Friday, September 28, 2007

Pursuing God

I'm going to reverse the order again on my blogs. I'm back to all the general stuff first and then the devotional. I think it's good to keep going back and forth. It breaks the monotony. We have overcast skies this morning and they are predicting a light rain for this afternoon and evening. It'll probably be just enough to mess up my car. But I've decided to fix that problem. I thought I'd go out with the hose while it's still sprinkling and hose off my entire car. That way it won't turn the dust into mud. There are people who always wash their cars in the rain. They don't have to worry about the rinsing part of the carwash. But the way they described this rain last night on the news it sounds like it's just going to sprinkle lightly if at all, so I won't use soap but I'll spray it off good.

I just stopped and got all my chores done. I almost had a repeat of yesterday. Don't know why it's suddenly hard for me to remember to get my chores done first, before the blog. I think what it is, is that I'm going directly from checking my morning emails and reading the news on into my blog. Well, whatever the reason, I corrected the situation.

I finished my third scarf last night and got a good start on the fourth. I don't have a clue what I'm going to do with all these scarves. I just enjoy knitting them. The next time we go across the river to do our shopping, I'm going to try to take the time to look up a yarn shop and look for some patterns of other things to knit. Although I like knitting scarves I just don't know what I'm going to do with them all.

Michael should be home tomorrow and I'm looking forward to having him home and hearing all about his trip. He's already told me so much over the phone but I'm sure he won't mind telling me again, and again, and again (know what I mean)? I guess that means I have to cook again. I've gone all week with cooking only one night and that was the night my shrimp scampi went in the trash, which reminds me, I need to take the trash out to the barrel and get it out of the house. So far it hasn't started to smell but I don't want to continue chancing it. I don't generate much trash when it's just me here and the bag is only partially full (about 1/4). But I think I should take it out anyway.

I need to work on my project for the day of prayer. I think I just about have it finished until it comes to the typesetting part. Michael will do the cover page and then I'll type all the material into his system and then he'll put it all together for the finished product. It will be nice. I'll get that finalized this afternoon. One of the things on my list of tasks to do today. Well on to my short devotional...

A deep relationship with God is fostered and encouraged by discovering His character and His will for our lives and it is achieved in several ways. Each one, while familiar, represents an important discipline in the Christian life that we pursue in the will of the Lord.

Meditation is an excellent way to build our relationship with God. This is done by reading a Bible passage several times with the express purpose of hearing from the Lord. Then, as we keep up diligent, sustained concentration, the Holy Spirit will communicate to us through the verses. During meditation we benefit by asking ourselves questions such as these: What do these verses reveal about God's character and His nature? Is there a divine promise here for me to claim? A command to obey? An example to follow?

Studying Scripture allows us to draw from many different passages to gain a broader, deeper, more accurate understanding of God's character, purposes, and promises. Studying Scripture differs from meditation in that in meditation we are primarily listening. We take in the words and listen to what is being said to our hearts and minds. In studying we delve deeper into the subject to gain additional understanding of a particular word, phrase, verse, or subject. We may use a concordance to look up other verses that are similar or that add a slightly different meaning and understanding. One of my favorite ways to study is to use several different translations to gain a fuller appreciation of the passage. Different translations add different flavors to the verses and enables me to dig down into the Greek to see why one translation uses one word while another translation uses a different word. Different translations allow us to see the same thing in a different light. I have an 8-translation New Testament that I use a great deal when I'm studying. That way I have eight different translations on the same page. It's very useful. But when we study we must keep in mind why we are studying. We aren't studying to gain facts. We will gain facts but that's not why we are studying. We are studying to see our Lord. God reveals Himself in Scripture. Always go into a study pursuing God, seeking Him and His purposes.

Another key spiritual discipline that we looked at a couple days ago is prayer and it must be the foundation of our meditation and study. Encountering God requires both a listening ear and a receptive heart. But our quest must be marinated in prayer. Not necessarily a formal keep-your-eyes-closed kind of prayer. I'm talking about the running conversation type prayer we talked about just the other day. Hopefully we are able to find a quiet place to study and will be free to just speak out loud when a question comes up. While we're studying we should ask God questions and I personally do this out loud. Why do You say this here and that there? What was on Your mind when You said this, Lord? Reveal Yourself to me, show me what it is You want me to learn here. I don't understand what You mean here, Father. Questions and responses such as these allow us to get "up close and personal" with the Lord. And you know what? He loves it! And we will too. There is nothing so wonderful as being plugged into the Lord. Of feeling His presence there with us as we study and meditate. There is nothing more beautiful than spending an hour with the Lord in close communion over His word. There is nothing so satisfying as speaking to Him as if He were sitting there, right across the table from us. We must always come to Scripture as a way of coming to the Lord. He will reveal Himself to us and He will reveal His will for us as well.

We can use these different disciplines at the same time or we can have individual times for each. We can meditate on a passage we intend to study and then go right into studying it while we're praying our comments and questions out loud. If you personally don't speak your prayers out loud I encourage you to give it a try. There's nothing quite like it. It won't take long until you feel Him studying with you. Our heavenly Father so desires this type of communion with us. He's anxious to reveal Himself to us to enable us to know Him better and to love Him more.

Recognizing how God works in our lives and in other people's circumstances will help us pursue Him. We are seeking and pursuing God when we spend time discovering who He is and what pleases Him and when our day is just not complete without fellowship with Him. We can know our methods of seeking Him have been successful when we find ourselves trusting Him more and swelling with a fullness we can't get any other way. We will know when we long for, truly yearn for, His companionship. We will know when we desire nothing so much as being with Him.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seeking After God

Our heavenly Father desires an intimately connected kinship with us, much like a child's relationship with his parents. Such a relationship will be marked by a deep, mutual, other's-centered love. We cannot be seeking after God without the right attitude. Our hearts and minds must be open to Him and we must be willing to hear all that He has to say. When we seek after the Lord our journey should be characterized by:

Wholeheartedness. When we approach Scripture with other things on our minds we are distracted and when we pray with our focus drifting to other topics, we have a divided heart, and God desires our full attention. When we come to the Lord with only partial attention we are not truly seeking after God, we are like "a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." (Jas 1:8). He wants us to put Him in first place, making Him our primary concern above everything else important to us. (Jer 29:13; Matt 6:33)

Diligence. Our attitude should be one of a sense of devotion to God and paying close attention to what He is saying to us. We are not truly seeking after God if we aren't willing to wait on Him. And I sincerely believe we often wait on God when He's already given us the answer. We are simply not listening to Him and it's critically important that we listen while we wait. We must put out the unwavering effort necessary, no matter how high the cost, no matter how long the wait, to understand how He operates and what He desires us to do and learn and see and experience.

Persistence. Seeking after the Lord is a continual, constant effort toward establishing a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. Persistence is keeping at it, no matter how long it takes, until we find a greater involvement in His work. (Pro 3:5). How can we possibly establish a deep, familial relationship with the Lord if we don't trust Him to respond to our quest? We are truly seeking God when we try and try again. He promises our efforts will prevail. (Matt 7:7) We must have confidence in God. (Php 1:6). And we must keep at it. Persistence pays.

Humility. We are totally dependent on God for everything in life, including life itself, and He is pleased when we approach Him in humility. (Isa 66:2). Humility isn't so much the act of putting us down as it is raising up God in our hearts, our minds, and our desires.

Love. We cannot be seeking after God if we do not love others. For God is a God of love. He IS love and it is His love returned that goes out to other people. (1Jn 4:8). We simply can't love others as we should but we can allow God to love them through us. When we love others it is God's love working in us toward others. God intended it to be this way. He intentionally set it up this way. We simply can't seek after God without love. Love is the key word and without it we can't be seeking God. It is in love, that we come before Him and say, "Forgive me, Father." It is in love that we reach out to others who are otherwise unlovable. It is in love that we whisper, "I need You, Lord, and therefore I seek you with all my might! I can't live this life without Your love."

When our hearts long for God, He delights in revealing Himself to us and pouring out His blessings on us. (He 11:6). Periodically we should make an honest assessment of how earnestly we are seeking after God and increase it where it is lacking and enrich it where it is plentiful.

