Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday's Musings

Here it is 14:12 hours and I'm still playing around on my computer. I think I'm going to have to be careful to not carry this blogging thing too far. It's scary how easy it is to get totally lost inside the blogging world and suddenly coming up for air to find the clock hands have spun around a few times on you. I wanted to do a devotional and have wanted to do that for the past month but I haven't had the time. And now that I have the time I find my mind blank! I finished my in-depth Bible study yesterday afternoon. (A day early because our cable service was out all yesterday afternoon and the house was nice and quiet and I just decided to go ahead and finish the study.) I have had a look at every book of the Bible, at the authors, and the extent of the message. Some books were just cursory glances, other were more detailed. But over all it has been a very profitable study and one that I will probably do again in a few years down the line. The cursory look at the Prophets has made me hungry for a more in-depth study of just them so that's my next endeavor, I think. I fell so much in love with them in this past study that I desire to go through them, looking a little closer and spending a little more time. What I got out of them this time is the fact that God lays bare His great big heart to us. He is so beseeching in the Prophets, wooing us to Himself. You can't read the Prophets and come away thinking that God just might not love you. He says, "See how much I love you and how much I long for you to love me?" He speaks over and over again of how much He desires us to come to Him in love and obedience and if we would just do that, we would see how truly good He desires our lives to be. You may already know that but I didn't before this study. I always thought of the Prophets as the place to see God's condemnation and words of judgment and while that does come into play, it was His incredible love for mankind that He revealed to me in this last study. Joel, Micah, Zephaniah, and some of the other small books are just ripe with God's pleadings for us to turn to Him. He has all this love and blessing that He desires to impart to us, if we would but come to Him. You can often hear the pain and desire in His voice. Over and over again He tells us of the blessings He has for His people. I'm spending a little time today playing those things around in my head trying to solidify the way I want to study them. I go in search of the Father's love so I don't know that commentaries are the way to approach this study. Has any of you found a rewarding way of studying the Bible on your own? If so, would you share?

Well, ladies, I blew it! I'm so put out with myself. This is Friday and my second Fasting Friday and an hour or so ago I reached into the fridge and pulled out a piece of turkey bologna and ate it, and THEN remembered that I'm not supposed to eat on Fridays. Rats! And then, when I ran out to the Post Office and the Bank, I stopped at my favorite mini-mart and bought myself some candy. BUT immediately after buying them I remembered, so I still have those. I didn't eat them. Why was it so hard for me to not eat today?! Habit!! It all falls back on habit. So I wondered if I should just called the day a total loss and go ahead and eat anything I wanted to but then thought, no, a partial fast is better than no fast at all when I've already told the Lord that I will be fasting for the day. The thing is that I knew it was a day of fasting, I'd already remembered that. I just without thinking put food in my mouth. (Maybe that has to do something with the weight gain I'm struggling with.) Well, like I said, a partial fast is better than no fast at all. Now this is for me ladies. I'm not saying that we must all fast or are in any way more special because we do fast or do anything else for that matter. This is just a personal thing I'm doing with the Lord. I felt led to fast but I have no idea why. This is all part of the new relationship that the Lord and I are building. He has become so active in my life and He has me doing incredible things. Things I would never have done on my own. In fact, some are things I was almost against. Things like fasting, journaling, and tithing. Oh and my manner of dress. There's this whole new sense of self I have with God now. Why would these things be important in any way? To me or to anyone else? And yet, I feel His nudges and checks with all of them. It's really sort of weird. Weird but wonderful. I really think what the Lord is showing me is just the incredible amount of freedom we have in Christ. I've always thought of not doing things as my freedom from the Law, from all the rules and regulations. And now it's almost like God is saying, "Yes, child, but you have the freedom to DO these things as well as to not do them. I'm ashamed to admit it but I think there was a bit of pride in my choices to NOT to do certain things. And now God is showing me that I have just as much freedom with or without choices I make (and others too by extension). I don't know if I'm making myself clear here and really I guess it is such a small matter that I probably shouldn't be looking into it at all. Sort of a NON-ISSUE. But it's fun to know the Lord is doing things in your life that only a matter of months or years ago were so totally unimportant to me. God is just showing me that people who love and worship Him are just as free to keep the rules as they are to NOT keep the rules. Anyway, for whatever reason and forever how long, I am finding myself doing things I used to pride myself in NOT doing. I know. It doesn't make sense to me either. Ha! It is just incredible to feel the Lord working in our lives, isn't it? I just love it! And it's amazing how we can work pride into all the things we do (or don't do) without even noticing.

