Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Time Is No More

I heard some sad news this weekend. One of my daughters favorite school teachers passed away in his sleep. He was young, married with a family, seemingly healthy, with his whole life ahead of him. I am sure he had made plans for the coming week, like tests to give, papers to grade, family activities, and the like.

But now, there is no more time for any of that.

To me, what is most disturbing about someone dying, is the immediacy of death. The finality of their existence. The reality of the end of a life, to be no more.

Every time I hear of someone passing away, especially in a sudden, unexpected, or tragic way, I find myself wanting reassurance that they are in heaven. Even if I did not personally know the person who died, my mind still wanders towards their salvation. I desperately want to believe that they are actually in a better place, pain-free, peaceful, forgiven and walking with Jesus.

But sometimes, we just dont know the answer to that question. We can only hope that the person knew Jesus while they were living, instead of meeting Him for the first time on their judgement day.

But I do know that I dont want to have regret. I hope that I do not one day find myself wondering, "was I the person that God desired to use to share Jesus with them? Did I miss a divine appointment to help that person find eternal life?"

A couple years ago, my oldest daughter had a friend who was murdered in a home robbery incident. As the thirteen year old boy threw himself in front of his toddler sister to protect her from the gunshots from the robbers who barged in their front door, he was shot, and killed instantly. I will never forget her words after she had processed the news.

She had tears in her eyes, and said that she wished she knew whether or not he was saved. She wished that she had shared Jesus with him, or at least talked about her faith with him, but instead, she was left wondering if her words could have made a difference in where he would spend eternity. Such a young mind, with such a profound understanding of the importance of having a relationship with Christ.

I cant even imagine how many opportunities I must have surely passed up in my life, to share Gods truth with someone who needed a Savior.

The hard truth is, that so many times we allow the fear of rejection and embarrassment, lack of self confidence, or the feeling of inadequacy, keep us from telling people about our Savior.

We always tell ourselves that we can talk about it with them later - when we are ready, when it is more convenient, or when the time seems right. But sometimes, time runs out and we are left with regrets and the disturbing thought that maybe they are not walking with Jesus.

God made it clear in His Word that he put us here to serve Him, not the other way around. God is not present in our lives just so that He can watch over us, protect us, and bless us, but instead, we are placed here for Him. We are given life so that we can help others find life in Him. That is our true one and only purpose this side of heaven.

Since we know we all fall short of the glory of God, and that God does not expect perfection out of us, blaming our inability to share Christ on our personal insecurity or fear of failure is a pretty poor excuse when it comes to considering whether or not someone will spend eternity in heaven, or eternity in hell.

We can glorify our God and bring a smile to His face, simply by trying to share His love with others and spread the good news - with a sense of urgency. He will take care of the rest. We are simply to say yes to being the vessel, the mouth piece, of God.

We never know when life for us will be no more; when life for our spouse or loved one will be no more; or when a casual acquaintance at work or in your neighborhood will be no more. Nobody is guaranteed another breath or another day. Remembering that can be our motivation to get rid of those inhibitions which are keeping us from living out our faith and impacting the lives of others, for here and eternity.

A couple weeks ago my pastor encouraged the congregation to look for the divine appointments that God schedules for us during the week. He encouraged us to remember that the good news, is awesome news, and that it is meant to be shared; that people need to be blessed, comforted, hugged, encouraged and loved on. It was a reminder to not be so focused on our life, that we forget the reason we have life.

I encourage you to seek out and be aware of those divine appointments in your life this week. If God has put someone in your life, remember that he/she is there for a reason. Could you be the one to impact their eternity? Could your obedience to step out of your comfort zone and plant seeds in someones hearts about the love of Christ, be what God has planned to bring them to glory?

As you have read this post today, I would imagine that God has placed someone on your heart that needs to hear about Jesus. Maybe He has brought someone to your mind that is not saved, or someone whom you are unsure of their salvation. And if no one has come to mind, take a moment to pray and see if God places a name on your heart.

Then act on that holy prompting today. Believe that the Holy Spirit resides inside of you, and has the power to work through you to save someones soul. Break down those walls of fear, and step out in faith.

You never know when that person on your heart could run out of time.

**My thoughts are prayers go out to the Crego family. May God take you through this difficult, painful time and bring comfort in your time of mourning. I pray God blesses you immensely and that you can see and feel His presence in the coming weeks. **

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Search of Peace of Mind

Okay, I admit it. I am stressed out. Even if I am successful at hiding my stress on the outside, I can always tell when things are starting to get me.

