Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lent Day 7 - Cover Me!

Above all, love each other

deeply, because love covers 
over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

Have you heard the phrase, "blinded by love?"  Have you ever seen anyone who was so in love with someone that they were completely oblivious to that person's flaws and quirks? Yep. Disgusting, isn't it? We shake our heads and share our concerns - all in the name of Christian concern, of course - and wonder how anyone could be soooo blind or stupid or gullible or whatever term we want to use to describe them. 

Have you ever been that person? Yep. Me too. 

The thing is, I'm on the other side of this, too. We all are. I'm the one with all the flaws and bad things and quirks, and I am unconditionally loved. When people see me, warts and all, and wonder of what use I am, God looks at me and sees his precious child, someone who was important enough that he traded his own son's life for mine. That kind of sacrifice makes me special. Priceless. A one-of-a-kind treasure. 

It makes you one, too. 

If a friend was going on a trip and gave you a precious family heirloom to take care of how would you treat it? Would you toss it in the back of your junk closet and pile stuff on top of it? Would you leave it outside in the weather? Would you throw in it the trunk of your car and forget it was there? Hopefully not! You would bring it inside and put it in a place that was safe from the traffic in your home and the weather and nocturnal animals looking for a meal. You would probably take better care of it than you would of your own belongings. 

People are like that. They are all precious family treasures that God has loaned to us for a little while. Some of us could stand a little sprucing up, and some of us need more special attention than others, but we are all precious treasures - the apple of God's eye. 

God's love covers us every day. We are washed in his amazing grace, forgiven, redeemed, justified through him. Still we make mistakes, but if we love each other with the love of God - deeply and unconditionally - we can continue to treat one another as the true treasures that we are. 

Can we learn to be gracious and gentle with one another? With God's help we can. 

Love covers a multitude of sins. God's love has covered ALL of ours.

Is there someone in your life who needs the gentle, gracious love of God? Ask God to let you be the one who embodies that love in their lives. Write their names down. Pray for them. Pray for yourself. You will only do this well through the power of God in your life. 

Above all, LOVE...

The greatest of these is LOVE...

For God so LOVED...

Are you seeing the recurring theme here? I hope so. 

Today ask God to help you love as he loves.  Someone you will meet today needs it. 

Praying for you...


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lent Day 6 - Simplify

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches, if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." 
John 15:1-8

I'm not a hoarder but I'm closely related by blood to a serious, card-carrying pack rat. Though she is long gone now, her influence remains, and if I'm not careful, I will find myself continuing the tradition. As I get older, and maybe a little wiser I've actually moved away from the tendency to keep something "just in case".  Maybe wisdom has nothing to do with it; maybe I'm just a lot less tolerant of all the stuff that must be stored, dusted, walked around, moved out of the way, etc. For the last several years I've kept a box in my office at home that is the keeper of the junk. When the box is full it is taken out of my house and to someone -Goodwill, Chipola Family Ministries - that can use it. 

It feels good to purge and share. Somehow, though, no matter how much we get rid of, there's always more. A lot more! It never fails, that when I get back home from taking away the box, I walk in the house and see something else that I don't need. Sigh. Will it ever end? Probably not. I have a lot of stuff. We all do, don't we? 

I thought about this as I was reading the verses about Jesus being the vine and me being a branch. I thought about it because there is such a sharp contrast sometimes between the condition of my home - and heart - and the orderliness of a well-tended vineyard. Look at the picture at the top of this post. The vines are planted in straight rows with the branches carefully tied up off the ground. The grass between the rows is kept cut down and neatly trimmed giving the tenders of the vines ample room to reach every part of the plant to prune and tend it. Fruit is easily visible and easy to harvest at the right time. Dead or dying branches are easily cut-off and discarded which keeps the rest of the vine healthy and productive. 

If you haven't read Secrets of the Vine,  by Bruce Wilkinson you really should sometime. Jesus used the example of the vineyard in his teaching because it was simple and something that the people understood. This book brings the whole process to life for those of us without experience tending a vineyard. It's amazing to see the parallels to the Christian life. 

Just like I'm constantly taking things out of my home that are no longer needed - sometimes have never been needed - I think that Jesus wants to be constantly at work in my heart and life, taking things out, trimming out the dead and useless things that I somehow let into my heart. For me it's a holistic kind of thing: the more orderly my personal space at home, the less I have to struggle to hear God speak to me about the really personal space of my heart. 