My beloved is out working on his latest play thing ... the bus. I was starting to feel guilty because the only thing I've accomplished today were my morning chores and errands. But I guess if he can play all day, so can I. We're just going to have hot dogs for dinner [we grilled a bunch the other night just to have on hand, ready to eat (all we have to do is nuke them); they taste entirely different after they've been grilled] so, that being said, I don't have to be planning or preparing for dinner. I love it that he is as casual about food as I am. No, I don't think casual is the right word for me. Rebellious is more like it, ha! The fact that we are required to spend so much of our time and energy around this silly habit we all have of eating several times a day! And the fact that I spent the last 35 years coming up with menu ideas and dinner plans and have suddenly decided to rebel. We still have to cook but both of us are interested in just doing the basics and go back to formal dining when we get around to it. I went through a phase almost 10 years ago when I was really into cooking. I watched all the TV shows about cooking (now they an entire network dedicated to cooking!) and subscribed to a couple food magazines. I really had fun but I didn't have much of anything else. I was so busy planning and preparing our next meal that nothing else got done. As you can tell I'm a real phase-er. I go all out for one thing and then after a little while it's something else that has my interest. [The thought of that candy in the kitchen just waiting until 6:00PM has my mouth watering and all this talking about food isn't helping so I think I'll go on to something else.]

Pastor just called and we're going to do communion a little differently this Sunday so I won't have to get up early and get to church at the crack of dawn (what feels like it anyway) just to get everything ready beforehand. And that means there won't be a lot of clean up afterward so I'm going to get off lightly. I'm glad he thought to call me and let me know. Last time he forgot to call and we had to do it a little differently than he had wanted. But it taught him to remember to call me ahead of time when he wants to do this.

Today is another beautiful day up here in the Sierra foothills. A good stiff breeze is blowing and the sun is bright and the skies are clear. We've had more wind in the past couple weeks than we've ever had before though. There were con trails marking the sky when I went out to run errands and for some reason I thought of those old westerns I used to watch that had con trails in the sky above the horses and stagecoaches. Guess when you're making a movie you can spend time worrying about little things like that. It's like watching an old Rockford Files where the car screeches to a stop or slides around the corner in the chase scene and you see all the rubber on the road from all the practice runs they've made before filming. It's always funny to see things like that. I saw an Alien movie once that was supposed to be our first landing on mars and there were tire tracks all over the place on this never-before visited planet.

Well, this has been a real nothing post! Sorry! And with that I think I'll put this poor thing out of its misery and publish it. I will try really hard to come up with a devotional for my next blog. Something other than ramblings. But if you've been feeling the Lord really working in your life, would you share that with me on this blog. He does things so differently with everyone that it's really fun to read. What is He doing for you in your life?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Just Another Day

Well today was going to be different. I was going to start doing morning chores again the way I did last year since that worked out really well for me. But the key to morning chores is to decide that they have to be completed before turning on the computer. The problem is that I woke up before 5:00 and had to get up to go the bathroom and in doing that my back seems to have gone out (it's been an on-again-off-again thing for the better part of 3 weeks now) so I decided not to go back to bed and just lay there and hurt. I decided to stay up and hurt, lol! But because my beloved is still asleep and I don't want to wake him I can't do my morning chores because 1) he's still asleep in the bed so I can't make it up, and 2) my other chores will make too much noise. So it looks like I'll start my new chore routine tomorrow.