Lately, my heart has been racing in my chest. It seems to beat harder than usual, even when I am not doing anything that would cause an increased heart rate. The last few weeks, I just seem to be "aware" of my heartbeat all the time.

We want life to be simple and carefree, but it never is. And if you arent already stressed, we always know that life could change in an instant and new opportunities for stress are around every corner!.

We have a lot going on this week, for example.

My 15 year old daughter is trying out for cheerleading this week. Im stressing, not because cheerleading is all that important, but just because it is important to her. Because I worry about how self-esteem and happiness, and dont want her to feel sad or discouraged.

My 12 year old daughter got her braces on today. Aside from the sticker shock of having to write the check to the orthodontist , I worry about her accepting her new look. I worry that other kids might poke fun at her and hurt her feelings. I worry about her confidence and happiness.

In addition to my sisters every day struggle with Multiple Schlerosis, she is now also facing a serious kidney problem. We are unsure whether or not she will lose her inactive kidney, and worried about how the other kidney is doing.

My step-mother is fighting a terrible battle with lung cancer, and so far the cancer is winning the fight. My dad is her full time caregiver, three hours away from the rest of our family, so there is little help for him, and I worry about his health.

My mother is facing financial issues due to a loss of a job nearly one year ago. She also spends each day in emotional turmoil over worrying about my sister, causing me to worry about her health too.

Two recent deaths in our family.

Several of my friends are dealing with difficult health diagnoses with their children and parents, and my heart breaks for them.

The economy. Culture and society. Our family business. Bills to pay. Groceries to buy. Sports practices & busy schedules. Homework. Tests. Mean girls. Bullying. Teen fashion. Marriage. Family. The future.

Life, in itself, is stressful! Can you relate?

I came across a statement today that stress comes from trying to do something about something that we cant do anything about. How true! It made me realize that all the things above that I am stressed about, I have absolutely no control over.

We cannot change certain circumstances. We cannot heal people. We cannot influence other people to do what we want them to do. We cannot make things happen, just because we want them to happen. We cannot always avoid situations that are unpleasant. We cannot protect our kids from all harm.

When we cant control things, we feel helpless, which only increases our stress more. So what can we do?

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (NLT)

Aaaahhhhh, there is the answer. Trust in God!

Simple enough, right? Wrong.

For most of us, myself included, trusting God during difficult circumstances can be incredibly hard, regardless of how strong our faith is. I know with all my heart that my God is THE God, the creator of all things, all powerful, all mighty, sovereign, the ultimate physician, and the only way to heaven. I believe that He holds the world in His hands, that He sees/ordains/allows all things, and that all things have a purpose for those who serve Him.

But yet, my human fears and concerns often cause my heartbeat to race, my mind to imagine the worst case scenario, and my peace to vanish.

Lets face it, FULLY trusting God with our fears is hard - it goes against what our human heart wants to feel, and forces us to think with our spiritual heart. Normally we half heartedly put our trust in God, and half heartedly try to hold on to the most painful issues, and stress about it.

However, when we entrust our problems to God, and leave them in His hands, then we release ourselves from the burden of feeling like we need to continue stressing. Easier said than done, but true nonetheless.

Reality is, that I can stress myself into a heart-attack, but I will never have control over all the difficult situations in my life.

So I am challenging myself today to trust God more fully, not with some issues, but all issues. Not with half my heart, but with my whole heart.

Also, I realize that I cant change overnight. I cant erase my tendancy to worry. But I believe in who God is. I believe He is the Great I Am. And I know that unshakable faith is a process. A process of praying, believing, hoping and waiting for God to work in His perfect timing. If I ask for it, I will receive, according to Gods Word. Today I ask for peace of mind.

What about you? Are you stressed today? Do you desire to lay your worries and greatest fears at His feet? Do you yearn for that peace that seems unattainable as you stare the unknown right in the eye? I invite you to join me today, in my quest to be stress free, and faith-full.

Dear heavenly Father, my heart is hurting. My spirit is waning. I am fearful about things. I am carrying worry around in my heart. Lord, will you replace my fears with your comfort? Will you replace my worries with your reassurance? Will you replace my heartache with your peace? Help me to see you at work in the circumstances in my life. Allow me to see a piece of the plan that you have set forth, and help me to know how to minister to these people in my life. Help me to have the right words to share your love, and the strength I need to be strong for them. Help me to trust you God, fully, reverently, and immediately. Fill me with a peace that surpasses all understanding, and wrap Your hands around my heart and mind so that I will not try to pick up my burdens again. Impress upon my heart to remember to praise you during the storms of life. In Jesus name, Amen

In Search of Peace of MindSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why me?