I'm not saying that you can't hear God speak to you if your house is a mess. I am saying that God is a God of order, not chaos. We are made in his image. If the condition of your home is a constant source of distraction, frustration and anxiety for you, those feelings may keep you from listening like you need to because you feel the chaos there. 

Think about it. What do you have in your home that you haven't used or worn in a year, 6 months, ever? What do you have in your home that is so buried under other things that you haven't even seen it since you moved in - 10 years ago? Would you be better at writing a note of encouragement to someone if you could find your note cards, and a pen that worked, and a clean surface to write on? Would it be easier to cook a quick meal for someone at the last minute if your pantry was organized and well-stocked? Would it be easier to have someone over for dinner to welcome them to the neighborhood or your Sunday School class if your dining room table wasn't stacked with stuff that had no place to go, and your couch wasn't piled with laundry? 

Don't you wish there was a verse that said something like: "Thou shalt not get personal about thy neighbors' stuff?"  

Oh wait, here's one more...

Would it be easier to have a regular family time if your calendar were not so full of other commitments? 

Okay, I'm done here. 

My point is, part of tending a grapevine to keep it fruitful is cutting out the dead stuff. It's just there taking up space and diverting nutrients and leaving the vine open to attack by disease and pests.  Jesus does the pruning of our lives and hearts. The other point of this is that we are holistic beings. It's very hard to have order in one part of our lives and live with chaos in another. 

We can all stand to simplify our lives a little. There is nothing wrong with not having every moment of every day planned and full. Where is the time to just "be still and know that I am God?" 

Ask God to show you how you can simplify your life. Ask him to show you the things that get in the way of your focus on him.  God has plans for all of us. I don't want to miss an opportunity because my life was too full of other 'good' things. 

This is not about feeling guilty because we're busy. It's about making sure that the things that keep us busy do not keep us from the things that God has for us that make life abundant and meaningful. Let the vine-dresser do a little pruning in your life during this season of Lent. Don't be afraid of it, welcome it and embrace it. You know that you can trust him to take out what is not healthy for you and replace it with something excellent. 

What's going in your burn pile? 

I have prayed for you today. 


Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent Day 5 - Resolve to Inquire of the Lord

2 Chronicles 20: 3-4, 12
"Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord,  
and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah
came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they
came from every town in Judah to seek him...
'we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not
know what to do but our eyes are upon you.'"

King Jehoshaphat, when faced with an imminent attack by the Moabites and Ammonites did not have a clue what to do. He did not have the strength to face the attack and defeat the invading armies. Here is what he did.
  • chose (resolved) to take the problem before the Lord
  • called his people to join him in fasting and prayer
  • he admitted to God in front of his people that he did not know what to do 
  • he led them in standing quietly before the Lord to wait for his answer
Verse 13 says that all the men of Judah were there with their wives and children. Not only did Jehoshaphat set an example for his people,  parents set an example for their children and involved them in this time of seeking and waiting for God. 

God was there waiting and listening to their petitions. His answer was this:
  1. Don't be afraid and discouraged because of them
  2. This is my battle - not yours
  3. March down against them tomorrow
  4. Take up your positions
  5. Stand firm
  6. See the deliverance the Lord will give you
  7. Don't be afraid and discouraged
  8. Go face them
  9. I will be with you
The weapon of their warfare was praise. Read the rest of this chapter. In verse 21 Jehoshaphat appointed men whose sole responsibility was to go out before the army of God singing and praising God: "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever."

Verse 22 tells us that as they were singing and praising, God was fighting the battle for them. 

Life is full of spiritual battles. In fact, life IS a spiritual battle. Every day there is a battle between the forces of God and the army of Satan. We know who has already won, but sometimes we still must fight. Sometimes we need to take up our positions, stand firm and see the deliverance of God. Always, though, we must inquire of the Lord. 

Jehoshaphat was a godly king and a good leader. He knew that waiting on God and seeking his will were not signs of weakness, but an acknowledgement of God's rightful position - and his - in battle. 

Whatever struggle you face, no matter how devastating, hopeless, or terrifying it may seem, it cannot defeat you if you will put it in it's proper place. Even death does not win against Jesus. Not ever. 

Read the rest of the chapter. Because of Jehoshaphat's obedience and his faith: "the fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel."

