Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Valuable One on One Time

Last night, my 8 year old son and I had some much needed one on one time. For weeks, probably months, he has been asking me for a "mommy-son night out". I have made a practice of having "mommy-daughter nights out" with my daughters too since they were small, and he was in need of another special night of his own.

Our life is just so busy, sometimes it is hard to make time for anything else besides the normal pulls of every day activities. But last night it worked out perfectly. One daughter was away at camp, one daughter was at cheerleading practice, and my husband was at a football meeting. So me and my little Michael, whom we call Little Buddy, took advantage of our evening, and had a wonderful time together.

He got to choose the agenda, so first we went to Outback, his favorite restaurant other than Chick Fil A, and had a delicious dinner.

Then, he wanted to go bowling. Not my favorite past time, but we had a great time just doing something together. Believe it or not, I had 3 strikes! I was pretty amazed at my bowling capabilities, even after years and years of not bowling, and a bad case of tennis elbow. But Michael still beat me fair and square in one game (and we only played two!).

Last but not least, he had to have his daily dose of chocolate ice cream, his favorite food which he honestly believes belongs in one of the four major food groups. It was a sweet time with my little boy!

But what touched my heart the most, was how special he felt. The whole evening he just glowed. He snuggled with me at dinner, refusing to sit on the other side of the booth because he wanted to be close to me. He spontaneously would give me tight little man hugs, and tell me all kinds of stories about his friends and video games.

But the evening got even sweeter, when on the way home, as he licked his precious ice cream, he said, "mom, you better take a picture of me right now." And I said, "how come?", Then he said, " because I dont think my smile could get any bigger".

Aaawwww! What a sweetheart. Sniff, sniff. His heart was so happy, and his love tank was full to the rim. Amazing what a little one on one time can do. I only regret I didnt make time for it sooner.

I had a thought - do you think God ever feels that way about us? Do you think he ever asks us for weeks or months to spend some one on one time with Him, but we are just always too busy? Do you think that His heart would be filled and the smile on His face would be bigger than ever before, if we actually set aside time to spend only with Him, and focused only on Him?

I imagine the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes. I want to make God smile - I believe I will schedule in a little one on one time for Him today too. What about you?

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Wow! I have had the most amazing week due to all of your responses to the Faith Zone Challenge, and my own attempts to take the challenge! If there is one thing that has been made crystal clear through this challenge, it is that we are all in the same boat.

As women, most of us tend to think everyone else has it all together, while we have to put on a mask every morning to hide all of our problems.

We tend to think that nobody else struggles with insecurities, unforgiveness, lack of quiet time, impatience, being a loving mom or wife, dealing with in-laws or other family members, forgiving ourselves for past mistakes, or taking a chance to do something new.

When we feel alone in our struggles, and feel forced to cover them up and keep up the "I-got-it-all-together" persona, the enemy will latch onto those feelings, and build on those fears. So take heart friends! We are all in this thing called life together!

As Christians, we are called to a life of transparency. When we are willing to be transparent for the sake of a higher calling, God will use us in amazing ways, and we can minister to those around us without having to keep putting on that uncomfortable mask every day!

Tip of the day: The only person that can make you feel inferior - is yourself! So fill your thoughts with positive feelings about who you are and remember that you are Gods pride and joy. If God carried a wallet, your picture would be in it! He would be bragging about all you have accomplished, and all the things He knows you will do in the future. He has faith in you too!

Your last challenge? Start the challenge again!

No matter how much we progress in our faith and our quest to live a Christ like life, the battle rages on! The enemy is always at work, in our hearts and in our lives, and oh how he would love for us to slip back into our old habits.
Are we not are so blessed to have a God who walks beside us each day, forgiving our transgressions, granting His mercies, and blessing our socks off.

The winner of the $15 Starbucks card is Mari, from Mari's Morning Room. If you get a chance, visit her blog! Thanks for participating in the blog and for letting me know how God worked in your life this past week! I am so happy for you!

Mari, please email me your mailing address, and you can be sipping your cold frappacino in no time!

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 5: Embrace Your Calling

This has been an amazing week! Wow - I have learned so much from everyone who has responded and been greatly encouraged! If there is anyone who has not had time to read through the comments each day, I encourage you to do so! They are wonderful, profound and very meaningful. Thank you all!

Over the past four days, we have spent more with God, and hopefully grown just a little closer to Him as a result. We have been challenged to face any unforgiveness issues that we were hiding in our hearts. We have been challenged to consider our attitudes and whether or not our lives were a reflection of Christ. And yesterday, God's love was shared and spread throughout the US as we each put aside our fears and hesitations, and sought out opportunities to spread the gospel in some way, either through our words or our actions.

My prayer, and challenge, for you today, is for you take an extravagant leap of faith. If you have taken this challenge seriously so far, then your heart should be more prepared to take a leap of faith than it may have been before!

For years, I was convinced that God was stalking me with the verse, Jeremiah 29:11. I knew that God had called me to be a speaker and writer for His kingdom. I had heard His voice, almost audibly it seemed, during a worship service, and there was no doubt in my mind what He was calling me to do.

However, I was scared of drastic change. I was fearful of leaving my comfort zone. I was terrified about what other people might say or think about me if I shared my testimony. I was gripped with fear, and paralyzed by the unknown.
I said no. I walked in complete disobedience to God's will for my life for several years. And to top it all off, I was sure that God was disappointed in me. I am disappointed when my children disobey my commands, and I was sure God felt the same way about me.

But get this.....despite my lack of faith and obedience, God still kept calling me with this same verse - it actually got very annoying!

Jeremiah 29:11 just kept popping up everywhere I went for months, even years! I would see it on TV; in my bible studies; in sermons; my friends would mention it in conversation; it would be on a piece of mail I received; I would overhear a stranger talking about it; it would be on an interstate billboard; my bible would even fall off the table and the pages would miraculously flip open to Jeremiah 29:11! Im not kidding - I was being stalked by God and Jeremiah!

Jeremiah 29:11 says this, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

After all those years of trying to ignore Gods call on my life, and falsely believing that my life was going along just dandy the way it was, I finally, but hesitantly, surrendered. I asked God to forgive me for my blatant refusal to walk down the path that He had prepared for me, and I surrendered my fears, my life, and my future to Him. After all, He promised me that He did have a plan! I wanted to see what it was! My anticipation had been building and I was ready for the blessing!

Months later, after resigning from my job, and having spent many months contacting churches and preparing my heart and my messages, I drove to my first speaking engagement - practically in tears, feeling sick to my stomach.

What was I thinking?! What in the world made me think I could stand up in front a big room of people, who were all staring at me in anticipation of hearing my feeble attempt to share some wonderful gospel truth? I was not a bible scholar, nor a seasoned speaker - OMG! Get the picture? I was a nervous wreck. I questioned Gods call on my life, and also questioned my sanity for taking this crazy step out of my comfort zone. Heavy sigh.

I arrived to the church, and sat in my car for a few minutes, staring out at the rain pouring down. I breathed deeply, with my eyes closed, hoping that maybe nobody had seen me yet, so maybe I could still make a clean getaway. Then I prayed. Hard.

I talked honestly with God. I told Him that I was not capable, but that I trusted Him to give me the right words. I told God that I was afraid, but that I trusted Him to calm my fears. I told God that I was not worthy to be His voice, but I trusted Him to speak through me. I told God that my legs were weak, but that I trusted Him to be my strength.

I said amen, then finally mustered up enough courage to go inside, and was warmly welcomed by the event coordinator. I later stepped onto the stage, and God took over.