Do you ever find yourself wondering, "why me?"

I think we all do at times, and normally when we are thinking that, it is probably right smack in the middle of a difficult situation. Then the deeper we get into the situation, the more likely we are to slip into the mindset of thinking that if we love, trust, honor and follow God, that we should be spared from trials and therefore, why are we suffering? Does God not love us?

Take a moment right now - and think about what you have been feeling lately. Mentally fill in the blank here:

Why me God? Why am I having to deal with _____________________________?

Now take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Every person alive sometimes feels that we have received far more than our fair share of hardships.

Having those thoughts is normal, however, if we allow that to become our habitual way of thinking every day, it can potentially take a toll on our faith walk.

If we walk around thinking that if it were not for bad luck, we would have no luck at all, or if we maintain a general outlook about how life is not fair..... then we can become angry and frustrated with God, and eventually may even choose to walk away from Him - either purposely or inadvertently.

Scripture tells us that in this life we will have troubles, but that God is there with us through them all. Psalm 34:19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.

I also came across this passage below and loved it. Psalm 73, the Message Bible version:

Psalm 73:1-5 No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people At the top, envying the wicked who have it made, Who have nothing to worry about, not a care in the whole wide world.

11-14 What's going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody's tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches. I've been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? A long run of bad luck, that's what—a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.

Isnt that just like us? We not only think "why me?", but that leads us to start thinking "why them?". Why do they not have the same problems, why are things easier for them, why did they get something that I wanted... blah, blah, blah. Know what I mean?

Either way we pose the question, it leads to disharmony with God.

What would happen if we began thinking about all the good things that God has done in our life, instead of focusing on the bad things that God has ordained or allowed in our life?

For example: Why was I..............
- blessed with a wonderful spouse
- blessed with children to love
- blessed with a home to live in and a car to drive
- blessed with employment
- blessed with the ability to stay at home with my children
- blessed with clothes
- blessed with health
- blessed to live in America or another great country
- blessed to have family who loves me
- blessed with intelligence and the resources to be educated
- blessed with the freedom of speech and religion
- blessed with.............(I'll let you fill in the blanks from here with your own thoughts)

It seems that the antidote for curing the "why me?" syndrome, is to begin asking why we are blessed, not just why we suffer. And secondly, to ask ourselves what we ever did to deserve our blessings? When we think about things that way, it gives us a new perspective about what we are dealing with.

I have found in my own life that no matter how many reasons I can come up with to think "why me", that the number of blessings that I have been granted far out-number the difficulties.

I realize that in the whole scheme of things, my problems are minimal compared to what other people may be faced with.

I realize that my problems do not have to weigh me down, because I can lay them at the feet of Jesus and walk away from them with confidence, knowing that God is in control.

I remember that God has used hardships in the past to draw me closer to Him, and that He can do the same thing again as I walk through current situations.

I remember that I am given grace and eternal life, even though I do not deserve it, instead of death and a life apart from God, which I do deserve.

So, not why me, but why not me? No one has ever been spared from trials, and nor should I, despite how much I love Jesus. In fact, facing difficult circumstances is actually a sign that He is working in my life.

1 Peter 1:6-7 says "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise,..."

And even if I cant rejoice over my trials, I still believe one very important truth.........

Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[a] who[b] have been called according to his purpose."

Do you believe that verse is true? I have seen it to be proved true in my life, and as a result, no matter how painful a circumstance may be in my heart, deep down I truly believe that God has a purpose for it; a way to bring someone to Christ or glorify Him in some way; and a way for His divine will to be carried out.

A great way to start out a new week, is to start it out with a fresh perspective. A perspective that looks for the positive in the negative and a perspective that searches for Gods activity, rather than Gods inactivity.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Where is my will power?

I often find myself very frustrated with her. Why cant she be different? Why cant she just be the person who God wants her to be?

Who am I talking about, you ask? I am referring to myself.

I commit to reading in my chronological bible every day, but before I know it, several days have passed, and now I am behind in my reading.

I make a commitment to exercise more patience with my children when they are having one of their dramatic episodes over something silly, but instead I am impatient.