What a testimony! We have seen God's hand in the lives of Steve Cartwright and Tracy Wierman. Two different outcomes, but victory in both just the same. If you attended Tracy's funeral you know the praise and glory given to God for his faithfulness and we can never know all the ways God will continue to use her influence and the trust and faithfulness of her family to change lives and point people to Jesus. 

Whatever battle you face, whether anyone else knows or not, resolve to inquire of the Lord. Admit, like Jehoshaphat that you have no power over this fight, and that you do not know what to do. Then turn your eyes on him, wait for him, praise him, trust him. Gather people around you to pray for you and with you, who will stand with you before him. Remember God's place in the battle - and yours!

If you know of someone who is struggling, stand with them in prayer before the Lord. Whether they know it or not, God knows, and he honors the prayers of his children. There is power in prayer, individually and collectively. God waits to answer. What do you need to ask of him today? 

I have prayed for you today. 


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Celebration Day

Psalm 18:1-3

"I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horns of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I am saved from my enemies."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lent Day 4 - Get Over it Already!

Yes this is the season of Lent, a time of prayer and repentance, penitence and fasting. It is a time to draw closer to God and to let him do a work in our hearts, but just so we don't go overboard here, let's talk about GUILT for a minute. 

We all have it for sins real and imagined. Sometimes the conviction comes from God and sometimes we are just our own worst enemies. Here is the main point of today's post:

God does not intend for us to hang on to our guilt, roll around and wallow 
in it, wear it like a scarlet "S" around our necks, and repeatedly bash ourselves
with it. If we do that then the cross was for nothing! 

He came to give us abundant life: John 10:10

He came to set us free: John 8:32

He died to bring us forgiveness: John 3:16

He promised- PROMISED - to forgive us: 1 John 1:9

He removes our sin far from us: Psalm 103:12

How many more scriptures can you think of that speak of God's love and forgiveness? Write them down in your journal and read them over and over again asking God to let the message in His word sink deep into the hidden places of your heart where you keep your shame and guilt hidden from the rest of the world. 

Counselors often confront their clients with the idea of secondary gain. 
  • "What do you gain by staying in this unhealthy relationship?"
  • "What do you gain by taking on more than your share of work?"
  • "What do you gain by never speaking up for yourself?"
Those questions almost always surprise people and they are often offended by them. The truth is, though, when it comes right down to it, there IS something they are getting: attention, sympathy, pats on the back, etc... There is a reason why people don't let go of the things that are bad for them. 

Now, how does that relate to you and guilt? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Only you can know for sure under God's leadership. 

Are you holding on to guilt for something that you have already received forgiveness for? Do you believe, somewhere deep inside that you don't deserve to be forgiven? Well you're right, you don't deserve it! Thank God that he is compassionate enough and loves us enough to not give us even a little bit of what we deserve! 

Grace and mercy. That's what we get. Sometimes we just need to accept it and be grateful. It's easier said than done, but here's a way to do it.

Whenever you start to feel guilty about something:
  •  first make sure that you have confessed it and asked God's forgiveness
  • ask forgiveness of others as needed
  • speak God's promises (scriptures) of forgiveness out loud and claim them
  • PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE: praise God for what he has done in your life. Thank him for forgiving you and for using whatever it is you feel guilty about to bring you closer to him. 
  • Make it a point to praise anytime you feel guilty. This takes your focus off of your "feelings" - which is right where Satan wants it to be - and puts it back on God, where it should stay. 
If you do these things you will be overwhelmed with the presence and power of God in your life. You will - IN HIS POWER - release the guilt and live in his victory. 

There is a place for conviction. God's Holy Spirit lives in us to convict us of sin, not to batter us into pitiful little puddles of useless, defeated, spiritual mush. It is God's way of shaping us to be more like him. He chastises those whom he loves!

If you are holding on to guilt today ask for God to help you release it. He died on the cross for you because he never intended for you to live under a cloud of guilt, but rather as his child, claiming his victory every day. 

Ask yourself what purpose your guilt serves. Be honest. Ask God to help you take a good honest look into your heart. 

You are forgiven!

Accept it, claim it, and live like it.

Remember: it is difficult to share the love and forgiveness of Jesus with others with sincerity and integrity if we are unwilling to accept it for ourselves! Think about it.

I have prayed for you today.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent Day 3 - How's Your House?

