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Monday, February 29, 2016

How's Your New Years Resolution Going?

How's Your New Years Resolution Going?

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic... For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."                          Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

As I write this, the calendar says it is the very last day of February…and because it is leap year, we got an extra day.  So now, two months, (and a day), into 2016, I have to ask, How’s your New Years Resolution going?  Are you right on track with the diet and exercise program to shed those extra pounds that snuck up on you in 2015?  Are you sailing through the Book of Leviticus in your plan to read the Bible in a year?  Maybe your resolution was to get yourself living on a budget.  Have you done any impulse buying over the last sixty days?  Well, I’ve slipped up here and there too, so don’t beat yourself up over it. 

This morning, while mourning my inability to stick with something for any length of time and I found myself reflecting on the faithfulness of God.  So let me encourage you the way God encouraged me…

God was with me forty two years ago this month when I became a Believer in Jesus Christ.  He took a pathetic sinner full of pride, living a life of self-endulgence, extending mercy and grace—He saved a wretch like me.  He was with me as I discovered who He was, is and always will be.

He was a shoulder to cry on when I was going through a heartbreaking divorce. He was with me in the dark times of sadness and lonliness.  He protected me and kept me from going down the wrong path.  He heard the cries of my heart and blessed me with an amazing husband to love me and my children.  He put up with my tantrums and anger and then taught me His way of doing life as we brought our family up in those emotionally-charged, blended family years. 

My faithful and amazing God gave me favor in my writing, to publish first a book, then dozens of articles, and even write a column for a magazine.  He was with me as I entered ministry through all its ups and downs.   He orchestrated a marriage of ministries between mine and my friends in Uganda.  He has somehow used me—a nobody—to raise up a hospital and child sponsorship program in Uganda.  And when I couldn’t handle it alone, he brought me the help of someone who cares about it as much as I do.  He has used me, a housewife from Arkansas, to share the good news of the Gospel across the U.S. and all around the globe.

My God has carried and even prospered us through financial struggles in our business when we should have lost everything.  My God has blessed my family, multiplied it, (15 grandchildren), and is bringing all of them to faith in Him, one by one—even allowing me to baptize some of them.

And He’s not finished with me or any of us yet.  And he doesn't do good things for one and not for another.  He is not a respecter of people.  He loves you too.  Does it matter if I stay on the diet and lose those extra pounds I determined to lose at the first of the year?  Well, I’m going to keep working at it, but in light of the bigger picture, it is okay if I fail because my God promised to never leave us or forsake us.    And He always keeps His Word.  


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Winding Road

In recent years, I have joined the ranks of thousands of "Spyder" enthusiasts!  For those of you who think a Spyder is an eight-legged, hairy, creepy thing lingering in the shadows, let me clarify.  The Spyder I am referring to is a three-wheel motorcycle--not a trike.. because two wheels are in the front and one in the back.  Though I never saw myself as a motorcycle person... I'd always been content to ride on the back behind my husband.  But yes, I have been bitten by the Spyder and now I'm riding my own.
Spyder riders are a rare breed of people.  They aren’t afraid to try something new, or they wouldn’t be riding a Spyder.  We like to have fun feeling the wind in our face.   And of course, there’s nothing better than the challenge of conquering the long and winding road and then sharing the experience with other like-minded Spyder lovers.  We are like a big family.
 A friend told me recently that he noticed a lot of people in the Spyder world making reference to their faith in their posts.  He was intrigued by how their faith seemed to be a source of strength for them as they faced some pretty dark roads.  I guess he asked me because I’m a Christian speaker and hold strong convictions.  He wondered what my “take” on these “Faith-Riders” was.
 It’s kind of like this…I remember once, when I was a brand-new Spyder rider, some of us went for a nighttime ride up a very steep and curvy mountain road.  It was pitch black in this thick, wooded area, so the only light was from our headlights. 
 My husband is an experienced rider, so he was leading.  I was behind him and our two friends, Erick and Leira, were behind me.  As long as Harvey stayed in front of me, within my headlight range, I was fine on that steep, twisty road.  I could see him approaching the turns first and followed his lead.   But because Harvey couldn’t resist the challenge of the road, he forgot about me behind him.  Ramping up his speed, he took off up the mountain.  I tried to keep up, but fear (and sound wisdom) finally got the best of me and I just fell back and let him go on ahead.  By now, Erick and Leira were some distance back and I was left alone to find my way in the dark.
I hadn’t realized how much I depended on Harvey’s lights in front of me until they weren’t there anymore.  For an inexperienced rider like myself, it was pretty scary starting into a curve and then see a 30ft drop-off just a couple feet from the edge of the road.  Some of the turns were so sharp and unexpected, at times the road would twist right while my headlights were still going straight.  My clutch was getting a real work-out.
 So what does that have to do with faith?  Well, for a lot of us Spyder lovers the road we’re traveling down is full of unexpected twists and turns; tough times, family problems, health issues, etc.  It‘s in these dark times that we need more than a love for the road to get us through.  We need some light shining on the road so we can see which way to go.  And that’s what our faith in God does.  He is our light. (AKA The Light of the World)
 After a couple minutes on that dark, mountain road, Erick and Leira caught up to me.  Their headlights gave me the added confidence I needed to go on.  Then we all rode together and caught up with Harvey.  When you have a problem, the natural thing to do is look to your friends for support—there is strength in numbers.  If those friends are Christians, your faith is combined with theirs and God’s light is that much brighter.   The Bible says when two or three come together in His Name…He’s right there with them, listening and answering their prayers.  That’s why you see people posting prayer requests.
 We all think we have it together and can handle whatever comes along, but everyone has those times when we come to the end of our own “know how.”  That’s when our faith will get us through no matter how dark it gets or how treacherous the road.  Unlike my husband, God won’t run off and leave us. 
 When we are heading down an unfamiliar road and don’t know which way to go, He didn’t leave us to figure it out on our own.  He gave us a pretty good GPS—the Bible.  It is full of wisdom, instruction, promises, and hope.  And for those of us who have been following this GPS for a while, we can tell you first hand, it will get you where you need to be—without taking you off on a rabbit trail. 
 A lot of us have some pretty bad roads behind us, we’re not perfect and we know it.  But even so, once we decided to get off that road and follow Him, we discovered it is a much better way to go.  And doing it on a Spyder, along with some good friends and the wind in your face, it’s even better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Around the Table

