Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blog #1002

Nobody simply wakes up one morning and goes down to the route thinking they'll run the Boston Marathon. It takes practice. Lots of practice. A runner's body has to be conditioned to run great distances. The marathon runner spends months, sometimes years, preparing their bodies and minds for this kind of effort. Typically they rise up early in the mornings and sprint out the door down to the street to begin the jarring and punishing practice, running a little bit farther every day. He must practice keeping his focus as he pushes his body farther and farther. He sets his mind to the task and blocks out any negativity or exhaustion, mental and physical. Day after grueling day he perseveres in his efforts until finally the day arrives for the actual marathon. He has conditioned himself physically and mentally for the event. All the time and effort he's put out in practicing day after day is finally put to the test. All that discipline was not easy but it was essential to finishing the race.

The Christian's life is often pictured as a race in the Bible. If this is true and we have no reason to doubt it, we can rest assured that our perseverance is essential to our success at finishing the marathon. So, how do we build perseverance in our spiritual lives? James 1:2-3 says, "consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."

The very word perseverance implies a continuing to do something in spite of the difficulties and obstacles. It paints the picture in vibrant colors of one standing the test, completing what was started in the face of all adversity and opposition and the resolve not to quit until the job is done. The runner needs perseverance to finish the race and therefore punishes his body routinely, even though it hurts, so that he will successfully finish the course when the big day arrives. As believers today, we need to do the same thing.

Our training is spent listening to the Holy Spirit, meditating on Scripture, fellowshiping with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and communing with our heavenly Father in constant prayer. Our daily walk is the "training camp" where we build up our perseverance to face hardships of every kind. We learn to pick ourselves back up when we fall and continue to stay the course. We learn to stay focused with our eyes on Christ Jesus our only hope of glory (Col 1:27). And when we do this it pleases the Father in heaven. Our right conduct and conditioning brings a smile to the face of God. And this, in turn, pleases us.


Well for the first time I've gotten up early and have my blog done already. Wow! I surprise myself. This is more like it. It is a foggy, dreary day again today, with the ceiling a little lower than yesterday. Hopefully it will burn off today. Yesterday was cold and dreary all day. That's one thing about living where we live, we have very little fog compared to the Valley. But when we are fogged in it's a big deal around here.

We have to go get our flu shots today at the clinic sometime between 9:00 and 1:00. I hate having to bother but I'm sure I'd hate having the flu even more. We haven't had the flu in years because we've gotten our shots every year. I guess it pays in the end.

I hope to work in the yard a little bit if the sun breaks through the fog today. (It's beginning to peek through the mist in places now.) The leaves are going to keep getting deeper and deeper out there so I may as well get them raked up and hauled out. It doesn't take very long to do it once you put your mind to it. It's that initial umph! needed to get up and out there that tends to trip me up.

Just stopped and turned on the heater now that Michael is up. It felt cold all day yesterday but the thermometer said it wasn't cold so we just suffered. This morning it reads 'cold' so we're going to get some heat. I don't like to turn on the heater when there's still someone sleeping because the bedroom gets so hot the person will wake up in a pool of sweat and that's not very pleasant for anyone. So it's better, if it's not too cold, to wait until the last sleeper is awake.

Just saw another truckload of something being taken down the street to the end of the cul-de-sac. I saw a load of it go down yesterday too. I don't know what they call the stuff but it's rolls of stuff that's rolled out onto the hillside to keep it from slipping in the rain. Anyone know what that is called? It's rolled out on hills to prevent mudslides and I'm not sure if it's burlap or netting but it's something to hold the hill together. They hauled one of the dozers out last week and even though there's one dozer left, it hasn't moved in weeks. Guess they'll start the actual building pretty soon. I don't look forward to all that noise but maybe we'll be far enough away that we won't hear it that loudly. I see new vehicles across the street this morning at the vacant house. Probably new people moving in. This is one active neighborhood. Seems like there's always someone moving out or moving in. Busy, busy, busy.

I had an interesting thing happen yesterday. I was sitting on the couch when I was suddenly just almost overcome with an all-consuming awareness of my love for God! I love everything about Him and I love my life in Him. It was a very powerful experience and it brought tears to my eyes. Have you ever had a similar experience?

Guess I'll stop babbling and go get busy doing something. I just can't think of anything else to write about and I need to go back and check my spelling before closing this out and getting busy with things this morning. I think this is the first time I've ever gotten my blog written this early. Yeah! I'm getting better. It's setting the alarm that's making the difference (and getting up when it goes off!) This coming weekend is communion Sunday which means I'll have to get up at 6:30, ugh! We also have to remember to set our clocks back. Okay, this is going to be it, I need to get busy with things. Need to get my chores done and go get those shots! So until tomorrow ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blog #1001

A runner's body goes through many changes during the 26.2 mile marathon course. In the beginning of the race he has to fight the strong urge to run fast. But a marathon is not a sprint. It's called an endurance race for a reason. A runner has to pace himself. And then midway the runner has to again fight his inclination to listen to that voice in his head that's telling him he's run a good race up to this point. He can be pleased with himself. People will be impressed that he made it this far. Quitting now would not be such a failure. As he continues to run he must work his way through cramps and strains and blisters and aches and pains. But if he is to finish the race he must keep his eyes on the finish line and keep going for the glory he will receive when he finishes at the end. He must keep his mind on the goal he has set before himself and continue to strive for the end, step after tiring step. He must endure.

To endure according to Webster means: "to hold up under pain and fatigue ,,, to stand; bear; undergo." It doesn't mean to slack off or give up before reaching the goal. To endure we strive ever onward toward the goal, ignoring and working our way through all obstacles and hindrances. We set our eyes on the finish line and endure whatever it takes to get to the end. We don't give in and we don't give up before gaining the victory.

This is the kind of image we should have in our minds when we read the challenge for us to "throw off everything that hinders ... and run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12:1). Endurance is the kind of effort that says, "Whatever it takes, Lord, I'm in it until the end. I am in the race of my life and I will not give up. I will not give in. I will finish my earthly marathon to Your glory and Your honor. You've brought me this far and I trust You to take me to the finish line!"

If we believe that the goal God has set before us is worth the effort, we will continue to endure no matter the hurdles and heartbreaks. Then, like Paul, we can say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2Tim 4:7).


Just a short blog today. Now that I'm doing all the writing myself, it'll take me awhile to come up with devotions of the right length. Until then I may have short ones and I may have long ones. I think it's easier to have longer ones and then trim off the excess than it is to have short ones and try to think of things to add to it to give it a better length so I'm not going to try to make them any longer when they turn out to be on the short side.

We had a wonderful thunderstorm blow through our area last night. Not all that much thunder and lightning but lots of rain. It was raining so hard that I could feel the vibrations through the soles of my feet. It was just pouring off the roof. Forget about the gutters. It just filled them and then over flowed them. It didn't last but about 15 or 20 minutes (if that long) and we have .40 in the rain gauge. And the rain really knocked the leaves off the tree and down into the yard. What a mess!!! I will get out there and rake as soon as it warms up. Probably tomorrow. It doesn't look like it's going to warm up today. I can't see Hogback Mountain because of the overcast but we don't have any ground fog to speak of. After the rain last night, I thought for sure we'd have ground fog this morning but no such thing.

Today will be a housecleaning day for me. Housecleaning and laundry. Seems like I just did that and now I need to do it all over again. It's almost like "Why bother?" But I think we all know the answer to that question. You have to bother once in awhile or you'll end up neck deep in debris and cat hair. I get the vacuum out every couple days and take care of the carpet but I need to now use the vacuum on the furniture. Everything is so dusty! Oh, and let's not forget the cat hair. And the clutter has built up around the house. I have to face it; it's time to do some housecleaning as much as I dislike doing it. I guess I don't dislike it so much as I just don't want to spend my entire day doing it. I have other things to do. (Actually I don't. I just thought that sounded good in there. LOL)

I woke up at 7:30 this morning and got up. Turned on Michael's coffee (he forgot to put the water in the coffee maker last night so I poured it in for him so he'd have hot coffee instead of hot water when he got up). He's been having a mental block with making his coffee lately. I do the same thing sometimes with my stuff. He forgot to set it to come on in the morning for a couple days and so he was so bent on getting the right buttons pushed last night that he forgot to pour in the water. You do things like that too, don't you? Come on, I know you do. We all do.