"As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."

Joshua 3:5

Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’”
  • to set apart as holy
  • to devote to sacred or serious use

Leviticus 20:7-8

Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”

Was Joshua telling the people that they could actually consecrate themselves? No. In Old Testament times there was a process for consecrating someone or something to God. Specific activities took place as part of the protocol. Today it is a matter of taking our hands off ourselves and allowing God to work this change in us. It is a choice. Just as the children of Israel could choose to complete the rituals of consecration or not, we can choose to allow God access to our hearts to ‘make them holy’ as he promised.

When we allow ourselves to be consecrated it is an acknowledgment that we belong to God and are here for his purpose. We lay down our own agendas and present ourselves to him as soldiers of his kingdom ready to do battle. Part of that is understanding that he is not concerned with our social status or what groups we may be part of. He is not concerned with our appraisal of the work he gives us. He is unconcerned with whether we believe our job to be worthy of us. He simply calls us to obey.

Consecration means understanding that anything he calls us to do, any opportunity he provides, any person he puts in our path is a holy assignment. We don’t get to pick and choose. We set ourselves aside for a sacred use and trust God to glorify himself as we obey.

What in your life needs to be consecrated to God:
-your family
-your home
-your material possessions
-your job and place of business
-your leisure time

Consider making this an active initiative. You’ve heard of prayer walking through a neighborhood or community? Let’s get a little more personal.

Find time at home when you can be alone or at least have a little quiet time to yourself. Walk through each room of your home and dedicate it to God’s use, asking him to bless it. Pray for each person who resides in your home, especially as you walk through bedrooms. Ask for God’s blessing in specific ways. Pray for the things you know that person needs and ask God to be generous and bountiful with his blessings. Ask for God to help you be the person he needs you to be in your home.

Do the same thing at work. If you can go early before others get there, great. If not, ask God to allow you some quiet moments in each place to pray for his blessings on your business and your co-workers. Be as specific as you can when you pray and ask God for opportunities to share him with your colleagues. Dedicate yourself to being God’s ambassador to those around you.

If you or your kids are involved in extra curricular activities do they same with them. If you’re standing on the sidelines, pray for the coaches and the players. Pray for the parents and families you see there. You may know nothing about them but God knows exactly what they need. Ask him to bless each person there, individually and collectively.

If you want to expand that, walk through your neighborhood and pray for your neighbors. Drive through Marianna and pray for the residents and businesses. Be specific when you can and leave the rest to God. Dedicate our city back to God and yourself to making it a town of believers.

Write down your thoughts as God speaks to you while you pray, and don't forget to write down what he does in your life over the next few weeks. Use this to share with others what Jesus means to you, and what he can mean to them. 

I am praying for you. 


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent Day 2 - First Things First

Matthew 5:23-24

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Romans 12:18

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This seems like a fitting place to begin a season of repentance and seeking God. It may also be the hardest place to start. I think it shows the importance that God places on unity in the body of Christ. We all know the consequences of broken relationships and hurt feelings, minor offenses and life-shattering betrayals.
Not all of us, however, know the deep welling up of peace and joy that comes from allowing God to mend and heal broken hearts and shattered trust. It takes two things: being willing to repent, and being willing to forgive.
Sometimes we need to say we are sorry. It’s humbling and we’re just not very good at being humble. But we are called to be just that. Whether the harm was intentional or not, big or little, if we have offended someone it’s our responsibility to say we are sorry.
The other side of that coin is being willing to accept an apology when it is offered. As children of God we do not have the right to hold grudges or bask in our hurt feelings. We don’t have the right to tell everyone how we were hurt. We have a divine mandate to forgive and to protect the person we are forgiving. No harm - physical, emotional, social, or any other kind should come to them because of our actions. We just don’t have the right to do that.
As we start this season of Lent ask God to help you take an honest look at yourself. Are you holding a grudge and refusing to forgive? Do you need to ask forgiveness of someone else? Ask him to give you the courage and integrity to follow through and make amends. Allow him entrance to your deepest soul and let him heal your wounds as you extend his love to others.

What other verses talk about the unity of believers and living in peace with others? List them in your journal. Write them out and choose one to memorize.

Is there someone you need to forgive or whose forgiveness you need? List each one  and begin to pray for that person and for yourself. Ask God to help you be willing for him to change YOU. Don’t put off restoring this relationship. Do it now. Remember it is not about your feelings, it is about choosing to be obedient.