This has been a long, slow morning and I don't even have all my chores done. I'm blogging out of order. It's supposed to be chores first, then blogging. Oh boy, well it's too late now. I'll finish my chores as soon as I'm finished here. I got them half done before I started blogging so I wasn't completely bad. But maybe that's why I'm having such a problem typing today. Maybe I'm being punished for not finishing my chores before blogging. LOL. Seriously, don't you hate those days when your fingers just won't go to the correct key? Or it goes there at the wrong time, giving you lots of typos to fix? It's so bad for me this morning I can't seem to type a complete sentence without making a mistake. Usually I just breeze through my blog but this one I really had to work to get typed.

Michael is still gone but he called yesterday and he is in San Francisco. He will probably leave there for home Saturday morning. When he called I was afraid he was coming home right away and I hadn't really even had the chance to be by myself yet with all the meetings I've had since he left. It's not that I don't want him to come home. I'd be absolutely lost without him. It's just that I wanted to spend some time by myself. If you're not a loner, you probably think I'm a horrible person. I assure you, I am not, I just enjoy being alone for a time once every year or so.

Yesterday's high was 99.7. That's pretty close to 100 degrees. I thought the hot days were over. I even had to turn on the cooler. But I didn't have to turn it on until late afternoon when the sun really got around to the side of the house facing west, then it heated up. Today is supposed to be pretty much a repeat of yesterday so I went ahead and dressed in shorts this morning even if it was still a little nippy when I got up. It was cold enough last night to reach up and turn off the lower intake fan in the window. The air was too cold on my ear. Pepper was keeping my feet warm.

So far my cacti that I repotted still look okay. They're a little soft to the touch but they aren't drooping. I hope the root systems take quickly. It will be nice to have my cacti looking a little better than they did. I mean, they already look better since I repotted them. I'm just hoping that that look continues. So far the extent of my green thumb extends only as far as cacti. Anything else I've ever tried to grow, I somehow managed to kill. Well, I did successfully grow a pineapple and it was huge and beautiful. But we had an early frost last year and I forgot to bring it in. It only took the one frost to kill it.

I need to get busy doing something else besides sit here at the computer so I'm going to stop rambling and do what needs to be done (what I should have done before I started this blog). I have proofread today's blog twice and I'm just going to publish it with all remaining errors. It's so bad this morning that I'm making typos while I'm editing to delete typos. Yeesh!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

In my last devotional we learned the importance of being prepared for spiritual warfare. Today we'll talk about how we do that. The most important and most powerful means we have to prepare for battle is prayer. Prayer is an incredibly useful tool in the hands of a Christian.

I believe prayer is the single most powerful weapon we have. We simply cannot walk the Christian walk without prayer. It can't be done. Jesus set the perfect example of a life centered on prayer with the Father (Matt 6:5-14; 26:36). It is absolutely essential that we keep ourselves in a attitude or state of prayer at all times. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Php 4:6-7, italics mine). "Be joyful always; pray continually; giv[ing] thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1Th 5:16-18, italics mine). Praying continually requires an "attitude" of prayer, where we go through our day with an open channel from our hearts and minds to the Lord's above. Sometimes our most powerful prayers are the ones we pray "on the run" while doing the shopping, driving the kids to soccer practice, or waiting in line at the bank. It doesn't matter where we are or what we're doing. The idea is to just pray!

Too many people erroneously believe that our prayers must be prayed in a certain order beginning with the comfortable (and mechanical) opening. Our requests and petitions follow. Then finally an ending (almost always, "In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.") We mustn't become bogged down with repetitious and mechanical prayers, saying the same thing over and over again as if the words themselves are magical. Some of the most effective prayers are those fleeting thoughts that fly briskly through our minds, "Thank You, Lord," "Forgive me, Lord," "Help me, Lord," and so on. We must keep ourselves in an attitude of prayer at all times. Don't stop what you're doing to pray. Pray while you're doing it! We must learn to go through our day with a constant conversation running through our minds between ourselves and the Lord. We should talk to Him about whatever is on our hearts. It can be a prayer of just one word or a paragraph of 100 words.

When I first became a Christian I didn't know how to pray. I didn't know how to pray to a personal God. (As a former Jehovah's Witness, I believed that Jehovah was my God by my association with the 144,000 or the Remnant. He wasn't really my personal God at all. He was someone else's God that I could share by association.) I didn't know how to pray to a God who loves me personally and wishes to spend time with me. I prayed and prayed for instructions about how and what to pray and the answer came as surely as if I had heard an audible voice. He said, "Just talk to me, tell me about your day." And that's all He said and my prayer life has been incredible ever since. That's all God desires from us. He just wants us to share our lives with Him. When I am alone I usually pray out loud but if people are around I usually pray silently in my heart and I imagine you do the same. It all boils down to this: we need to share our lives with our God and we do that by talking to Him. Sharing our opinions and desires with Him. Adoring Him. Confessing our sins. Giving Him thanks. And requesting things from Him.

We can't stay in a constant formal prayer and go about living our lives. But we can stay in a casual state or attitude of prayer and still go about other things. Even in the midst of a conversation a quick "thank You," or a "heal this person, Lord," or "forgive me" can flit through our minds without us losing our train of thought. We need not think of prayer in a ritualistic manner: first I say this, then I say that, and finally I conclude with this. The best prayer are free flowing and genuinely from our hearts. We can pray all day long and never have our knees hit the floor. And this is the type of prayer that pleases the Lord. There is a time and place for every prayer, be it formal or casual. The important thing is to pray and pray at all times about all things. The Lord loves us and He so desires a close, familial relationship with us and we can't provide that to Him if we mistakenly believe we must always pray formally. Or in a particular manner. We must get into the habit of praying when and where we feel like it. Silently, or aloud, on our knees or in the bath tub. The key is to pray. That's the important thing. And we should always pray about anything and everything. Does that mean I can't pray the ACTS prayer. Of course not, but we must remember that ACTS is a simple guide to prayer and it should be used as a guide only. Don't be repetitious in prayer. Learn to just talk to God. Maybe if we thought in terms of conversing rather than praying our prayers would better reflect our hearts desires.

I have a paragraph taped to the inside cover of my Bible. I have no idea who wrote it or where I found it but it reads: "If you have a problem, don't hide it from God or from yourself. Tell Him about it. Don't put on a pious act and try to smooth it over. If you are angry with God, say so. If you are upset about something that He has done, tell Him so. If you are resentful, bring it out in the open and resolve it. If you are happy and glad, express your joy and praise to Him. That is what worship is all about ... the honest expression of your heart to God. If you can be honest before God ... even with all your moods, sins, failures, pain, and questioning ... you will find grace to meet all your needs." We would do well to remember this because our prayers accomplish much.

I'm going to let the devotional be it today as I have a lot of things planned and I need to get started on them or I'll never get them all done before time to leave for my meeting. Poor Pepper, I don't have the heart to tell him I'll be going to yet another meeting! I think I've spent less time with him this week while Michael's been gone than I ever have. But I've just had so many meetings. Next week should be back to normal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pressed for Time

Just as my title says, I'm pressed for time today. That's what happens when you sleep late. I don't know how my sister wakes up so early. I'd love to but would hate having an alarm clock wake me every morning and that's the only way I'd ever manage to wake up early. I'm just a dead head in the mornings. Here it is almost noon and I'm just now starting on my blog!! But I have all my chores done and I wrote an email to my Heart so the day hasn't been too empty of constructive things. Heart to Heart is a program at my church that links women together to write, call, or otherwise contact each other regularly for 6-month periods. It's just a way of building relationships. This is my second Heart but I think I skipped a period or two since the program began a year or more ago. It's so important to build these relationships but I've always felt stressed because of my hearing and the phone use. So, lucky for me, Kathleen overheard me when I told Nancy (who organizes and lines up the hearts) I'd love to participate if she could just find me someone who would be willing to email back and forth. That way I wouldn't have to worry about calling someone. Anyway, Kathleen overheard and just jumped right in saying she'd love to email with me. Yea! A heart after my very own heart. LOL.