I dont know how I did it - no..... GOD did it. I was merely the vessel - He was the deliverer.

Since then I have spoken at many, many events at many, many churches and organizations - but you know what, those same insecurities always creep back into my heart. I say that same prayer before each event, and God never ceases to come through, time and time again.

I learned that I have to choose to listen to the right voice - His voice - not my own, and not my enemys. I have to make a concerted effort not to listen to my inner fears, my self-condemnation or rattle off my feeble excuses trying to convince God that I am still not qualified or worthy to be His vessel.

I have learned that I must consciously choose to listen, trust and fully depend on God every day. You see, tomorrow, He might give me a new command. I want to be ready! What about you?

Has God called you to do something that you feel is completely out of your reach?

Has God called you to go in an entirely direction in your life, but so far you are paralyzed in place?

Has God called you to minister to others in a way that you feel incapable of doing because of your own fears and insecurities?

Are you afraid to move forward with a dream that God has planted in your heart, because you do not feel worthy to be His servant due to your own past, or present sin?

Are you hesitating in your obedience, due to a lack of tools, resources, time, money, etc?

Is God calling you to leave your comfort zone and enter the faith zone?

What is God calling you to do?
Are you willing to do something extravagant for God?

No excuse is good enough for disobedience, I learned that the hard way. The strength of our powerful and almighty God is awesome enough to lead us into extravagant obedience. And just as a special perk for obeying - you will be extravagantly blessed.

Challenge #5: Take an extravagant LEAP OF FAITH - embrace the call that God has impressed upon your heart. Listen to the right voice, and forget the excuses.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and then appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

Galatians 1:15 God, in His grace, chose me even before I was born, and called me to serve Him.

Prayer for today: Oh God, I am humbled by your unfathomable grace upon my life, and your infinite mercy upon me. I can never express the amount of gratitude I have in my heart, not just for what You did by sending your Son to die for me the cross, but for coming into my life and for not giving up on me.

Please pour your strength into my soul, and your courage into my inner most being so that I will step out in faith for YOU - with no excuses. Forgive me for my untimely responses to your call. I praise you for continuing to love me and bless me, despite my hesitations, fears and disbelief that You truly are in control of all things and have an amazing plan for my life.

Thank you for preparing that plan for my life, and for leading down the path that leads me closest to you. Continue to walk beside me Lord, and show me your plan. Lead me Lord. I am willing to do something extravagant for you, because I love you.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 5: Embrace Your CallingSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 4: Stand Proud

As Christians, the two things we can do to stand up for Christ are to live according to His Word and grow our own knowledge of Him. In Matthew 5:16, Christ said, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven".

This means that we should live and act in a way that is indicative of God's Word. Scripture makes it abundantly clear clear that we should have the conviction to stand up for our faith, while at the same time, practice showing love and wisdom and making sure that our personal example backs up our words. Letting others seeing Jesus in you is the most amazing witness ever.

This past Christmas, I was standing in front of a large group of women at the corporate offices of a major bank. I had been contracted to teach a secular class about Holiday Stress Management.

Most of the class was simple life/holiday balance tips, but soon we came to a section of the material that discussed tolerance of religions during the holidays. Although I had studied the material ahead of time, I felt my temperature rise when I neared this discussion. I presented some basic information, and then allowed time for discussion. Many women talked amongst themselves and some offered some feedback for the group, but the big question finally came.

One woman raised her hand and asked, "as a Christian, what should I do when my employer tells me that I cannot have a "Christmas" party, but only a holiday party. What do I do when I am told not to display manger scenes in my cubicle, because it might offend someone?"

Now my face was getting hot. Actually I was sweating all over. Thoughts raced through my mind as I considered that my job could be on the line. But what was truly being impressed on my heart, was that my faith was on the line. Who would I stand for? Jesus or politically correctness? Would I make smile? Jesus or a big wig manager sitting in his leather chair.

I knew the politically correct answer. I knew the answer that this organization would expect me to provide on their behalf, to support their politically correct, religious non-discrimination policies. I knew that from a business standpoint, I should straddle the fence and give an answer that would appeal to everyone in the room.

What seemed like eternity was really only a few seconds, as I struggled with which road to travel. Im proud to say that in this situation, I chose the road less traveled. I expressed my beliefs in a non-judgemental way, and explained what I believed Christmas to be - based on the God sending His son to be born in a manger, eventually to die on an cross for me, so that I could be forgiven and spend eternal life with Him. I expressed my general lack of tolerance for our society's attempt to remove Christ from Christmas, and how I wanted to encourage every Christian in that room to stand up with confidence for their beliefs. I reminded them that Christianity is normally the religion that gets pushed to the back, while other religions are given more tolerance. I encouraged them to hang Merry CHRISTmas signs in their cubicles, regardless of the political stigmas.

I received some happy applause, a few cold glares, and to my surprise, a few looks of intrigue.

Unfortunately, there have been other times, when I wasnt so bold. When I felt that the potential consequences of standing up for my faith were too great, and I hid my light under a bushel, just to fit in.

These situations happened years ago, and today I am certainly much more bold in my faith that I was then. But I wonder.... what if I was truly put to the test today to stand up for Christ. What if I had to make the choice to deny Christ and live, or speak for Christ and die. What if I was faced with a situation like Cassie René Bernall, from Columbine High School. Cassie didnt lose a job for standing up for her faith, she lost her life. Would I be willing to do that?

Jesus never intended for sharing His word to be a scary, impossible, sweat-inducing burden.God meant for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ through the natural outcome of living for him. Here are a few suggestions for sharing your faith this week, and weeks to come:
1) Try to start seeing people through Gods eyes, not your own.
2) Write out your testimony, or any story where God has moved in your life, and study it. Be ready to talk about it whenever the opportunity presents itself.
3) Dont try to impress people with Christian lingo, just tell the facts.
4) Listen t0 others. Once they think you care about them, they are all ears.
5) Pray for God to bring someone into your path whom you can witness to.
6) Study Gods word so you will be knowledgeable about discussing it.

These are merely a few, but it will get us started. Sharing your faith is kind of like riding a bike - once you take off the training wheels, you feel more confident than ever! Practice makes perfect.
Challege #4: Share your faith with three people today.

Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

Prayer for today: Dear Jesus, I know I need to share your Word, so forgive me for not always doing that. Sometimes I just worry about public opinion or negative consequences, but I know that my trust is in you, you are my shield and my protection, and that you will always reign over everything. Sometimes, I simply get so bogged down with life, that I forget to allow you to use me to minister to others. Sometimes I just get stuck in my own agenda, and forget. Forgive me.

Lord, I pray that you bring 3 people into my path who did to hear a Word from you, who need a pat on the back or a hug, who need to hear that you love them. Convict my heart as to who I am to minister to. Fill my mouth with words of wisdon for ths person. Help me Lord. I know that once I get started, it will become a beautiful habit that I will no longer be hesitant to do. I cant wait to see how you are going to impact lives today through me!
In Jesus name,

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 4: Stand ProudSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 25, 2008

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 3: Forgiveness

Yes, I am going there. I feel pretty sure that many of you were hoping that we could attack this faith zone challenge without actually talking about that ugly word - "forgive".

But before we approach today's topic, I want to tell all of you that I have been overwhelmed by the response to this faith zone challenge, and extremely humbled to know that God is using me to reach so many hearts, as well as challenge myself and others to draw closer to Him. Thank you so much for the opportunity you have given me to minister to you, and I am so blessed by all of your comments and emails. Thank you for ministering to me through all of your stories, testimonies, personal challenges, accomplishments, and encouragements. They have each touched my heart in a special way. :) I wish I could give you all a hug!