Think of those you know with broken relationships in your family and in our church. Write their names in your journal and begin to pray for God to restore those relationships. Don’t take sides. Encourage reconciliation when you can.

Holding on to anger or hurt feelings, even when they are honest and legitimate, will get in the way of what God can do in your heart. In the end, the one who is hurt the most is you.

Ask God to make you willing to let go of the hurt. You can't do this in your own power, so don't even try. It may take time, but if you are willing, God will do a work in your heart and bless you.

Are you willing?

I am praying for you.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The First Day of Lent - February 22, 2012

I can only imagine…

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man,
all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
2 Corinthians 2:9

Lent: a period of forty days (excluding Sundays) set aside for fasting and penitence (feelings of guilt and remorse for misdeeds and sins).

We are entering a time of Lent leading up to a celebration of Easter – the victory of Christ over sin and death. The moment we accepted Him as our Savior we were changed forever. From that moment on He has been working in us to make us more like Him.

We have all witnessed the miraculous working of His hand in the lives of others and in ourselves. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; a promise of things to come.

As we begin this time of prayer and seeking God, search your own heart with God’s help. Ask him to look inside all the hidden places that you don’t even go yourself.

  • Ask for the courage to look at the things he shows you
  • Ask for strength to trust him to have your best interest at heart
  • Ask him for the courage to let him change you

What is on your heart right now? Are you willing to give it to him during this season of fasting and penitence? What would it be like to really trust him with your whole self? 

What if...

Remember that God has a plan for you so great you cannot imagine it. Ask him what it is. Keep asking until he shows you, but be sure you are ready to hear it and act on it. He will come in and move things around - and out - and it may not be comfortable. In fact, it may be downright painful, but imagine the sparkling clean, ready to be used YOU that will be left. Do you want that for your life? I do. 

I want God to show me things in the next 46 days that I have never dreamed. I want to know him better and be more like him when we are done, don't you. Let's pray for one another, encourage each other, and lift each other up to the cross where life changes forever for those who seek him. 

I am praying for you. 


Monday, February 20, 2012


What will you give up for lent?

Have you decided what you will give up for lent this year? I'm still thinking about it. Right now I'm leaning towards caffeine. I always feel better when I'm not drinking so much, and I definitely sleep better! Having said that, I know that I'll still miss it...maybe a little. 

Remember as you are deciding what to give up that Sundays don't count (But why start over again every Monday? Ugh!), and more to the point, the purpose of fasting is to focus on prayer and seeking a deeper walk with God. Isn't that worth a little deprivation?

As you  prepare to fast begin to pray for God to help you stay focused and free from distractions. Ask for his help with cravings and remember to let a craving for something become a trigger for you to pray. 

It doesn't really matter what you give up for lent, but it should be something that you will miss. If you don't like chocolate, giving up chocolate for lent is just wimping out - cheating. Don't do that. You will only cheat yourself in the long run. 

The Season of Lent begins this Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. Get ready. Gather your Bible, a journal or notepad, pens and highlighters together so you're ready to begin. Let your family know what you are doing and ask for their support, even if they aren't fasting. 

If you've never fasted before I think you will find it a wonderful experience. If you have, you know what awaits you in your time with God. 

So...what will you give up for Lent this year? Share a comment below and let's pray for each other. What a privilege that is!

See you on Wednesday. 


Saturday, February 18, 2012

A little help from my friend...

This is a little test post to see if I have competently navigated the treacherous waters of the blog world. It is a constant learning experience for me with a HUGE learning curve, but thanks to some help from my friends in ACFW, this time Edie Melson, I believe that I actually was able to make an appropriate change in setting up the email subscribers' feed to my blog.

I've subscribed to my own blog  :)  to see if it works. Let's hope so!

And thank you, Edie, for your quick response and perfect advice. Did I do it right?

We'll see in  a little while.


Friday, February 17, 2012

My cup overflows...

"You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows." Psalm 23:5

Have you read the 23rd Psalm lately? If not, do it again now, and really take care as you read it. It's one of those passages that we know by heart and because of that, we can recite the words without really noticing them or the message they bring. 

Have you noticed that all the verbs are present tense? This is not a one-time thing. God's blessings not only overflow, but they are ongoing. He does it because he loves us, and because he wants us to have some great things to share with others to help and encourage them. 