So anyway, I have gotten a few things done this morning but it's turning out to be less than I'd like to have accomplished. Poor Kathleen, I hadn't contacted her in over two weeks. I've just been so busy with meetings and more meetings and more ... Well, you get the picture. I have a meeting in just a couple hours and have another one scheduled for tonight. But then that will be it for the week. Last night's meeting was canceled at the last minute so I've not had as many meetings as I started the week with. I don't do well in meetings because of my hearing loss. I only hear about 50% of what's being said. Oh well, the Lord can still use me I guess.

Michael called last night and he had a ball at his navy reunion and he said they were going to leave this morning for San Francisco. He may spend a night or two there and then he'll be home later this week. I'm soooooo glad he had a good time. You know, you just never know about these kinds of things.

I did it! Yesterday I washed my car. Couldn't stand it any longer and so it's sitting out in front of the house all shiny and clean. It would be nice if I had room to park it in the garage instead of leaving it outside to pick up all the dust and dirt, leaves and sap. But beggars can't be choosers and Michael needs (he says) all that stuff in the boxes taking up all the room in the garage. That was a twisted sentence, just went back and tried to make it a better sentence but I'm not sure if I succeeded.

I intended to do a devotional today but I simply don't have the time. My email to my heart took more time than I had planned on spending. It was just going to be a quick little note and ended up being quite lengthy. But I will comment on today's Bible verse: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves ... groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Ro: 8:22-23) This groaning, this aching and longing for release from captivity to sin, is likened to the pain of childbirth. The Holy Spirit groans: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." (Ro 8:26). We groan. And the earth groans. Everything in existence is in one way or another affected by sin. We live in a fallen world and the earth groans audibly. I watched a program years ago on the Discovery Channel about the groaning earth. It really does groan. For this show they sank a microphone deep into the earth and recorded the sounds of the earth actually groaning. It was awesome! So the earth really does groan.

We groan. Sometimes all we can do is groan. We are so deep into what grieves us that we can't find the words to express what we're feeling. That's when the Holy Spirit steps in and translates our grief to God our Father. It's comforting to know that when words fail us we can still go to the Lord in an attitude of prayer and the Spirit will act as a translator. I believe that we pray far more often than we realize because the Spirit is doing it for us. Remember He lives within us. He knows us inside and out and if we just go through our day in an attitude of prayer, our thoughts and needs will be translated. This, I believe, is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "Pray continually" (1Th 5:17) This doesn't replace formal prayer because there's a need for that too. Just know that in between formal prayers we can maintain an attitude of prayer and the Father will get the message.

An attitude of pray is simply a releasing of your day (and whatever happens) to the Lord. It is absolute surrender. It's waking up in the morning and purposefully committing the day to God. It is a running conversation with our Father in heaven. It's living in the presence of God at all times no matter what's going on in your life. It's thinking of him every minute. Doing dishes? Think about Him. Got a card in the mail? Share it with Him. It's lifting up our cares and concerns and placing them in His hands for the day. It's a deliberate state of prayer. A conscious attitude of prayer. It's knowing that whatever happens in your day you are sharing it with Him. It's like listening to soothing background music in a bookstore. It's always playing in the back of your mind. Even when you are reading the book's jacket the music is still running through your mind. That's like an attitude of prayer.

So know this: the Holy Spirit will intercede should He need to and you can pray continually. Like you, the earth groans in anticipation of the coming release from sin's dreadful grasp but until that day comes we have a Helper Who is eager to pray for us. He will pray our prayers for us and will pray our prayers with us. He's our red phone to the Father.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Preparation for Battle

Every morning when you and I open our eyes, we are at war. And it is a real war regarding real issues, and it demands our full attention. According to Scripture, spiritual warfare is a certainty, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12). And our enemy is far too real, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1Pe 5:8). This is a clear, concise warning yet hardly anyone takes it seriously. However, the Word is clear about it: Each day, you and I wake up to a real, personal battle we must wage. Every morning we must stand our ground anew, ready to do battle at a moment's notice for the devil never tires. He is relentless in his fight to claim us as his own and if we aren't standing firm on the Truth, he will cause us nothing but pain and trouble, and heart ache and failure.

Failure to recognize this vital truth results in painful defeat over and over and over again. Many dedicated believers ... yes, Christians ... go about frustrated and confused because we continually experience failure in our spiritual lives. Just when we think we have finally conquered a temptation, it rears its ugly head again and crushes us back down in defeat. It happens over and over again during our entire Christian walk. And our battle never gets easier. In fact, it gets harder each and every day. The more we discredit the devil, the more he focuses his attention on us. We are God's children and the devil wants us to fall before him in defeat. Nothing would please him more.

Don't be fooled by the enemy! One of the reasons so many believers are defeated is because too often the Enemy catches us completely unaware. He catches us totally off guard. Many of us, and at times probably all of us, are simply going about our days without giving a serious thought to the war being fought in our own lives. We have not, as a people, changed much since the days leading up to the flood. (Ge 6-8) We are still too complacent and too wrapped up in our own thoughts to pay much attention to spiritual things. The everyday and mundane has lulled many of us to sleep. And the monotony of our lives has too often taken over our common sense.

And at the same time, many develop an almost calloused attitude toward the Bible. Many might cry out, "God, if Your Word is as mighty and powerful as You say, then why isn't it working in my life?" Many of us fail to realize that the problem is ours. And we often make the mistake of thinking that it isn't working when it really is. Just the fact that we are now desiring a change is proof of success. If it wasn't working, we wouldn't be desiring godly transformation. Just the fact that we long to leave our old life behind is proof that it's working. So we mustn't give up or give in. We must stand our ground, with the Word of God as our sure foundation.

The issue is not that the Word is lacking in power. No, the real problem is we often fail to recognize the intense spiritual battle raging around us like a giant torrent, washing away at our banks and weakening us from the inside. We are at war, and it is a fight for our lives ... not our physical lives, but our spiritual lives. The only way to make it easier on ourselves is by preparing for combat. And we do this by prayerfully reading the Word and applying it to our lives and by staying close to the Lord in thought and deed. He longs to have us near Him and He desires nothing less than absolute surrender and when we find ourselves totally dependent, totally rested on Him; relying completely on His Word and standing firm, we come away from this spiritual war stronger and better people of God. And He isn't ashamed to call us His own and He will never desert us nor leave us to fight this battle with our own might. (He 13:5).

The most important thing to know is that Christianity does work. Even in the midst of a great raging battle, even in the midst of our many failures, Christianity works! And the best part of all is that the victory has already been given to us. We are more than conquerors, (Ro 8:37). We walk away with more than what we started with!

I finished the scarf I started last Friday night. I made good time considering I finished it last night (that makes it a two-day scarf)! Not bad!! I started another one last night before going to bed. The one I finished was red and I didn't have a red one. I already have a blue one like the one I'm now working on so I will have to find someone to give it to. And I think I know just who.

The phone just rang and it was my son inviting me over for dinner tonight. That will be fun. We're going to eat a little early because I have a meeting at 6:30 tonight. I have meetings all week. Most at night but one in the day time. So I'm going to be busy this week.

The gang called me from Georgia this morning just to say hello. I called up the webcam and watched them on my cousin's porch. They called yesterday too so I feel really special being thought about while they're all together and I'm out here.

Looks like I'm going to have to wash my car today. I'm glad I didn't wash it yesterday because we got another light rain last night. I wish it would rain hard enough to rinse my car completely off instead of this piddly little stuff that only succeeds in messing it up, making mud all over.

Well I need to get busy and get some things done. I need to wash and blow dry my hair and hopefully get around to that carwash I've talked about so I shouldn't stay on the computer too long. My days by myself have felt so good. I like the quiet. It gives my mind rest. I'm not having to struggle to hear every little thing. That gets exhausting. Trust me on that one. Just not having the TV on all the time helps a lot. So until tomorrow...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Short Saturday Blog

I slept until 11:55 this morning and almost fell over when I looked at my watch. I thought it was about 9:00. That's what it felt like. Nine o'clock. Far from it! Can't believe I slept most of the day away. I had thought about going to WalMart today and buying some yarn but I decided not to waste the gas as I have some left over yarn I can use. Yesterday I dug out all my yarn and needles and decided to try another scarf. Since I don't have a full skein of yarn I cut the width of the scarf down to just 16 stitches. It actually felt good to sit and knit for a couple hours last night as I waited for it to get late enough to go to the church.