Now....... back to our regularly scheduled program.

I learned about eight years ago that forgiveness is a two-step process. I realized that before I could have a heart that was equipped to forgive others, I had to have a heart that accepted forgiveness from God for my own sins.

For many years, I knew that God loved me because the Bible told me so, but I really didnt accept that He would forgive me for my sins, much less forget about them. Why would He?

I had created this visual picture in my mind of what God probably looked like when I prayed or asked for forgiveness for the same past sin over and over, or new sins... again.

I envisioned Him sitting on His throne, looking down on me, with a solemn look on His holy face, head resting in His hands, and a heavy sigh leaving His almighty chest, as He uttered the words, "Tisk, tisk. Poor child, she just cant get her act together. What is wrong with her? How many times do I need to forgive her? Geeesh."

But one day, it clicked. My vision changed to seeing a God who was disgusted with me, to seeing a God who was smiling at me, with a tender heart, a gentle face, and a forgiving attitude.

As I listened to the speakers testimony at a womens event, it sounded remarkably similar to my own. I learned how she had spent years in the bondage of guilt, but found amazing freedom in the sufficient grace and mercy of Lord Jesus. That day, I found that same freedom. For the first time ever, I accepted with my entire being that God truly did forgive me once and for all, and there was no need for me to continue to plea for His forgiveness for the same sins over and over. I finally understood what the verse meant in Psalm 130:3, "If you, O Lord, kept a record of my sins, O Lord, who could stand?" God had forgiven and forgotten my sins, and I was cleansed. My heart was changed forever.

Since that time, my faith has grown by leaps and bounds, but nonetheless, granting others that same mercy that I received from God, is not as easy! For example, this past year, I was faced with some very difficult circumstances, which involved some very difficult people. Some of these people stepped all over my feelings, treated me rudely, and even made me cry at times. After a while, I just got fuming mad!

I was fed up with being treated ugly, and fed up with their mean attitudes. I was tired of feeling like a punching bag. As the months drug slowly by, I became more and more upset, angry and resentful by the minute. For months those feelings grew and grew, and although I never acted out in revenge in anyway, I did entertain some ungodly thoughts I must admit.

But one day, I finally admitted the cold hard truth that I was simply making myself miserable by obsessing over how these people had treated me and being mad about it. It was getting to where I dreaded getting up in the morning, because I would think about the problem, talk about the problem, worry about the problem, hurt about the problem, and literally obsess about the problem!

I broke down and got on my knees, and asked God to forgive me for carrying this burden and for harboring this unforgiveness towards these people. I realized that this unforgiveness was like poison to my heart. I was ingesting this poison every day, but then expecting the other person(s) to suffer. But guess what?! They were still going about their normal lives without a care in the world, as I was drowning in my emotions! I became addicted to wishing they would change or that maybe someone would give them the same treatment so they would know how they made me feel.

Honestly, I was tired of feeling down and discouraged - so after months of bondage to this anger, I simply chose to forgive. Not because they deserved it; not because I wanted to; not because I liked it! But because God commanded me to.

I threw away that poison, and boy did I feel better!

I cant change other people; I cant change their actions and behaviors; I cant change their heart - but I can certainly change mine. I want my heart to be one full of God, not one full of anger. I want my love for the Lord to grow in my heart, not a weed of bitterness that will eventually wrap its way around my entire life.

Has someone wronged you? Has someone hurt you? Abused you in some way? Neglected you? Lied to you? Manipulated you? Been unfaithful to you? Stole from you? Harmed you? Wounded you?

Friend - forgive them. They probably do not deserve it, wont appreciate it and may not even realize it. But do it anyway - for you.

What does God do when we commit wrongs against Him? He forgives, and even forgets! We may not forget, but we can forgive, through His strength. It is hard - but all things are possible with our God.

Max Lucado put it this way: "Quit focusing on what someone did TO you, and start focusing on what God did FOR you." You can do it. Throw out that poison.
Challenge #3: Forgive them. Forgive that person whom you have been holding a grudge against for days, weeks, months, maybe years. Bask in the freedom that you will gain from being obedient to God in this way. Your rewards will be great.

Job 21:23-25 One man dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease, his body well nourished, his bones rich with marrow. Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Prayer for Today: Jesus, you know my heart, and you must know that there is nothing in me that wants to forgive this person who has hurt me. There is nothing in me that wants to pray for this person. But Lord, I know it is your will. I am tired, exhausted actually, of being weighted down by carrying this bitterness in my heart. I am afraid that this bitterness towards them will seep out into other areas of my life, and I am seeking your forgiveness for my refusal to forgive. I accept that you are the healer of hearts, and that you truly have forgiven me for all my sins. In the same way, please give me the strength and courage and supernatural ability if needed, to forgive the person(s) who have wounded me. I pray that they will one day see how they have hurt me, and maybe even apologize, but if I never receive that apology, I will still love you Lord, and trust in all your ways. I want to sleep peacefully tonight knowing that my heart is free from poison.
In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 3: ForgivenessSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 2: Prepare Your Heart

"If he/she would just stop doing (xxxxxx), then we would not have these problems anymore."

"If he would learn how to treat me better, then we could get along just fine."

"If I just made more money or got a different job, then I could be happy."

"If I did not have this health problem, then I could serve in my church."

"If he/she had a better attitude, then I could have one too."

"If I wasn't so depressed, I would try to have more faith".

"If only I could (xxxxx), then everything would be okay."

Have you ever found yourself saying these types of things?

Have you ever been pulled into a game of mental chatter that convinces you that your happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm for life hinges on everything going your way, material items coming into your possession, and/or major changes taking place in your life and the people in it?

Have you ever found yourself putting God to the test - if He answers your prayers just right, then you will love Him more?

Most of us have lots of "ifs, ands, and buts" for why all of our problems are someone elses fault, why our negativity and pessimism are justified, why our faith is lacking, and why we have every right to continue living in a perpetual poor-me pity party.

Unfortunately, this type of attitude only digs our hole a little deeper, and further separates us from God. So why do we keep doing it? The only logical reason I can come up with, is because people either simply do not know how to change, or do not believe that they can change.

Great news! God gave us an amazing gift - the gift of free will....not just free will in our actions, but also in our thoughts. We may not have the power to change our circumstances or the people in our lives, but we ALWAYS have the power to change our own attitudes.

My mom always reminds me of the serenity prayer when I start grumbling about something that is outside of my power to change. It says, "Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." That always helps me keep things in perspective.

For the sake of today's challenge, I'd like to put a different spin on that prayer. What if it went something like this, "Lord, help me to accept the people I cannot change, to change the ones I can, and to know that one is ME."

No matter how many great things may happen in our lives, there will always be something that can steal our joy, whether it be people or circumstances. Trust me friend, the devil will make sure of it. That ol devil is the master of self-condemnation, ridicule, shame, guilt, blame, finger pointing, rudeness, bitterness, discontent, discouragement, and joylessness. He spends a great deal of time and effort trying to win us over to his way of thinking.

The devil is not after our wealth, health, family, security or homes - he is after our attitude. After all, when we have a bad attitude, we are no longer a threat. If we live in a state of bitterness, he no longer needs to worry about us sharing Gods love with others, reaching out to those in need, and building God's kingdom. Yep, he can move on to some other poor soul who is teetering on the edge of discouragement and separation from God.