I am so close now to having my big Bible study finished that I'm getting antsy. You must understand that this was a major undertaking. It's a 30-day study, using a 500+ page textbook, that I will finish up on Friday. Yea! Don't get me wrong; I've enjoyed every lesson it's just that it's been such a massive undertaking that if I'd know how all encompassing it was going to be I probably wouldn't have decided to do it. The lessons average about 2 hours a day, every day. There's about an hour's worth of reading in the Bible and then another hour's worth reading in the textbook. I don't really have questions to answer with every lesson, well, I mean, I do but they are thought questions. Things to ponder and figure out how to apply what I've learned to my daily life. This study has taken me from Genesis through to Revelation by Friday. I've looked fairly closely at every book in the Bible and I feel I have a whole new appreciation for it. This study has given me a better overall sense of the Bible and how all it's parts are actually well-connected to each other. Anyway it's been an incredible journey but I will be glad to get it all done and have all that work behind me. I have several options left open for me to do when I finish this study: I have a Bible study book on Philippians and Colossians and another one on Romans that I could start. I also want to go back through the Prophets and look at them more closely. I looked at all of them in this current study but that just made me thirsty for more of them. And finally I want to start a long-term project to create my own paraphrase of the Psalms. That is something that would take me months if not years to do. So I have plenty of things to do but I think I will take a week off and spring clean my house before I tackle another study. My house could really use that and I think I could use the mental break. My brain's a bit boggy lately from so much reading. Actually I think my brain was pretty boggy on it's own before I took on this latest study.

I have had several readers to my blogs which gives me a thrill. It's so much fun to hear the comments of others. I haven't thought of my recent blogs as anything but rambling conversations for the entire month of May (while I've been wrapped up in this study) but I keep writing every few days so people won't think I've decided not to blog anymore. I will get back to my own devotional creations after this study. I hope. That's my plan anyway. Some people blog so sporadically that you get tired of checking their blog just to find out that there's nothing new for the last week or so and you can easily get out of the habit of checking their blogs or just flat out give up. I don't promise to write every day but I rarely let more than 3 days go by without something. When I first started blogging I wrote every day, Monday thru Friday. But that took the fun out of it. So I backed off and gave myself a little breathing room and it has worked out better for me. Of course I used to write more creative stuff like devotionals and I hope to get back to that but for the time being my mind is too boggy.

You know, God is so good to us. It boggles my mind to wrap my brain around this incredible God we have. He is just so big!!! And I can't for the life of me see how people can make it through this life without God leading them. When we open ourselves up to God and at the same time deny self amazing things happen. If I dedicate my time to Him, He will come in and fill me with His presence. Isn't that amazing? It just blows me away that God, the very God of the universe, is interested in little insignificant me. He's got galaxies to run and He cares that my back hurts. Why would He care about me? Because He created me. Because He's a relational God. He desires to have a relationship with me. But I can't help asking why? Why would He care about me? And all I can come up with for an answer us because He wants to. Isn't that amazing? It leaves me speechless when I stop and think about it. Why would He come into my life and sanctify me, set me apart as His own chosen vessel? Why would He bother when He has the entire universe to sustain? It just blows me away.

Looks like it's going to be another sunny day outside. Yesterday was a strange day. It was bright and sunny all day and then just before dark it clouded up and rained for half an hour, giving us .12 of an inch. It is so beautiful living up here in the foothills of the Sierra mountains. I mean most of the spring green has turned early to the browns of summer and it's easy to miss the beauty up here. I just love the fact that it's not wall-to-wall parking lots and office buildings like down in the Valley. When I sit at my computer and look to my right I can see out my sliding glass doors and view Hogback mountain covered in trees and shrubs. I actually have 3 "layers" or ridge lines, I guess is a better way of saying it, and each one is a million shades of green. During the afternoons there are always carrions, hawks and vultures mostly, gliding through the thermal up-drafts looking for prey on the ground. A tasty little rodent maybe. You see so much life up here that you don't see down in the Valley. I wouldn't trade living up here for any other place in the world. Oh I have my problems when July hits us with the 110 - 114 degree afternoons. That's too hot in anybody's book. But that usually lasts no more than a week. A very long and miserable week, I agree, but it's certainly worth enduring one week of misery for the rest of the year. We have the disadvantage of not having the shopping available to us but we do fine with what we have. It's an entirely different life up here. Slower. Quieter. More intimate.

I want to take up walking again. I need the exercise and walking is so good for you. I always feel like a million dollars when I'm walking several miles a day. I don't know what it is but there's just something to it that makes me feel good. Of course one thing is that when I used to walk (4-6 miles a day) I spent the entire time praying out loud to my Savior. That always made it a special time. But before I can do that I have to let my back heal. It's so inconvenient to try to live with a bad back. It affects everything you do or want to do. And bad backs seem to be going around, lol. My beloved had a bad back for a few days and my sister said her back has been real touchy for a week or more. Oh well, grin and bear it, I guess. It certainly doesn't do any good to fret about it.