I commit to talking gently with my children when they are engaging in heated sibling rivalry, but instead I respond in frustration and anger.

I commit to not eat that delicious, moist, oozing homemade chocolate cake that is sitting on my counter because I just made it as a special snack for the kids, not me, but instead I find myself drawn to it.

I commit to have more compassion for the people who need me do to things for them, but instead I catch myself feeling resentful or frustrated.

I commit to being more patient with my husband when he is pushing all of my wrong buttons, but instead I find myself responding with a lack of love.

I commit to forgiving for my friend for hurting my feelings, but as soon as the subject comes up, I feel those hurt feelings surfacing again.

Why? Why cant we be stronger? Why cant we resist the temptations put before us? Why cant we hold firm to the things that we know are Gods ways, instead of letting our human flesh and emotions control our thoughts and actions?

Regardless of the situation, I think it all boils down to willpower, and believing that if we exercise willpower, the positive consequences will outweigh the negative.

If dont eat chocolate cake, I dont gain weight.
If I am patient with my children, I teach them patience.
If I respond in love, I will diffuse anger and avoid conflict.
If I love my husband through thick and thin, my marriage flourishes.
If I practice compassion, I am able to be selfless, and share Gods love.

The art of willpower is being able to see past the current situation and temporary advantages of giving into the flesh, and looking into the future in consideration of the permanent benefits.

But how do we try to stay focused on that good future?

Good news, God has not left us alone to battle the temptations of the flesh. He has not left us alone to battle the forces of evil in our limited strength. I know we can overcome small and huge temptations through the power that God is ready to impart in us, if we ask for it.

I think inside each one of us, there is a desire to be pure, good, and live a righteous life. It is when we do not seek Gods will, that the problems begin.

Some people dispute Christianity or make fun of people who try to live a life based on morals and integrity, but deep inside of them, there is a desire to do the right thing.

Other people desire to do good, but continue to allow their selfish desires drive their actions, and ultimately they will fail also.

God placed that desire for righteous living in all of us, but He also gave us the choice of whether or not we will fill that hole with His will, or our own.

Having willpower simply means yielding to Gods will. Choosing to live in His ways.

But what about the power of choice? Is it a gift or a curse? I have to wonder, but either way, it is ours to exercise.

We cannot always control our thoughts or push aside our human emotions. We cannot always overcome the desires of the flesh to be selfish, un-compassionate, unloving, impatient, or to eat yummy chocolate cake that we know is not good for the thighs.

Some people have a terrible time controlling their desire to lie, steal, be angry, abuse alcohol, do drugs, watch pornography, have repeated affairs, or a myriad of other struggles that are in this broken world. For some, overcoming these temptations to continue in a pattern of sin seems insurmountable, impossible, and hopeless.

But no matter what the temptation, we always have the power to choose. We can choose to love God, and serve Him, and try to live a life that glorifies Him.

We can choose to desperately pray for the willpower to overcome our temptations. We can choose to believe that He will do a work in our hearts and help us be that overcomer.

In choosing Christ over our own desires, our whole being can be brought under the control of Christ. He will have control over our thoughts. He will have control over our actions. He will have control over our behaviors. He will have control
over our desires.

By yielding ourselves to the power of Christ, and praying for His will, not our own, we open the door for divine power to be poured into our souls. We receive a strength to fight off temptations that we didnt know was possible. We notice that what once seemed so tempting, no longer seems so great. We notice that our desires change from the bad, to the good.

We notice, and begin believing, that we can have a life of victory. Victory over appetite, lust, selfishness, substance abuse, and all struggles.

We find out we can live a life that is pure and noble, instead of daily succumbing to the weak, wavering will of ourselves.

Do you need some willpower today? I know I do. But today I am not going to depend on my own pitiful attempts to exercise willpower. I am going to depend on God. I have felt His willpower in me in the past, and have seen His power working through me, fighting off of my temptations. He is all powerful.

Lord, today I pray for willpower. Please give me the willpower I need to overcome the struggles between my fleshly desires, and your heavenly desires; the struggles between the way I would like to think or act, and the way you would have me think or act. Help me to keep my eyes focused on the positive benefits that are derived from living each day in a way that lets other people see You living in me, instead of swimming in the negative feelings that I feel after acting out in a way that does not glorify You. Instill in me a desire to do your will, every day. Take over control of my heart and mind today, so that my emotions are controlled by Godly thoughts, and that my actions will be ones that I can be happy with, and ones that bring a smile to your face as well.