Let's face it:
-It is so much easier to be mean to a person who has been mean to you, than it is to pray for them, shrug it off, and maintain a smile and joyful heart.
-It is much easier to fall into the unethical practices of the corporate world, than it is to stand up for what is right despite the costs.
-It is much easier to join in the gossip session, than make it known that you want no part of it.
-It is much easier to criticize your husband, than to forgive him.
-It is much easier to yell at your kids, than exercise patience.
-It is much easier to resent the mother who has seven kids, when you cant even have one baby, than it is to thank God for blessing her with a family.
-It is so much easier to be bitter, than it is to choose joy despite our circumstances.

Do we really want the easy way? Is it truly easier? If we constantly travel the easy road - what is setting us apart from the rest of the world? I dare say - nothing at all.

Our outward attitude is a reflection of our inward heart. Our outward actions are a reflection of our inward beliefs. Our life is a reflection of our spiritual heartbeat.

A heartbeat that beats for God, is one fueled by unbreakable, unshakable joy. The type of joy that is unaffected by circumstances. A positive state of mind. A deep joy, fueled by contentment, confidence and hope.

Spending time with Christ builds a desire in us to be more like Him. Having an attitude of joy, gratefulness, faith and hope - despite and regardless of our circumstances - prepares our hearts to really begin hearing Him speak.

Move over sister, God still needs a little more room today.

Challenge #2: Let God's light shine brightly through you today - even if someone licks the red off of your sucker. Be kind to those who are unkind. Be giving to those who dont give. Look for the positive in every situation you encounter.

1 Peter 1:13-16 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy." (The Message)

Prayer For Today:
Dear Jesus, this is a hard challenge! I try to be positive, but things happen in my life that steal the joy right out from under me. You know the situations I am dealing with; you know the pain in my heart; you know the battles that I am facing, and the ones to come that I am unaware of. I pray that you will be with me Lord every step of the way, today and every day, to help me break the bondage of negativity in my heart and seek out joy and hope in you. I am so desperate for the type of joy that you tell us about in your Word. I seek out that joy and ask that you pour your love into my heart so that thoughts of you and wisdom of your sovereignty will control my actions throughout each day. Prepare my heart Lord, for a mighty work.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Faith Zone Challenge, Day 2: Prepare Your HeartSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Faith Zone Challenge Kickoff

If you are visiting my blog today, July 23rd, because you linked over from the Proverbs 31 Devotion, "Running By Faith", then welcome! If you are a frequent visitor or subscriber, then welcome back! This is a great day to drop by!

Today I am beginning something exciting - a five day journey of faith - will you join me?

Several years ago, God called me out of my comfort zone and into the unknown zone. God, of course, knew where I was headed, I just had to put my trust in Him and watch His plan unfold. And guess what? His plan was amazing! Who knew! (just kidding, I always knew He had it in Him. Smiles.)

As a result of seeing firsthand the miracles that God can do in someones life simply by trusting God and being willing to say yes to His call, I now have a passion for encouraging others to experience that same excitement. I want everyone to experience the joy that can be found from stepping out in obedience, despite sacrifices, fears, shame and doubts.

So..... for the next five days, I want to make you think. I pray that God will speak through me to inspire you to take some time and do things that would normally be out of your comfort zone.

"But why should I?", you may ask. "What's in it for me?"

Let's look at it this way - when you are sitting in your favorite recliner, remote in hand, focused on the TV; all snuggled up and comfy with your pillow and throw blanket, a few magazines on your lap or a good book; a soda in your hand and a popcorn bowl on your knee, and maybe a few kids - is there room for anything else? I doubt it. That recliner is probably getting rather crowded.

In the same way, when we get so comfortable with our life the way it is, and with the things that are filling our life, then there is no room for God to introduce anything new. He desperately yearns to give us new things, but there simply is no room for them!

While we think we are safely sitting in our comfort zone, we are actually sinking into a dead zone. A zone where we dont see God working, because we are focused on life itself. A zone where we dont hear God speaking, because our ears are full of earthly noise. A zone where God cannot be felt, because we are too comfortable to make room for Him.

The result: we stay stuck in our recliner, a.k.a LIFE, all alone, uninspired, unchallenged and unfulfilled.

God calls us to be all we can be, and more than we think we can be - through Him. However, our doubts, busyness, insecurities, lack of faith and attempts to fill our hearts with earthly pleasures, often prevent us from fulfilling our true purposes.

This five day challenge is certainly not the answer to all our problems, but my prayer is that it will motivate someone to take that first step of faith towards a stronger relationship with Christ, help them begin to build a habit of listening for God's voice, and maybe even empower someone to jump right into God's will for their life, which they may have been hesitant to do before.

Consider Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

It takes great faith to do amazing things - it takes God sitting in the chair with us. It takes us being willing to make room for Him, maybe even sit in His lap, and ask Him to begin reading us the beautiful story that He has laid out for our lives.

If you believe that He is calling me, and you, to trust Him, leave our comfort zones of our daily lives and enter THE FAITH ZONE, then this challenge is for you.

For everyone who is willing to take a chance, and commit to the challenge, please post your blog on Mr Linky below. If you feel led, post your commitment on your blog and challenge your readers to not only hold you accountable, but also get involved themselves! (note: you do not have to have a blog to get involved, you can simply leave a post that you want to participate, or just do it on your own!)

As an extra motivation to get involved, each person who responds on all five days and comments about their experience with each daily faith zone challenge, will be entered into a drawing for a $15 Starbucks card, to be drawn on Monday, July 28th .

I pray that when the 5 days are up, many of you will leave me a comment about how the challenges worked for you, or what struggles you encountered, as God changed your heart and mind, and maybe your life, as a result. Im excited!

So... are you ready to take the challenge? If you answered yes, then.....Get ready - set - go!

Challenge 1: Spend 30 minutes a day in quiet time with God for the next 5 days.

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Okay, okay - I know what you are thinking - 30 minutes??!! I barely have time to brush my teeth, get dressed or even breathe! Much less spend 30 minutes alone in quiet time every day, for five days straight?! (I realize for some of you, this may be an every day habit, but please have patience with the rest of us.)

Your next thought may be this - "how is quiet time stepping outside of my comfort zone?"

Most Christians understand how important daily quiet time with God is, however, I dare say that most of us do not do it on a consistent basis - myself included! Life gets noisy, daily tasks take priority, and quiet times seem impossible. That is exactly why it is a challenge !!

If you are willing, turn down the noise tomorrow morning. Get up earlier than normal for the next 5 days, find a place of solace, and spend time with your heavenly daddy. Pick a Bible chapter or use a devotional book. Breathe, slowly, deeply, using your diaphragm, focusing only on Gods word. Your body will react to this relaxation, including muscle tension fading and even blood pressure dropping. Your mind will ease too, leaving you free to hear Gods whispers.

Quiet time is more than just a daily appointment with God. It's more like a visit with your closest friend. Just like a friendship cant flourish if you never spend time together, neither can our relationship with Christ. The more dedication and time we devote to our faith walk, the closer we will feel to Jesus. The closer you are, the more likely you are to hear Him speak, see Him move, and feel Him near.

Prayer for today:
Dear Lord, please forgive me for not making you a priority in my every day life. Forgive me for getting so busy with life, and so bogged down by earthy noises, that I forget to spend quiet time with you. I earnest ask that you call me into Your Presence, and give me a burning thirst for your Word that can only be quenched during our quiet time. Grant me perseverance over these next five days, despite the hurdles that the enemy tries to throw my way to prevent me from keeping my commitment. Lord, help me make a permanent habit when this challenge is done.

In your name I pray, Jesus, Amen.