Think about it: God prepares a feast for us "in the presence of my enemies". He blesses us and fills us so everyone can see that he is God. Even our enemies have to see his abundance in the lives of his children. What a testimony!

This does not mean earthly riches make one person holier or more spiritual than someone else. In fact it is usually not about earthly riches at all. It can be, and there is certainly nothing wrong with having money or begin financially well off - as long as we acknowledge the source of that wealth. 

God's blessings overflow in our lives every day in ways that we often take for granted. Are you able to climb a flight of stairs? When you grumble about having to park on the far side of the parking lot do you also take a moment to thank God that you can walk that far? When you fork out money for a home repair that was not expected do you also remember to be grateful for your warm, safe home, and for the ability to pay for that repair? 

We take breathing for granted until we see someone with end-stage COPD who loses their breath just because they moved their arm. 

We complain about having to work without thinking of the millions of people who would love to have a job t go to each day.

We complain about having to curb our eating and exercise just to lose weight, and then we see someone who would give anything to be able to exercise every day. 

We want a new car, but do we take time to thank God for the one we have that is paid off?

As you go through the day today let your mind meditate on the blessings God has poured into your life. Make a list. Start a gratitude journal and develop the habit of listing blessings each day. You will be completely blown away by what you can list, and the more you focus on blessings the more aware you will be of what God is doing every day in your life. has God blessed you today? Please take a moment to post a one word comment about your greatest blessing. 

Thank you for sharing today. I have prayed for you. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Greatest of These is LOVE...

"Love is patient,
Love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects...
always trusts...
always hopes...
Always perseveres...

And now these three remain...

and   LOVE.

But the greatest of these is
1Corinthians 13:4-7, 13

Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Laughter and Dark Chocolate...

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to laugh."    Ecclesiastes 3:1,4a 

One of the sweetest sounds in the world to me is the sound of a little kid laughing, that rich, unrestrained, uninhibited belly laugh that signifies pure and complete pleasure in the moment. They are so there with whatever the funny thing is. No worries about work or the world or tomorrow or paying bills; all the things that weigh adults down and siphon the joy out of life. They just have the moment in time when all is right and they revel in it - wallow in it - jump in with both feet and let the moment take them over. I LOVE that sound! 

Do you know someone with a laugh like that? I work with someone with a laugh like that. No matter where we are in the office if she laughs I hear it - and I smile. Whatever my mood or my stress level, Patsi's laugh makes me smile, and that makes me feel better instantly. It doesn't change anything about my day, it just injects a little shot of pure joy!

We've all read the articles about the health benefits of laughing, and most of us have experienced them at one time or another. Laughing, a good rolling belly laugh can:
  • lower your blood pressure
  • give you some of the benefits of a good cardio workout
  • lower your stress
  • decrease pain
Even the simple physical act of smiling causes chemical reactions in our bodies that have positive results. I don't pretend to understand the physiological principles behind this, but I do know what an amazing thing this is. Yet another example of how we are "fearfully and wonderfully made". God did that on purpose. He not only made laughing fun, he made it GOOD FOR US! That's like making dark chocolate good for us. He did that too, you know! 

Sometimes don't you just want to look up to heaven and say, "That's so cool! Thank you!" Go ahead...just do that really, just say a little thank you to God for laughter and dark chocolate! He deserves it!

I have two plaques in my office about laughing and I smile every time I read them. I found them in one of those junk catalogs that sell all the stuff you'll never need...

Here's what they say:


If you're not going
to snort,
why bother

One of God's greatest gifts to us is the gift of humor and laughter. I hope as you go through the day today that you will ask God to help you see the humor in things, and that at least once you have a great big rolling belly laugh!

Go ahead it's Friday. Enjoy!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ministry Project Update


Jackson County Community Emergency Shelters

It's official. We have a website and a Facebook page!

 JCCES is a 14 day emergency shelter - one for men and one for women - that will provide assistance to anyone passing through who needs help and to those who are Jackson County residents who have been affected by the economy, loss of a job, illness, whatever has left them without adequate housing. 

By working with agencies already established in the community JCCES will assess needs and provide referrals, monetary assistance for travel to get back home as needed and long-term planning with the ultimate goal of restoring individuals to self-sufficiency. 