Romans 7:18 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (The Message Bible)

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Spiritual Questions #1: Do I Have A Hardened Heart?

Each week I receive emails from women cross the country, inquiring about how to handle a certain situation in their life, heal from past hurts, or find forgiveness. I always feel so humbled that I am even given the opportunity to minister to these precious women, although I feel so unworthy and unqualified to do so. However, I believe every interaction is a divine appointment, and rely on God to lead me to the right truths to share that will encourage them in their faith.

Since the issues that are brought to my attention are ones that I feel sure that many women struggle with each day, I thought I would share some of these issues and Gods truths about them, with my readers over the coming days.

This past week, I received an email from a lady who had been taught to believe as a child, through her former church, that a persons heart could be permanently hardened. She was living with the overwhelming fear that maybe since she had turned away from God so many times in her life, and rejected His ways, that there was no hope for her. That her opportunity for salvation and eternal life with Christ had passed. That all was lost.

It broke my heart to read those few short sentences, and hear the fear and hopelessness in her voice. So in case there is anyone else who is holding onto that fear that it is too late for them to have a relationship with Christ, I am focusing on that subject today.

This untruth was taught to her via reference to Hebrews 3:7-11 :

So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.'

Now consider these two verses below:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 15:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

These two verses above are absolute truths. As you can see, in neither verse, does God mention that His love and eternal life are promised with strings attached, time frames attached, or a set number of times when we can turn from Him and never be allowed to know Him. These verses simply say that He sent His son for us, and that we can always get to the Father through Jesus.

I know and believe that our God is a God of second chances, and third, fourth, fifth and infinite chances! Each day we are given a new opportunity to start anew, to ask for forgiveness, and to strive for a heart that loves Him and a life that lives for Him.

We all stumble and fail, but we are forgiven upon request and loved nonetheless.

Each day that we reject Him, He longs for us. Each day that we turn from His ways, He wishes we would choose Him. Each day we suffer the consequences for our own bad choices, He hurts for us, catches our tears, and calls out to us. But never, does He turn His back on us.

As a parent, when my child disappoints me or does not follow the Godly ways of living that I have taught them, I would never consider in a million years the thought of forgetting about them, or kicking them out into the street to fend for themselves, writing them off forever. Nor does God feel that way about us. He forgives a million times over, just as we do for our own children.

Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

This verse in Matthew reassures us that Jesus will continue knocking on our hearts for as long as we live. Even if someone does not repent and accept Christ until they are within moments of death, as long as they open the door to let Him into their hearts before they die, then Jesus is there with open arms.

The ONLY time that it would be too late to accept Jesus and the gift of salvation is after our death, because then we have no power to make decisions or choices anymore, and our whole lives were lived apart from Christ. Then is the only time when we could hear the words, “I never knew you”, as we see in Matthew 7:23.

I have read that there were only 2 specific times in history, when the door to salvation was actually closed, with no turning back, no second chances.

One: when Noah warned people for 150 years that God’s judgment was coming, but they refused to listen and went about living their lives apart from Him, and they were all killed in the flood without another opportunity to believe Gods Word. Once the doors of the ark were shut, those people did not have another chance.

Two: Sodom and Gomorrah, the people of those sinful cities were warned and given plenty of opportunity to believe, but they continued to live in habitual ways that were against God, and after Lot and his family were clear of the cities, He destroyed the cities and everyone in them. They did not have a second chance.

The Bible clearly warns us in Revelation that there is ONLY one last world-wide judgment for the entire world, which is the Tribulation. Those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus now, will escape it and will be taken to heaven immediately when the Tribulation begins. Those who have died before the rapture will be resurrected and given glorious new bodies, and those alive will be instantly transformed with new bodies without having to face death. Jesus warns that when He returns for the Tribulation, that our world today will be in the same state as it was in Noahs time and in the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Some people think that the Tribulation may be sooner than later, since our world seems to be operating in a perpetual state of lack of values and slowly trying to remove Christ from all aspects of our lives, but only God knows when that time will come. As believers, that is not something we need to worry about, because whether it happens now or later, we will be safe and happy with Jesus.

God wants us to understand by the “hardening of hearts” reference in Hebrews 3, that the time to love Him, commit our lives to Him, and follow Him NOW.

Life is fragile, and we have no way of knowing how many days we will be given to live. Waiting to accept Gods call on our heart, is kind of like playing Russian roulette with our eternal life. We have the opportunity, while we are living on this earth, to open the door as He is knocking. If we wait too long and our opportunity passes because of death or Tribulation, only then is it too late.