PS - if this sounds easy today, dont get too comfortable just yet.....the best (and most challenging) is yet to come! Come back tomorrow for Faith Zone Challenge #2.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Hmmm... should I wait or leap?

If there is one thing that most Christians will all admit to doing, it is wondering at times whether we should wait on God to act, or take a leap of faith.

When does faith mean sitting quietly by waiting on something to happen, or taking the initiative to make a leap of faith to make something happen, solve a problem, or reach a goal?

Many Christians would probably believe that we should simply sit back and wait for God to perform. For example, you have written a book, but are afraid to send it to publishers, because you feel God should open the first door. You want a new job, but you are not looking, because you think God should drop one in your lap if it is meant to be. You want to go out and share God's love with others, but you are hesitant to try to call on churches, for fear that people will think you are trying to push yourself on others.

There are times when we have to decide which of these two faith choices we will make. In every situation in life, we are left to determine whether we need to have passive faith, or active faith.

Passive faith is most applicable when we are waiting patiently for the Lord to act on our prayer requests. We need faith to believe that Christ will send the answer or resolve the issue in a way that we would have no input or control over. Scripture does tell us to be still and know that God is working. Such as, if a loved one is sick, a relationship is damaged, a pain from our past is burdening our heart, or we are struggling with unforgiveness, we need a miracle or divine healing - in those instances, we must wait for God to move in our hearts or the hearts of others.

In these types of situations, we most definietly need to pray, be still, and wait to see what God is going to do, and how He is going to move. And then we have to believe that whatever happens, is the answer to our prayer, even if it is not exactly the answer we wanted or had hoped for.

However, there are times when Scripture tells us that we should take personal responsibility. Many biblical characters stepped out in faith to pursue a goal - such as David fighting Goliath; Moses crossing the Red Sea; Paul knocking on doors to share the gospel; Esther confronting the king to save her people. Those things took guts - but also great faith. Each of these people took huge leaps of faith and trusted God, but they did not do it by being idle.

Are you ready to take a leap of faith? Are you ready for a challenge, to see what you are capable of through God's strength, but also to see God actively and powerfully move in your life? The thought of God running beside me as I step out in faith to pursue a dream or goal or special prayer need,simply thrills me! I hope it does you too.

I have learned that God actually gives us much greater control to change different circumstances in our lives than we tend to think. God's will will always take precedence over our own desires and it will always preside - but He delights in our ambition to serve Him. Let's give Him a chance to see what we can do for His glory, as we put aside fears, insecurities, doubts, and hesitations. Nothing is impossible with our Jesus!

If you are up to a challenge of faith, visit my blog again on Wednesday, July 23rd - when the FAITH ZONE CHALLENGE begins. It will be a five day journey which will open the gate for God to rush into your life - I plan on committing to this challenge myself, and I hope you will join me!

Are you with me? See you then.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Blog Mission

I came across a new blog site this week which I really enjoyed. Angela had done something neat, and called it a Blog Mission Tour. Her goal was to have many people post their blog address on her site, and then go back to their site and mention what the mission for their blog is. So, below is what led me to blogging, and what God laid on my heart to do through this blog:

Last year, one my fellow Proverbs 31 sisters, Mary Beth Whalen, kept talking about blogging. She is an awesome home schooling mom of six (yes, I gasped too when I first met her - what a woman!). She always encouraged the rest of us on the team to get a blog, but as for me, I didnt even know what a blog was! As Lysa Terkeurst said in a blogging session at the She Speaks Conference in June, the word blog kind of sounds like something you do when you feel nauseous. Ha ha! But once my P31 sisters began building their blogs and I became an avid reader of their blogs each week, I wanted one of my own!

After a few months, my blog was up and running. After a few weeks, I wondered what I ever did without it. It was a such a release for me to be able to write down my thoughts and feelings that God had impressed on my heart about things. I have always admired, or maybe I should say envied, women who could journal. As hard as I tried over the years, I could never seem to make myself consistently do that. I dont know if it was just laziness, lack of time, or the inability to use a pencil anymore instead of a computer keyboard, but I just couldnt seem to make it a habit. My sister, for example, has a stack full of little journals, all recording the experiences and feelings of her every day life over a period of many years. What a treasure. Im jealous again.

So now instead of feeling like a zero for missing out on chronicling my life in a journal and still unable to force myself to do it, I can just use my blog (and never have to pick up a pencil!) But more importantly, my blog does have a mission, and it is not simply to blast my feelings out to the world or assume that everyone cares what little ol Tracie has to say. Nope. It is a God thing.

God has completely transformed my life over the past eight years. It all began by accepting His forgiveness for a mistake I made as a teenager, of which I had never forgiven myself or accepted God's mercy. But finally one day in a powerful worship service, He cleansed me. He called me to be a speaker and writer, but for three years I closed my ears and didn't listen. Then out of complete surrender, I went to She Speaks in 2005, and God's passion infused my soul like a match thrown into a gasoline tank. The Monday after that conference, I resigned from my executive position at a Big 4 accounting firm, where I had been successfully climbing the corporate ladder for the past seven years, with eight years corporate experience and a college degree preceding it. I was instantly catapulted into the field of ministry - and I have never regretted it! My only regret is that I wish I had listened to Gods voice when He first spoke, instead of wasting years in disobedience when I could have been swimming in His blessings.

In the past three years, God has given me a new family by allowing me the immense blessing of being part of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team. My life is no longer full of rush hour traffic, quick dinners, a couple hours with my family each day, and so much stress that my health was suffering; instead my life is now filled with a focus on my family, a renewed relationship with my husband, opportunities to travel across the US to encourage women in their faith and a newfound love for Christ and doing what He has called me to do.

My kids always poke fun at me, because every day I seem to gleam some new devotion idea from circumstances or situations that happen in our lives. They wonder if I can ever think of anything besides life lessons, and stop writing devotions in my head! But it is a such a blessing to see life that way - to always be on the lookout for how God is working and be anxiously seeking His hand in everything that we do.

So my blog mission is two fold:
(1) To remind others how much Christ loves them, despite what they are going through or what they have done. Also to encourage people to step out in faith and do what God has laid on their heart. Obedience is always followed by immeasurable blessings.

(2) To introduce my readers to Proverbs 31 Ministries, if they are not already aware of it. P31 is an amazing ministry intended to encourage, equip and minister to women all over the world with Gods love. We have a full color monthly magazine, an awesome website, a library full of resources, the most amazing team of speakers in the country, a radio program that hits 1000 radio stations each day, and online email devotions that reach 250,000 people around the world every day. We even have Gather and Grow groups, which are groups of women around the country who have partnered with P31 and get involved in bible studies together in their communities.

Doesnt it sound awesome! I would love for you to get involved with Proverbs 31, and give us the opportunity and the blessing of partnering with you in your journey of faith. Check it out at Proverbs 31 Ministries. If you have any questions about Proverbs 31, please feel free to email me personally.

Be sure to visit my blog again on Wednesday, July 23rd when I start a four day Running By Faith journey that you will not want to miss!

Mission Blog Tour hosted by Angela at Becoming Me, head over there to read hers and many others or join in.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Child, The Teacher

My daughter has enlightened my life with the two most amazing tips lately. The first tip was given to me a few weeks ago, when I was wearing a black shirt, and had somehow managed to get deodorant streaks across both sides of it. My efforts to wash them off with a wet washcloth seemed to be to no avail.