For the last few days, my husband and I entertained family from Texas.  Even though we finished our dinner fairly early, we sat around the table catching up late into the night, finally heading for bed after filling in most of the gaps our eight years of separation created. 

The next day after church, as is our custom, everyone gathered in my home for Sunday dinner.  With my family, there can be anywhere from 2 to 25 or 30 around the table—this Sunday it happened to be twenty.  Noisy conversation, laughing, and caring for fussy children continued as roast beef and mashed potatoes disappeared and the last bit of gravy was sopped up on the plates.

Monday, my cousins took in some local sights, but found their way back to the house in time for—you guessed it—dinner.  By now, you might be thinking all we do is eat.  And it’s true, I do like to cook (and eat), but what we love has little to do with eating.  What we love are the bonds and memories created around the table.

Jesus forms this same kind of bond with us when we take time to sit at His banqueting table—freely exchanging our hearts.  Since He walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, God has been about relationship—and our relationship with Him, and with people.  There is something very powerful about breaking bread together.  It can be unifying, strengthening and healing.

If you see your family splintering, or friendships faltering, think about inviting these family or friends to dinner.  Set the table and sit around it—that’s what it’s for.  If you’re not a cook, order a pizza or pick up some chicken.  Just remember to turn off the TV and your smartphone so you can catch up with the person across the table from you.  You’ll be amazed at how past grievances will fade and wounds can heal over a shared meal.  Or how much you can learn by listening!  I’ve gotten a whole education on raising chickens just from having dinner with my “Chicken Queen” daughter-in-law!

This morning I sent my cousins back to Texas with full tummies after our breakfast of yummy, fresh chicken eggs—thanks to my daughter-in-law who keeps us supplied.  Family bonds were made stronger over them—but it had nothing to do with the great quality of those eggs (sorry Mindy).  It had everything to do with slowing down and taking time together over a meal.

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts  Acts 2:46

And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.  Acts 20:11

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fresh Mercies

Great is His faithfulness
His mercies begin afresh each morning
Lam. 3:23

Yesterday, my yard looked like a pond because for days, storms have been pelting us with rain.  The days have been dreary and cold.  But this morning, I woke up to sunshine glistening through the trees.  Somehow, the glorious sunshine has pushed its way through the clouds, even clearing up the soggy yard to make it green again.  And the birds are singing as if the storms had never happened.

This reminds me of how God’s mercy is fresh and new every single day.  So if we’ve blown it the night before, losing our cool with hubby and kids, there's good news.  God knows we’re human.  He also knows our heart.  We don’t have to beat ourselves up over our mistakes and failings…the devil does a good enough job of that.  We just need to lay it all at Jesus feet, ask for forgiveness and start again with His fresh, new mercies for the day. The Bibles says if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us for that well as any other ugly thing we may have said or done.  (1John 1:9)

His “SON”shine has new fresh mercies for you and your family today.  So relax, the storm is passed and the birds are singing again.  Grab a cup of tea and bask in the Son today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preparing Your Ground

Break up your fallow ground
For it is time to seek the LORD
Hosea 10:12

Fallow isn’t a word I use every day...  So what does it mean?  When I really think about it, questions whirl around in my mind.  Do I even have fallow ground?  And if my ground is fallow, what is my ground?  How do I break it up? 