If you are worried that God has possibly hardened your heart because of the way you have lived your life so far, then you can relax in knowing that your heart is not hardened. If your heart were hardened, you would not care about what God thought, or whether or not you heart was hardened. If you seek and desire a relationship with God, then your heart is preparing a place for Him.

Hebrews 3:7-11 is talking about people who continued to harden their hearts and rebel against God. They never repented. They did not desire to repent. They did not care about God.

A 'hardened heart' does not mean that God will no longer want you because your heart is hardened, it means that ones heart would be so full of sin and rejection of Jesus, that one would no longer desire God.

Any person who sincerely desires to repent can be saved. If God is not dealing with your heart, then you would not care about your spiritual condition or eternal life.

If you have every worried if God has turned His back on you because of your ways, or if you do not feel Him working in your heart and secretly wonder if He has hardened your heart, consider reading Luke 15. No matter how many sheep a shepherd had, he would always search for the one who was lost. The same goes for you, Gods child, if you are lost, rest assured that He is searching for you, even if you have walked away.

Forever is a long time, forever is eternity. You can have the gift of eternity forever with God, simply upon the asking. DO YOU KNOW JESUS ?

Do you have a spiritual question that you have been struggling with? Send me an email or post a comment and I would love the opportunity to address it during this series.

{Please note: I do not claim to be a biblical or theological scholar, however, I commit to fully rely on Gods Word 100%, and will also check with my pastor, if needed or if I am uncertain, to confirm any information or biblical answers about spiritual truths that may be in question.}

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Hola Amigos!

My trip to Mexico last week was absolutely amazing. I arrived back home with a head and heart overflowing with fond memories, and the blessing of lots of new friends!

To the ladies of the Ecumenical Society in Monterrey, thank you for your kindness, your friendship and for making my stay there so wonderful. I was truly blessed by each of your stories and your confidence to be so transparent and open, and what God is calling you to do going forward.

Before this past weekend, all I knew about Monterrey was that a lot of Mexican restaurants seem to be named after that city, but now I know that it is a beautiful, mountain terrain city filled with beautiful people who live there!

The scenery was breathtaking.... here are a few pictures to prove my point........

(Below, me and Rita, my wonderful host who let me stay in her garden room before we went to the hotel the next day.)

(Ritas backyard - wow! The garden room is top right, where I stayed. Can you say paradise?)

(The beautiful Monterrey mountains)

God showed up so big at the retreat, and we were all blessed by His presence and the fellowship that we all shared in His name. I believe hearts were healed and new amazing beginnings are on the horizon for many women - glory to God!

All in all, it was a weekend that I will never forget. The theme verse for our weekend was Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans for a hope and a future.

It was a great reminder of how God works in miraculous ways to help us see that His plan for our lives is so much better than our own. Many women were struggling with painful personal circumstances, but they too could see God at work in their lives and return home knowing that God has a plan for everything.

I love the way God intervenes in our lives and puts us in just the right places at just the right times with just the right people! Just knowing God has a special plan and purpose for each of us is a comforting, and peace-giving feeling that we can carry with us whereever we go.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Family Treasures

Family treasures. No I dont mean antique furniture, old Bibles passed down, or priceless jewelry. Although those things are important, the true treasure is the family itself.

I spent the weekend with my extended family in Wilmington, NC, to honor my late grandmother at her memorial service. Although the occasion was somber because of the reason for the gathering, the family time was wonderful. We enjoyed a fun and busy cookout at my aunts house on Saturday evening, something we do not get to do very often because of the distance between all of us. And although Sunday was a day of mixed feelings and tears, we were able to spend quality time together during the memorial service and the lunch that followed.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Although we will miss our beloved mother and grandmother, her memorial service was more of a celebration of her life than a mourning of her loss. We know she is running, not just walking, with Jesus today. That she is singing and praising and overflowing with joy as she has been reunited with her husband of 63 years, and all of her family members who went before her. We all know she is looking down on her precious family with love, and that she will be the guardian angel for years to come.

I feel so immensely blessed to have the unusually large family that I have. I know without a shadow of a doubt, that if I ever needed anyone for anything, that any of my family members would offer their help, no matter how long it had been since we had seen each other. I am so lucky to have aunts and uncles and cousins spread all over the Southeast, and each of them are a treasure to me.