As I stood there losing the battle against the white streaks, she walked through my bedroom and casually said as she passed, "just use some black pantyhose". Huh? I have never heard of that and was sure that it would not work, but since nothing else been successful, I pulled out a pair of hose and gently rubbed them against my shirt. It was like a magic act! The white streaks disappeared quickly and completely! I was amazed, never will I forget this awesome tip! Every morning when I get dressed, I no longer stress about getting deodorant on my clothes, because now I know it doesnt have to be there all day because I have plenty of pantyhose!

This same daughter has a constant case of the hiccups. Loud hiccups. Hiccups that startle people and make them stare over at us when we are in public places. But she went on a mission trip recently and came home with a remedy. The first time I saw her doing it, I once again did not believe her new-found method would cure her hiccups. I've seen and read lots and lots of so called cures for hiccups before, and none of them ever work. But this time, when she performed her hiccup remedy - within seconds, her hiccups were gone. It was like magic again! She simply took a big swallow of water and held both hands tightly over her ears before she swallowed, and the hiccups stopped! What a smart girl. Wow. Where does she learn all these cool things?

Aside from these silly (but awesome!) tips, I often do gain great knowledge from my children. They always seem to say things to make me think; things to make me look at how I am acting or habits that I have that are not always becoming; things that help me see situations or people in a different perspective than I had been seeing; sometimes they help us to put on those rose colored glasses that grownups have usually stored away in the attic.

Sometimes we need to listen our kids. God uses them to teach us, just as He uses us to teach them. It's a two way street. Yes, I know I am the parent, and I consider that a huge privilege and responsibility and lean on God every day to help me be the Godly parent that He has called me to be.
However, knowing that, I pray that I can still keep my heart open to learning from them, and not discount their wise instruction simply due to their age. God speaks in a variety of ways and I know He uses my children to reach my heart at times.

What about you?

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sweet Memories

This morning my daughter Morgan wanted to make toast for breakfast, however she didn't want to have to go through all the trouble of turning on the oven, preheating the oven, toasting one side of her toast, and then toasting the other side. In her 14 year old mind, that was entirely too much work and would take away from the enjoyment of eating her toast. Spoiled? Naaah.

Anyway, I remembered that I had received a toaster oven for Christmas one year, but had not been using it because it took up so much room on the cabinet. I told her to go retrieve it from the attic and she could use it to cook her toast, the easy way. She came downstairs without the toaster oven, but instead had found a VHS video case labeled "My First Year", which was a recording of the entire first year of her life.

For the next hour, my three children and I laid on the bed and laughed until we cried. It was a typical first time mom type video - one where we would watch the baby for ten minutes, just laying there. Then we would watch the baby coo. Then we would watch the baby turn her head. Then we would watch the baby cry... and so on. Every "first" was recorded, from baths, to swimming pools, to birthday parties. Every minute of her little life was too precious to miss.

It brought back so many sweet memories of the beginning of my little family, and reminded me of how grateful I was to have this little baby in my life. But also - a lot of other memories were stirred.. ones which had been misplaced over a period of years.

My eyes burned with tears as I saw my grandmother celebrating Morgan's first Christmas, as she played on the little baby bed that my Grandmother had crafted hand-made iolet blankets and pillows for. The sound of her voice was such a sweet memory. She had died when Morgan was eighteen months old.

I watched as my husband's Grandfather and Aunt, both of whom passed away way too early due to unusual tragedies, laughed and talked with the family.
I watched my sweet sister, beautiful, healthy and happy, years before she was diagnosed with Multiple Schlerosis.

Although many of the memories were fun to revisit, and it was interesting to see the strange choices of hairstyles and clothes that we all had, it also was a reminder of how life changes, and how short it truly is.

When all those experiences were recorded fourteen years ago, things were so different. People were so there. Lives were so in tact. But life changes. We never know what God has in store.

It was a reminder to me, to treasure the people in my life and not ever take them for granted. Tell my loved ones that I love them every day. Love people with a forgiving and loving heart, and not an attitude of self.

Now my son and other daughter are jealous since we watched all of Morgan's first year, so soon we will be watching their baby videos, and I'm sure all of those feelings and memories will come pouring down on my heart again.

Have you had something happen to you lately that you reminded you of special memories and times in your life? I would love to hear about them!

Got any suggestions for how to keep those memories alive for years to come? I would love to hear about those too!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

If only......

If only I had called her.

If only I had listened to that little voice in my head that told me to call Linda several times.

Linda was on my women's ministry team at church for several months about two years ago, until her cancer returned. Since she had to focus on her treatments again, and also since they drained her energy, keeping her from being involved in too many things, she made the choice to step off the team temporarily. We had an agreement that whenever she was up to it, I desperately wanted her to come back and be a part of ministry team, and she agreed that she would.

Linda always had the most beautiful smile on her face, a zest for life, a sweet spirit, and an obvious love for the Lord. She was one of those people who lit up the room when she entered. She had a beautiful talent for making home made notecards with ink stamps, and before she got sick again, she had offered to make them by the dozens, so that our team could use them to send out to people in our church who needed prayer. But when she had to leave the team, we put that idea on hold.

Many months passed and Linda was in remission, but still decided not to make the commitment to being back on the team, so she could reserve her time and energy for her family. Although I would see Linda at church from time to time and smile and wave, we didn't really talk very often.

For the past couple of months, I have felt God laying Linda on my heart. I kept meaning to call her, but then would get busy and forget. This morning at church, I read this sentence in the church bulletin, "Our deepest sympathies go out to the Johns family in the death of Linda Johns".

I was shocked, my heart skipped a beat. I had seen her fairly recently, buzzing around the sanctuary, and she looked great. But now she was gone. Now it was too late. The door of opportunity to call her and hear her kind voice had slammed shut.

If only I had called her.
If only I had stopped what I was doing, and taken just a few minutes to check on her and let her know she was on my mind.

If only I had listened to that subtle whisper from the Holy Spirit, who had been nudging me to get in touch with her.

If only I had taken time to tell her how much I admired her stamina and perseverance, but most of all, the precious joy that she carried in her heart and on her face, despite the difficult circumstances in her life.

If only I had told her what an impact she had made on me.
If only......

Tears fill my eyes as I write this. Although Linda and I were not super close friends, and our paths did not cross very often, she was still my sweet sister in Christ, and at one time we had served God side by side. Linda will be sorely be missed by me, and everyone whose lives she touched with the love of Christ. I do have peace though, knowing that she is still smiling today, as she stands in the light, holding hands with my Jesus.

Today, I am making a commitment to God and to myself that I will never again ignore even the tiniest, quietest whisper from the Holy Spirit. I know that His ways are not my ways, and He knows what is best and what is needed. I was reminded of this in Isaiah, where God says:

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

From now on, if I have an unusual thought prompting me to take some action that I would normally not consider doing, someone comes to mind that I feel I should call even if I don't know why, or the thought of someone pierces my heart whom I haven't spoken with in months or even years - I am calling them immediately, or doing whatever it is I feel God is nudging me to do. Never again, do I want to have to say to myself, "if only I had listened to God's whisper".

Is God laying someone on your heart to call today? Has He prompted you to be obedient in a small way, or even a big way, that you have yet to act on? Have you told those you love how much they mean to you recently?

Don't delay. Listen to those whispers. Don't discount those thoughts as your own, but believe that it is God communicating with you and instructing you to take a certain action, for good reason, even if you don't understand it yet. The consequence of not listening to those whispers, could result in you having to say, "If only.."

If only......SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, July 10, 2008

All About Me from A to Z

A is for Age
Chronologically - 41; Mentally and emotionally- about 15 at times. :)

B is for Burger of choice
Personally, I don't like burgers. I'll stick with a grilled chicken sandwich any day.