Last night was Lock-In for 7th, 8th, and 9th graders and I got there just as the rally was ending. Radical Reality were the headliners for the night and they demonstrated all their skills to a packed house. I was amazed that there were so many kids there. There must have been at least 200! Maybe more. Marilyn and I were in charge of the sanctuary and we first started cleaning up the mess Radical Reality leaves behind. I kinda thought they'd clean up their own mess but they didn't. We had torn phone books thrown everywhere, broken bricks lying in a crumpled mass on the stage, a broken bat (I watched the guy break over his thigh), and broken boards. It was really a mess. But a bunch of us pitched in and got it looking pretty good in short order. Then it was just up to Marilyn and I to keep the girls on one side and the boys on the other, as the sanctuary became the sleeping station after it finally cleared out after the rally, and it wouldn't do to have boys mixed with girls. But my shift being from 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM went very smoothly. I think it was too early in the night for sleepers. But the kids were all SUPER excited and having an absolute ball.

I was going to wash my car today (and it needs it) but it's cold outside and is supposed to rain this afternoon sometime. It's already almost 2:00 and there's no rain yet. They said on the news last night that we were in for a good rain today. Wouldn't know it to look outside. If it warms up after while I'll go out and at least spray off my car. It's a mess from last Wednesday's light showers. Just took a walk outside and discovered there are puddles in the street so I think it must have rained before I got up. Of course anything could have happened before I got up as I was absolutely dead to the world. I still can't believe I slept until noon! Good grief! So if it has already rained I don't know if we'll be getting any more. There's a tenth of an inch in the rain gauge so we definitely had some rain before I woke up. I was hoping to enjoy the rain and I just may have slept through it.

Michael called yesterday late and let me know they made it to Portland, Oregon where they'll be staying for the next few days. Then they will drive back and go straight to San Francisco (Daly City, really) and after a night or two there, Michael will drive the old bus back up here. So I've still got a week alone. But I love the quiet. I just leave my TV off and enjoy. One thing Michael is ... is addicted to TV. I have some things I like to watch but I don't like having the TV on just to have it on. With Michael it's both TVs from the minute he gets up until the minute he heads to bed. TV didn't used to bother me. But after I lost most of my hearing it became irritating to have it on all the time. It takes so much concentrated effort to actually hear, that to save my sanity I don't listen to most of the stuff that's going on around me. It's all just noise to me anyway. I can't understand it unless I zero in on the person talking and watch their lips while they're talking, I've found that it's basically not worth the effort most of the time. Besides, I have a conversation with myself already running in my head and any outside noise is annoying and it interrupts my thoughts. Hearing loss is a very limiting thing. I think the reason Helen Keller said that if she could choose between deafness and blindness she'd choose blindness, because deafness always interferes with communication, while blindness doesn't.

I'll set the alarm for church tomorrow but I'll be hoping the Lord will wake me up. He almost always does. The 40 Days of Purpose campaign gets ever closer to reality. I'm excited to see what God will do with this campaign and nervous that we've bitten off more than we can chew. There's always that little seed of doubt with me. It's a good thing doubt isn't a sin or I'd be in lots of trouble. It's not that I don't trust the Lord to do mighty things, because I do, it's just that I can't see my church pulling together for a single purpose for such a long time. Of course the fact that I got into the campaign 8 weeks early (to begin the prayer part of the campaign) makes it seem even longer than the actual 40 days it is. But even though it's scary, it's really exciting too.

Well, I've got my chores all done but I think I'll go knit for awhile. I've covered about everything I had to write about. I had thought about doing a devotion today but decided to put it off until Monday. I think I'll keep today's blog just about things in my life. I haven't heard from Skatemama in quite awhile so I don't know how she's doing. She's keeping up with her blog so I'm not too worried about her. I just hope and pray for the best for her. She's so young with such a young family, I hate to see her bogged down with illness. I pray for her all the time. Oh well, I'm off to knitting now. I may blog again tomorrow after church. Seems things are a little too quiet around here. Michael's away and my sisters just flew out this morning for the family reunion back in Georgia so there's not anyone around to even blog with. I think I'll turn on my msn and see if anyone contacts me that way. So until my next blog ...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ignoring God

Being ignored can certainly irk us and leave us thinking all kinds of things. Most, if not all, of us dislike being ignored. It doesn't feel good. And it doesn't matter whether it's by sales clerks, people in position of authority, or loved ones, we feel frustrated when we are disregarded. We want their attention but their focus is elsewhere. God, too, desires our attention and we need to focus on Him and what He has to say. Let's not waste another minute with our attention anywhere else but on God Almighty and His greatness.

Let's remember that God formed each one of us inside our mothers' wombs (Ps. 139:13) and gives each of us breath, life, and everything we have. "... he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else." (Acts 17:25) Everything we are and have comes from Him and He deserves our attention. But the majority of the world just ignore Him. They refuse to acknowledge their rebellion and they reject His Son Jesus Christ as their Savior. They replace and ignore God's right to rule over them. And they give away this right by seating "self" on their throne of life. They "like sheep, have gone astray, each one of [them] has turned to his own way." (Isa 53:6; also see Ps 14:3; Ro 3:12)

The unredeemed remain under God's judgment and face eternity without Him because they have rejected Christ's offer of reconciliation. John 3:36 says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (also see Jn 3:18) There are so many people who haven't yet heard the message of the gospel; people we love, work with, or our friends and neighbors. Let's keep our eyes focused on God and what He desires to do in the life of every person who will ever live.

It's sad to acknowledge, but even believers don't always give God the attention He deserves. Much like little children, Christians are easily distracted by the cares and pleasures of this world. Some of us tend to ignore Him by failing to prioritize and make knowledge of what pleases Him to be of greater value to us. Still others of us know what pleases God but are easily distracted and choose to pursue after our own desires, ignoring God and what He desires. At times it's a matter of forgetting who we are ... children of light, children of the Living God ... and all that we have in Christ Jesus, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he has lavished on us with all wisdom and power and understanding. And he [has] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ." (Eph 1:7-9) We choose instead to act and live like the world around us. Our own preferences and desires always clamor for our full attention, but as believers we have a clear choice before us: Ignore God or ignore self.

The Lord desires and expects and deserves our full attention. When our minds are intent on God and our eyes are focused on Him and Him alone, life will center on discovering who He is and what pleases Him and we will become more and more like Him. How much of your focus lately has been centered on God and on what pleases Him?

I broke one of my own rules, but then I guess as long as it's my own rule it doesn't make much difference. LOL I'm sitting here blogging and I don't even have my chores done. Oh well, it was chilly this morning and I didn't want to get out of my warm pjs. I do have the bed made so it's not a total violation of my rules. Hey, it's my rule and I can choose to break it if I want to!!! LOL

I got out after dinner last night and repotted all my cactci there on the deck by the front door. It's something I've been wanting to do all summer but it turned out to be just one of those things we never seem to get around to. One cactus was just about dead but I think I managed to secure a few sprigs of it to replant. All of them have roots attached so they should "take" in the new potting soil. I cut off several sprigs and put them in a small cup of water to see if they will establish new, healthier roots, just in case these I transplanted eventually die. I will move them to the garage when the weather gets really cool instead of just covering them with a sheet this year after losing my beautiful 3-feet-in-diameter aloe. I'd like to get a new aloe to replace the one I lost but I haven't been anywhere where they sell them recently. Anyway ... finally ... my entryway now looks 100% better than it did. I don't know what took me so long to do the replanting. It wasn't too awfully much work and only took me about an hour or so to get them all repotted. I'm sure Michael will notice the difference when he comes home because it looks entirely different out there now.

My sisters head out EARLY tomorrow morning for Georgia to go to the family reunion. I sure wish I could have gone but someone had to be here for the animals and Michael's navy reunion won the discussion hands-down. He's finding it too hard to take care of all the animals anyway, so even if it weren't time for his reunion I still wouldn't be able to go. I hope they take lots of pictures I can look at after they get back.