I think we often forget to remember what a treasure our family members truly are - not just extended family, but even those who live in our own home.

As we get caught up in our daily routines, work, communities, household obligations and family activities, I think we often forget to deeply treasure the ones we love, and thank God for them each day. Sometimes we tend to take the most important people in our lives for granted, even though they are our most priceless and irreplaceable treasures.

Yesterday my children were out of school for a teacher workday, and we had such a wonderful day together. Although my husband could not join us because he had to work, I was able to enjoy a day focused on nothing more than how much I adore my kids.

During our special time together, we enjoyed a leisurely morning at home and ate some home made waffles. We then headed off to a local national park, where we had a picnic in the warm sunshine, threw rocks at the lake, and played around in the woods, ending it off with a look at a nature preserve and a short nature hike. Then it was off to the mall to eat warm cinnamon pretzels, and shop for some new school clothes for spring. It really was a great day, not because of what I did, but because of who I was with.

It was a special day, because in my heart, I was reminded to remember how precious they are, and how much fun they are to be with.

I was reminded to see how unique each of them are, with their very own gifts, talents, quirks and personalities.

I was reminded of how their laughter and giggling is music to my ears and how that sweet sound makes my heart smile.

I was reminded to look at each of them with a renewed joy, a gentler tone, and a more patient love.

Even though my husband was not with us, I was reminded how much I love him and these children that we share together.

If there is one regret I never ever want to have to say, it would be that I forgot that my family was the most magnificent gift that I have ever been given.

Take a moment today to thank God for the people in your life - related by blood, or related by love and friendship - friends and family are treasures that can never be replaced.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mixed Tears

I returned from Mexico last night, and had an amazing time with the women of the Ecumenical Society in Monterrey, and with my wonderful husband in Cancun. I had planned to post pictures and blessings from my trip today, but life changes quickly, so I will share those at a later time.

My sweet grandmother, Marion Blythe, went to be with Jesus tonight. She has been frail and weak for years, with her health diminishing, and her body failing her. Even when you know someone is ready and anxious to transform into the beautiful, new, and revitalized body that they will receive when they leave this broken world behind, it is still hard to accept the loss of people we love.

When I was growing up, her constant religious reminders about every word that we spoke, every action that we took, and every behavior that we acted out on, actually got on my nerves. If I ever said "shut up", she was quick to correct me to say "please be quiet" instead - not what you wanted to say when your brother or sister were bugging you. She constantly reminded us to keep a soft tone, a sweet disposition, and to always know that God was watching.

We have always poked fun at her cooking skills, which were not one of her spiritual gifts. She never wasted a morsel and put every bit to good use in some way, which often times got very creative. Even when she forced us to eat cold oatmeal and certain foods which we could not identify, we still knew her intentions were good, and her heart was in the right place. Just be thankful for what God gives you, appreciate it, and consume it.

Grandmother once added an extra verse to our family blessing, which as a child, I thought was the longest blessing in the history of the world and that the time to eat would never arrive. But now, it is a tradition that I do with my own children before each meal.

The blessing goes like this, "Come Lord Jesus, our guests to be, and bless these gifts bestowed by thee", and she added "and bless our loved ones everywhere, and keep them in your loving care". Amen. Funny how we learn to appreciate things that seemed so insignifcant at the time, but now hold a special place in our heart.

She had bible verses cut out and pasted everywhere in the house, from the toilet paper roll to the fridge. Pictures of Jesus filled her home. She was gifted in music and had tons of music stacked high all around the house, which now is a treasure that was passed down to me a few years ago, but she played hymns and praise music on the organ and the piano until her eyes and memory began failing her.

She started a day care, focused on Christ, and ran it for 25 years. She taught Sunday School, music, choir, played the church piano, volunteered, provided homes for countless foster children, and shared the gospel wherever she went. Despite all the things that happened in her life, good, bad and indifferent, she never lost sight of the fact that our focus in life is to be on the eyes of Jesus.

But what I will always remember the most, is the legacy of faith that she left behind. My grandmother's heart, and the love of Jesus that she shared with countless hundreds of children and adults throughout her lifetime, is one that will last forever in the minds of those who knew her.

She and my grandfather, who passed away several years ago, gave birth to ten children. Those ten children provided her 22 grandchildren, and 21 great grandchildren. The ages of my cousins range from 3 years of age, to over 50 yrs old.