C is for what Car you drive
Blue Expedition - for carting around my kids, all their stuff, and all their friends.

D is for Dog’s name
Okay, so I do not have a dog, nor cat, goat, horse, hamster, guinea pig or anything else that has 4 legs and is not considered human. I had a fish but he died, and I admit I wasn't that sad. And yes, I am mercilessly harassed daily by my children for this since they are the only kids alive without a pet, or so I have been told.

E is for Essential item you use every day
Sea Breeze Astringent! Who says you can't use the same face cleaner when you are 41 as you did when you were 18 - works for me!

F is for Favorite TV show at the moment
I would have to say What Not To Wear. I am sure that most of the people that get on that show have absolutely no mirrors in their homes and I love to watch the transformation in their bodies and their attitudes. Stacy and Clinton rock!

G is for favorite Game
My son likes to play Monopoly, but since it could take 12 hours to finish, I usually try to opt out of that game. I'm always in for a game of Sorry or some time on the Wii.

H is for Hometown
Although born in North Carolina, I grew up in the small town of Rome, Georgia.

I is for Instruments you play
I love to play the piano, but unfortunately do not have much time to do it these days.

J is for favorite juice
Orange Juice

K is for who you’d like to Kiss
Even after eighteen years, my hubby's lips are the only ones I long for.

L is for Last restaurant you ate at
Hops (you can't beat those little honey butter croissants!)

M is for favorite Muppet
Kermit the frog, of course.

N is for Number of piercings
My ears are pierced, and for some reason I also chose to get second holes in my ears in high school. Pretty pointless now, seeing how I can hardly remember to put on one pair of ear rings each day, much less two.

O is for Overnight hospital stays
Only a few - with the birth of each of my three children

P is for People you were with today
My kids, my husband Michael

Q is for what you do with your quiet time
Work on my computer, actually it is an addiction.

R is for biggest Regret
Poor choices as a teenager, but God has used those experiences to His glory, so that gives me peace.

S is for Status
Married for 18 years , mother of 3 amazingly wonderful kids, ages 8, 11 and 14.

T is for Time you woke up today
6:30am - I can't sleep in no matter how much I would like to.

U is for what you consider Unique
The beach - it is so beautiful, and breathtaking to believe that God created every grain of sand and every drop of water. In fact, nature in itself, is pretty unique.

V is for a vegetable you love
I love veggies - but I guess tomatoes and asparagus would be favorites.

W is for Worst habit
Spending too much time on my computer (you know, because of that addiction thingy)

X is for the number of X-rays you’ve had
Pretty much just one per year - the pancake kind.

Y is for Yummy food you ate recently
Delicious steaks for dinner last night, marinated in Dales Seasoning (yum!), salad and baked potato

Z is for the thing in life that you have the most zest for

Well, that's it about me! If you want to use this on your blog, free free to give it a shot!

All About Me from A to ZSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Politics? No thank you.

Personally, I do not like election years. I get so tired of hearing everybody's opinion about everybody else's opinion regarding who said what and when, and where and why.

Although the media is not always successful in helping shape accurate views of candidates due to ruthless "stories" that are aired, if there is one thing they are successful at, it is using every possible opportunity to thoroughly confuse the voters.

Today the candidate is for such and such, but next week we will find he/she said something to the contrary. Today the candidate is a Christian, the next day there is speculation he/she is something else. Today they are for pro-life/pro-abortion, anti-war/pro-war, less taxes/more taxes, better insurance, faith/no faith, , more jobs, and so on and so on - and then tomorrow it changes!

Regardless of a candidate's stand on issues - shouldn't we be most concerned about where they stand about Jesus?

God has blessed America for many generations, don't you think it is high time that America blessed God?

One of the most frustrating things for me in this day and age is the fact that America is slowly but surely becoming a cess pool of everything that is against what I believe to be good and true - and my beliefs are based on the Word that was written thousands of years ago by the Omnipotent God that created America in the first place!

I wonder, with fear at times, what America will be like in years to come, when my children are having children, and their children are having children.
Will my grandchildren be able to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school, or will they be forced to recite Kuran, Buddha or New Earth verses?

Will Christian parents be forced to homeschool their children, even at the sacrifice of financial security, to protect their children from dangerous religious influences that go against the grain of Christianity?

Will my grandchildren be in the majority at their schools, those whom are Americans and speak English, or will they be the minority, forced to learn foreign languages just so they can communicate in their own land?

Will my grandchildren be able to enjoy freedom of religion, or will their spirituality be oppressed because America spent so much effort trying to accommodate everyone else's religion that the beliefs that our country was founded on were forgotten and pushed out of the picture?

Will my grandchildren be able to wear jewelry or clothing with bible verses or Christian sayings, or will they be sent home from school because the administration is worried about offending someone elses religion? However, at the same time, will they be subjected to crude, offensive, sexual and crass sayings on the clothing of other students, which are not banned, due to freedom of speech?

Will my grandchildren be able to afford health insurance, or will the premiums be so outrageously high due to years of ridiculous, false law suits and unfathomable doctor's fees?

Will my grandchildren be able to draw social security or Medicare in their old age, or will the funds have been depleted because they were given to every person who crossed the border into our country and asked for it - legally or illegally.

Will driver's licenses be a thing of the past, or will only insured, qualified and safe drivers be given a license to speed through our highways?

Will my grandchildren understand that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman, with the man known as "daddy", and the woman known as "mommy"? Will the values of the American family have been so skewed, that the abnormal, becomes the norm?

Will my children and grandchildren live in an economy where the average American family can make ends meet, put food on the table, buy gas for their cars, and go outside without fear of getting gunned down?

I could continue -but I'll stop there for now. I could worry and fret and worry and fret over the future - but that will not accomplish anything (except a headache and a nervous stomach).

I know that my God, THE God, already knows the outcome of this year's election. My God, THE God, already knows what needs to happen in the candidate's personal lives and their campaigns, to help the people make an educated decision about who should run this country.

I know that my God, THE God, is most assuredly disappointed and heart broken in the current state of His beloved, values-deficient, morally suppressed, ethics-lacking country of America.

Personally, I don't care much about the words Democrat or Republican -I care about the truth. I am a Republican, and proud of it, but if I felt that a Democratic candidate were a better Christian than a Republican, one who would get this country back on track for God, and one who cared about the beliefs, values and morals that this country was founded on and wanted to see those values returned to our society and citizens at large - I would vote for him or her, despite their party affiliation.

We need to vote for WHAT is right - not just who is right.
I urge you not to select a candidate this year based on race, gender, age, or even necessarily the promises they make about how they are going to improve the country in every imaginable area.

Instead, select one that is for God - not only THE God, but the one and only Jesus Christ. Lots of people pray to "god", or believe in a higher power, but if they don't believe in Jesus, then we should not believe in them - regardless of what position they hold on a certain subject (which will probably change ten times between now and the election).

Vote for the candidate whose name has not been slandered, whose faith has not been questioned, whose comments are consistently lined up with the Word of God and not merely for seeking the most popular viewpoint. Vote for one who obviously, clearly respects and fears THE Lord.

Our children and grandchildren will pay for the price for the voting decisions we make today. So are you worried about staying loyal to a political party - or staying loyal to THE God of all time? The GOD whom you will have to answer to when your life comes to an end.

Are you at all worried about God removing His hand from America before your judgement day comes? I know I am. Whether you agree with my next statement is up to you - but I have to wonder if the reason that so many horrific and gruesome natural and human disasters keep occurring in other countries, is because their country is not based on THE God, but a god.