I turned on the heater this morning. Can you believe that? Only a week or so ago we were using the cooler all day and half the night. But it has really turned nippy in the mornings. It was only 64 degrees in the house this morning when I got up. I need to get my chores done and make a list of things I want to get to today. It's time to vacuum again and the dust has already built up on all the furniture. I don't know where it all comes from. Of course the construction and grading at the end of the cul-de-sac just might have something to do with it.

I noticed yesterday that I won't be able to skip washing the car again tomorrow. But I probably won't do it until afternoon as I think it may be a bit too chilly to do it in the morning. But it's covered in dust too and then the light rain we had Wednesday night just made mud all over it. But I think I'll be able to switch to washing the car every other week from here on out. The new car wash/wax concentrate I bought at WalMart (where else) for less than a dollar, really gives the car a shine. My son uses a product that costs something like $18 dollars a jar. I have to admit his truck looks a whole lot better than my car does but my car's almost 20 years old! Still I can't help but wonder what my car would look like if I washed/waxed it with some of his expensive stuff. Chances are it wouldn't look too much different than it looks now.

I can't believe it's after noon and I still have my jammies on. Guess I'm going to have to take care of that. Besides, I need to get this post published. This is Friday so I probably won't blog over the weekend. I mean, I might since I'll be here by myself, I just might get bored or lonesome. But I'm going to let this be it for now and at least get into some clothes and wash my face, comb my hair. I need to make a trip to the Post Office today too. So until next time...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Biblical Lists

"But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language..." (Col 3:8; see also Eph 4:31-32) The problem with most Scriptures that give a laundry list of attributes to strive for is that we tend to misunderstand, misuse, and misapply them. These attributes have nothing to do with our salvation. They are all quite beside the point. Our salvation is not affected one way or the other whether we cultivate them or not. God will not love us any more if we acquire them and He won't love us any less if we don't acquire them. The point most people fail to grasp is that our salvation has absolutely nothing to do with our conduct. God cannot love us anymore than He already does. Our salvation rests solely on what God did at the cross. We needed to be saved and we were utterly helpless and hopeless at saving ourselves so God stepped in and saved us at Calvary. We were estranged from Him but He "reconciled" the world (us) to Himself.

It's so easy to fall into Satan's trap of thinking we have to be good to be saved and that if we aren't good then we aren't saved, that somehow if we "mess up" we lose our salvation. But that's simply not true and it's a lie that Satan tries to push down our throats because it's one of his lies that borders so closely to the logical truth it's almost believable. Our salvation is secure because it doesn't rest on what we did, are doing, or will ever do, but rests solely on what Christ did at the cross. If we have truly asked Christ to be our Lord and Savior, then He dwells within us and He'll never leave or forsake us. (Dt 31:6; He 13:5) No matter what we do, we must grasp this simple truth! Does that mean we could go out and commit murder and not lose our salvation? Does that mean we can live an adulterous life and still not lose our salvation? Yes, it does. We might temporarily lose God's favor and break His heart, but we will not lose our salvation. An even bigger issue is that we could live in adultery and we could murder our neighbor but why would we want to? That's the biggest question of all! After accepting Christ, why would we want to go back and continue living a life of defeat when we can live a life of victory?

Well, we might reason that, if it's true, then why are we admonished to live a "life worthy of [the] calling" we have received? (Eph 4:1) If we can live anyway we want, why would we want to live like that? That's just it, we wouldn't and it's because we've been changed. We are new creations in Christ ... "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2Co 5:17) ... and we no longer have the same goals we had before accepting Christ. We wouldn't because we love the Lord and living a godly life glorifies and pleases our Creator. It demonstrates how much we love and adore Him. We wouldn't because a godly life now feeds our soul. It's the lifestyle that now better fits us. And we wouldn't because we like ourselves better this way. We are God's children and we will never be any happier than when we are living God-pleasing lives.

We must be extremely careful not to use biblical lists of character traits and behavior as a measuring stick. We tend to judge ourselves and others by the degree to which each one has acquired or avoided those traits listed. These lists were not written down to be used in that manner. Whereas they will show our Christian growth rightly, they can't and don't show our salvation. So there's no need to panic if someone we loves doesn't exhibit these changes or attributes. We needn't worry that they will be "lost" if they still smoke, swear, or do other things that aren't necessarily pleasing or appealing to God. If it was an honest acceptance of Christ then it is an honest salvation and we are secure in our salvation if we are secure in anything at all. Philippians 1:6 says, "... [be] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ."

We are given our salvation as an act of God. And our salvation rests solely on the work of Christ, not on any work we might attempt. Jesus did all the work and all that's left for us to do is rest in what He has done. Oh, but we ask, what about Philippians 2:12: "... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling"? Doesn't that show our works count? Sadly, many people believe there are things we must do to acquire and maintain our salvation and they will most often use this verse in their argument. But what we need to understand is that the Greek verb translated as "to work out," is better understood to mean "to express," or merely to "live out." It just means we are to live a life of reality. Understand this: We are new people now, loved of God, holy and righteous and we must act like it! Verse 7 says that all these negative things were the way we "used to walk ... in the life [we] once lived." (Also see 1Co 6:9-11; Ti 3:3; and Eph 5:8) It's not that godly activity and thoughts gains us our salvation. It's that our salvation gains us the power, which "brought Christ back from the dead," to enable us to turn away from all the negative things in Paul's lists and can bring out so many positive aspects of our life (Php 3:10-11). We aren't changed and then receive salvation. We receive salvation and are then changed from within. If it were any other way we would be condemned for all eternity.

Well, I did it. My blog is quite late but at least I got to it today when I was pretty sure I wouldn't get around to it. Michael left for Oregon with his kids this morning and he was one excited guy! I haven't seen him this happy in years! After they all left, I straightened up the house and put it back into order. I changed the bedding this morning too so I will have the luxury of slipping between crisp, cool, clean sheets tonight. Just me and my dog! It's been getting cold enough at night that he's crawling under the covers and snuggling against my legs. Feels good for both of us, I'm sure. Yesterday was cold and windy all day with a light rain shortly before dark.

I got my hair cut again this morning. I was a little nervous because I liked the way it styled and I was afraid it wouldn't behave the same way if I got it cut again. But I just had to remind myself that I loved it when it was first cut this short so I should like it this time and shouldn't have any problems styling it again. The biggest problem I have is thinning hair. It's getting REALLY thin in places. And that makes it hard to style because I have to cover up all the bald spots. Old age is not fun.

It's just Pepper and I for dinner and I think we'll have left over lasagna from last night. That was sooooo good. I'm grateful the kids brought it up with them. It didn't get done until almost 9:00 last night so we had a really late dinner. I just had a hot dog for lunch. I don't usually eat breakfast. Pepper is acting a bit lethargic today. He knows his daddy's gone and he's just moping around. He knew first thing this morning when they started carrying out the suitcases and stuff. Guess I'll go pop some popcorn, sit with my dog and turn on the TV and see what's happening in the world today.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another Quick Look at John 9

The blind man of John 9 was willing, maybe even eager to answer questions about his healing, no matter who asked them. He was thrilled to tell anyone willing to listen. But take note that the responses to his testimony varied greatly.

Most people suspected that it was some kind of trick, that he wasn't really the same man who had sat and begged all his adult life. These people demanded to know how he came to see. The man answered their questions by simply explaining what had happened to him. He didn't "talk it up" or embellish it in any way. He didn't dramatize things. He simply told the truth. That he had been blind and a man named Jesus gave him some instructions and when he obeyed Jesus' simple commands his sight was given to him.

Though these people couldn't deny what appeared to have happened, they nevertheless had difficulty believing the man's account of things because they couldn't understand it. The world still does the same thing ... what they can't explain, they try to deny.

Then the Pharisees came along and also questioned how he had been given sight. Again the man stated his testimony quite simply and quite honestly. I was blind but "[Jesus] applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and [now] I see." (Jn 9:15) These leaders refused to believe him because they didn't want to accept the One responsible for the healing. When they questioned the man a second time, he simply repeated his testimony. Again they rejected his words, because they refused to change their beliefs. They refused to believe the man's account and when we give our testimony of how Jesus has changed our lives, people may not believe us either. But we will have done our part. We are called simply to tell our own personal stories and what the listeners do in response is not our concern.