Many local agencies have already partnered with JCCES and we are always looking for others. This is a team effort and so many have already joined our group in an advisory/support capacity. 

Currently we are looking at land/buildings to house our clients and will be looking for house managers as well. We are taking donations for items to furnish the homes so if you are cleaning out closets keep us in mind. We'll even pick it up for you! 

As soon as we have a place we'll be ready to open our doors and begin what we hope will be a life-changing ministry. God is already working in the hearts of those who will come to us preparing them to hear about his love. 

Our program director, Pastor Aida Spina recently sat down with Royce Reagan for an interview. Click here JCCES to see the interview and to see our official website. It's a work in progress but it will give you a good look at what's going on, how you can be involved and how you can help. 

You can also check out our Facebook page here: JCCES on Facebook .

The most important thing we need now and always is prayer. This is a ministry even though it's not called that. It is being developed by people who feel called to do this, but like anything with the potential to reach people for Christ we know there will be opposition. It's a spiritual battle and those are only won by prayer and fasting and keeping the ministry and all those involved before the cross daily. 

Please make this ministry a regular item on your prayer list. 

Contact information for board members is provided on the website so if you have any questions or would like for someone to come talk to your organization about JCCES, please let us know. 

Thank you for stopping by today. Please help us spread the word about this ministry. We hope to be up and running soon. 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Last night I sat with a patient in the hospital fully believing that he would die before the night was over. He didn't, and it was an interesting night as I watched him rally back from total unresponsiveness to the point of complaining that they were too slow about getting things done - and he was hungry.

At one point between those extremes he asked for his Bible. It had not been sent with him to the hospital, but the respiratory therapist that helped him last night found one in his office and brought it to him. He clutched it like a drowning man grabbing a life preserver. Not a bad analogy, would you agree?

I asked what his favorite passage was and if he wanted me to read to him. At first he just wanted to hold it, and for a long time it just sat in his lap where he would occasionally run his hand over the cover just to make sure it was there. A little later he started looking for a passage but couldn't find it. I asked to help and took the Bible from him as he started to quote the scripture he was seeking...

"The Lord is my water..."

I opened to the 23rd Psalm and leaned close as I read it to him.

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me;
your rod and your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  (NIV)

As I read "he makes me lie down in green pastures...he restores my soul" my patient became still for the first time all night and drifted off to sleep. Right there in the valley of the shadow of death. All of the struggle to breathe and to tear bandages off of injuries, the restlessness and agitation just stopped and he rested for a while in those green pastures beside that quiet water. A quiet faith in the middle of a storm. 

As I sat quietly by his bed watching him sleep I thanked God for the peace of his word and his presence. Not because anyone in that room deserved it, but because we both needed it so desperately right then. 

Whatever is going on in your life right now remember that you are always held in the strong and mighty hand of God. Let him lead you to those green pastures and that quiet water for a rest. You can resume the fight in a little while once you've spent a few minutes with the Shepherd who brings you peace, comfort and security every day of your life. 

Allow God's word to speak to you, comfort and strengthen you today. No one can do it better. 

I am praying for you. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lent is not the stuff in your dryer vent!

Season of Lent

February 22 - April 8, 2012

Have you ever observed the season of Lent? It is the period of time between Fat Tuesday, the end of Mardi Gras, and Easter Sunday. We usually associate it with giving something up, as in, "I'm giving it up for Lent." People give up all kinds of things for Lent: sugar, caffeine, TV, sex, Facebook (really?!), the list goes on. 

It's not without purpose. The point of the Season of Lent is to focus on the life, work and sacrifice of Jesus. People who observe this season are to focus their time and thoughts on God and in prayer in a time of soul searching and seeking God in a deeper way. It culminates in the celebration of the risen Lord on Easter Sunday. 

This year I will be doing a series of special blog posts for each day of Lent. There will be a focus scripture and some thoughts on how to allow God greater access to your heart and mind as you seek to become more like him. 

I hope you will join me for this time of worship and renewal. To make it easier for you to remember, you may subscribe to this blog by email by using the link on the top right-hand side of the blog post. That way you will receive the post automatically to your email address each day and can read it at your convenience. 

If you have participated in the observance of this special season in the past I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about your experience. Also, if there are scriptures that were especially meaningful to you, please share those as well. 

If you read this blog regularly or just once in a while, you are appreciated and prayed for. Please feel free to join or start a discussion, or just share your thoughts.  And don't forget to sign up for automatic emails each day. You can stop your subscription at any time you want to. 