The countries that suffer devastating earthquakes, widespread tsunami's, AIDS epidemics, death inducing poverty, plagues, mountain slides, terrorist attacks, nuclear scares, etc. - are saturated with various religions and the worship of other gods, statues, people, or stars. God has no place in these countries, and anyone who tries to give Him a place, could be tortured and murdered. I have to wonder...could that be why God has removed His holy hand of protection from these countries? Hmmmmm.

If you ask me, it's time we start blessing God through America, if we expect God to contine to bestow blessings and protection upon America. If we don't, the consequences could be severe.

Take a stand for WHAT is right. Pray that our country will take notice of the principles we were founded on, and that the selected candidate will make changes that will help American not only progress, but regress - back to being a nation founded on THE God. Pray that our children and grandchildren, and their descendents, can live in a country that God is protecting and blessing.

I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America. Unto the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, UNDER GOD, with liberty and justice for all.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Giving Credit Where It's Due

For those of you who have been praying for my sister's healing from her recent abdominal surgery, I just wanted to let you know that she is doing much better. Although her road to recovery will be long and frustrating, I know God is walking right beside her.

align="justify">To give a little history - Christie has Multiple Schlerosis, and was diagnosed about 10 years ago. This most recent surgery was due to serious intestinal issues, which resulted in her having to have her colon removed and her intestines reconnected. The surgery was very extensive, but the surgeons felt it went well.
Strangely, about one week after her surgery, she was experiencing extreme swelling and bloating in her belly, which turned out to be a very advanced, potentially life threatening, serious strand of an ecoli infection.

She was rushed into surgery again with little warning, the incision was reopened, her abdominal cavity was cleaned out, and the wound was left open to avoid further infection. The surgery was supposed to last about 30 minutes, but took over three hours. We were worried sick, with our minds only to think the worst.

Finally, the surgeon came out to give us the dreary update.
He informed us that 1) they had no idea where the infection came from, 2) they were unable to remove all the pockets of infection due to risk to her life, 3) they were not exactly sure how to treat the remaining infection, and 4) she would become severely ill before she got better, possibly warranting a move to ICU. The worst was yet to come, it was merely a waiting game.

Could things get any worse? Had she not suffered enough over the past ten years with a mountain of health problems and personal disappointments? Did she really deserve this? I knew in my heart that God doesn't' want her to suffer. I knew I had to trust Him, even though I didn't understand. All I had left in me to do was pray. Pray. And then pray some more. After standing in a circle over my sister's hospital bed that night, holding hands with my mother, brother, and sister in law, we prayed over Christie and asked God to show her mercy, and make His presence known in this trial.

I went home and sent emails to our entire church family, my Proverbs 31 family, my friends and extended family, and pretty much everyone in my email contacts list, pleading for their prayers. I received dozens of emails with precious, powerful prayers in written form, all lifting Christie up to the heavens. With each prayer received, I felt a sense of peace. My human heart still burdened, as my faith was strengthening.

The outpouring of love for her was unbelievable. In fact, we had to ask people to stop coming to visit her for a few days, because she was too tired and in too much pain to talk anymore! But all the while, we waited for her to get sick. We waited for her fever to spike. We waited for the news of the dreaded ICU move. We waited anxiously for the worst to hit.

But the worst never came.

Just as the doctors couldn't explain where the infection came from, they couldn't explain where it went. After a few days, she was in a lot of pain, but no signs of additional infection showed up in her blood stream. She never ran a fever, never got sick, never left her regular room. Her doctor said he had never seen such a quick recovery occur from such a life threatening situation.

Praise God!! Only He can be given credit. Only He could reach into the depths of her innermost frail body and eliminate infection that was once growing and thriving. Only the hundreds and hundreds of prayers that pierced God's ears could be the reason for this miracle.

I always believed God was capable of miracles and that He does them every day, but always found myself wondering why He wasn't giving my sister a miracle. Why wasn't He healing from her MS? Why didn't He give her a break already? If for no other reason that I can think of, it is to allow us to truly see Him at work. I saw Him. I felt Him. I love Him and praise Him. I am reassured that He is He, even if He doesn't answer my prayers exactly the way I ask.

Today Christie had another doctor's appointment with her MS doctor. Her MRI from February showed no additional lesions on her brain stem since last year - praise God! The form of MS that she has is very progressive, so this is a huge praise. And another miracle.

This evening, I spoke with a home health care provider who is going to help care for Christie in her home for the next few weeks. Gloria, her name is, glorified God during our entire conversation. I am confident that her beautiful love for the Lord and encouraging spirit will help bring my sister out of the pit she is in, and into His light again to help her see that He is still present.
Gloria also told me how she has been helping care for her sister lately...... who just had colon removal surgery. Coincidence? I don't think so!

Praise God. He is still alive and working. We simply must give Him credit everywhere it is due.

I would covet your continued prayers for my sister, Christie Widenhouse. If you leave your prayers on my blog, I will print them and share them with her, maybe they can be something that she saves in her journal as a precious stepping stone that helped her find healing - spiritually and physically. Your prayers have already made a difference. God bless.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Simple Pleasures

We are having a great time at the beach! The weather has been beautiful and we have enjoyed lots of funning and sunning!

After a long and beautiful day at the beach, with perfect sun, mild temperatures, and just a touch of a breeze, we had a great dinner and decided to get some ice cream at the infamous Ocean Isle Creamery. It's an amazing ice cream restaurant which is very popular around here. It has more flavors of ice cream than one person could dream of! I ordered my favorite - praline in a waffle cone, the girls got birthday cake and M&M flavors, and little Michael got his one and only - chocolate.

Ever since Michael was old enough to talk and could digest normal dairy products, he has been asking for chocolate ice cream. In fact, for the past three years, his biggest thrill on his birthday is getting to eat chocolate ice cream for breakfast!

One day when he was about four, he learned that if he ate "out of the gallon", that his portion would not be limited to the few scoops that I put into his bowl. I created a monster the day I allowed him to do that, because if I had a dollar for every time that he asked me to eat "out of the gallon" for the past few years, I would be living like a queen right now!

I got to thinking about this unlimited portion desire, and decided it was a great philosophy to have regarding God's Word.

Psalm 73:26 says "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. "

What an awesome thought to think that we can always eat out of the gallon - the spiritual gallon of God's love - and that our portion of Him will never be limited or run out!

As I watched my kids enjoy their delicious ice cream tonight, it was a reminder of this truth about God's unlimited portion. I should awake every morning asking for God to be my portion for the day. I know that when I do that, He always comes through with flying colors (and flavors!).

Today was a great day, but I know there are days looming around the corner which may not be so great. Days when that unexpected storm hits, and I am tossed into a situation that requires faith and strength, that can only be found in Jesus. Days when He is the only portion that will get me through.

In the great days, and the not-so-great days, Christ will always be my portion - just enough, probably even more than I deserve, but exactly what I need.

Next time you enjoy the simple pleasure of eating chocolate ice cream - or simply your favorite flavor or favorite food - strange as it may sound - think about our Jesus! He is the only unlimited portion that we need! (and without all the calories!) Smiles.

Special note: Many years ago, I survived a major trial in my life, and am in awe at how God has used that experience to mold me into who I am today, and use that painful experience to equip me to serve Him in ministry. If you need some motivation to make it through hard times, and a reminder that all things can be used to bring glory to God, consider purchasing my book "Reinventing Your Rainbow" from the Proverbs 31 shopping site. I pray that God will use it to minister directly to your heart!

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