Just a short blog today as I want to get started on the house. Yesterday I cleaned for 8 straight hours stopping only for about 10 minutes while I went to the Post Office and back and what a difference!!! My house hasn't looked this good in years. I'm so proud of myself. But I have a few more chores to do to get it completely clean before the kids get up here this evening. It was like waking up in a strange house this morning when I got out of bed. All the clutter has been put away and everything, I mean EVERYTHING has been vacuumed. Yea! Michael and the kids will take off tomorrow morning for Oregon and Michael's navy reunion. He's so excited, he's like a little kid getting ready to go to Disney World.

BE sure to check out Skatemama today. She's got a great picture of Freddie and his guitar.

Our weather has turned down right nippy in the mornings. I'm sitting here in my boxers, freezing. But I wanted to get to my blog and didn't want to take the time to get dressed before hand. But with our weather the way it is, you almost have to get dressed in warm clothes and then midway in the day, stop and put on cool clothes. I just love it!

I may not blog tomorrow what with Michael getting off and my hair appointment. If I do get around to it, it will most likely be in the afternoon before I can squeeze it in. These last two blogs I've published are a couple that I started on quite a ways back and just now tried to finish them up. That's partly why they are so short. I haven't given them the attention they deserve or expanded them the way I usually do. My next few blogs will be better (I hope). But these last two short ones have allowed me extra free time to devote to household chores. I'm going to let this be it for today and get busy. I got so much done yesterday. Washing, ironing, vacuuming, dusting, polishing, mopping, scouring ... all in one day, too!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Telling Your Story

God can and will use our personal testimonies in powerful ways and at various times during our lives with many different people. As we speak about how God has dealt with us in our lives ... how He saved and redeemed us, the Holy Spirit can heighten a nonbeliever's curiosity to the point where they may eventually take a step of faith and seek forgiveness. Some people may be led by the Spirit to dig into deeper spiritual matters and use our words to help them seek Christ as their Savior. Hearing how God has worked in our lives may encourage or prompt a person to desire that same relationship that we share with the Father.

John 9 is about a man born blind. Jesus healed him and he no longer had to beg because he could see. Many people questioned him about how he had received his sight, and to each one he related the facts in his case as he had experienced them. "The man called Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, 'Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.' So I went and washed and I can now see!" (Jn 9:11 NLT) That was his personal testimony.

People around us will notice that there's something unusual about us when we obey Jesus' commands. Perhaps they'll notice that we can remain calm in frightening circumstances or appear less upset at a material loss. Maybe they will recognize that stress from this world no longer has much affect on us and that we appear to be less fearful during times of crises. They may ask us why we no longer participate in activities and conversations that dishonor God or why we avoid certain things like alcohol and tobacco. As we become conformed into the image of Christ, our personality changes and people around us will notice. And we can respond as simply as the blind man did: "I was spiritually blind and separated from God by sin. Jesus, the Savior, died on the cross to pay for my sins. Through faith in Him, I know I have been forgiven and made part of God's family. That's why I'm not the same."

We don't need to have the answers to all our questions to talk about Jesus and what He did for us. We need only relate what happened to us in our individual circumstances. Tell what happened to us personally. We should take the time to briefly write out our testimony in a few short sentences and be able to tell our own story in a short, concise way. If we look for opportunities to tell our story and plant the seeds of Truth, God will water it and make it grow.

Just a short devotional today as I have much that needs to be done. I have "housework" plans today and got up early just so I could squeeze in my blog before getting down to business. It's cool again this morning. I had to put on a long-sleeved flannel shirt to keep from shivering here at the computer. Talk to everyone tomorrow!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just Another Monday Morning

I'm sitting here trying to recall what I did over the weekend and can't really come up with anything. Can't remember what I did Saturday. Surely I did something. But I'm at a loss to tell you about it. I know what I did yesterday. I woke up to go to church but then ducked out and decided to go back to bed as I'd been dozing most of the way through the TV show In Touch with Charles Stanley. I usually watch him between 8:00 and 9:00. Anyway I went back to bed and slept until 12:15. Shame on me!! But it was the best, most restful sleep I've had in months and months. I felt incredible when I finally woke up. I feel bad that I missed church but feel I must have needed my sleep for me to have slept so long. After that I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening writing. I always write my blogs out in long hand and then type them into my computer. I know that's double work but it works better for me that way. So, anyway, I got a week's worth of blogs written. One blog is really long so I'll probably break it into two and use it over a couple days.

Our weather has been beautiful and it feels so good to not need the cooler. With my hearing problem, the cooler just adds a roar to the roar I already have in my ears. That roaring is enough to drive a sane person absolutely mad. It's one of the biggest reasons why I dislike football and now even NASCAR racing. I've gotten to where I like to watch foot ball games on TV with Michael but I sure wish they'd cut down on the crowd noise that they pipe into the broadcast booth. You can tell the announcers are yelling to be heard over the noise and that noise drives me bananas. I have always loved racing but the last year or so the car noise drives me up the walls. I don't know why the sound technicians insist on adding all that noise. It's like watching Cops on Court TV. You're up in the helicopter following along with a high speed pursuit and the announcer is almost yelling over the sound of sirens and you know good and well they can't hear the sirens up there in the helicopter. It's all piped in and fed together by the sound technicians. Guess they do it to make it more "real." Pretty sad with you have to fake something to make it seem real, huh? It's like Las Vegas. I always feel like laughing when I'm in Las Vegas because everything is just so fake. Fake Statue of Liberty, fake piramid, etc., etc. Goodness, how did I go from weather to sirens in helicopters to Vegas? LOL Talk about scattered!

I'll try again on the weather. It's been perfect Fall weather for us for about the last week and we are loving it! Hot but not too hot during the day, and nice and cool at night for sleeping. Definitely feels like Fall. Some of the trees are beginning to turn and it won't be long before it will look like Fall too. I hope it stays this way for a good, long time. I dread going into winter for the fact that it always seems to last too long. But I got soooooo tired of the summer heat. Ideally we should have long springs, short summers, long Falls, and short winters. That would balance things out nicely, don't you think?

Michael is getting excited for his trip later this week. Looking forward to seeing old navy buddies at his reunion over the weekend. We spent most of Saturday getting his clothing washed and rounding up the things he wants to take with him. He's planning on going casually and I'm hoping he's not the only one there in levis. (At least they're new levis.) He said he talked to someone who went to the last reunion and they told him it was casual attire. Sure hope so or he's going to be the odd man out.

I have a lot of things I should be doing right now so I'm not too sure how long this blog is going to be. I have a meeting at 2:00 today and then another meeting tomorrow night at 7:00. Then on Friday I volunteered to help with the Lock-In at church from 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM. And on top of all that, Michael's kids will be here Wednesday and I have an 11:00 hair cut scheduled for Thursday. [An early warning: I may not blog on Thursday. If I do it will be late.] John being allergic to cats means I have to get the house vacuumed really well before Wednesday, not that it needs it, you know. LOL. Right now I need to be washing and styling my hair instead of blogging but, as you can see, I'm not. I'm going to skip my devotional for today and just chat and when I've run out of things to talk about, I'll say goodbye.

Skatemama has a couple new posts on her blog, if you haven't checked her out yet. I read her blog everyday. It's always so interesting. She and her little family is always up to something. I don't know where she gets all her energy!

Well, Ken is supposed to be making a dump run today with his pickup and he said he would swing by and pick up our items that are too large for our trash cans. We changed dining room chairs a while back and we want to get the old ones out of our garage so we'll have more room to walk through there. He said he'd be here before noon and it's almost noon now. I hope he hasn't forgotten about us. We got lucky and got some free furniture a few months ago and got four new chairs for the table. The old ones were so stained and cat damaged. They looked really bad. The ones we got are just wooden, spindled-back chairs but they actually look better than the upholstered chairs the table originally came with. We also got a free bedroom set so we make out like bandits. The furniture came from a hotel that was redecorating and didn't look used at all. Now if I could just get my hands on some free livingroom furniture!! Not that we need it or anything. LOL. If you could see my furniture you'd understand where I'm coming from.

