christians back to Him, to bring the lost into His presence, and to strengthen the faith of His children by increasing our dependence on Him through difficult and trying times.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 (The Message)

1-2So when we couldn't stand being separated from you any longer and could find no way to visit you ourselves, we stayed in Athens and sent Timothy to get you up and about, cheering you on so you wouldn't be discouraged by these hard times. He's a brother and companion in the faith, God's man in spreading the Message, preaching Christ.

3-5Not that the troubles should come as any surprise to you. You've always known that we're in for this kind of thing. It's part of our calling. When we were with you, we made it quite clear that there was trouble ahead. And now that it's happened, you know what it's like. That's why I couldn't quit worrying; I had to know for myself how you were doing in the faith. I didn't want the Tempter getting to you and tearing down everything we had built up together.

Countless passages in the bible tell us that we will have troubles; that we will have battles to fight; that our fight may seem hopeless - but God always prevails. The object of our focus and our faith is in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and our faith will be our reward. It is important to remember that our efforts are not in vain, even if today, it seems that we have lost an important battle for the sake of Christ.

If the devil cant keep Christians from fighting the fight, he will at least try to hinder the successes of their efforts. Knowing that Gods will will always be done, even if we do not understand the situations we find ourselves in, is our motivation that is undeniable.

Regardless of who we voted for yesterday, and regardless of if your preferred candidate won or not, we can praise God. Not to say we will not experience frustrations, disappointments, and even confusion or distress - but if we believe in what Gods Word says, then we will always be able to say "Praise God".

Christians - let us stand united today. Differences do not have to divide us - we all serve the same God. Now is the time to stand up for Jesus more than ever.

Matthew 12:25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand."

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