Well, I looked it up.  Fallow ground is potential farmland that is undisturbed.  It is good ground that has not yet been prepared for seed.  It has to be broken up with a hoe so the seed can go down into the ground, grow and bear fruit.

God is always giving us pictures from every day life to help us understand spiritual truths.  So this verse is actually saying it is planting season, (time to seek the Lord), and we need to prepare our hearts, (fallow ground), to better receive Him and the blessings He wants to produce in our lives.  So naturally, my next question is this—How do I break it up?

The answer I guess is in choosing the right tools.  I mean, it would be difficult to break up hard, undisturbed ground with my bare hands.  Even with gloves, my hands couldn’t chop it up.  So I need something with a sharp edge and a long handle for leverage—a hoe. 

Ok, bear with me for just a minute...  I am going somewhere with this.  I’m thinking about real life—our family life.  This is after all, a faith reflection for our family.  In order to have God move and work in our family relationships, it has to begin with my heart and me.  If I’m not willing to break up my own hard places, how can I receive the seed of God’s mercy and see the good fruit of good relationships grow in my family?  It has to begin with my own heart.  That means I have to allow the Holy Spirit to chop up the things I’m holding onto—offenses, stubbornness, my way of doing things.  It’s the Holy Spirit who actually does the breaking, but it is me who has control.  Do I want to do the work and swing this thing into motion? 

Yes, we have a long row to hoe, (excuse the pun), but I love my family and I want God’s best.  The bottom line is this; if I want to see anything grow, and if I want to enjoy the fruit, I have to do the labor.  I have to put my back into it and break up the fallow ground so it can receive the seed.  I can’t do it in my own strength, but with God, all things are possible.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I’m expecting good things to come of my garden.  I'm setting my family table with some big salad bowls and getting ready to enjoy the fruit of this labor.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Broken Pieces and Fresh Starts

Having a bad day?  Family life stressing you out?  Stepkids pushing your buttons?  Husband not stepping in to correct his kids?  Did the calm reserve fly out the window in a fit of emotional backlash on hubby and the kids?

Well, I can honestly say I’ve been there.  It happened when I was loading the dishwasher after dinner...  Stepdaughter pushed my buttons for the hundredth time that was oblivious...dishes shoved into the rack...more buttons...more words...dishes hitting harder...louder not paying attention to his daughter’s disrespect...

One more button pushed and the dishes were thrown into the dishwasher, shattering in the rack... felt good... another dish shattered... have dad’s attention now... one more flying dish (wedding gifts)...and I am out the door...

Well, I drove awhile trying to decide if I even wanted to come back.  Cried...yelled...cried...prayed...cried...
After doing scenic tour of freeway loop for a couple hours, I pointed my car back home...

Love my husband...trying to love my stepchildren...need God’s grace and mercy to see this thing through.

Once I finally stopped ranting and crying, the sweetness of the Holy Spirit enveloped me—comforting me, just as He promised He would.  In Lamentations 3:22 it says, “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” 

Blending is hard work and emotionally taxing, even in the best of circumstances.  We all have buttons, and there will always be someone around to push them.  But God is so faithful to help us through...we are not going to be consumed if we look to Him. 

I went home.  My husband and I talked and prayed.  We settled some hard issues with the kids before going to bed.  His compassion didn’t let me down.

If you read on in the Scripture the next verse says, “They, (His compassions), are new every morning, Great is Your faithfulness.”  In the morning, I woke up to a fresh start on blending my family.

If you’ve had a bad day.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Let God help you pick up the pieces and give you a brand new start in the morning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Believing God

And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22

I believe in Jesus Christ.  In February of 1974, I heard the amazing story of God’s love for me and I surrendered my life to Him.  In the 38 years since that day, I have called myself a Believer.  So why, after all these years of walking with Jesus, in and out of trials and triumphs, is it so difficult to really believe Him for the daily battles?  Hurt feelings, unmet goals, disappointments, bills, loneliness, and a million other things we secretly stuff inside.

Yes, I am a believer, but what does that really mean?  Believe what?  If a father tells his young child not to touch the pan on the stove because it us hot and will burn him, the child can either believe his daddy, and walk away from it, or he can reach out and touch it.  In both instances, the child will end up believing the truth about the hot burner.  Of course, God prefers we learn by just trusting that what He says is true.  He is a loving Father, and wants us to obey His Word and thereby avoid the pain.  But most of the time, we have to learn to trust Him the hard getting burned.

God wants to teach us how to live our lives’ daily battles by believing He will do what He says He will do.  It is a matter of trust.  Will our lives be trouble free?  No.  But if we truly believe, and we are abiding in the Vine, drawing our strength, wisdom and guidance from Jesus and His Word, we can ask anything and He will do it. (John 15:7)  That means when we pray, we don’t immediately try and figure out a way to answer our own prayers.  We live our lives in Christ, and as we encounter daily battles, we trust Him to answer our prayers in the best possible way for everyone concerned.