Well, I hope you have a nice day today. Nice and productive because that's what I'm hoping for myself. But mine isn't going to be so productive if I don't get to my chores. Michael slept until 10:00 this morning so I haven't even gotten the bed made and I want to change the sheets this morning too. I washed them yesterday just so I'd have clean ones to put on but I thought I'd have that done by now. My plan was to wake up early, type my blog, and get busy doing housework. Here it is almost 11:00 and I'm just now finishing my blog. But I thought I'd check my emails before I got started on my blog and several of them needed to be answered. And one turned out to be a really long email so I'm already behind schedule. That's discouraging. Well if I just keep at it I'll get at least some things done. But I have to start to keep at it so until tomorrow...

Monday, October 29, 2007

By Faith Alone

If we are too proud to bend our spirits before God, we will never get to heaven. We may be kind and gentle people always looking for things to do to help others out, but we are not good enough to approach the one and only Holy God. Not on our own merits anyway. And if pride is keeping us from admitting we need Jesus, from admitting that we will never be good enough on our own, then we will never accept God's saving grace and get to where all of us with intelligence want to go ... heaven. God says, 'I will make salvation for man a gift, a pure and simple free gift because I love him and because I am a loving God.' God supplied what was needed without charge to us, yet people most often turn away and look in other directions. Often, because of pride in our own efforts, we toss aside the only effort that has any true value in this dilemma. Only God's effort can bring us into a right relationship with Him. Many of us are turning away from God's free gift of salvation because we have hardened our hearts and think that we're too smart to need God.

God created us to enjoy us and to share His life with us but as it stands we are all sinners, born imperfect and estranged (Ro 3:23). God cannot tolerate sin in His presence and He, being the Creator, set the penalty for sin, which is death (Ro 6:23). This decree doomed all humankind to death because we are all sinners. But God devised a better way for us. There is only one way to heaven and that is through Him. And there's only one way to Him and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But because He loves us so much and desires to live eternally with us, He made the incredible decision to die in our place. He would pay the penalty for our sins and spare us from His wrath. God would die in our place. Can we fully grasp that? God, the Creator, the omniscient One, He who holds the universe in the palm of His hand would submit Himself to death so we wouldn't have to. There is a great chasm between heaven and us and God took it upon Himself to bridge that gap by sending Jesus Christ to earth, to be born of a woman, to be maligned, mocked, and murdered. But no one murders God unless God first permits it. He didn't have to die for us; He chose to die. It was His decision because of His great love for the world (John 3:16).

We can't work, reason, or beg ourselves into heaven. The bridge that spans the gap between humanity and Holy God is Jesus Christ and our faith in what He has done for us. If we have faith, we can cross right over that chasm separating us from our heavenly Father. When we confess to being a sinner in need of God's grace and place our faith in the ransoming and redeeming death of Jesus Christ, God counts us reconciled to Himself and we are allowed to draw near to Him since He has accepted Christ's death as our own. The debt was owed and Christ paid it all at Calvary. We owed the price; Jesus paid the the bill.

We mustn't for a moment think that all we want is what we deserve because all we deserve is death due to our sinful natures. The point here is that nobody deserves grace. That's why it's called grace. It's totally and completely undeserved. But God desired to spend eternity with us so all-consumingly that He donned human flesh, came to earth, and died for us. Those of us with any intelligence will say 'Yes' to Jesus and bend our spirits and our knees before our loving God.


Well I did it, folks, I spent the better part of Saturday writing devotionals. From scratch. Although I was always quick to admit that I routinely "borrowed" from other writer, I decided to swallow my fear and go out on the proverbial limb and put some together all by myself. For better or for worse, I am writing all my devotions from scratch, from beginning to end, from now on. Hopefully I won't lose any readers and only my readers will know whether I pass or fail as a writer on my own merits. It takes me longer (and even longer to come up with their titles!!) and is more work but I think it's better this way. Instead of coming up with titles I may switch to numbers. They're almost too short to have titles anyway. So tomorrow when you come to read my blog you'll probably find it numbered instead of named. I never thought coming up with titles would be a problem but I found that it sometimes took me almost as long to name it as it took me to write it!!!

I went to my first 40 Days' small group this morning and had a great time. I enjoyed the DVD and the discussion was lively and meaningful. (This was the small group meeting that I missed last week.) I got to meet some people I'd never met before and feasted on homemade cinnamon rolls or at least they tasted homemade (they had a really good yeasty taste that you don't get from the cooked refrigerated ones). I think we should do more of this kind of thing. Jehovah's Witnesses have a small group meeting each week but their's is to study one of the Society's own books and there are definite benefits to meeting together in small groups. One of them being that it's easier to remember their names. We had 10 in our group this morning. Perfect size!!

We had rain sometime during the night because as I drove over to Evelyn and Jordan's house this morning, there were puddles in the road. The forcastors said we may have thunderstorms on the news last night and this morning so I'm really hoping for lots of activity this afternoon. I just love storms.

I got an email from Betty and she is now in Pharr (spelling may not be right) Texas and will be there for I think 3 weeks if my memory hasn't failed me. So please keep her in your prayers. Kim's mom has been given just about 2 weeks to 2 months to live but she is elderly, having lived a full life, and I don't believe she is suffering in any way. As far as I know, skatemama is doing fine. I don't know how she's doing with her MS. Hopefully it's going to be in remission and bother her little.

I need to get down in the yard and get the leaves raked up and taken to the burn pile in the vacant lot next door but I probably will put if off for a few more days (I can always blame the weather, LOL.) Just looked at my watch and, goodness, my day is dwindling (and I got up early!!) so I better get to some chores. I think I need to do some laundry today or tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow ... I don't have a single meeting left in this week. The only meeting I had for the entire week was the one I went to this morning. This is a rarity, not having meetings. To be truthful, it feels pretty good just knowing that I don't have to be somewhere on a certain day at a certain time. (Except to get our flu shots on Wednesday.) Now that our 40 Days is in full swing there are actually less meetings than there were for the 8 weeks leading up to the Kick Off. But I did pick up a 40 Days workbook this morning while I was at Evelyn's and so I'll have that commitment to work through during the week. I like workbooks generally so I shouldn't have too much trouble. Rick Warren is very good in his teaching and I feel like I'm getting a lot out of this campaign, spiritually. And really, personally too. It's forced me to meet new people, which is something very difficult for me to do.

I have read The Purpose Driven Life and listened to the cassette tapes too so this is like an in-depth review of what I've already learned and forgotten. Amazing how much stuff leaks out of our brains! It's frustrating to sit there and go, 'I used to know this!' But I have the basic concepts in my mind now and this time through the book is allowing me the chance to study all the little things. One thing I like about this campaign is that it doesn't over-burden you with too much information. There are just a few key things given to you each week to study and remember. Lots of information is given to flesh out these ideas and examples but the things themselves are not burdensome. Sometimes programs or campaigns will try to force so much information on you that you get to the point where you're not really learning anything! Nothing will stay with you.

Okay, I think this is going to be it for today. I need to get some things done. I'll check the laundry first. In fact I think I'll go put my sheets in the washer and get them washed and dried so I'll have them first thing in the morning to put on the bed instead of waiting and doing that until the day I want to change the sheets. That ends up leaving the bed unmade for hours while they wash and dry. I don't have to worry about dinner tonight since we had lots of lasagna let over from dinner last night. We didn't make the lasagna. It was Stouffer's (sp?) frozen and it was very good. The dish costs $9.99 on sale and that sounds high until you realize how many meals the two of us are going to get out of it and then it turns out to be much cheaper than if we'd made it from scratch. Anyway, if you haven't tried it, you should, because it's well worth the money. Very tasty! Until tomorrow ...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Faith Vs Intellect (1 Cor 1:18-25)

Back in New Testament times, the Romans and Greeks and assorted others, mostly rejected the Good News of Jesus Christ as pure folly. Instead, they tried to come near to God solely through the use of their minds. That track didn't work then, nor will it work now because there are some things that are learned purely by our spirits (1 Cor 2:13-14). Today, as well as back then, people put out all sorts of ideas and views about the salvation that comes from God. And just as they were wrong back then, they are wrong today. There are vast numbers of "beliefs" that simply are not supported by Scripture, furthermore, they run contrary to biblical teachings. Most of these beliefs sound so logical that many are snared by them and brought into a position of error. Many are led astray. According to the teachings of this world, we are led to believe that the person with the most intelligence and the largest number of degrees hanging on their walls would have the "wisest" path laid out to man's salvation. But all this education and intelligence and wisdom they boast of are what Paul calls pure foolishness: "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight" (1 Cor 3:19).

Furthermore, Isaiah 29:14 tell us that God will destroy all this human wisdom, " ... the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish." Human wisdom does nothing but bring glory to a fallen race of people who keep their faces turned away from God their Creator and let the Truth of His message fall on their deaf ears. Many of these people contrive their own schemes to gain God's approval and acceptance. They think their reasonings and rationalizations and human efforts will work for them and bring them into God's favor. Every other religion in the world except Christianity has a method or a ritual for gaining God's acceptance for it's followers. Every set of belief systems out there come up with a requirement for God's approval: do such and such and God will accept you; live up to these standards and God will approve of you. All of these paths toward acceptance balance on our ability to do or say something that will appease God. But Christianity is different. Only Christianity says that there is nothing you or I can ever do to gain God's favor. There are no sets of rules to keep or certain actions to take that will enable us to stand approved before God. Grasp this: there is nothing you or I can do to gain God's acceptance. Let's read that sentence again. One more time, there is absolutely nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God. No, God gives of His acceptance freely on the condition that we believe He did it all. Everything it takes to become right with God, He has already done. Jesus died on the cross. He did it. It's over! (John 19:30). The biggest blight to ever effect our standing before God has been cured and taken away. God saw that we were hopelessly separated from Him unless He acted to close that gap Himself. And He did just that. God became man and dwelt among us. Do you fully understand the enormousness of that statement? God, the creator of everything in heaven and on earth, the Maker of the stars and moon and mountains and valleys; God, from whom everything began, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and Last, gave up His heavenly position and took upon Himself the flesh of mere mortal men. And He did so, willingly. Yes, He willingly... maybe even eagerly... left his royal robes behind and became a baby, lying naked in the manger, for our sake. God became Man and walked and moved had His being in our midst. Emmanuel. "God with us."

Only Christianity glorifies God and His good works. When we place our trust in Him and in what He has done to rectify the situation, this pleases Him and He accepts us just as we are. Jesus Christ came and died and rose again that God might reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:18). Further, "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life!" (Ro 5:10). That is the message of the gospel. That is it. Take it or leave it. God took the first step in this relationship. Will we accept what He has done for us?


Well, for whatever it's worth, I just finished writing this blog. I didn't already have it written. Normally, I have them written out in longhand first and then go to the computer and type it into the system. I've never been able to sit at the computer and write. There's something about the physical act of taking pencil in hand that seems to work for me. When I sit at the computer my mind usually goes blank. But I knew if I was going to have a blog for today (never mind that's it's hours and hours late) I was going to have to sit at the computer and write one. And I confess that I borrowed the title, but everything else is original for those who wonder. Good or bad. This is all my doing. It just takes me a little longer and then I have to put faith in it, that I actually wrote something someone else might get something out of. I'm tied up tomorrow and won't be able to get to my blog but I will be back Monday, the Lord willing.

Our weather has been exceptional the past few days, bordering on hot in the afternoons. We actually hit 100 degrees yesterday (so it can knock that off) but it cools down as soon as the sun sets. Thank goodness. I had a really kicked back day today. (That's just a clever way of saying I didn't do a thing! LOL) And hope to get more done tomorrow. I forgot to set my alarm last night and slept until after 10:00. Boo! Hiss! I hate sleeping so late. I always wake up all foggy-headed and bleary thinking. I don't like it. I must establish the habit of setting my alarm. I hate when it goes off in the mornings but I like getting up earlier. This business of sleeping the entire morning away is for the birds. (I'm going to go set my alarm right now! There! That's taken care of!!)

Well, nothing else is happening in our neck of the woods so I have nothing more to write about. We had pork fried rice for dinner tonight and I made a double recipe so there's plenty of left overs, goody, goody. That means I don't have to cook again tomorrow night. And even more importantly, I don't have to try to think up something for dinner. That's the part that really does me in ... the thinking about what to cook. Anyway, I'm gonna send this out and I plan to return on Monday but it will probably be late Monday as I have a small group meeting Monday morning for the 40 Days of Purpose. That will continue every Monday until December 2nd, or is it the 9th??? I don't know. It's one or the other, I know that much. So anyway Monday blogs are going to be later in the day but it shouldn't be as late as today's blog is. I thought I had more blogs written in long hand and was surprised when I saw I was out. I was just not going to do one today and then about 4:00 I decided that I would try sitting at my computer and writing one and this is the results. (I like doing it in long hand better than just sitting at my computer. Wonder if practice would ease that for me. It's an awful chore having to write it all out first and then type it??? Hmmmmmm!) See you Monday ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Hard-Hearted Believer (Hebrews 3:12--19)

The believer's path toward a troublesome hardened heart usually starts simply and innocently enough ... it's easy for us to become preoccupied with things that have little or no spiritual value at all. Once our eyes are diverted from God's view, it doesn't take much for that preoccupation to take up still greater amounts of our time. And then, before we know it, we become so absorbed in the diversion that spiritual matters are all but ignored.

As our spiritual life begins to wither away, we give up personal prayer, private devotion, and public worship. Oh we're good at this, we can think up even "holy-sounding" excuses to explain away our lethargy but the fact is they still remain mere excuses. If we are spending time with the Lord on a daily basis we are going to have pliable hearts. But if we allow ourselves to lay aside His Word we will be giving Satan an opportunity to jump in and complicate our Christian walk. Allowed to function apart from God, the heart is easily deceived and we often turn from Him, forgetting that He is our only hope in this world and in the world to come.

When our minds become preoccupied and our hearts grow distant from God, we can easily and quickly be swayed by the temptations and deceitfulness of sin. As our sensitivity to the leadings of the Holy Spirit is gradually encrusted by a cocoon or hard shell that's been forming around our hearts, we who have begun to just sort of drift along wherever the current is strongest, begin to find Satan's false promises more and more appealing and the temptation grows ever stronger. We can easily and foolishly begin to trust in the evil deceptions and become more deeply enmeshed in sin. Rarely does anyone suddenly decide on a whim to go out and have an illicit affair. Rather it's usually a slow process of exposing our consciences to more and more enticing thoughts until we get to the point where we begin to compromise and slip easily and effortlessly into temptation. This, in turn, leads to even greater preoccupation with non-spiritual matters and further neglect of our spiritual lives, until we find ourselves mired in full-blown sin.

We are never immune to the hardening of our hearts. We can become as insensitive to God's voice as an unbeliever, but we have a way to remove the spiritual callus that has been forming around our hearts. By prayerfully repenting and refocusing our eyes onto the Lord, we can return to devotion and worship in order to remain soft-hearted before our God. We are never left without options. They may not be options that sound appealing to us at the time, but they are options none-the-less. We might feel much like a child declining cotton candy only to be served a plate of bitter greens but a better option is available to us. We don't have to sin. We may be heading in that direction but we can stop at any time and turn around. The choice is ours.

Will we be strong enough to see through the temptations and into the consequences of our actions? That is entirely dependent on the amount of time we spend growing to know God better and better. We're totally dependent on the strength of our personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. Without that thriving relationship we are left with just a list of rules and regulations ... do this, don't do that ... that are basically meaningless to us. This personal relationship must be built solidly on our hearts, and not simply on our minds. We must keep our hearts soft and pliable by walking in our faith every single day, all day. Step after step. "Taste and see that the Lord is good," (Ps 34:8 and John 14:1)! We must trust only in the Lord and He will keep our hearts soft and sensitive to the Holy Spirit


I got an email from one of my cousins that lives down in the San Diego/Escondido area and they are having a very difficult time with the fires. The "Witch" fire, specifically. They had to evacuate their house and then they were allowed to go back and they were just waiting to see what the authorities want them to do next. Basically I guess they've got their cars packed and they're set to roll in a moment's notice. She sounded extremely stressed. It just breaks my heart to see our beautiful state burn. That is not just some of the most valuable real estate in the state, it is also some of the most beautiful. The problem is that they build so close to each other down there that if one building begins to burn it catches the building next to it on fire too. Especially with the winds! I can't fathom 500,000 people being evacuated. What hurts the most are the poor animals. And not just the pets. All the deer, coyotes, rabbits, etc., etc. I feel for the horses, cows, sheep, goats, and llamas that are trapped behind fences. This is just awful and it's pretty much 24-hr coverage on TV.

I need to get my cards written to my little flock today so I can get them mailed out tomorrow. That went fast. Seems like I just did that a couple weeks ago. And it's been 6. I can't believe how fast the time goes by lately. Here it is only a week until November and Thanksgiving and it's not too soon to be thinking of Christmas either.

Well, it's noon already so I better get busy and get things done around here. One of us will need to go to the Post Office sometime today. I noticed yesterday that I sent out Peggy's Get Well card a week early. I haven't had it returned to me yet so I don't know, maybe they're holding it for her. She was due to have her surgery today so I just hope it gets to her some time, some way. I was a full week ahead of myself there for a few days. I thought it was time to call on my summons for jury duty and had Michael call and then he noticed that it was still a week away. I stood there like an idiot arguing with him, only to find out he was right. I could have sworn we had this week last week. LOL!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Reality of God's Love (2Cor 11:23-27)

We may feel that a sin we committed in the past keeps God from loving us but that's just not the case. God loves and forgives anyone who asks regardless of what they did. If that were not the case then a certain man who violently persecuted Christians before he himself finally turned to God would have been rejected by the Lord. But he was not only accepted and loved by God, he became one of the most powerful Bible writers in history: Paul. God used him in mighty ways.

But let's back up here a minute. Maybe we're somebody who wonders how a God of love could allow us to be hurt or abused. But if a man who had endured beatings and imprisonment for preaching the Gospel tells us that God loves us, will we believe him? It's what Paul tells us in all his writings. That God loves us amidst the anguish.

Perhaps we feel alone and unloved ... absolutely unlovable. But if a man who had suffered much and had been repeatedly abandoned by friends ... and even shipwrecked ... tells us that God loves us, will we believe him? It's what he tells us in every letter he wrote.

Whatever our experiences, the apostle Paul probably encountered something that we can relate to. Yet, he kept spreading his message of hope: God loves us and sent His Son to die for our sins. The situation we find ourselves in may be unfair, painful, or humiliating, but the fact that it happened doesn't mean God has quit loving us. Sometimes we face difficulty because He is polishing our rough edges and molding us into the image of Christ. Other trials are instigated by Satan and are allowed by God's permissive will. Either way, God is working everything out to our good, according to His purpose for our lives (Ro 8:28).

The key to accepting God's unconditional love is to focus our attention on Him rather than on ourselves and our circumstances. When we are learning of Him, talking with Him, and sharing our lives with Him, trust and faith naturally and easily replace doubt and fear.


Another morning wasted. I forgot to set my alarm and slept until after 9:00. Then I sat on the couch and caught up with the daily news ... the fires down south are just terrible!!! Then I sat there and vegged for another hour. Where has all my energy gone? Last week was just hopping with activity and now I guess I'm just catching my breath. But I don't like to waste away my time. Yet I do. I veg. I may have a meeting this afternoon at 2:00. I'm trying to reach Rita to find out. I sent her an email but she hasn't answered yet. I will give her time and then if she doesn't answer I'll give in and call her. I hate phones!!! I'll wait until the last minute. (I've gotten good at that.)

The weather has been typically fall-like. Cold at night and hot in the afternoons and I love it!

My house is a mess and I can't seem to find the energy and ambition to clean it up. It needs to be vacuumed and the baths need to be scoured again. The floor could stand mopping and the clutter needs to be put away. If I don't have the meeting this afternoon I will use that free time to do some cleaning. That is part of my responsibilities as a wife and a woman. I can kick against the goads all I want but I will only end up hurting my foot. Do you have goads of your own? Are there things in your life that you simply rebel against? I sure hope so, 'cause I don't want to be the only one. No, truthfully, I hope you don't have goads. They're miserable little creatures set about to complicate things in our lives. Like little mirrors they reflect our image back toward us and we have to face who and what we really are. Funny, we can kick against the goads all day but we won't accomplish a thing! It's better to resolve ourselves, to set the goads out of our way and get on to our chores and just get them done. If we do that the goads will disappear on their own. I'm convinced that Satan is the keeper of the goads. They belong to him and as far as I'm concerned, he can have them!

Well, I better stop and get a few things done before I call Rita. I just finished off a bag of popcorn for my lunch, well, brunch really. I eat a lot of popcorn and I'll probably end up with popcorn lung what with all the fumes I breathe. And Mario's wanting my chair. So this will be it for today.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our Inseparable Relationship (Romans 8:31-39)

God is love and His nature requires that He take care of His creation and to do so unconditionally. This means that no matter what a person does ... even if it's rejecting Him ... the Lord will not stop loving him. God loves us because we are His creation and He must forgive us and love us because it is required of Him. He could not stop loving us because to do so would go against His very nature. After reading this, some people are going to try to think of the reasons why they are the exceptions, why it is that God just cannot love them. But He rejects no one. God loves each of us, and the only thing that prevents us from experiencing that love is our own response to it. One way or another we will believe either our feelings or the facts of the Bible. And the Bible clearly says that God is love (1 Jn 4:8). He cannot relate to us in any other way. Even when He punishes He punishes in love. Go to 1Cor 13 and read the definition of what love is and then, knowing that God is love, substitute "God" for the word "love" (vv 4-8) and see just how God loves you.

Paul says that God is on the side of the believer (Ro 8:31). He gave up His Son to death so that we might be purified from all sin and enter into a personal relationship with Him. Jesus' sacrifice alone is proof of God's love, but there are countless other examples of His care and keeping recorded within the pages of the Bible. God has a perfect purpose and plan for every person's life. Through His sovereign control, He works every situation ... good or bad ... to our benefit and goodwill. (Ro 8:28). He is a loving Father who not only is interested in what happens to us, but He is actively involved in every aspect of our day-to-day life. Right down there in the nitty gritty, where the rubber meets the road. God cares deeply for every single person, whether they accept Him or not. He has sworn to care for us and He will not back down even if we reject Him. We may have to live with the consequences of our rejecting Him but our heavenly Father will always love us no matter what.

Some people read and intellectually believe every word of the Bible but still feel unloved because they judge themselves to be unlovable. Their doubt becomes a dam that keeps the flow of God's loving care from their hearts. The barrier will hold for as long as that person believes that he or she must deserve His love and care before they can accept it. But no sinner ever deserves pure love! God knows that and yet He freely gives His love anyway. We will never be worthy of His love but we can accept it when it's freely given. The choice is ours whether we accept it or not.

Well our big event at church happened yesterday. The Kick-Off Sunday for the 40 Days of Purpose campaign and what do I do???? Get the days mixed up!!! For eight weeks I've been praying and preparing for this event and I miss the start. Oh, I didn't miss the kick-off. I missed the first small group. See, yesterday was the kick-off and today started the first day of small groups but I thought that was the first Monday after next Sunday. Confusing, huh? Well, just know that I messed up and missed my very first small group DVD and discussion. How lame can a person get? That lame!

I had a great week last week. The 24-hour prayer vigil went without a glitch and I enjoyed all my time spent there and didn't realize we would be keeping the doors locked so I could have been down there even more than I was. But I closed it out Saturday at noon and then went downstairs to the fellowship hall to prepare for a funeral. The funeral was late getting started and so by the time everything was cleaned up afterward, it was after 5:00 and I was beat. Set my alarm early for the pancake breakfast and it was delicious. The sermon was great and the church was full. Did you catch that? The church was full. We weren't packed. But we were full. It was the way church is supposed to be!!! Praise God!!! The Celebration Service last night was just sooooo good. People who know me know how much I love music and love to sing. But the hard truth is that I simply cannot sing. I don't mean I don't sound good. I mean I SOUND HORRIBLE. I can't carry a tune being totally tone deaf the way I am and I can't keep a rhythm on my own. I'm good for a bar or two and then I'll get off. It's just a fact of life for me. Anyway, part of what made last night so special was that I actually sang a song. The music was so loud I wasn't afraid that someone would hear me and I was able to belt it out to my Lord and ended in tears. It felt so good to really sing a song to God. I've never done that before because I know how badly I sing. But I have the feeling I sounded just right to Him last night. It was pure joy. It was pure light. It was pure love. I came home so full of love and laughter I thought I was going to burst.

Then last night Michael and I caught a show on MSNBC that was incredibly touching and I ended that show in tears. It was just a very tender, uplifting show about dwarfs. But they prefer to be called "little persons." I would love to see it again. Here I complain about my life and can get to feeling so sorry for myself because my life is hard with my hearing loss. I didn't even know how hard hard could be until last night. The challenges they have to overcome every single day of their lives. One woman was only 36" tall and she had gone to school then college and became a teacher. Another man had become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon even though he was so short. He had married a woman of normal height and they had a daughter who also had short stature but they didn't mind. It was about conquering all odds. It was about excelling not just getting by. Maybe if I'd always been deaf it would be different for me. I look at things as all the things I can't do. They looked at things as just bumps in the roads of their lives. The woman who was only 3 feet tall actually met a man who was much taller than she was but he was still a little person. They had a great relationship. In the end he asked her to marry him and the show closed with him carrying her over the threshold in a very unorthodox method. I feel guilty for mourning my hearing loss.

Well so much for Monday. I allowed myself to sleep late this morning because I thought I didn't have a meeting or responsibility today. That's how I missed my small group. It felt really good to sleep but I wish I hadn't missed my meeting. Oh well, there's nothing I can do about it now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Night

I was too busy today to get around to blogging. Spent most of the afternoon in prayer then came home to eat, then went back for awhile later to host the vigil. We have at least one person praying for the entire 24 hours and at least one person hosting at all times too. So the first part I prayed and the second part I hosted. It was my first experience with a 24-hr vigil and it was fun. I always thought the church would just be "open" and that anyone could come and pray any time they wanted to and while that is true, people could come anytime they wanted and stay as long as they wanted too, we also take the measure of booking people so that we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that prayers were lifted heavenward for 24 full hours. Interesting concept even if I found myself almost too distracted to pray. I really struggled. I just couldn't get centered and for some reason I couldn't focus. I tried praying through the handout that has suggestions of what and who to pray for and also demonstrates a method of prayer called "ACTS." And I took my knitting because I can knit and pray at the same time. In fact, I prayed better while I was knitting than I did when I put it aside and got on my knees at the altar for awhile. I think my problem was that I had so many things and people I wanted to pray about that I couldn't bring my prayers into any kind of direct order. I will remember that for the next time I'm involved with a prayer vigil. Sometimes it's more difficult to know who and what to pray for when you're supplied with too many choices. My handout worked nice except for the fact that, like I said, there were too many choices. Of course Rita and Daryl are doing the major part of the vigil. I don't know what we'd do without those two people!!

I am due back at church to finish up the vigil tomorrow morning and I will host until noon and then put everything away. Oh, and then I have a funeral to help with so I'm not sure what time I will get back home. I've got to check with Kayla, too, and see if she's going to go to church with me Sunday morning and remind her of the pancake breakfast. Sunday's the big kick off for the 40 Days Campaign when everyone will have a small group and everyone will get their copies of the book The Purpose Driven Life. Sunday begins the 40 days. Having been involved in the preparation for this campaign with weekly prayer team meetings and board meetings and handouts to prepare it's basically double the normal time. We prayed for 40 days leading up to the 40-day campaign and we'll keep praying throughout the campaign, so really the prayer portion of the campaign goes for 80 days. Whew! Okay. I'm going to go put moisturizer on my face and sit down for a little while. As I said before!! see you Monday!!!

I think I'm going to go put my feet up for a little while after I've finished getting ready for bed. See you all on Monday morning!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Daniel: Forward by Faith (Daniel 6)

I have just a short blog today and I'm getting to it late so there won't be much chit chat before or after. Tomorrow's blog is up in the air. Unless I wake up earlier than usual (which is a distinct possibility) I may not get the chance to blog. Michael's neck has been just killing him so he was able to snag an appointment tomorrow at 1:30. I don't know what they can do for him but keep your fingers crossed that he can get some kind of relief from his pain. We believe it's just arthritis in his neck but he's really been suffering with it for quite some time. He's occasionally been in a neck support or brace but that doesn't help when it gets really bad. He thinks if he just had some good muscle relaxers (like Soma) he wouldn't be hurting as much. He complains about his various aches and pains constantly but he doesn't very often say he's going to go see his doctor and get some relief, so when he says he's going to call and make an appointment then I know he's in megapain. That takes care of our visit over on Saturday that we had sorta planned. But, like I told him, his neck is more important than visiting sisters and brother-in-law. We will go by WalMart either before or after his appointment so we can get our shopping done. Hopefully!!! We can't ever go to do our WalMart shopping and find everything we need. There's always a few things that they're out of. So anyway that's our plans for tomorrow and really that works out best because we were only playing around with a couple hours on Saturday to do the shopping and visit. We'll do it again though. Maybe we can do the November shopping trip on the 3rd and do some visiting at that time too. Our 24-hour prayer vigil is causing a lot of problems for me all of a sudden. I'm supposed to be down at the church from about 2:00 to 7:00 or 8:00 tomorrow so guess I'll have to walk down to the church (no biggie!) and then he will just have to come and get me when I get a break at 4:00. After that, I'll have the car. He'll have to do the shopping by himself but there were only a few things anyway. I just hate to see him wrestling that bag of cat food and boxes of Cat Litter. And rats! I wanted to get some long knitting needles so I can work on slippers but I doubt Michael will want to do that. Well, I'll ask. Maybe he wouldn't mind. It's not really so much that he wouldn't want to do it for me, it's just that he'll probably be afraid of getting the wrong ones and I'm leery about that too but I can always take them back when we go to do our November shopping. I can't believe it's almost November!!!

On to my blog for the day...

When we look at the book of Daniel, it's best to look at the "big picture." The various events and reactions should be interpreted as parts of a single story about his great trust in the Lord. By the time we was thrown into the lions' den, the prophet had come so far in his faith journey that the prospects didn't even phase him.

Daniel's roots of unshakable faith began years earlier with his parents, who undoubtedly related and interpreted many biblical stories to him. He personally witnessed the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecies concerning the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. From these experiences, Daniel no doubt learned that God can be counted on to keep His word, and will respond faithfully to all who obey Him and He will discipline those who don't.

When it came time for Daniel, then a young Hebrew, to exercise his faith, he already knew what he would do: he would obey God regardless of the consequences, Shortly after his relocation to Babylon, Daniel made up his mind not to eat the king's food, which had previously been offered to idols and therefore violated Scripture (Ex 34:15).

God, ever the great Shepherd, herded Daniel safely through that difficult experience and many others where his life or his position were at risk. Each time the prophet made up his mind to obey God and released any doubt. He withstood the challenge while giving God the glory.

Daniel consistently moved forward by faith until his commitment to God's way was unshakable. Our faith develops in the same way ... it grows slowly and consistently as we take one obedient step after another. Then we step back and watch God's reliability to answer our prayers and we grow increasingly dependent upon Him until we have a strong personal history of His trustworthiness. God never fails and slowly we begin to trust Him even when we can't see or understand what He's doing or where He's leading us. I will say it again: God never fails. And write this down: God never makes mistakes!

God is faithful. He can be counted on to keep His side of the bargain. He is trustworthy. If He says something will come to pass, it will come to pass. He never speaks untruths or deceitful lies. He is totally reliable. This is Daniel's message for us today. When we say we are going to do something, there are all kinds of problems that can come up when it comes time for us to do it. We meant it with all our hearts when we said it but something comes up and changes things. When God says something, He means it when He says it and He means it when it comes to pass. He is totally reliable and can be trusted to do what He says He will do. And over time, as we see how trustworthy He is, our faith in Him grows slowly and consistently. It is good to read God's history because it causes our faith in Him to grow. It's good to read God's history because it firms up our beliefs that all things are not in vain. There is a purpose and a direction for all things. We can see these principles working themselves out and firming up our knowledge of Him in the story of Daniel's life. There are countless stories in the Old Testament that we can use as proof of God's deliverance and dependability. While we may be under a New Testament during our history, all the old stories of God's relationship with Man never become old. We can always use them to build our trust in God.

Well, I told you it was only going to be a short blog today and remember that tomorrow's blog is pretty iffy. We'll just have to play it by ear and see how things work out but this is it for today. I'll write again when I can. Keep Skatemama in your prayers and Betty too. And it wouldn't hurt to keep Michael in your prayers either. Pray that he might find a little relief from his neck pain. Also remember my mood in your prayers too. I hate being in a bad mood. It just ruins the entire day! And that gets old really quickly. Also, we had a pretty good turnout for our PraiseMoves class last night and I would appreciate it if you could pray for our class that it might grow and make it well worth Jenn's time for holding the class. It's a marvelous way to keep in shape while praising God and letting His energy flow through you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Unshakable Faith (Jn 15:1-7)

Faith becomes full grown in hardships even if we don't like to hear that. But it is during the trials and battles that we clearly recognize how dependent we are on the Lord. We are utterly helpless and cannot be depended upon for anything short of our life in Christ. When we allow the roots of our trust in the Lord to sink deeper into Him, we are enabled to stand firm through anything. Adversity doesn't intimidate us if we have unshakable faith. Faith in God allows us to look at situations honestly and find the rational beliefs supporting our dependence on Him. We can remain calm, throughout a trying circumstance or situation, because we are holding fast to our confidence in God. This confidence is strengthened by our unwavering commitment to God alone. A steadfast relationship with our Lord enables us to move forward in faith, assured in our devotion to God and in the knowledge that everything is in His hands. We need not be held captive to fear but instead we can take the necessary steps to remain faithful in our devotion to Him. He is worthy of our love and admiration, and our faith in Him will not be a disappointment. We may stand before any adversary, clothed only in Christ's righteousness and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will not be left naked and afraid. He is the Almighty God and in our love for Him we can stand assured that we're never left to fight our battles alone and neglected. Just as Jesus was not left alone and abandoned, so we will not be left hanging, destitute on our cross either. God is faithful and we can rest our steadfast faith in Him and be rest assured He'll never desert us. Everything and everyone may not be dependable but the fact remains that our God is righteous and holy and He can be trusted to fill us up when the need arises.

The key to such rock-solid faith, is an intimate relationship with God. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches; if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit" (Jn 15:5). Upon salvation, we are grafted into the vine of Christ, which means we have absolute and total access to all that Christ is and has. His Spirit works and lives in us and through us and provides a constant connection between Father and child. Let it build our trust in Him knowing that all the power of heaven is available to us for facing trials. All we have to do is trust in God and He will take care of the rest. Once a branch is grafted, it becomes a physical, integral part of the vine.

However, we do have the choice of whether or not we tap into that power. If we neglect prayer, avoid Bible meditation, and try to keep certain situations from God's control, our relationship will be kept distant and faded and His work in our lives will be thwarted. But when we commit ourselves to the habit of learning to know God and obeying scriptural principles, His power will flow through us just when we need it, like sap surging through the vine gives life and victory to us, the branches. We "branches" on our own are not good for basically any purpose. Our only purpose as branches is to grow and bear fruit and this can't be done without the life-giving sap that flows from the vine.

We can take a branch and plant it in the ground and demand that it grow, but it won't grow, it'll just dry up and eventually blow away in the first strong wind. As a branch by itself can do nothing, it can't grow or produce fruit apart from the sap of the vine, so are our efforts useless to do likewise. The only thing a branch is useful for is for fire. It will burn but it will never bear fruit on it's own. We can demand it grow fruit and wait as long as we want but it, by itself, will not bear any fruit. But once that branch is grafted onto the vine, the sap flows through the branch and produces fruit in the branch. It is not the branch producing the fruit; it's the sap within the branch that produces the fruit. It is no less so than with our Christian walk. It is Christ flowing through us that bears the fruit. Our only purpose is to give the sap a place through which to flow. And so doing we accomplish our earthly purpose. We are vessels transporting the life of Christ, the "sap," to others. But, just as with the vine, and with us merely the transporters, the "branches" benefit by the life-giving and life-sustaining sap that flows through us, and we remain healthy. New leaves will bud forth and life will fill the branch, but the branch can do nothing on its own. It grows and remains healthy as long as the sap isn't hindered from flowing through the branch. It is Christ's life, His "sap," that flows through us and produces the fruit.

An intimate understanding of God leads to obedience, because we rest in him and know the power and trustworthiness of the One (and only One) we serve. Obedience develops our faith, especially during trials and hardships. We do everything possible to prevent us ever having to go through difficult times but it is during such trials and difficulties that we grow in our faith. It is only in the fire that we are perfected in the righteousness of Christ. Our trust in Him is made strong when we see that He can be trusted and eventually, we grow into unshakable "oaks of righteousness" (Isa 61:3).

It's completely overcast today and the deck is wet so we must have had some very light rain last night sometime. Either that, or it's still wet from yesterday's light shower. I don't think we're forecasted to have rain today though, I think we're supposed to be in for more rain Thursday night but I can't be sure. I saw pictures of Kayla's car this morning and you can tell it hit something hard. She was so lucky although I have to say that I don't truly believe luck had anything to do with it. God's holy providence was at work when she wrecked her car. It's interesting that she has a clip on her visor that says, "Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly."

Well, now the sun is trying to come through for us so I guess it's not really clouds we have but the marine layer instead. I really miss having the marine layer like we had when we lived in Walnut Creek. I miss living there. I think that's the only place I've ever felt like I was home. I used to love to pull into our driveway on Mendota Court and see that cool marine layer spilling over the top of the mountains. In the summertime it meant relief from the heat and in the winter it almost always assured us of a little fog coming our way. I miss that.

I have nothing on my agenda today except for my exercise class at 6:00. I'll give Kayla a call after while if I don't get an answer to the email I sent her and find out if she wants to go with me or not. She had told me should would like to participate but that was before her wreck. She may be too sore still.

We're just going to have hot dogs for dinner tonight since I have a class. We had salmon fillets (or are they called steaks?) last night and we plan on spaghetti tomorrow night. Just having the hot dogs mean that I can cook mine when I get home and not have to go to class on a full stomach. I don't have anything planned for tomorrow. Then comes Friday and Saturday when I'll just about be camping out at church for the 24-hour prayer vigil. I think I'm booked for about 7 or 8 hours. Not all the time is for praying. I'll be hosting a lot too so I need to get everything squared around before then. At least we can just warm up the spaghetti for dinner Friday night. Neither of us will really have to cook.

Well, I guess that's going to be it for today. I need to get my chores done. Now that I'm getting up before Michael does, I can't do my chores until after he gets up and he got up after 9:00 this morning so I need to get in and get things done so I won't feel guilty for letting them sit while I try to think of things to write about. Oh, I think my repotted cacti are going to do okay. They look and feel good. Now I just need to get in and repot the cuttings I have rooting in a cup in my kitchen. Too cold outside to do it today.

I woke up in a bath of sweat this morning early because I had forgotten to turn off the heater yesterday after it warmed up. It is a new habit I have to form: Turning off the heater before going to bed! Anyway, until tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

David: Forward by Faith

We can learn a valuable lesson from the way David reacted to Goliath's insults and mockery of the Israelites. When the young shepherd first came upon the scene, he was told that whoever defeated the giant would receive a grand reward from King Saul ... riches, a wife, freedom from taxes. David asked to have this information repeated (1Sam 17:25-30) just to make sure he had heard correctly as such a generous reward was certainly a great motivator and it obviously piqued his interest. However, what ultimately propelled David forward onto the battlefield was not anything for personal gain but, instead, was the deep desire he had to defend the name of his God.

Twice ... once while standing before Saul and again when facing the giant ... David confirmed his true motivation in the matter: "[Saul's] servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God" (vv 36, 46).

As maturing Christians, we must examine our motives for desiring victory in any battle we face today. Too often we are requesting a selfish end, such as a release from our discomfort and a return to an easier way of life. "The lottery as such would be so good! And I would do so many righteous things with the money. If God would just let me win!!" But God intends to mold us into Christlikeness, regardless of our degree of comfort or discomfort. Until we also want to be remade into a pure reflection of the Lord Jesus, our motivations will be wrong no matter what we're hoping for! Right motives say: "I don't like my 'Goliath,' but if I have to fight this battle to be the person God wants me to be, then I am willing."

Before taking any action, David wisely examined his motives in order to move forward by faith. We should do no less because we can desire the right things for the wrong reasons. In our honesty we must often confess that our motivations are wrong, even when the 'giant' itself isn't.

Just a short blog today. I wasn't very creative when I wrote this one and nothing is clicking this morning while I type it out. Usually, I write it bare-boned and then "flesh it out" when I type it out but, like I said, nothing is clicking. Maybe I'm having a difficult time writing because I'm up so early. Pepper woke me up at 6:00 this morning and after letting him back in I just decided to not bother going back to bed. I must have awakened Michael because he just came out and got a cup of coffee, carrying it back to his studio after a fuzzy "g'd morning."

It's starting to get light outside and we seem to have a lot of moisture in the air. I can see it hanging like a light fog in the distance and it looks like we have overcast skies today. Of course that could just be the marine layer getting this far east. That happens sometimes. You wouldn't think it would go so far inland, but it does occasionally. But double checking, we do have a fairly heavy overcast. Guess they got that part of the forecast correct. We're supposed to get some rain later today or tonight I think.

Kayla is none the worse for wear following her car accident. We're just grateful she came out of the deal with so few injuries. I think, other than being sore and a few small cuts on her face, she's okay. I guess life is all wrapped up in caring for those we love. First you have a baby to worry about. Then your baby has a baby to worry about. Then that baby has a baby to worry ... well you get the point. We're never home free. There's always someone to worry about.

Well, I'm going to take advantage of waking up early and get started doing something. At least my blog is done and out of the way already this morning. Of course, it wasn't much of a blog today but I guess I can't write something every day and have it not come out as a dud once in awhile.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Need to Keep a Prayer Journal

The biblical account of David and Goliath is one of the few Bible stories the world of unbelievers know (1Samuel 17). And it's about conquering faith. At one time or another, all of us have faced our Goliath or two. Whether our "giant" is in human form or just another one of our seemingly overwhelming situations, if we are to be victorious like David, we must trust our Lord to see us through the challenges (Ps 23). And when we keep a written record of our personal histories with the Lord, we will discover for ourselves that God is faithful to us.

David trusted God because his past experiences with Him proved He was faithful ... the young shepherd could recall God giving him victory over a lion and a bear that threatened the flock of sheep under his care (1Sam 17:34-36). Our fledgling faith is strengthened in a similar manner by reading how the Lord protected men and women of the Bible ... but it's strengthened even more by our remembrance of His provision in our own lives. How many meals has God forgotten to feed us? How many nights have been spent out under the stars because God failed to provide us shelter? This is one of the best arguments for keeping personal prayer journals. Most of us have often tried to keep a prayer journal, but if you're like me, no matter how great the effort and intention, we keep losing interest. But we should keep trying or just stay faithful if we've been successful, because it's the one place we can return to and be strengthened by our own writings of the knowledge that God has proven trustworthy to us in the past. If we keep a journal of God's faithfulness to us, we can jog our memories with a look back in our very own lives. Yes, journaling has a definite place in the lives of believers and we should endeavor to keep our own records of our God's dealings with us. All those times when we've sent a quick prayer heavenward and been rewarded with an answer need to be written down and preserved so we can find the reason for our faith (that God Himself is Faithful) when the need arises.

Trust in the Lord, in what He can and will do for us, is what gives us the courage to face our "giants" each day and being so armed with our journals we can respond to challenges on the basis of three important truths:

1. Who we are in Christ ... an adopted child of God, legally entitled to an equal share of the inheritance, eternally secure in our salvation, and indwelt by the empowering Holy Spirit.
2. Who Christ is in us ... our Savior, Provider, and Sustainer.
3. What we have in Christ ... the promise of instant access to Almighty God the Father.

Keeping a journal provides us a place for our struggles. When we are pressed in on all sides and can't resolve our emotions or can't distinguish what is troubling us, we can go to our journals and write it all out before the Lord. We can chronicle our troubles and see that He is amazingly faithful to provide us with the answers we need but are otherwise unable to find on our own. It's a record of our personal walk with God, the day in and day out, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road kind of record that we will find ourselves returning to time and time again. It's where we will see God's faithfulness to us and the assurance that He will always be active in our lives, that He cares, that He will always be there when we need Him and that He will never let us down. Often it's only in the looking back at our writings that we will see things clearly and can determine just where God intervened in our lives to bring about the best results for us. Notice I said best results. I intentionally wrote that because the answers to our prayers may not be the answers we were hoping for but they will always be the best things for us in the long run. We may even pray for something we think we need only to be relieved later that God didn't answer our prayer in the way we had been hoping. And looking back on it we can see that God did answer our prayer, just not in the way we had asked for it. We may have even felt deprived at the time, only to fully understand later on that God's way will always be the best way. But even when we don't come to that realization, we can look back at what we've written and see that God's faithfulness can be counted on.

How do we go about journaling? There isn't just one way to journal. There are probably as many different ways to journal as there are people to write them. I use mine to record my feelings on various matters. I'm a very emotional person and am sometimes so full of conflicting emotions that only by writing them down will I discover how things really are. Our minds can get so confused that we become paralyzed, unable to move forward in a knowledgeable way. Journaling can help us in this effort. I use my journal also to keep a record of things that are so easily forgotten. God can be trusted. He does answer prayer. He is faithful, honest, and true. He can be counted on to be there when no one else is around. He can be counted on when everyone else has abandoned us. He may not always prevent bad things for happening, but He will always be there with us to hold our hands and walk forward with us through the difficult times and these incidents need to be recorded for our own benefit in the future when we need something or Someone to cling to.

Our journals needn't be a boring account of every little thing that happens in our lives. They are just the place where we can record the important things, the things that will benefit us in the future should we ever have to face such a situation again. They are a place we can go to where we can be brutally honest with ourselves. It's just God and us and there is nothing we can write that will shock Him. He already knows more about the situation than we do so we might as well be truthful when we journal. There are no requirements to journaling other than to be honest with ourselves and with God. There are no rules, no set design, no do's and don't's. Just write. Not necessarily as much to write about happenings as it is to write out our reactions to these happenings.

We, as believers, can be victorious when we affirm and reaffirm that the Lord who resides inside us by His Holy Spirit, is making us adequate for the situation. He is faithful and when we depend upon our God and can read the recorded answers to our prayers in the past, we will likewise conquer our Goliaths in the present and future. Journaling is a way of building an intimate record of God's intervention in our lives and a place to record His faithfulness for the future.

We had a very big scare over the weekend. Kayla wrecked her car but thankfully she wasn't hurt too badly. Mostly just sore and beat up from the air bags and seat belt. It was real scary because the woman who called Ken just said that she had been involved in a really bad accident and that she had been talking to her but she was then unconscious. And that's all we knew other than that she was in an ambulance enroute to the hospital going code 3. That shook me up hearing that ambulance go by me and knowing she was inside it. But God was faithful and good and He prevented further injury to her. She has a couple small cuts on her face from the broken windshield but no other physical injures other than her soreness as I've mentioned. But she felt good enough to go with me to church the next morning and evening. She just moved a little slower than usual. She'll take off a few days from work and be none the worse for wear. How she's going to get to and from places is going to be a challenge until she can get another vehicle. But we're all just so grateful and praising God for His mercy toward us.

I'm going to let this be it for now. I've got several things needing to be done today and I better get busy or I won't get them all done. I have no other news to write about right now anyway. And I'm not going to take the time to go back and proofread this so hopefully I did a good job as I went because you're going to get it, mistakes and all. So until tomorrow...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Obstacles to Forgiving Ourselves

Every single human being on planet earth has a sin problem. We lose our tempers and snap at someone, we make painful mistakes (that don't always hurt just us) and we do things that seem so completely out of character that friends and relatives are shocked. Sin is universal in scope, affecting every single person. There are no exceptions. But God has provided forgiveness for everyone who will accept it. And yet, many of us find it impossible to forgive ourselves. Why are we so hard on ourselves?

First, we struggle with self-forgiveness at times because we find it difficult to believe God can, will, and does forgive us. Guilt can be incredibly strong, so strong in fact that it appears to overshadow the enormous, free gift of pardon and release God offers us. We find it difficult to take in the simple fact of restoration God has provided (2Cor 5:18-19). God promises to forgive us and restore us into a righteous and robust relationship with Himself, but we ignore that and think to ourselves that what we've done is simply too horrible to gain God's forgiveness and acceptance. We doubt God could even forgive us for what we've done. That is a common, yet none the less tragic error on our part. Not only is God willing to forgive us (no matter what we've done) He's actually eager to do so. He longs for a special relationship with us. He is quick to forgive.

Second, personal disappointments can prevent us from forgiving ourselves. We often have ridiculously high, self-imposed standards of our behavior and achievements. When we fail to live up to them (and we always fail eventually one way or the other) we are crippled by the residual disappointment in ourselves, which often makes personal self-forgiveness seem impossible.

Third, seeing the results of our sin can block self-forgiveness. What I mean is that if our wrong actions produce a tangible negative consequence (like a child born out of wedlock) we may become so blinded by the result that we are unable to forgive ourselves. Seeing the outcome of our sin every day keeps guilt alive in our minds, and we simply refuse to let it go.

Fourth, there is a small number of people who refuse to forgive themselves because it makes them feel "good." To most of us, the feeling we get from guilt is anything but pleasant, but it's not that way for some. Beating ourselves up so people will feel sorry for us can become just another method of seeking the time and attention of others. If this is truth for any of us, we need to immediately come before God and confess this attitude and willingly accept His forgiveness.

We mustn't try to undo what God has already done. If He has already forgiven us (and we can know He has by 1John 1:9) we mustn't harbor guilt and remorse over a sin in our past. Christ gave His life to set us free, so we mustn't willingly stay in chains because we're unwilling to forgive ourselves for which things and actions God has already given pardon (Gal 5:1). If any of us are in such a situation, we mustn't hurt God's feelings any longer. We must accept His forgiveness and in turn, forgive ourselves.

A smelly skunk came through the neighborhood about 5:00 AM and we couldn't sleep because of the stench (the barking dog didn't help much either) so we just decided to get up and do things. (This will give me a good excuse go back to bed and take a nap later on today.) I didn't have anything else to do so I just thought I'd type a Saturday blog. I thought this was my last blog on forgiveness and I thought I'd be able to start on faith issues Monday morning if I went ahead and typed the blog today but I see there is at least one more blog to type on forgiveness. So it looks like it will be Tuesday before I can get back to faith devotionals.

It's chilly this morning and my feet are getting cold. I think I'll go find some house slippers and see if I can warm them up a smidgen. There, that's better. We had a heavy overcast all day yesterday but no measurable rainfall and I didn't catch the forecast last night so I don't know if it's going to be clear today or not and it's still dark outside right now. Well, no, I take that back, I can see Hogback mountain against the lightening sky and it looks like there's a little fog between us and the hill. Can't tell much more than that, though. It's just beginning to turn light outside. The weather will be a major factor in deciding whether or not I wash my car today. It needs to be washed but I'm not going to go to all that work if we're just in for more rain.

I have a wedding to go to this afternoon. I don't really know the couple very well. We attend the same church and I assisted on her baptism a month or so ago. They're a really cute couple though. They each have children from previous marriages and I'm hoping the very best for them as a family. I haven't been to a wedding in probably 20 years. I thought it would be fun to go to another one. And it looks like my hair is going to look just fine. I'm not going to have to wash and blow-style it before I have to leave. I love my hair this short!!! Here I've slept on it for two nights already and it still looks as good as it did when I walked out of the salon on Thursday afternoon. You know, I can't help feeling sorry for men. Sitting here thinking about how much I dislike having to do my hair more than once or twice a week and I think of men having to shave every morning. That would undoubtedly do me in if I had to do that to my face every single morning. They have my sympathies!

Okay, I'm going to let this be it for a Saturday blog. I hope my readers are in the habit of checking for the latest blog. (I'd hate to have spent all this time writing and then typing them if no one thinks to check for the latest one. Oh well, each day can stand on it's own. Even when I'm doing a series, they each can stand by themselves.) Take care and see you Monday...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Forgiving Hurts We Don't Deserve

Its amazing the way we will try to justify an angry, unforgiving heart. We may think to ourselves that the Lord knows what that person did to us and He understands how we feel. Yes, that's true, the Lord may understand, but he doesn't approve.

Because Jesus faced appalling betrayal and abandonment, He knows human emotions probably better than anyone else. But He's not in agreement with our feeling justified for our unforgiving spirit toward someone else. Hatred and an unforgiving attitude originated with those against God. No matter how many times we check the Bible we'll never find an account of a righteous man harboring an evil attitude of unforgiveness. Our Savior, on the other hand, had a God-centered view of forgiveness that originated with our righteous God. He withstood torture, shame, and cruelty and still stood tall in His forgiveness. And for this we should thank God every moment of every day because we are the ones who betray the Lord each and every day. We are the ones desperate for forgiveness. We are the ones standing outside of God's will for us. We are the ones needing amazing grace and free pardon. Praise our glorious God that He is not an avenging God seeking out reason for destruction.

We have wronged Jesus in ways no one has ever wronged us. Horrible ways. We have denied Him His rightful place in our lives and put others and inanimate "things" in His place. We've doubted His word. We've ignored His wishes completely. We've totally left Him behind and have kicked Him out of our day-to-day lives, where it matters most. We have sinned against Him and shamed Him by sinning against other people.

What, we ask ourselves, is Jesus' response to this abuse? "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28). In the Greek that this verse was originally written in, Jesus doesn't just say "Come," He says it in a homey, beseeching way. It's like we would say, Come to me, come on, come to me. He spoke in a loving, coaxing, almost pleading way. How can we possibly even think that He will justify our unforgiveness under any circumstances?

When we look toward God to excuse our unforgiving heart, we'll hear Him answer back, "Look at the cross." There, at the foot of that instrument of torture and death we'll discover the price that was paid for our forgiveness. Then we'll understand the solemn responsibility which was spelled out for us in Colossians 3:13: We must "Forgive [just] as the Lord forgave [us]." Just as we have been forgiven, so now must we become the forgivers. Simply put, an unforgiving spirit is a sin against God.

Just a short blog today. I thought I could use the break from all of yesterday's effort. We've had a light rain so far this morning and it's very pleasant. I have no plans for today (other than laundry) and no meeting to go to, thank goodness. I'm just about meeting'ed out. I think I've had my share. A total of five I had to go to this week and I'm not really a meeting type of person. But Pastor Dan let me off the hook with the praise songs. We decided that we should just number the songs in each packet and worry about making slides out of them some other time. I was very grateful for that and said a quick, Thank You, Lord, because I had serious doubts about my ability to work a new program and create slides. So I brought all the packets home yesterday and numbered all the songs and returned them when I went back last night for the deacon's meeting. Now we just have to convince the musicians that they need to look up and give us the number each time. Last Sunday night we were all more than a little frustrated with trying to find the words so we could sing along with them. After going through the work and time of numbering all the packets, I just hope it helps.

I had a very frustrating day yesterday and came home from my meeting last night in tears. (Brought on by fatigue more than any other reason.) I was grateful that I've begun to journal lately so I had a place to deal with my feelings. Even though I was hard pressed to find the right words, I felt better after lifting the entire week's events up to the Lord and asking Him to carry the load. My hearing loss is so frustrating and it's been really bothering me now for awhile and it just all kind of pressed in on me last night. As much as I hate to cry, I must say it felt good last night. I had just had too much frustration from a very busy week and last night was simply what it took to break the camel's back. But after lifting it all up to God, I was able to get a good night's sleep last night and woke up feeling very refreshed this morning. My biggest problem is that I just want my hearing back. I'm tired of making so many mistakes because of not really hearing what was said. Doing things the wrong way. Talking to the wrong person. Doing the wrong deed. Sometimes I just feel like I'm not in sync with the rest of the world. That I'm completely out of step. Maybe I should just hope and pray for God to completely deafen me so that no one would be expecting me to hear things and to react to them in the appropriate ways. Anyway, I've left all that in the hands of the Lord and I'm going to let Him deal with it.

I got my hair cut yesterday. It had only been three weeks since my last cut but I hadn't been happy with this past haircut. It just wouldn't stay styled and needed to be washed and styled every day and I'm simply not a do-it-every-day kind of person. Not when it comes to my hair anyway. I slept on it last night and it still looks great this morning. I thought I'd rather put out the extra money for the cut now than to have to fight it 3 weeks until my next appointment. She does such a good job normally but she just hadn't cut it short enough for me. Now it's great.

I saw the flu shot schedule at Kelly's yesterday and now plan to get my shot on the 31st here at CalWorks in town. That's where I went last year. I don't want to wait too long and run the risk of getting the flu before getting my shot.

Well, this is Friday and my last blog for the week. I will pick up on unforgiveness next week and finish up that topic and then get back into faith. I enjoy writing about faith and it's so important to us. Not that unforgiveness isn't important it's just that faith is easier to write because I have a firmer grip on it and can relate to it a little better. I think I'll let this be it for the day and go watch a little of the morning's news. See what's happening in the world today. So until Monday...