Please consider joining me. I am praying for you today. 


Monday, February 6, 2012

Clean Closets and Pretty Underwear...

I have a closet in my house that at one time was probably used as a coat closet. When we moved in, I took out the hanging bar and put in several shelves and made it my linen closet/cleaning supply closet. It's not very big, less than two feet wide, but it is deep and because I'm short, I can't reach to the back of most of the shelves. 

You know what happens, right? It doesn't take long for things to get shoved to the back and covered by other things. They fall over and leak, or just get lost. 

This is also where I keep extra personal items like soap, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.; things you stock up on for later. The problem is, when we need those things we can't find them, so we end up buying more. 

This weekend I did something about that. I pulled everything out of the closet, cleaned, primed and painted the walls and one shelf, returned the hanging bar - this time covered with a pretty fabric sleeve - and hung a storage carousel in there, one that you use for purses and shoes.  It could be a little bigger, but it's so much better than it was. I can see what I have and if I need something on the backside of the closet all I have to do is spin the carousel around and it's within easy reach. I love it! 

I'm not a neat freak, and some people would say that my house is too busy or too cluttered. Sometimes I would agree with them, but most of the time it's just comfortable. I do have one little quirk, though. (Okay, more than one but only one that I'm sharing today!) I don't like to have junk drawers or closets or whole rooms. I can't stand it. I know the purpose of having a junk drawer or closet is to hide stuff and get it out of the way so know one sees it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

The problem is that for me, out of sight is not out of mind, it's much worse. Out of sight keeps my mind on that drawer or closet until I can do something about it. I have a closet like that right now - the one under my stairs. It's packed - and I do mean packed in a precarious, wear a helmet when you open the door kind of way - with a collection that I will either sell or give away - hopefully soon. Most people don't know it's there, the stuff or the closet. It never shows. Unless they went looking for it or I showed it to them they would never know.

But I do.

As I was working on my closet God just directed my thoughts to my own life. I've heard sermons preached about letting God onto the various rooms of your heart to clean them out, freshen them up and make them presentable. I started to think about areas of my life that no one sees that have just become "junk drawers". Like my closet, I can't tell you what all is in that drawer. It's been so long since I pulled everything out and took a good look, and it's frankly a little scary to think about. 

It's something I need to think about, though. I could use some spiritual refreshing, and just like being short prevents me from reaching to the back of that very deep closet, being human prevents me from seeing into all the dark, undisturbed places of my heart. I would like for them to be cleaned out just like my closet was this weekend. 

I want to pull everything out, take a broom and dust rag to the walls and floors, prime, paint and pretty it up, and only put things back that are needed and useful. No one has to see what's in there, and no one needs to know what I throw away. That can be between me and God. And unlike my "works okay but isn't perfect" carousel, what God fixes and installs will be perfect and exactly what I need. 

I think this is an ongoing process, but one that must be deliberate and bathed in prayer. Unlike my closet this is not something I can do on my own (and I had help from my husband painting the top part of the closet!).  Over the next few weeks, I'm going to make it a point to ask God to start cleaning out the things in my life that need to go. This could be:

  • thoughts or beliefs that are not true about others or myself or situations
  • old hurts that I haven't really let go of yet
  • dreams that have hidden away in my heart unfulfilled for one reason or another
  • things that I've allowed to settle in my mind, or put in there deliberately that have no place there
  • ambitions that continue to drive my choices
  • fears that keep me from taking a step of faith
  • insecurities 
  • bad memories
  • guilt and shame
  • anger
  • grief
The list could really go on and on, couldn't it? We're so human, and if we're anywhere over the age of twelve we usually come with some pretty significant baggage. Spring is coming. As we consider all the spring cleaning chores for our homes and yards, let's not forget to allow God in to refresh our hearts, clean out the cobwebs and the old used up and forgotten things that just take up space and weigh us down. 

It takes courage and determination to open a closet that hides your junk and clean it out. It will take it to ask God into the secret places of your heart as well, but how wonderful to feel as clean and fresh on the inside as a pretty closet makes us feel. 

What does pretty underwear have to do with all of this? Nothing, except it's one of those things that (almost) no one sees, but it makes you feel pretty just knowing it's there. 

Happy cleaning! I'm praying for you.