We grilled burgers and hot dogs last night for dinner. Well, actually the burgers were for our dinner. The hot dogs are for me while Michael's away. Grilled hot dogs taste so much better than steamed ones! But I have to brag about Michael's burgers. They were absolutely delicious! He had them seasoned and cooked perfectly. They were so good I actually ate two burgers. That's a first for me. I haven't a clue about what we're going to eat tonight. Guess I should see what we can eat so if I need to take it out of the freezer I'll still have time to thaw it out. Does everyone get as tired of making dining choices as I do? I'm to the point now to where I just hate doing that.

Okay, I think that's going to be it for today. I'm out of things to write about and feel like I'm just boring my readers anyway. My life is so interesting! LOL!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another Beautiful Day

The weather has really turned cooler the past few days and for some reason I'm a little sad today that the seasons are changing. Aren't we strange creatures? When it's scorching hot, I can't wait for winter and then when we start into Fall and I realize we're losing summer, I end up feeling sad. Go figure!! Regardless, it's been perfect weather lately. Michael and I took a drive over and did the rest of our shopping yesterday. He leaves on vacation in less than a week and he had to have another pair of pants to wear to his navy reunion up in Oregon so we just buzzed right on over and picked up a pair, which was good luck on our part because he has short legs and sometimes it's difficult to find a pair that will fit him. No one carries them in his size so he always has to hem them up anyway (which is what he's doing right now; that and watching football on TV). I've decided to take advantage of his vacation and do a lot of deep cleaning here at home while he's away. I thought I could just take a room a day and get it spotless before moving on to the next room the next day. There's so much that needs to be done and no way am I going to be able to do more than one room a day so that's what I set my goal to be: one room a day.

I had a super realistic dream night before last. I dreamt I was landing the Space Shuttle with a little remote control box with a couple toggle switches on it in my hands. It was soooo realistic! Wonder where that crazy dream came from??

I've decided not to wash my car today (I succeeded in washing it every Saturday for 9 weeks, yea!) because it's just not dirty. I guess it's so late in the season that the leaves have stopped dripping sap and even the birds (that messed it up so badly last week) must have gone south for the winter or something because there aren't any droppings on my car. Anyway, it's just not dirty enough to go to the trouble of washing it today. So I thought I'd use the time I normally use washing my car to write a short blog.

Yesterday's Daily Bible Verse piqued my interest and I wanted to write a blog around it but I can't get it laid out in the form I want. Plus there's a Scripture verse I want to quote and I can't find the reference. I found a couple that might work but they aren't the one I want so I'm going to put that off until another time. Chances are I'll never get back around to it so no one hold your breath or anything waiting for it. Today's verse is Romans 8:18-19: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."

Suffering seems to be the most difficult part of the Christian life. We don't like it. We don't understand it. And we think we don't need it. But it's a big part of conforming us into the image of Christ. Most of the time we just want it to end and we just barely hang in there long enough. We feel like if it lasts another second we're not going to be able to stand it. But we should learn to grasp it as something dear. I know that's difficult for us to do but if we can just understand that the suffering changes us, changes our character and attitude and personality, it would be a lot easier for us. When we understand that suffering is necessary for this work, and understand that we are being conformed into the image of Christ, and that we are becoming new creations, it's easier to withstand the stress and pain. It takes time and effort for the Holy Spirit to build Christlike qualities in us and it often seems that once He decides to change us He never lets up; it seems our torment goes on forever.

But we can get a grip on the joy that comes through suffering if we think about perhaps having some type of elected surgery. Say a person has had a crooked nose since they broke it as a child falling off their bicycle. For years it's been out of shape and an embarrassment to live with. Finally a doctor comes along and recommends corrective surgery to repair and reposition it into it's original alignment. Finally, there's hope for this person. A chance to be and look normal and natural again. That person knows he's going to hurt when he undergoes this surgery and that recovery won't be easy by any means. Yet he can go into the surgery with a measure of joy and have great expectations for the beginning of a whole new life. The pain of surgery isn't worth comparing it with the pain he's felt for years and years from having a disfigured face. He knows the results will have been worth the suffering. That's the type of thing this Scripture is referring to.

Yes, it hurts to go through some of the changes we must go through to become the people God wants us to be, but the pain of that just can't be compared with the pain of staying the type of people we are. Becoming conformed into the image of Christ is a lot of work. A lot of time-consuming, exhausting, and often painful work. But embrace the pain because the person you are changing into is so much better than the person you are. Think back to your life before becoming a believer. What were you like then? Ill-tempered? Conceited? Impatient? Selfish? Chances are, if we're honest with ourselves we'll see that we weren't such great people at all. Slowly the Spirit has worked reshaping and transforming us into the people we are today. For that we can be joyful, even during the pain.

My son is currently going through a very difficult time with a new boss at work. It's been extremely stressful for him and if he could only see the changes that are being made on the inside it would be so much easier for him to endure. But we can't usually see the changes as they're being made, I think mostly because it happens so gradually. Also, I think it's something we have to take on faith. Scripture assures us that suffering is necessary if we want to be like Christ. So in faith we wade through the thick pain of change and trust God. That doesn't mean that we don't hurt, that it's not difficult and painful to endure at the time. It is. But we need to think ahead to the glory that will be ours in the future. If we keep our eyes focused on who and what we're becoming, it will make it a little easier to go through. That's what holds me together, praise God! And it can hold you together too. When it hurts, know you are sharing in the suffering of Christ and that, in ways you can't see, you are being changed and renewed, becoming entirely new creations.

It's past time for lunch and my stomach is making little growly sounds so I think I'll let this be it until Monday. I need to refill the hummingbird feeder too and try to get the house picked up a little bit. I sure hope I don't regret putting off washing my car but I've already made up my mind about that. And, there's still tomorrow after church if I should decide to change plans.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Implements of Sanctification

The process I've been writing about the past few days, sanctification, is the way through which God shapes and conforms us into the image of Jesus Christ, His Son. Throughout the Bible, the inspired writers use images that testify to the Lord's work of forming us into His children. Isaiah 64:8, for instance, calls God a potter: "We are like clay, and you are the potter; your hands made us all." (NCV) Like a potter, God uses implements or tools to shape us into the people he desires to associate with and people who can be of use to Him. Remember we have been changed from a plain, inexpensive "earthenware" vessel and formed into one that is "grace-filled" and beautiful, fit to hold the very Spirit of God.

The Church. Scripture teaches us that the "Church," is comprised of believers themselves and is not a building or structure in which to worship. We are all part of the body of Christ, and as such, we need each other to function properly. The Bible instructs us not to foresake gathering together as a group and worshiping God in a corporate setting. Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some have the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another..." There are numerous benefits to coming together in this way inside a physical church building. For instance, we learn of God's ways from a pastor's sermon or a Sunday School teacher's lesson. And the prayers of many as one voice is like the fragrance of a sacrifice, sweet smelling and pleasing to the Lord. These individuals have been called to minister to the body. Furthermore, God calls His children to fellowship together so He can use fellow believers in each other's sanctification process. Other believers encourage our hearts when we feel troubled and up build us in our Christian walk. They also hold us accountable when we fall victim to sin and temptations. God never intended for us to worship and serve Him in isolation. That's why He gave instructions on building the tabernacle in the first place. Only in a corporate or church setting can we find avenues of service for the Lord and we are all called to serve. While working in a community service area (serving in a soup kitchen, for instance) could be argued to support the idea of service outside the "Church," how many people actually avail themselves to serve in this capacity? The point remains that the coming together of believers in churches all over the world has many benefits and opportunities to both serve and be served. Corporate worship services have always been part of God's original design.

The Bible. Scripture, the Psalmist writes, is to function as a "lamp for [our] feet and a light for [our] path." (Ps 119:105) It is the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate what we read so that we, in turn, can fall under conviction and grow in our faith. Scripture shows us the mind of God and tells us what pleases Him. While we can learn of God in the beauty and design of the physical universe itself, the Bible is the pinnacle of knowledge about Him. Restricting ourselves to learning about God by just "seeing Him in nature around us" is like trying to enjoy a meal just by it's smell. It smells good but it tastes better! So, yes, we can learn of God by looking at His creation, we don't have to read the Bible, but that's like smelling the food and not eating it. The delicate interpersonal relationship we establish with the Lord is fed with Scripture. You don't have to read the Bible to feed your soul and strengthen your commitment to serve Him and Him alone, but it helps tremendously. We come to know the Lord in Scripture and we come to know ourselves in Scripture too. Like a big mirror, Scripture reveals us to ourselves and allows us to see where we are lacking. It also shows us where we have an abundance that we can share with others. If our spiritual life is considered the engine of our souls, the Word of God can be thought of as the fuel that fires it. Many good Christians have withstood years and years of incarceration in hostile countries without having a Bible, so yes, we can have a close personal relationship with God without reading the Bible. But just ask one of those brothers or sister and they'll tell you the value of reading the Bible. They know first hand how it nourishes the soul. They totally understand and recognize its incredible value.