She and my grandfather not only left a large family, they left a legacy of faith. All of her children, the spouses of her children, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren who are old enough to make spiritual decisions, believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus has been the stronghold in our family for as long as I can remember. Generations and generations of people will be impacted because of her faith and the Godly beliefs that will be passed down for years to come.

So as you pray over the coming days, I covet your prayers for my family. For those who grieve her loss, and for the children who have a hard time understanding death. But a smile comes to my face when I think of her singing those praise songs, in her alto voice, to the most High God as she has always done, but this time, she is standing in His presence. Smiling. Restored. Perfect. Pain free. Rejoicing. Beautiful.

Thank you Jesus for your gift of salvation and eternal life, I cant imagine facing the death of a loved one without knowing that they have been given wings to fly with You.

(My grandmother holding the most recently born grandchild, Savannah, right after her birth about three years ago.)

2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.

Luke 23:43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Mixed TearsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, March 2, 2009

Is Anyone There?

I was frightened. I had heard a noise in the darkness, but my eyes could not see. I had that sinking, nauseating feeling of panic as the blood seemed to rush from my face. With weak knees, I crept through the den and down into a basement. I knew someone was in the house, and that my children were in danger. I hear them upstairs crying and fearful of what might be happening.

I manage to fumble around and find the wall phone in the darkness, and begin frantically dialing 911. The phone line opens, but nobody is there. I am yelling for help, but nobody hears me. Nobody is answering my desperate plea for someone, anyone, to come save me and my family. I fall to my knees with hopelessness and despair, wondering how I can protect my children, what should I do next, how can I get to them and keep them safe from harm, and more panic sets in.................

....then I wake up from my nightmare - heart beating fast, sweating, and feeling completely frantic - until I realize, it was just another dream.

I have had this dream many times, even ones with similar feelings, but different settings. Such as, my kids are outside and I see a tornado in the distance, but I cant get to them in time and they cant hear me warning them of danger. Or one of them is getting pulled into the rough ocean waves, and the force of the water keeps me from reaching them. Or I see someone kidnapping them, and my legs seem to be frozen, paralyzed.

One morning recently after having another such dream, I began to pray. I know that my dreams are simply a visual hallucination of my deepest fears; of something happening to those who are most important to me. And I know that I need not have those fears, because my God loves me and my family, and His desire is to keep us safe from harm.

So I found myself praying, asking God to strengthen my faith and my trust, and also inquiring as to why I continue having this scary dream. I immediately had a new thought. A thought that had not entered my mind before, so I know that God had placed it there.

"That feeling you have in your dream of hopelessness, despair, panic and the fear of recognizing that you are all alone without the prospect of someone hearing your cry, is how people feel when they do not know Me."

The thought took my breath away. For a moment, I laid there thinking about the very real feelings that I was still experiencing when I awoke from the dream. And then I felt the feeling of sorrow enter my heart.

Sorrow for those people who are lost, who dont know Jesus, and who dont have a God to call out to when they feel hopeless, desperate and all alone. Sorrow for those who are internally crying out for help and answers, and desperately wishing that someone, anyone, could hear them and bring them comfort.

Millions of people in our world feel alone every day. I dont mean they are actually alone, without crowds or people around, but they FEEL alone. They carry around a burden of loneliness every day; they carry a longing to be filled and fulfilled, but nothing they get, do or accomplish fills that void.

Christians do not have to fear loneliness. We may yearn for a little company every now and then or want to spend time with friends, but the feeling of desperate loneliness, with nobody to call out to, is not there. With Jesus as our Savior and friend, Christians can walk with confidence and happiness, because true loneliness is a feeling that results from the absence of Jesus.

Matthew 10:29-31 says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Jesus knows the numbers of hairs on your head, and He loves you. But does He really know you? And do you really know Him?

If you do not know Him, and you have been experiencing those feelings of loneliness, desperation, wondering what your purpose is in life, and why should you keep on going, then please visit this link today. You can fill that void that has been gaping open for years.

If you do know Him, then consider if there is someone you know who is feeling alone today. Forward this blog post to someone you love who needs to hear that Jesus is waiting to meet them, and that He is the answer to all those prayers for true friendship and someone they can trust and believe in; someone that hears their cries, and wants to reach out and save them.

God will answer your calls. He sees your situation. He loves you.

God is there, even when nobody else is, and He is only one prayer away.

(If you linked over here from the Proverbs 31 Devotion, then welcome! I hope you will come back soon!)

Is Anyone There?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend