Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Vine and the Branches

"I am the true vine" - The nation of Israel in the Old Testament was referred to as God's vine. And only through God's "vine" could someone come close to God Himself. Here Jesus is telling me that He is the true Vine. The vine of the Old Testament was just a precursor to the true Vine of the New Testament, Jesus. Just as only through the ancient nation of Israel could someone come to the Father, it is only through this true Vine that someone can come to the Father today. The nation of Israel pictured God's chosen people and only through Jesus can we become God's chosen people today. God has always had a relationship with His people because He is a relational Being. Throughout all history God has revealed the way for human beings to become aligned with Him, to connect and have a relationship with Himself. And Scripture says that it is only through Jesus Christ that that happens today.

"and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful"
- Ask most people and they will say that the "fruit" Jesus refers to are converts, new believers, people who go through the new birth and become new persons. But I am not totally convinced that this is the fruit Jesus was speaking of. I mean, that certainly does apply here but I believe Jesus was referring to the fruit of Christlikeness. Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These are the attributes or "fruit" I believe Jesus was referring to. And while the apostle Paul had yet to pen these words, the attributes themselves certainly existed. And Jesus had just promised the "Counselor" or Holy Spirit to come after He goes away. He promised that by means of this Counselor, He would dwell in me and I in Him and us in the Father. This leads me to believe that Jesus was saying that those who claim to follow Him but show no evidence of that union would be cut off, and that those who did become Christlike would be pruned to bring forth even more fruit. Christ is saying that He will live in me by His Holy Spirit and that that Spirit would bear fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in true believers. But not all believers would possess these characteristics and they will be cut off as waste.

It's important to note though, that the branches of the vine that produce fruit will be pruned. That means cut back, and forced to grow in size rather than length. When a branch sprouts off the vine it grows rapidly in length and will put all its energy into becoming longer rather than putting the energy into producing plump, plentiful fruit. There lies the true value of the vine. It isn't how long I've been a Christian that matters, it's the size and quality of the "fruit" that counts. It's how Christlike I become that matters. And to produce the choicest of "fruit" will require being pruned or cut back. That's why I have struggles in this life. I am being pruned. I do not think for a moment that God cannot prevent an incident from happening in my life to spare me the trauma. Rather, I must be awake and fully aware that God is allowing these incidents to affect me. Because if I lack patience, I will be given situations in life that require more patience. If I lack kindness, I will be given situations to endure that will build kindness in me. The thing to remember is that I can never have enough of these fruits. I will never have enough patience or enough kindness or enough self-control so I will be continually pruned back over and over again to produce more of the fruit that is being pruned away. That's why I am told to be thankful in tribulations; because I am being groomed to produce more of the character of Christ, the true Vine.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." You can put a branch on your table and wait for it to grow or produce fruit but nothing will happen. Apart from the vine the branch will just lie there and dry out. Likewise I can't just tell myself to have more fruit and have my fruit increase. It does no good for me to tell myself to have more patience. My patience won't increase one smidgen. It is only through irritation after irritation after irritation that my patience begins to grow. That's why I am told to praise God during persecution and trials. That's why I am told to be thankful in everything. Because by enduring these things I grow in Christlikeness. And I must be sober here, only by enduring these things can I grow in Christlikeness. I cannot sit here and will myself to bear fruit. It will never happen. The only way I am going to produce fruit is if I'm connected to the vine. How many people do you know who have cut themselves off from attending church who have gone on to produce more Christlike qualities and characteristics over time? How much fruit of goodness or faithfulness, how much self-control does one develop outside of the Vine? Scripture tells us, none.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" - When Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," He was saying that it is only through Him, the true Vine, that life flows to the branches. I must stay connected to Christ my living Vine to accomplish anything. And only by remaining in Him can I grow any fruit. I can leave that branch on the table for 20 years and it will never produce a single fruit on its own. That is because there is no life in the branch. It is dead; disconnected from the vine. So no matter how long I work at producing fruit, I will never produce a single grape. I produce fruit only by remaining in the true Vine, the true Israel: Christ. Because, in reality, it is only Christ's life flowing through me that fruit is produced. I don't ever grow fruit on my own. Christ grows it through me. The sap of the Vine is the very Life of Christ flowing to produce the desired fruit.

"If anyone does not remain in me and I in him, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned" - When a vineyard is pruned, all the "dead" wood (that part of the vine that isn't producing fruit) is cut away and gathered up and thrown into the fire because that's all it's good for. You can't get lumber from a grapevine; no one can build things out of vinewood. If it's not producing fruit it's only good for burning.


I've had a pretty busy week so far. That's why I'm just now getting to my blog. Sunday was church and then the Blessing of the Bikes. (An out-reach in the community, seeking souls that are rarely ever seen in a church or church setting. The rolling foothills where we live are populated by an unusually large number of motorcyclists during the good weather of spring, summer, and fall. So as an outreach, my church hosted a picnic and invited members of a motorcycle gang to come join us for a blessing.) We had a really great time. And I wouldn't be surprised at all if I saw some of those same people sitting in a church pew sometime in the future. And then after the Biker picnic (I didn't eat anything) I had a bar-be-cue to go to at my son's house later that evening. Then Monday we had small group that ran long because we had a luncheon after our short study. Then I spent the rest of the day preparing for a Lay Pastor meeting that night. Yesterday we had a memorial at the church for a member's son who had committed suicide and I was down at the church from noon until after 4:00. Today I actually had nothing to do so I made out attendance cards for 27 households, which took about 2 hours, ( I'm sure it would probably take longer to explain that than either one of us has to devote to it, so I'll let it go with what I've written) and then I played on my computer until now.

Tomorrow morning I will get my hair cut and run errands and then prepare for the Deacon Board Meeting tomorrow evening which in turn means that I will begin preparing for the Executive Board meeting next week. I hope to get my hair cut really, really short so all I have to do is finger style it and let it go. I just don't have the time to spend on my hair anymore and with the hot weather coming I thought REALLY short would work best for now.

I've brought you up on current events so I'll do my best to blog again Friday. Until then...

Friday, April 25, 2008

God's Eternal Love

I've written a few blogs since I last wrote with something "meaty." I've had a problem all week just getting shifted into gear. It's spring and there are so many things that need to be done which doesn't leave me with much time to get creative. This morning I cleaned up the doggie messes in the yard and then Michael hit it with the weedwacker (obviously our yard is simply a yard of weeds) and then I raked everything into a couple small piles to be carted to the burn pile in the vacant lot. I had a lot of computer things to finish up this morning in between doing things for M down in the yard.

I have a friend who just recently lost her husband of 20 years and she had forwarded me something that she had written before Eric died. Her faith leans toward reformed and I was at a loss as to what she really meant by that so she forwarded me a blogspot she had written back in October. It was very clear and concise and to the point. She has a way of taking an abstract idea and turning it into clear, information-packed sentences. I enjoyed her blogspot. Please pray for Heather today. Eric has only been gone a couple months and she is still grieving for him. She has a busy weekend ahead doing things that she'd always done with Eric and she must now do alone. She will need lots of prayer.

The Gjerstads are still at the front in Liberia West Africa. I honestly don't know how they do it. They are a family of 12 that sold everything they had and moved to Liberia to take the gospel of Jesus to that part of the world. They must be dying for pizza about now, LOL! But it is in the little things that people seem to need the most prayer. Have you ever noticed that before? If you would keep Dan and Stacy and their 10 children in your prayers I would appreciate it.

The last I wrote, I wrote of God's Eternal Love. How it is eternal in length but it's also eternal in character and quality. When I say "God's eternal love," I'm not just talking about the fact that He will love me forever. Although that is also what He means. God's love is eternal in lifespan but it is eternal in quality and perfection. God loves me with His perfect eternal love. And this love, by its very nature, suggests the motive, the measure, and the means of my surrender by which I yield myself unreservedly to abide in Him.

This love suggests it's own motive. With one look I can see how this love stands and pleads and prays for me. The divine form of this love, its eternal glory, its heavenly beauty, its tender pleadings, and its very thought saying "Come, abide in Me." It points me to the cross where His outstretched arms seem to say, "I love you this much," and it has proven itself beyond question that the reality of this eternal love is available for me. How can I ... so undeserving, so totally unworthy ... possibly grasp what I have been given? It is simply beyond me and yet I know it is so because He says it is so. In my own emptiness I come to Him to be filled with this infinite love that is so totally other than any love I can ever know.

The Bible assures me that Christ taught His disciples that to abide in Him was to abide in His love. The two cannot be separated. When I receive Christ I receive His love. It is the Love of the Father passed down to me. The blessed union of Christ with the Father and His life in Him is the only rule of my thoughts and expectations in regard to my living and abiding in Him. I must contemplate the origin of Christ's love. They are one ... the Father and the Son ... in one life and one love. In this His abiding had its roots. Though dwelling here on earth, He knew that He was one with the Father; that the Father's life was in Him, and that His love was on Him. It is this unity that comes to claim me. By His birth He became man, and took my nature that He might be one with me. By my new birth I become one with Him, and am made a partaker of the divine nature. The chain that binds me to Him is as real and close as that which binds Him to the Father. My claim on Him is as sure and always availing as was his on the Father. My union with Him is every bit as close.

And it is a union of divine life, it is one of an infinite love. In His life of humiliation on earth He tasted the blessedness and strength of knowing Himself the object of an infinite love, and of dwelling in it always. From His own example He invites me to learn that herein lies the secret of rest and joy. I am one with Him; I must yield myself now to be loved by Him, I must let my eyes and heart open to the love that shines and presses in on me from every side. I must abide in His love for me.

Christ's was a life of subjection and dependence, and yet at the same time, most blessed. To my proud, self-seeking nature the thought of dependence and subjection suggests the idea of humiliation and servitude; in the life of love which the Son of God lived, and to which He invites me, they are the secret of blessedness. The Son is not afraid of losing anything by giving up all to the Father, for He knows that the Father loves Him and can have no interest apart from the beloved Son. He knows that as complete as is the dependence on His part is the communication on the part of the Father of all He possesses.

As a believer I study this life of Christ as the pattern and promise of what mine may be, learning to understand how the "Without me you can do nothing" is but the forerunner of "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I learn to glory in infirmities, to take pleasure in necessities and distresses for Christ's sake; for "when I am weak, then I am strong." I rise above the ordinary tone in which so many Christians speak of their weakness, while they are content to abide there, because I have learned from Christ that in the life of divine love the emptying of self and the sacrifice of my will is the surest way to have all I can wish or will. Dependence, subjection, and self-sacrifice, are for me as they were for Christ. As Christ lived in and through the Father, even so I live through and in Christ.

I must abide in the love of Christ. Taking and studying His relation to the Father as a pledge and a promise of my own relationship with Him can become. Just as blessed, as mighty, as glorious as was His life in the Father, can mine be in him. In the light of Christ's life in the Father, let it likewise from this point on be to me a blessed rest in my union with Him. Let it be a fountain overflowing with strength and joy. What is required of me in this circumstance? That I take time to study the divine image of this life of love set before me in the union of love between the Father and the Son. Soul, be still and listen; let every thought be hushed until it has entered into my heart: Abide in my love, even as I abide in the Father's love. Christ was the revelation of the Father on earth. Believers are the revelation of Christ on earth. In Him I abide continually for it is a continuing thing. Every moment is a continuation of Christ on earth. Each separate moment comes continuously in His love. It is an ever fresh, ever new revealing of the Father through the Son. It is abiding in His love. Amen.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eternal Love

Well my computer hasn't died yet. That's about the only good thing I can say about it. It is just so incredibly slow now for some reason. But there were a few times yesterday that it zipped right on around through the different places I went without any trouble or extra time at all. Go figure. I will do the best with what I have.

We had small group this morning and we did several exercises about the different, mostly minor prophets. We looked at Jeremiah and I think he's one of the major prophets, isn't he? Anyway we just took out a section of verses and broke them down into answers for a set of questions. We had to give the quoted Scriptures a title of 7 words or less. Then state what God wanted. How did God attempt to change His people? What does God promise or predict? What does the passage say about God? Man? And finally what was the application today. We asked these questions of Joel, Micah, and Jeremiah. It was all we had time for. We skipped doing the one on Zephaniah because of the time but I will do that short exercise on my own a little later. But what I discovered by asking these same questions each time is that all these prophets were really saying the same thing. Their messages revealed the heart of God. How the people had gone astray but how much God longed to shower them with love and prosperity. They spoke of God's faithfulness and how desperately He longed to have a real relationship with His people. And each one had a single line that I found intriguing. Joel's was, "And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved"; Micah's was that we are required to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God"; and Jeremiah's sentence that stuck me was, "No longer will a man teach his neighbor ... because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest." Those weren't necessarily the points of the prophets, just a sentence that stuck me as I was reading the passages. But you could do this little exercise with just about any book of the Bible. And it doesn't even have to take the entire book. We were just doing a paragraph or two and then analyzing them. But asking the same questions of each prophet really revealed to me God's attitude of always seeking us, always beseeching us to come to Him, always wanting to bless us with His love and blessings. Take a paragraph or two anywhere in the Bible and do that little exercise. I'm sure you will be blessed by it. I was. You take something like giving that section a title in 7 words or less and see how it really makes you stop and think. But in all of these prophets God was yearning and striving for a deep, intimate relationship with His people. It was amazing. I think I will use this exercise again in the future in my own quiet time. I love to sit with a pad of paper and a mechanical pencil and just read and takes notes. There's something about the physical act of writing things down that seems to plant the seed a little deeper in the mind.

I had intended on writing more about God's eternal love today. But I can't seem to get my mind in gear so I think I will save that for another time. Sorry. Not that I really have much of anything to write other than that. But I just can't get creative today.

Our weather is beautiful. Bright sunshine and blue skies, a soft breeze blowing the windchimes around outside. I have two sets of tuned windchimes and they make such beautiful music when the wind blows. I have the door open so I can hear them. And the fresh air is so nice. Before long we won't be able to keep the door open for fresh air because it will be too hot. I don't look forward to that at all. But I guess we have to take the bad with the good. I think I'm going to get around and get a few things done. I haven't done anything today because of small group so I have things that need to be done. Hopefully in my next blog I will feel up to writing about God's eternal love because it is so much more than eternal in time; it is eternal in quality too. So until my next blog...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Saturday Blog For You

This is unusual, to blog on a Saturday, but I didn't get around to it yesterday so I thought I'd try to do something today. No guarantee on length or quality though. My eyes are so irritated today from all the pollen that they feel strange every time I blink. Weird sensation. That being said, you know that spring is nearly here when I start complaining about my eyes. My beloved and I were sitting down talking about the beautiful weather we've been having when it finally struck both of us that the summer heat is almost upon us. He doesn't like the heat anymore than I do. Part of the problem is that summer lasts so long. It's usually three solid months of hot weather (June, July, and August) with about half of May and half of September thrown into the mix. The cooler we have is a small one, too small for a house this size but we're grateful that we have it. Occasionally we'll have a really humid day and it won't do any good at all. The water must be able to evaporate to produce cooler air and when the air is already saturated, nothing evaporates. I really don't like the heat and I'm not looking forward to it at all. I'd rather be a little cold than a little hot.

Now that's the way to start a blog ... complain! Sorry about that I sometimes fail to appreciate what's happening in my life. Without the hot weather we wouldn't have much of a harvest of fruits and vegetables or cotton or raisins. There is always something to be grateful for if I would just stop and think things through. Forgive me for my short-sightedness.

Heather, at LazyDRanch8 is coping well. She's showing far more grace than I would show if it had been my hubby instead of hers. You know it's so easy to complain because your spouse does (or doesn't do) certain things but if we'd just stop for a moment and imagine what life would be like totally without our mates we'd complain much less frequently I think. So forgive my critical spirit and let me get on with my blog.

Gjerstadsinliberia (not positive that's the site's address) are doing well. She has divided up her ten kids into three classes for homeschooling. I'm sure the kids are probably thrilled to finally have something to do again after waiting all that time for their shipment to arrive. School work is probably the best thing to happen to them in quite some time. Womanoffaith1 is keeping busy too. She also homeschools her children, but then, doesn't everyone??? What I'm doing in the middle of a bunch of women, raising their children and homeschooling them, I'll never know. Guess it has something to do with the way I started blogging. My cousin talked me into blogging and so I automatically got onto all her friends and acquaintances and it just sort of went on from there.

I should be out washing my car but I think I'm going to skip it this week since it's windy outside today and it's not too awfully dirty. It just has yellow pollen all over it. Since I started parking in a different spot, it doesn't get all the bird droppings. I was going to write more on eternal love today but I just can't seem to get it into gear to do that. I'm not really in the mood to write, I guess. Sorry about that. This has been just meaningless drivel but at least you'll know I tried. It's just that sometimes all the little holes and dowels don't line up and I can't think of what it is I want to write about or say in my blogs. You know how that goes, right?

I guess I should go find something constructive to do. I want to change the bedding today so it's not like I don't have things to do. Of course, maybe it's because I do have things to do that I am sitting here blogging instead. I guess I'm out of things to blog about. There is absolutely nothing going on in my life today. Here it is 1:00 in the afternoon and the only thing I've accomplished so far is getting dressed. But I beat Michael. He's still in his jammies! Well, it's just one of those lazy days for us. There's nothing pressing so why bother to get dressed. Right? I thought you would agree with me. LOL. I'll try to write on eternal love next time so until then, bye ...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Computer Worries

NOTE: This is just to let you know I am having computer problems. For some reason my computer has suddenly started taking FOREVER to open up to my home page. I have no idea why and I have fears that one day it is just not going to open for me. If that happens I will be out of business on the computer until I can get my son to come and investigate and find and fix the problem. So if my blogs suddenly stop you will know the reason.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Second Try

Let us keep our fingers crossed that this blog post will publish today. What a disaster yesterday was!! I have never just lost a blog like that. Never. Maybe I should be considering myself lucky that it's my first one. Maybe this is a normal thing with blogger. I sure hope not because writing a blog is a chore and then just to have it up and disappear is defeating, to say the least. Well, here it is Wednesday already. The days just seem to fly by.

On Monday we went across the river and went to WalMart to buy a few things they were out of on the first when we did our big, monthly shopping. My beloved still couldn't get everything he needed but he got a couple things and I got batteries for my hearing aids that I forgot to get (I only had one left and would never make it through the month on it.) and I bought a new prayer journal. Mine is just about full. I still have a few pages left but it won't take long before I'll be in my new journal. I'm so proud of myself for keeping up with a journal for the last six months. I've tried for 20 years to keep a prayer journal and I failed every single time until this last time. I now know what I was missing out on all those years. A prayer journal is wonderful!

Then we stopped by my sister's house and met up with our cousins who are out from Georgia. We had a wonderful lunch and lots of fun and laughter. Smoked ribs and beer-can chicken. Um, umm, it was good! I believe they left to go back this morning after Ron did a little fix-it job to his truck. It would be nice to have a trailer the way they do. It would sure make traveling easier to just take your bed and bath with you wherever you go. You just park it at a campground that has power, water, and sewer, and drive around to see everyone in your truck. Oh, it was so nice to see Betty and Ron again. They were out about this same time last year. I'm hoping for yearly visits. They have a new grandbaby (just turned one last week) so they'll be out again before too awfully long. Of course there's always the possibility that they will take the baby back to see Ron and Betty in Georgia so it might not be quite yearly visits. But we'll take what we can get. Betty is the only member of my generation that is a Christian. No, Pat and Ray are Christians too but they're back in Texas and don't do much traveling anymore. The last time I saw Pat was probably ten years ago at our family reunion. But I've always felt so close to Betty because I know she has a heart for the Lord. She sings in a huge choir that travels and puts on performances all over. Last year they went to Russia for 10 days or so. I'm going to miss her. My daughter-in-law is a Christian but she isn't active with a church at this time and I hardly ever see her as she's working two jobs.

Now if I can remember what I wrote yesterday. That won't be easy. I've been thinking on abiding for quite some time and I've been writing about that. We are in the very center of God's will for us when we abide in Christ. My union with the Son of God is a life-union: I am in fact one with Him. And so my prayer ascends as His prayer. It is because I abide in Him that I can ask what I will and it will be given to me. His Holy Spirit breathes through my whole being; and without my being conscious how, my desires, as the breathings of divine life, are in conformity with the divine will. I ask what I will and it is given to me. Do I understand the process? No. But I know that's the way it works in my life. When I am solely aligned within His will for me then His Spirit moves my spirit and great things happen. It is all in the alignment of our wills, my will in total submission to His will. And His will becomes my deepest desire. Does that mean then that I really have no will of my own? No, it just means that I fully realize the situation and I willingly adjust my will until it lines up with His.

Everything Almighty God does for me He does out of love for me. He desires my very best and works in all the ins and outs of my daily life to bring that desire to fruition. I must recognize that He is the lover of my soul. Everything He wills for me springs forth from His perfect love for me. Were there the need, He would gladly die again to possess me. I know this is true because it comes out of His great desire to see me happy. No, not happy. Happy is the emotion I experience when all the hap-penings in my life are aligned in such a way that it pleases me. It makes me hap-py. No, I'm not talking about that kind of happy. I am talking about experiencing joy. I'm talking about being joyous! Joy is not dependent upon me having just the right kind of hap-penings. No, joy is mine from the Lord.

Out of my most painful and unpleasant circumstances can come real joy. Joy isn't dependent upon any circumstance. So when my road is rocky and pitted, and everything that happens to me seems to be causing me pain, I can still be filled with joy by the mere fact that God is in my life. If I have no other possession, this joy would be enough. I can be completely overcome with the knowledge of my Lord's love for me. As the Father loved the Son and could not live without Him, so could I not live without this Jesus who loves me enough to die for me and then to come and indwell His Spirit within my very self. Jesus has chosen to love me and care for me and give me every single thing I desire according to His will. His life is bound up with mine. I am to Him inexpressibly more indispensable and precious than I can ever know. I am one with Him. He has made me so with Himself.

This great love of the Father is eternal. From before the foundation of the world ... God's Word says ... the purpose had already been formed that Christ should be the head of His church, that He should have a body in which His glory could be sent forth. In that eternity He loved and longed for those who had been given Him by the Father; and when he came and told His disciples that He loved them, it was indeed not with a love of earth and of time, but with the love of eternity. Eternity in this sense becomes much more than a measurement of time; it becomes the ultimate in quality. And it is still, with that same sense of time and quality, that Infinite Love has His eye resting on me as I seek to abide in Him, and in each breathing of that love lies the power of eternity. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."

It is a perfect love. In every way or angle you choose to look at it, it is found to be utterly pure perfection. It gives all and holds nothing back. He loves me with the purest love and has given all He is and has to me. When it became necessary He sacrificed His own throne and crown for me; He did not hold back and count His own life and blood too dear to give up for me. His righteousness, His Spirit, His glory, even His throne are all mine for the taking. This love holds absolutely nothing back and in a manner that my human brain cannot fully fathom, it makes me one with Christ in the ultimate sense of understanding.

It is a gentle and tender love and I see its expression in the love the Father lavishes on the Son who is so infinitely worthy of that love. But when I think of Him loving me to that degree the only thing I can see is my own worthlessness. When I think and compare that love to that of my own, nothing but sin and unworthiness meets my eye. My wretchedness only serves to call out more distinctly and abundantly the beauty of God's love. With the tenderest compassion He takes my weakness, and with patience inconceivable, He bears with my slowness to fully comprehend His love. With tender compassion He meets my fears and follies and calls me His own. It's with this love that He calls me and blesses me as I yield and knowingly surrender my own ideals to Him so that He might purify them and make them holy as they take on the qualities of His infinite love. Mine can never fully match His, but I yield all and pray He makes them qualify by His never ending desire to love me and love the world through me. It is through His love that I come to realize that my hands are His hands. They are literally His physical hands on earth. When I reach out to others I am reaching with Christ's compassion. I am Christ's body. Can I possibly grasp that reality? My feet are his feet; my eyes, his eyes. If this is true and I know it to be so, then I must consecrate myself for His use. I must separate myself out for His exclusive pleasure. With His love I am to love my world. Every part of my world be it my neighbor or a stranger in need; in every sense I must lay myself aside and take up His banner and then go forward.

Jesus is my all and I am all His. I willingly move according to His will. Where He wants me to go I will go. I willingly determine to do His will wherever He leads me in this world and as He love me He loves others through me.

Next time I will try to pick up where I left off. I feel this rewritten blog is not nearly the blog it was yesterday before my blogger ate it but it will have to do. I think I remembered the main points but there was a lot more creative writing that I can't quite remember. I know I said more about Christ loving the world through me but I just can't find the words today. Hopefully you will still enjoy it and learn something from it. I have more thoughts on this heavenly love that is ours through Jesus and I will write them in my next blog. Providing blogger doesn't eat this one.

The weather is beautiful again today. We've had just wonderful weather. Except for Sunday when it was 100 degrees at my house. I hate the heat! Monday was cooler and had a stiff breeze but was otherwise beautiful. My hummingbirds are busy out there today. I've noticed that they don't seem to feed as much when the temperature gets way up there. Right now things are just perfect. Like God's love is perfect. It's comfortable. I have no complaints at all.

I have a few chores to run today and then I'm going to busy myself with housework. I can only let it go so long. Please pray for lazydranch8 as she and her children work their way through their grief over the loss of their husband and father. It's a painful, lonely walk. And pray for loveforliberia as they spread the gospel to that corner of the world. Remember that they have their ten children with them in Liberia and the life over there is really, really hard. Dan takes the love of Jesus to those in prison there and they are so desperate for things that they riot nearly every time he goes to the prison. Pray that they will learn to settle down and listen to the message of salvation. That is their only hope. And pray for the health of Dan and Stacy and their children (Tiffany, Jakin, Ashton, Maddie, Peyton, Emily, Daniel, Katie, Nathan, and Joe) as they have already suffered from disease and dysentery.

Now hopefully this will publish. I'm almost afraid to click on the button.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Feels Like Monday

Well, I think I'm going to be sick. I just spent over 2 hours writing a blog and when I clicked on Publish it disappeared. It simply disappeared and I can't find it anywhere. It's not even in my drafts folder. It's just gone. Well, that's the way it goes sometimes I guess. I'm out of time today so you'll have to be satisfied with an older blog until tomorrow. I just can't figure out what happened to it. It was there and then it wasn't. Sorry! Maybe I can remember what I wrote tomorrow. I doubt it but I hope I can.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Warm Saturday Afternoon

The seminar this morning was wonderful. I got so many good ideas from it. It was basically a class on how to write your testimony. The biggest problem we seem to have with giving our testimonies is how to do it in a single paragraph. Meaning that we get carried away with it and talk about our decision to come to the Lord until the person we're talking with is standing there with eyes glazed over and mind on something totally other than Christ. So this class was just a way of helping you take all the generalizations and cut out all the "fat" so that each step of your personal journey can be summed up in one or two sentences. It's a proven fact that at any given time you have about 3 minutes of that person's attention. And if you don't get it out in under three minutes you may as well not say anything at all. But then on the other hand, we often try to be too specific and pin everything down to a date and a time, or exactly what, where. Those "defining moments" might be interesting to us but the thing we need to keep asking ourselves through this process is, "Do I still have the attention of the person I'm talking with?" Once you lose that attention it is next to impossible to regain it. But studies have shown that, for the most part, if you can keep your testimony down to less than three minutes, you run less chance of losing their attention.

These seminars come up about once a month and they cover several different topics. They came out of the 40 Days of Purpose campaign that our church went through this past fall and on into winter. There are four different topics that cover everything you need to know from Class 101 on baptism and membership to Class 501 (I attended Class 401 today) about sharing the Good News with nonbelievers. We are all commissioned to spread the Gospel in a number of places in the Bible, not least of which is the Great Commission by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20. The Word makes it plain that we are all on a mission but few of us have a workable understanding of how to accomplish that mission. This seminar broke our testimony down into sections or parts and asked a couple clear, to-the-point, and pertinent questions to help us write out that portion of our testimony. It's all very clear and I'm now anxious to sit down with the Lord and write out my personal testimony. I have a written testimony somewhere from years ago but it was like eight pages long and would be way out of date if I could find it. (Been there?) This will be a very powerful tool for me to use when I write out my own. It simply makes everything easier. And one point the seminar brought out is that we may want to have more than one testimony aimed at reaching different people under different circumstances. Once you sit down and write out a few you'll be set to go into the mission field. Which is to say you'll be prepared to talk to anyone in any situation. I found this particular seminar to have been the most exciting and motivating. I can't wait to sit down and write out my testimony and see it come into shape and have a finished three-minute product in my hand, ready for anyone and everyone!

It has really warmed up here this afternoon. I think this morning was the first morning that we didn't need to turn on the heater just to "take off the chill" since last fall sometime. I only needed my lightweight denim jacket when I left the house this morning at 9:00 and I about fell over when I stepped outside at noon after the seminar. It's in the 90s. I hope this doesn't mean that summer is going to be dumped in our laps without experiencing spring.

I came home and stripped off my jeans and pulled on a pair of denim shorts and went out and washed my car for the first time since last fall. We'd sprayed it off a number of times but it honestly hadn't been washed with brush and cleanser for several months. Now it looks really good. I won't need to try and hide it when I park at church tomorrow morning. Actually I don't think it was all that dirty through the winter because of all the rain and all. Plus we didn't have all the little birds that have returned with the warmer weather and there's no place I can park except under the trees and you know what birds do when they're sitting on branches up in the trees over your vehicle. That's right. Quite messy. If my garage wasn't full of boxes and boxes of Michael's stuff, I could park it in the garage where it belongs. But we could no longer afford to pay for storage so everything came home and now lives in the garage and the 3rd bedroom. Some probably call that a guest room but ours is filled with a huge framing table, my huge desk that I used when I was doing nails, and boxes. Oh and I mustn't forget the painting rack that holds all of Michael's paintings that aren't up on my walls. Speaking of which I'm going to ask him to think about rotating some of the paintings. I'm tired of these we now have up and I miss the paintings that were on the walls before he went to Utah and Nevada and wherever else they went and came home to fill my walls with desert scenes. I'm not real crazy about the desert in the first place and I think it's time to spend a day rehanging paintings. We have so many beautiful paintings and he fills my walls with sand and rocks ... HUGE rocks ... some people would probably call the mountains or bluffs! But they've been up for two years and I think it's time to change them. He's napping in his chair or I'd ask him right now. It will take a good day with both of us working to rotate to some other paintings. We won't have to change the ones in our bedroom. Those are fine. They're paintings of all the different dogs and cats we've had over the years.

I need to refill my hummingbird feeder. They've been very busy today, I see. I'll take care of that as soon as I'm finished with this blog. We always had just a couple birds and then last month we had a "flock" of them move in and I was having to fill the feeder daily. Then a really aggressive bird moved in and chased them all off everytime they came to feed. But now today, the aggressor is gone and all the other birds are back. We just love watching them eat and for as far back as I can remember, we've always had a feeder.

I probably won't get back to my blog until Tuesday or maybe even Wednesday unless I decide to blog again tomorrow. But Monday we're going across the river again to meet up with my cousin and his wife who are out in California visiting their grandson who just turned one last week. We're planning on a family get together at my sister's house with a big, really big cookout lunch. Later in the day wouldn't work because of all the different work schedules, so we're going to just do a late lunch at 2:00. It will be so good to see Ron and Betty again. Betty is the only other Christian I have in my family except for my daughter-in-law. Oh, and my beloved, but he isn't the kind of Christian that you can sit down with and talk your faith. Betty is and I guess to an extent my daughter-in-law is also. We just don't seem to do much of that. But Betty is like me: constantly involved with Church and she means the world to me.

Well, I think I'll go relax now and rest a little before I start feeding all the animals. I didn't realize it was so late. I had forgotten that the day was half over when I got home from church today. So until my next blog ...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Learning to Abide

Another beautiful day up here in the foothills. It's a bit breezy but sunny and warm. We've been doing a few outdoorsy things this morning. M trimmed the hedge plants that grow along our entrance walk and I took down my door wreath, and watered all my plants by the front door, so our entry looks 100% better. [The wreath I took down was a "fall" wreath, believe it or not. As I've said before, things don't move very fast around this household. To say we border on lazy wouldn't be too far off base. But I prefer to think of us as "energy challenged."]

Yesterday M spent the entire day making a console for the bus to fit between the seats to hold our coffee cups and other small things. My beloved can make anything. Give him time and scrap wood and he'd build a mansion. With our bus (1964 Ford) the engine "hump" is between the seats so M had to design something that would work and yet fit around and over the motor without really getting in the way. He is one of the most creative people on the face of the earth. He can (and quite often does) create incredible things. This will be so nice when it's finished. [It's actually finished except for the varnish and he's working on that this morning.] Now when we make the trek across the river to do our shopping, we'll have a place to put our coffee without worrying about it tipping over in the bus, or, worse, having so sit there and hold two cups of coffee in my hands all the way over and back.

My Easter lily is bloomed out beautifully. It still has more buds to blossom so it will grace our entrance for awhile longer. When it's finished blooming I will give it to my sister across the river to plant in her garden. [I kill everything I try to grow except for cactus or succulents. I seem to do okay with them most of the time. And now they look really good since I repotted them last fall.] Back to the lily, I will miss its scent when it is no longer by the door. I know that I've smelled other lilies and they've had no fragrance at all. This lily has such a sweet welcoming aroma when you walk up to the front door.

I've been thinking a lot about Heather at Lazydranch8 for several days now. I don't mean fleeting thoughts. I mean I've been THINKING about her big time and wishing there were something I could do to ease her burden. But sometimes words just simply fail me. My heart aches for her and her children. I want so much to get into her life and make a difference, to fix it all and make it whole again. But I can't do that. This is one of the valleys we have to walk alone. I can accompany her only so far. But I'd gladly carry any burden she has, even if it's only for a little while.

For Heather: At this moment, abandon all anxiety about your life to the God who has undertaken to establish you in the Vine, and feel what a joy it is to know that God alone is in charge. Ask and trust Him by the Holy Spirit ever to remind you of this your blessed relation to Him. He will do it. And with each new morning your faith shall grow stronger and brighter. Amen.

By nature my heart is full of selfishness. Even in me, a believer, my own salvation and happiness are often too much my only object. But by abiding in Jesus, I come into contact with His infinite love; its fire begins to burn within my heart; I see clearly the beauty of that love; and I learn to look upon loving and serving and saving others as the highest privilege I can have as a follower of Jesus Christ. Abiding in Christ, my heart learns to feel the wretchedness of the sinner still in darkness. With Christ I begin to bear the burden of souls, the burden of sins not my own. As I am more closely united to Him, something of the passion for souls which urged Him to Calvary begins to breathe within me. Christ is teaching me to love. The very Spirit of Christ the Living Vine is love; the Spirit of love streams into the branch that abides in Him.

Abiding in Christ, I receive new courage and strength for the work. Believing that Christ teaches me, that it is He who through me will give His blessing to the world, and I understand that I am but the feeble instrument through which the hidden power of Christ does its work, so that His strength may be perfected and made glorious in my weakness. The great secret of abiding in Christ is the deep conviction that I am nothing and He is everything. If I truly believe this, I will yield myself wholly up to Christ for service in the spirit of a simple, childlike trust and will assuredly bring forth much fruit. And this fruit isn't so much that of reaping souls for harvest, though it is most definitely that, but this fruit is the outworking of Christ in my life in whatever area He chooses to use me. My fruit can be as pure and simple as giving comfort where comfort is needed. But it can most assuredly be applied to the saving of souls. There is fruit-producing work among the sick, the poor, and the outcast. There is work in a hundred different paths which the Spirit of Christ opens up through me as I allow myself to be used and led by Him.

I must allow a living Christ working in me to be the secret spring of all my labors that will bring forth humility and courage and deeds for Christ. I must let the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwell in me. I must abide in Christ and offer every faculty of my nature freely and unselfishly to Him, to sanctify it for Himself. If Jesus is really to work through me, there must be within me an entire consecration of myself to Him, renewed moment by moment. It is only in the abiding that my life has real purpose and is being used exclusively for God's glory. It is Christ alone within me that is capable of moving and shaking this world, and bringing it into total submission to His rule.

As Christ works from within my heart, a simple believer, wondrous things happen for the sake of my heavenly Father. All my efforts, and deeds, and labors must be set aside and made holy in the grace of God for it is only Him within me that does anything good or accomplishes anything holy. I am merely a branch learning to submit to the Vine so that His life might flow through me and reap treasures for Himself. I must never forget that it is the Vine that works in the branch to produce the fruit. And this fruit is not only that of saving the lost, though it most certainly means that also, as I said, but this fruit is anything good that the Father brings about through the living branch, and as long as that branch remains connected to the Vine, great things are accomplished. But first I must fully consecrate my entire life to Him, I can't hold anything back from Him and I must allow Him to make me holy, to set me apart for His use exclusively. I am His absolutely in the broadest sense; I am His and only His. But there is a purifying work that goes on within me to enrich me for the labor, to make me fit to carry the life of Christ to others through whatever situation I find myself in. The Lord must first make me fit. I must be sanctified. I must be set apart. I must be made holy unto Him and it is in the preparation work that my true heart condition is revealed to Him and He sees me as I truly am. I must submit to Him. I must surrender all I am and all I will ever be. He takes those parts of me that are unfit and blesses them and makes them holy, fit for service, and then He uses me, a dead branch, and makes me come alive with His very own life flowing through me. But it is never about me. It is solely and unreservedly about Him. It is Christ in me, the hope of glory! Praise God!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Random Thoughts

It is a beautiful sunny day up here in the foothills of the Sierra mountains. It's a little brisk without a sweater or wrap of some kind, but to just look out the window is a refreshment. It is nice to see things "open up." I say that, because it seems like during the winter months we are closed in, unable to see the mountains clearly most of the time, and no such thing as fresh air in the house. It's much too cold to open windows and doors. But now I have my door open and the crisp air feels wonderful. Michael finally repaired our wind chimes that we bought when we lived on Crest in Walnut Creek. They are tuned and make beautiful music when the wind blows. The cord that held the clapper and wind catcher (not really sure what the real name is for that piece of wood that hangs down to catch the wind and pull the clapper against the pipes) had rotted away. We still had the pieces of wood so all we had to do was find a nylon cord the right size to restring it. It only took us a year to get that repair job done. Things don't move fast around this household. Oh, the wind just took the clapper around the different pipes and made beautiful music. I'd forgotten how beautiful it sounds. Now sitting here at my computer, just mere feet away, and with the sliding glass door open, I am delighted to listen to the sounds coming from the windchimes. Beautiful.

I have an Executive Board meeting tonight at church that I'm not looking forward to. I have to give a report to the board for the deacons and we didn't do much at our meeting to report. It was just one of those times when all that needed to be said was said within an hour and we were out of there. So I guess I have to report that I have nothing to report. But I still have to go. I feel so inadequate as the deacon board chair. I feel totally unqualified but I will keep plugging along.

I keep a pad of paper and a pencil on my coffee table and whenever I think of something I want to remember I write it down on the pad. (The physical act of writing it down helps plant it in my brain.) But I noticed that I had several pages of random thoughts and decided to share them with you. They don't flow one from the other so you'll need to read each one as a totally separate entry. But I thought I would just share some of those thoughts with you. Sometimes I will be able to take one of those thoughts and compose an entire blog out of it. These are some that didn't go that far. So I've put them all together for you and thought maybe you can get something out of them. Sometimes they are not as clear as they could be. You will see that the words come and retreat and then come again. Sometimes you can tell it's just a thought in its infancy, that maybe given more time or attention they might have blossomed into something beautiful. Maybe. I hope they will make sense and that you will benefit from reading them.

Random Thoughts

Can a mere child of dust really dwell in fellowship with the King of glory?

May my daily life be the bright and blessed proof that God's hidden power dwells within.

The hope of Christ is the hope of His redeemed: "I will come again and take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also." This promise is as precious to Christ as it can ever be to me.

He that abides in Christ the Crucified of the Father learns to know what it is to be crucified with Him.

I did well to come; I do better to abide.

Who would, after seeking the Kings palace, be content to stand in the door when he is invited in to dwell in the King's presence and share with Him in all the Glory of His royal life?

I fear that there are many who have come to Jesus but who have sorrowfully to confess that they know very little of the blessed life of abiding in Him. Some, though they heard the Word, did not know that such a life of abiding fellowship was even possible and indeed within their reach.

Come, sisters, and let us day by day set ourselves at His feet and meditate on His Word with our eyes fixed on Him alone. Let us set ourselves in quiet trust before Him, waiting to hear His holy voice ... that still, small voice of none other ... quicken our spirits as He speaks : Abide in me.

For me, rest for the soul implies deliverance from every fear, the supply of every need, and the fulfillment of every desire. Is this not what the Savior uses to woo us?

I must realize and never fail to teach that Jesus lays claim to my undivided allegiance of my whole heart and life.

I need to comprehend that when Jesus said, "My yoke is easy," He spoke the truth because the moment the soul yields itself to obey, the Lord Himself gives the strength and joy to do it. That when He said "Learn of me," He added, "I am meek and lowly in heart" to assure me that His gentleness and strength would meet my every need and bear them out as a mother bears her feeble child.

"Abide in me" is Christ asking me to surrender my all to Himself and His assuring me that His almighty love will hold me fast and will keep and bless me with His almighty power.

Consecration and faith are two essential elements of the Christian life ... the giving up of everything to Jesus and the receiving of all from Jesus. They are implied in each other; they are united in the one word "surrender."

There is a spot where safety and victory, where peace and rest, are always sure, and that spot is always open to me ... it's the heart of Jesus.

It is not the yoke but the resistance to the yoke that makes abiding difficult.

May each failure teach me to listen more earnestly than ever, until the Holy Spirit causes me to hear the voice of Jesus saying, "Come, abide in me."

Abiding in Jesus is nothing but the giving up of oneself to be ruled and taught and led, and so resting in the arms of Everlasting Love.

With grace secured, I have strength for every duty, courage for every struggle, a blessing in every cross, and the joy of life eternal in death itself.

There can be no true conversion without the giving up of sin, yet my giving up of sin is usually only partial and superficial. I must yield myself to sin no longer ... to be only and wholly a servant of righteousness.

I must take time to but listen, in simple childlike teachableness. As surely as I am in Christ, I shall also, day be day, be established and built up in Him.

In my flesh dwells nothing good; and that flesh, though crucified with Christ is not yet dead but will continually seek to rise and lead me into evil.

Let me be content to possess Christ, to dwell in Him, to make Him my life, and only by a deeper searching into Him to hunt and find the knowledge I desire.

As a Christian, I must look on my spiritual life as existing not entirely of ever receiving, realizing that my capacity for receiving is only kept up and enlarged by the continual giving up and giving out of myself ... how it is only in the emptiness that comes from the parting with what I have that the divine fullness can flow into my daily walk? If I am to really abide in Christ and am to be found in Him at any given moment ... to have my life always and wholly in Him ... I must in my own measure say with Paul: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Marriage & Divorce

Last Friday I mentioned Job in my blog and how he and his wife had become one soul and therefore she was not struck by Satan. We had small group this morning and we took a very cursory look at Malachi and I found something interesting. Speaking of the wife, Malachi writes in 2:14-16: "... she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? ... guard yourselves ... do not break faith with [your] wife ... 'I hate divorce,' says the Lord God of Israel." Again just meaning to show that when we marry we marry into a covenant. We take a vow and the Lord is very serious about this for He makes two souls one.

To leave a marriage is to leave your soul behind. That's why we should take our vows to each other as serious as serious can get because in some way that we can't quite see or define God takes our two souls and creates them into one soul when we make a covenant marriage. Divorce is very prevalent in society today. But those in the church need to realize that to the Lord, divorce is something detestable. "I hate divorce," He says. And why does He hate divorce? Because it takes the two souls that God built into one and breaks it apart again. Hearts get broken. Everybody gets wounded. Everybody suffers. Am I then saying divorce is never an option? No, I'm not saying that at all. Jesus said on the grounds of adultery one can make a divorce. And I further believe that women are to leave an abusive relationship because her mate has broken his vows to love and cherish her. But I can't go along with divorce if it's just because someone becomes tired of their mate or that they "grow apart." We are not to let ourselves grow apart in the first place. We don't marry with the idea that we'll stay married to this person as long as she/he continues to make us happy. Marriage is a contract, a covenant and that means that both mates devote themselves to the other. We should strive daily to make our spouse happy, not ourselves.

There's a television program that I just love to watch on TLC (I think) all about couples having children but it breaks my heart when I watch it simply because I know the statistics involved. They are so excited and full of love for this baby (and for each other) yet I know that the odds are that not too many years down the line, one or the other of them is going to opt out of that family arrangement and hearts are going to break. Most divorces are totally selfish. But real people get really hurt. Everything's fine until you get to a point where you realize your mate isn't making you happy any longer. Well, you don't simply divorce. You dig in and work within that marriage until you're happy again. If you are unhappy in your marriage, you need to roll up your sleeves and go to work. Your marriage is sick, in need of tender loving care not divorce. When times like this befall us we need to look at what's missing in our lives. Most divorces would not happen if the one who is unhappy would begin to work in the marriage to make the other person happier. Yes, I said that right. Most divorces could be avoided if the person who's feeling the least happy would dive in and do things to make their mate even happier.

The rule is as plain as it can possibly be. You will get out of your marriage what you put into it. I realize this isn't always the case but what I'm saying is that you don't run to the divorce lawyer the first time you come across a little dissatisfaction in your marriage. Marriages take work. It's the way God designed them. God knows that we can't truly be fulfilled and all that He wants us to be unless we have someone else to make happy. That, dear wife, is your honored duty, your obligation, your responsibility, and your privilege. That, dear husband, is your duty, obligation, responsibility, and privilege. God created us to be caring and loving people and He designed marriage to be the vehicle or instrument used to carry out these God-given needs. When we are feeling neglected, rather than pull away from our mate, that is when we need to cater to our partner the most. And I use that word 'partner' because that's what we are to our spouse in this covenant. Even God calls us partners as I quoted Malachi earlier. If when we are unhappy we would simply devote ourselves to making our partner even happier than he/she already is, the marriage will grow and we will soon reap the benefits of our investment. Our spouse will be happier and that happiness will come back to us in the covenant arrangement of our marriage.

When we marry we need to realize that what we are saying in our vows is that we will love and honor our spouse for as long as we live, not just until they no longer make us feel good. That is love, dear friends. You say you are miserable in your marriage but your spouse is always smiling. You're miserable but your spouse is as happy as a Lark. Then, praise God! You are succeeding in your end of the covenant. When we go into a marriage is should be to make the other person happy, not to make ourselves happy. I mean, if we end up happy in the process then again I say, praise God! We marry because we want the most and the absolute best for our mate. We want to make them happy and that shouldn't change a couple years down the line.

Marriage is a life-long covenant. It's holy and sacred to God. It's as if God says: "Here, I've given you a partner, a perfect partner to love and honor and make happy." He doesn't say that He's given us someone to make us happy. That just comes along with it. But, no, God brings two people together so they have someone else to love. It's just as simple as that. Each of us are in a marriage to make the other person happy. I can't be me unless I have Michael to love, and honor, and cherish, and make happy. And whether or not I'm happy is of no consequence. I mean, I hope and pray that you are happy in your marriage but your commitment is to make the other person (your mate) happy. But if we could simply go into marriage understanding these simple facts, the divorce rate would plummet. It would be a scarcity.

In my marriage, I've come to love my husband more than I thought possible. He doesn't always make me happy. Quite the opposite at times. But the thing is that I know my happiness has really nothing to do with my marriage. My marriage is an outlet for me to give my love to someone else and in that I am fulfilled. And when I see Michael happy, it makes me happy. And when he's happy he tends to do and say things that make me happy. "What goes around comes around," as the saying goes. But rarely, rarely is divorce an option. An unhappy marriage just means that we need to work harder at it. It will come around with nurturing and tender loving care. It's all designed that way by God. That's why it's such a serious thing to get married. It's a life-long commitment to make the other person as happy as we can.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Bible Code

I finished reading the book (The Bible Code II - Countdown) and I still don't know a thing. If the tests are in fact genuine, if Rips is honest and not a fraud, then I accept the fact that the Bible Code exists. You couldn't just randomly get that many "matches" in the tables the way they do. But I still have no idea what God's purpose was for writing it. And it could only have been God who wrote it. Only God can know the future. I found it so hard to understand how the author of the book could believe in the Bible Code but continue to deny the existence of God. He wanted more easily to believe it came from some other galaxy in a spaceship guided by aliens.

So what did I learn? Nothing. I'm not one whit better off for having read the book. But I did enjoy reading it. I would have used my time much better by having read the Bible itself, for only the Bible has the answers to all our questions. Only the Bible can foretell events in the future and only the Bible can interpret those prophecies. But it was a little trip down fantasy lane and kept my mind occupied for a couple days.

I looked at Genesis 12 today and discovered the fact that Abraham was no sooner called and sent by God then he created the biggest lie of his life by having Sarah claim to be his sister. What kind of faith is that!!! It just goes to show how inclined we are to go our own way at whatever cost. To do things our way, regardless of what God has promised us. It doesn't matter what God says, we just can't quite trust Him all the way. There's just that little part of us that won't allow us to trust Him. There's always some little something that we won't left go of. There's that safety line we cling to. But you know the truly amazing thing is that God knew Abraham was going to prostitute his wife (and that's exactly what he did) and God called him anyway. God knew Abraham was going to give away his wife, and He called him in spite of himself. And God has done the same thing with us. He knew our every sin, and He called us anyway. He gave us the gift of salvation even though He knew we were going to try to earn it. God did everything necessary to call us to Himself, and we turn the other way instead. Sin should not lead us to despair because God knew we were going to sin again. We may have fooled ourselves but we didn't fool God. So what do we do when we sin? We repent. We say we're sorry and we go our way and sin no more. Until the next time. You think God didn't know you'd sin and repent and then go and sin again? He knows. He knows every little thing about us and He knows we're going to turn around and sin again. And yet when we stop and confess our sins, He is quick to forgive us even though He knows we're going to sin again. Don't get me wrong. This isn't a license to sin. It's salvation. God knows our hearts. We can't fool Him. He knows when we're truly repentant and He always meets us there with His never-ending salvation.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bible Code

Oh, wow! Two posts in a single day! I must be crazy.

I read the book The Bible Code when it was first published 10 or more years ago and at that time became convinced that the code was really what was sealed up until the last days (forgive me I can't think of the exact wording right this very minute and I don't want to take the time to look it up right now) but I didn't know what to think of its purpose. Was it just something that tells us as further proof that the Bible is real? that God is real? Or were we to find and use the clues as advanced warning to change things before it's too late as the author believes? I don't believe that the findings are just random chance. The statistics prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was intelligence behind the code. That is was intentional not random. And only God could have come up with the code in the first place.

Yesterday, when we stopped by DollarTree they had a bin out front full of books for $1 each and right on top was the book The Bible Code II. Immediately I saw that their prediction that 2006 would suffer a nuclear holocaust was in error. That didn't come true. But I still believe the code is real. It was just their predictions that weren't right; their interpretation of the code was in error. I am now half way through the book I bought yesterday and I am absolutely convinced that the Bible code is real. It's just that I ask the question: What are we to make of it? Somehow I have my doubts that it is to be used to predict the future. I believe that eventually it will unlock the mysteries of the universe in such a way that only an idiot would continue to disbelieve in God. (I know, I keep thinking of the author who says he doesn't believe in God. But he believes the code is real. How could he possibly disbelieve?!!)

Does anyone else have ideas and opinions about the Bible Code? I'd like to hear your reasonings on the subject if you'd like to comment. As I said, I'm convinced it's real. I just haven't figured out what we're supposed to do with it. What is it's purpose except to prove God's existence? (Somebody had to have encoded the Bible. Someone who had a much, much bigger brain than the biggest and best computers we have today.) I think we will eventually find the key to the Code and we will know why the words were sealed for a time. Only God could have known when He wrote the Bible that there would be computers in the future to decode it. But the purpose escapes me. I need input. I'm going to go back to my book. Please comment with your thoughts.

Accidents Happen

I will start today's blog with a word of caution. We have a coffee system in our home. Michael and I both like coffee but he prefers regular and I prefer Hazelnut but we only have one coffee maker. So I make myself a pot of Hazelnut and pour it directly into a thermos and then Michael will make a pot of regular for himself. All day I take from my thermos whenever I want another cup of coffee. The thermos keeps it hot for a while and then I simply nuke it hot after it's cooled down. This morning I poured myself a cup and nuked it. I carried it over to the counter to season it and I was still holding it in my left hand. I scooped out a spoon of sugar and dropped it into my cup and my cup of coffee verily exploded in my hand. Bathing it in scalding hot coffee. I turned on the cold water and immediately put my hand under the faucet but I sustained some pretty good burns. My hand hurts so badly I can hardly type. I have a cold water bath sitting on the counter and I get up every few minutes and soak my hand. So far no blisters but they will establish themselves within a short time, I'm sure. This is the same hand I suffered 3rd degree steam burns on about 20 years ago and ended up in the burn unit of Dameron Hospital in Stockton. And it is very sensitive to temperature. So my advice to everyone is just to be very careful with nuked liquid. When that sugar hit the hot coffee it simply frothed and foamed and bubbled up all over my hand and the kitchen counter. I just looked and I can see blisters now on the first and second fingers. Burns are so painful. I thank God I was only 12 inches from cold water. It would probably be worse if I hadn't gotten it under cold water as quickly as I did.

Talking about burns reminds me of the house fire the other night. It turns out that it was the home of a very dear friend of mine. She's 86 years old and an absolute love. I hug her every Sunday morning as she sits in my pew with me during church. I had no idea that that's where she lived. Everyone here in our small town uses post office boxes for their mail so we're not accustomed to knowing the physical addresses of each other. Her daughter says she had very good insurance so that's a blessing. The worst part for her is that she lost her hearing aids and her teeth. She had already gone to bed before the fire started. So she had had to flee with her life, leaving everything behind in her panic. That's one thing about living in a small town. Everyone knows everything about everyone else.

We did our monthly shopping yesterday and everything that could have gone wrong seemed to go wrong. I had my alarm set for 6:30 so we could get up and get to WalMart as early as possible to beat the other shoppers. We had called WalMart the evening before to ask about writing a check. (We usually go with cash but thought we'd just write a check yesterday.) They told us all we would need would be a driver's license. So we did our shopping and checked out and I wrote a check and our check was denied. No one could tell us why. There was a code there as a reason but no one at WalMart knew what the code meant. So we have no idea why WalMart wouldn't accept a check from us. (I think the problem is that it was the first check we've ever written WalMart and it was for almost $200.) So we had to put our baskets aside and drive back into town to the bank and write a check for cash there and then go back to WalMart to pay for our purchases. Then we got out to the car to put everything in the bus and we couldn't find the dog treats I had purchased. I looked on the receipt and it showed that I was charged for them but we couldn't find them to save our lives. So I went back inside and stood in line and waited for Customer service and about that time Michael came up to me and told me that the checker had put the treats in one of his bags instead of one of my bags. (We have a system where he pays for his things and I pay for mine so things are bagged separately ... usually!)

We went on to the grocery store and bought the food items we needed and when we got to the check out we realized that the jar of sauerkraut was leaking so the bagger had to run back and get another jar for us. And then the lid on the sour cream was broken and smashed in so once again she had to run back and get a new tub. (When we got home we discovered that the package of bologna slices we bought for sandwiches had been smooshed but we think we'll be able to eat most of it.) Next time we will look more closely at our items!!!

So nothing seemed to run smoothly for us. When we got home the fuel pump was making a lot of noise (which turned out not to be a problem after we called John about it) and the radiator had a leak in it and was dripping all over the driveway. Michael went to Napa this morning and got the stuff to pour in the radiator that is supposed to seal off little leaks. What complications!!! We were both absolutely spent after it was all over.

Why does God allow days like that? I have to confess I don't know. But somehow through all of those complications we grew spiritually. Having been called to a life of poverty is frustrating enough without everything going wrong at the same time. One thing for sure though. We never cease to see God's hands in our life everyday. Being so dependent on His care keeps our eyes ever on Him. It is a day by day existence and God works in and out of our lives all the time. Things happen to us that could only happen at God's directions. I know that a lot of the trials that I have to endure are trials that I endure by association. Michael and I are one. When the Lord is working on him, I can't help but be affected. Michael has a very short fuse and a very hot temper. So many times I can literally watch the Lord work in him. And until he learns to cool his temper and discard his fuse, the Lord will continue to work in him in every sort of happening to bring about more Christlike qualities. The single thing that bothers me the most with my beloved is his temper and foul language. I mean, he is a Christian, he's been saved and baptised but he hasn't learned to use the Holy Spirit's fruit of self-control. So over and over and over again I get dragged into M's "spiritually needy situations." Because the two of us are one, we suffer together. Have you ever thought about the fact that we are really one with our spouse? Satan challenged God over Job's devotion and God gave his permission for Satan to touch everything in Job's life except his soul. Did you ever notice that Satan touched everything Job had, even his children, but he never touched Job's wife? The reason is that Job and his wife were one soul. Satan couldn't attack Job's wife without attacking Job's soul and God hadn't given Satan permission to touch Job's soul. Interesting isn't it? It shows that this union of two people in marriage actually in some unseen realm does indeed become one. It's not just a figure of speech. And I think that's why the Lord hates divorce the way He does. What God has joined together let no man break apart. We become one soul with our spouses in a very real sense. That is why when our spouse hurts we hurt with them. We are of one soul with each other.

Lazydranch8 is still suffering so much from the loss of her husband two months ago. Grief is such a horrible thing to endure and I can't help but want to ask God why it has to go on for such a long, long time. And why does it have to hurt so badly? We get so caught up in our grief that we feel we can't even breathe sometimes. I know that's what she's going through. Eric's passing was just such a sudden shock to the family. Just out of the blue. Totally unexpected. So now it's no longer a ranch of eight but of seven. And little Brown Sugar is so needy right now, clinging to Heather and being difficult at all times. I seriously doubt I would be any good to anyone else if it had happened to me like that. I know when Richie passed away I was literally swallowed up in despair, so totally saturated in grief, that I wasn't able to be there for anyone else. I have never known such grief was possible until he committed suicide in his bedroom. I was utterly worthless to anyone. And it took me years and years to accept his passing. (If I have yet to fully accept it.) It seemed like such a needless thing to happen. But his heart was broken and he just couldn't foresee any sense in living on. He thought his life was over and in a very real sense I guess it was. I still miss him so much. Sometimes I wonder what my grandchildren from him would have looked like and been like. What he would have been like at 30 or 40 or even 50. What sort of man he would have become. And now I can only hope and pray that he died in the Lord. He didn't talk much about God and what he thought about religion so I don't even know if he knew the Lord. I just pray he did and leave it all in God's hands. There isn't really anything more that I can do. I pray that the Lord won't hold it against Richie that he was raised as a Jehovah's Witness because it wasn't his fault that he didn't get the truth during his life. I was a JW for over 13 years and of course I raised my boys as JWs too. I thought it was the right thing to do. Little did I know how wrong I was. The JWs don't have the truth. They have no hope of salvation. Their relationship with Jehovah is by association only. Because they associate with the "remnant" they claim to have a relationship with God. They can worship Jehovah because they keep all the rules and regulations but then the instant they make a mistake. Watch out. They lose their salvation. They are so steeped in error. It breaks my heart.

The leaves on our Redbud are really coming out beautifully. I love it when the sun shines directly through them and they take on that glowing quality, as if lighted from within. And we've had a whole new group of hummingbirds move into our area. They go through a feeder full of nectar in a matter of just hours it seems. I can't afford to buy anymore than one bottle of concentrate each month to mix with water for their feeder. I know I can dilute it down even more but that makes them have to work so hard to take in the amount of nectar they need to have. I just can't do that to them. They are so much fun to watch. Sometimes they chase each other off and sometimes there will be a hummer at each flower on the feeder with one or two circling around in a holding pattern. The new ones that have joined our regular group are quite a bit smaller than our original ones. And they are a slightly different color; more yellow to their breasts.

Well, dear friends, I will close off this blog with the admonition to stay in the Word. We were designed to be in the Word always. It is our sole source of strength and purpose. So join with me and stay in the Word so we can abide in Christ. You can't go wrong with that type of advice. Take care ...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

After the Fire

We had lots of excitement in the neighborhood last night just after 10:00. I went over to turn on the side porch light for my dog and all I could see through the glass door was a house on fire. I grabbed the phone, punched in 9-1-1, and tossed the phone to Michael (I can't hear) as I ran to the front door. I stood on the deck and watched the house burn as Michael finished his call to the fire department and slipped on his shoes. Then we took off for the house about 30 yards away. People were running everywhere trying to get water hoses on the fire. Oh, how I wanted to run up and help but I knew there were enough people there already doing all they could do. The entire back of the house was engulfed in flames and the roar of the fire was incredible. There were two very large explosions, one after the other, and the fire shot up to the top of a pine tree 100 feet in the air. A CHP officer arrived, then an ambulance, then a sheriff deputy, and then, finally, the fire trucks. There was so much activity it was exciting. I, of course, thought back to when I was 6 years old and our family's house burned in the middle of the night. Those kind of memories never fade. I remember my mother waking us up and my sisters and I holding onto each others' night gowns as we felt our way down the smoke-filled hallway. Memories.

We stayed and watched the activity until they got the fire pretty well knocked down and then we walked home. We have an excellent view out our glass sliding door from where I first saw the fire. We gave up and went to bed and fell asleep to the sounds of emergency vehicles idling into the night. We took a drive around the block this morning to check out what was left of the house and, sadly, there's nothing left. It was a total loss. It probably wouldn't have been so bad if the fire department had gotten on scene faster. It took them over 15 minutes to get here and we're only about a mile from the fire department. But we have an all-volunteer fire department so sometimes it takes longer for everyone to get to the fire station to staff the engines. Our street was completely blocked off by emergency vehicles for several hours. We just never know when tragedy is going to strike, do we? Living in a fallen world definitely has its drawbacks. But during trials of my own I can cling to the hope, "the assured expectation," that this life isn't all there is.

For in Christ the heart of the Father is revealed, and higher comfort there cannot be than to rest at the Father's bosom. In Him the fullness of the divine love is revealed, combined with the tenderness of a mother's compassion ... and what can comfort like this? In Him I see one thousand times more given to me than I have lost; I see how God takes from me in order that I might have room to take from Him that which is so much better. In Him, suffering is consecrated, and becomes for me the foretaste of eternal glory; in suffering it is that the Son of God and of glory rests on me. If I only abide in Christ in times of affliction, I will enhance my relationship with Him, and who could ask for more? The deeper experience of Christ's tenderness and the Father's love will urge me to live for His glory. In affliction I must abide in Christ. When I see it coming, I must meet it in Christ; and when it is here, I will feel that I am more in Christ than I am in it, for He is nearer to me than affliction ever can be.

My thoughts and words come readily when it is not my house sitting in ruin. I can still smell the burned and charred ruins where just hours ago someone sat living their life before affliction came to call. I want so to comfort the people who suffered such devastating loss last night yet I am fully convinced of this: God works in all ways to bring about the changes that are necessary to transform us into the image of His Son. I can only hope that I would still look on things the way I do if it had been my own loss. I must try to learn the blessed truth that in affliction my first, my only calling is to abide in Christ! I must be with Him alone. I must beware of the comfort and distractions that friends can often bring. I must learn to let Jesus Christ Himself be my chief companion and comforter. I must delight myself in the assurance that closer union with Him is sure to be the results of any trial, because it is the Father Himself who is doing the pruning, and He will ensure the fulfillment of the desire of my soul that yields itself to Him.

So even as I praise and thank God that my house is still whole, I know that it is a soul silent unto God that is the best preparation for knowing Jesus, and for holding fast the blessings He bestows. For surely there were blessings last night, lives intact, treasures spared. Yet, it is when the soul is hushed in silent awe and worship before the Holy Presence that reveals itself within that the still, small voice of the blessed Spirit will be heard.

Therefore, as I seek to better understand the blessed mystery of the ways in which God works, unhampered, to bring about His best, I must abide in Christ. I must have this as my first thought: "My soul, only be silent unto God; for my expectation is from Him" (Ps 62:5). I must learn that my great work is to listen and hear and believe what He promises; to watch and wait and see what He does; and then in faith, and worship, and obedience, to yield myself to His workings ... He alone who works in me and He works mightily.

So by the very grace of God, He has chosen not to bring ruin to my house, this time. The way grace comes to me is through total sacrifice and surrender of self. I must lay myself at Christ's feet, to be accepted and cleansed by Him. I must feel myself utterly powerless to attain to grace on my own. I abide in Christ more fully as I forsake all and follow Him. As I count all things loss, no more than dung, for His sake, I pray that I might be found in Him.

I praise God that it was not my house last night but I am fiercely aware that I can only trust I would think so clearly if it had been. That my soul would be so settled. And so I lift up these people who suffered such loss, and I praise and thank Him that they escaped with their lives. I realize that God uses all things to fit us into the shapes he designed us to be. But I know that my emotions would probably bring me down to a quivering mass unable to see God at work in my life, or worse, blaming Him. The entire idea of the surrender of all self-will, the complete denial to the flesh of it's every desire and pleasure, the perfect separation from the world in all its thinking and acting, the losing and hating of one's life, the giving up of self and it's interests for the sake of others ... this is the disposition which marks me as His when I take up Christ's cross and say, "I am crucified with Christ." May I always, especially during affliction and suffering, abide in Christ.

Lord, I praise You and thank you that it wasn't my house last night and that You have given me such clear insights today. I would just ask that You continue to work within me, shaping me more Christlike as You have patterned me to be, and make my heart and spirit strong. I fully realize it is only by Your grace that I have what I have today and it is only by Your grace that I keep it.