Suffering. When we suffer as saints, the first thing we do is we run straight to our heavenly Father for comfort and consolation. And God freely gives us solace and help, but He also uses our painful circumstances to further refine and shape us into the persons God desires us to be. Our Christian faith grows during times of suffering in ways that it can only grow through suffering and the people we become after enduring suffering are simply better people. Our faith is stronger. Our reliance on God is stronger. And our loving relationship with our heavenly Father is stronger. Suffering strengthens us in ways that we can't otherwise be strengthened. Yes, while the suffering itself is painful and unpleasant, the results make it all worthwhile because we go into suffering as spiritual babies and come out as full-fledged adults. Our faith and our relationship with the Lord mature during difficult times and circumstances. We come out of suffering looking more like Christ than ever before when we submit to the work the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives. And that is why we can consider it all joy (James 1:2) when we struggle with suffering because we know the results ahead of time.

This transforming work of sanctification, this process, is ever ongoing. We are continually and constantly adjusted to the alignment of the Truth of our salvation and redemption that we find in Jesus Christ. And if we desire to glorify our Lord by faithfully reflecting His glory, we must yield and avail ourselves to His implements of sanctification. The Holy Spirit does all the work. All that's required of us is to submit to His efforts. If we will live our lives in submission to the Lord, the Holy Spirit himself will do whatever is necessary to sanctify us and make us holy when we stand before God. All He requires of us is our submission to His will. Watchman Nee explains that the Chinese characters for "Holy Spirit" literally mean "Resident Boss." Isn't that great? The Holy Spirit is our Resident Boss and all we have to do is do what He asks and submit to the implements (the church, the Bible, and suffering) He uses to produce the finished product of sanctification.

Well, I didn't think I'd have time to blog this morning but as it turns out I woke up at 5:30 and couldn't go back to sleep so I decided to get up and hit the computer. Therefore, because I may have been half asleep, what I wrote may not make sense and it may be filled with typographical errors and I will apologize in advance for any and all confusion. LOL. I was hoping to get to this blog today because it's the last in the series on sanctification. Now it's done and I'm happy I got up early and did it but I feel like I want to go back to bed and sleep some more. That does sound so good to me right now.

I hope today is a repeat of yesterday as far as the weather goes because yesterday was almost perfect. We never got over 90 degrees all day and we only ran the cooler for about 20 minutes just to air out the house before going to bed. That was nice. Real nice.

My shoulder is still really bothering me and I can't decide how it feels. It's not any worse but I'm not sure it's any better either. But it will get better I'm sure. I guess I'm going to let this be it for this morning and get busy doing something. As long as I'm up I may as well do something. If I didn't have a doctor appointment to go to later this morning I'm sure I'd be going back to bed. Sometimes I think the best feeling in the world is slipping back into bed and getting another hour's sleep.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Process of Sanctification

Imagine walking into a room and seeing two ceramic pitchers. One is beautifully and gracefully made, perhaps trimmed with pure gold, and the other one is just a plain, everyday pot without even so much as a finishing glaze. Which one would catch your eye, drawing you closer for a better look?

The Apostle Paul used this metaphor in 1Corinthians 3:11-13 to explain how some Christians grow in the Lord. You have the ones that honor Him with their "gold and silver" lives of service, while others bring shame to the gospel through selfish and impure "earthenware" living. Scripture often uses the pitcher or vessel image because, as believers, we are to be "filled with," or controlled by, the Holy Spirit that Christ sent to inhabit and care for every believer. This Helper trains us in righteousness and strengthens us during times of suffering. (Eph 5:18) The Spirit's work begins on the inside where He adjusts and changes our thinking to line up with God's thinking that is revealed for us in Scripture. Since whatever we think eventually affects how we conduct ourselves, our outward behavior begins to conform to the sanctified perceptions the Holy Spirit is building into our spirit. Not only are we saved but we begin to act saved as well.

This isn't a matter of obeying church doctrine or laws and other "rules" (don't eat this! don't touch that!) which always remain an exterior response for us and is always created by our own human effort. No, this is about the change in our hearts that takes place within us when we receive the Holy Spirit. We begin to desire right behavior and, in time, we begin to align ourselves with the righteousness we were given by Christ. No longer do we brag about our "night out with the gang," drinking and carousing with loose conduct. No, now we are ashamed of any participation we may have had in such activity. Inside, we've been changed. Once saved, we are different on the inside and that difference affects how we live our lives on the outside. It is essential that we understand that this change in behavior and thinking comes about after we are saved. And this change doesn't take place overnight. It is what we mean by the process of sanctification. Slowly but surely the Spirit (who now lives inside the believer) begins to make adjustments in our wants and desires so that our conduct begins to reflect the image of Christ. And it's crucial we realize we aren't talking about human effort to change ourselves. We can be sure that any attempt we make to gain righteousness by own strength will be useless. Human effort will always fail. We're talking about the Spirit's work within us, deep down into our wants and needs, desires and thoughts. This process happens at varying speeds with various people. It begins immediately but takes a lifetime to complete.

Paul explains that as we cooperate with the Lord by removing dishonorable habits, actions, and attitudes that no longer fit the new creatures we have become in Christ, we become "vessels of honor," being used to further the works of His kingdom. As believers, we have a God-given responsibility in this sanctification process, to work with the Spirit to eliminate sin from our lives. Our heart's desire becomes one with the Lord's desire for our lives. Ugly and sinful activity becomes distasteful to us and we no longer want to run with that crowd. This is a big part of the sanctification process and our job, as believers, is to run from sin and confess and repent when necessary. We will never completely eradicate sin from our lives but when we are vigilant about fleeing from sin, then the Holy Spirit will work within us to mature and strengthen our faith, making us gold-trimmed vessels that pour out God's love upon the world of mankind. What kind of vessel are you? We all start out as earthenware pitchers but are then transformed into sacred, graceful vessels fit for the work of Christ's kingdom once we accept the righteousness that is by faith alone in the Lord Jesus and in what He has done.

And I thought my shoulder was bad yesterday!!! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! It is so much worse today! I will complain about it to my doctor tomorrow if it isn't better by tomorrow. I don't know what he can do about it. Maybe X-Ray it, but I think that would be a waste of time because I'm pretty sure it's muscular in origin. I'll probably just sweat it out. But, hey, I could have been hurt so much worse. I have to keep reminding myself of that fact to appreciate the lack of injuries I could have suffered. It's just hard to move my arm at all today. It's not my arm. It's my shoulder. From my elbow down is fine, it's just that shoulder joint that is freezing up on me. It doesn't want to be moved at all today.

Our weather has turned so beautiful the past few days or week. Our highs have been in the high 90s and the lows down in the lower 50s. So nice! Fall is making her way through to us and will be here in no time.

Michael had a T-Shirt made for his navy reunion. On the front is a picture of the destroyer he was on during the Korean War coming straight at you, and on the back is a picture of the destroyer going away from you. These are pictures he drew, of course. It's really neat and I've got it washing now. I'm sure it will be the rage at the reunion. Several of Michael's buddies can't make the reunion and he is rightfully disappointed that he won't get to see them. At their ages you just don't know how many will be left for the next reunion. Time is just relentless, ever trudging forward.

Well, I guess I'll go and see if I can get a few things done. With this bum shoulder I'm going to be pretty limited in what I can do but I'm sure I can find something. I may not get around to blogging tomorrow because of the doctor appointment I have. And then Friday we'll be going to WalMart so I'm not sure when I'll get back to post again. But I will be back. Take care and stay close to the Lord.