It's so much fun to have the Holy Spirit active in your life. You never really know what He's going to do next. But every day is an opportunity for Him to teach us and direct us down new and exciting paths. His "job" is to prune us and shape us into the persons God wants us to be. We all are being transformed into the image of His Son. As adopted children we are entitled to the same kind of instruction and guidance that Jesus had while He was on earth. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the Christian life. Without Him it's impossible for us to live the kind of life, the abundant life, that God wants us to have. Although we're adopted, we have all the rights of a natural-born son. Jesus gladly shares His inheritance with us and we are blessed beyond words. Having been a JW I've come to appreciate this truth in every way possible. There is no personal relationship for the average JW. The Holy Spirit is God's "active force" like electricity. He's not a person. And Jesus was not divine. Jesus was the first thing God created and then through Jesus every thing else was created. Jesus was Jehovah's master worker and nothing more. Jehovah was the architect and Jesus was the contracted builder.

Such an empty cult. I was dry and thirsty at all times although I pretty well had myself convinced that I was doing just fine. See the thing is, with the JWs you have all these rules you have to keep. And the idea is to fool yourself into thinking that you're keeping all the rules. And you can do pretty good as long as you stay away from rules like: Do not covet. On that you have to pretend. You have to try and fool yourself. When Jesus came, He dealt with all our "want tos." Through Christ we find forgiveness for our sinful cravings. With the JWs you just tried to pretend you're keeping all the rules and hope that Jehovah will forgive you because you do keep so many of the rules. But see the thing is, God requires that we either keep 100% of the rules, 100% of the time, or we rest in the work that Christ has done and ask for forgiveness and then relinquish our lives over to the Lord. We know it's impossible to keep all the rules all the time so that leaves us with one option; accepting the free gift of grace in exchange for our "old man." No one can keep all the rules all the time because Jesus explained that it's the "spirit" of the laws that matter. You don't kill anyone? Well, good for you, but even murderers know killing someone is wrong. You don't steal from anyone? Great, but have you ever wanted to? Have you ever wished it would be okay just this once to take this one little thing that the other person has more of than he needs anyway. You haven't committed adultery? That's good but have you ever been tempted to? You don't swear? How about silently that time your thumb got in the way of your hammer? So see, all JWs and other cults like them are only superficially clean. That's what irked Jesus so much with the Pharisees. They were spotless on the outside but inside they were full of dead man's bones. It is humanly impossible to live the type of life that God requires us to live and that's where grace comes in. Grace bridges the gap between our fallen selves and our holy God. Grace is the Magic Rub eraser that cleans up all the smudges.

But JWs and those like them have no grace in their theology. It's all nothing but a man-made religion and it's one that God won't honor. It's thumbing your nose at what Jesus did on the cross. It's saying I don't need your grace, Jehovah, because I keep all the rules. I mean, when have You seen me murder or steal or commit adultery? It's all so sad. There are millions of Jehovah's Witnesses in this world and they are to be pitied. They have no real hope. Their hope is bound up in crossed fingers and closed eyes. Oh, I hope I make it! I hope I make it! Jesus said we cannot get to the Father except through Him. He is our saving grace. He set aside all His rights to His Godship, emptied Himself, and took on human flesh. He lived and obey and died in our place, paying the price to buy us out of the bondage to sin. And He freely puts Paid in Full on our account and all we have to do is accept this incredible gift and give our lives over to Him. And He requires 100% of our lives. We can't keep a little bit of it for ourselves. We can't hang on to those "works" because the only "work" that matters is the work Jesus did at Calvary. We must say to ourselves and to our God that we can't do this work and in faith accept Christ's work on our behalf. What an astonishing God!! He is so good. He gives us all this and all He asks is our faith, which He gladly supplies us, and the turning over of our lives to Him. It's letting Him make all our decisions and it's us letting Him have total control of every aspect of our lives. It's holding nothing back but surrendering our all to Him.

So the next time a JW comes to your door, don't be rude. You are a representative of Christ and His love even to them. If they want to study with you tell them you'll study the Bible with them but only the Bible. No "study aids" and see how they do. Take them through Romans verse by verse and teach them. They cannot study the Bible that way. That's totally foreign to them. They are so doctrinally oriented that they can only function by using the study aids that spell out all the rules and regulations. My guess is that they will turn away and say it must be done their way or they want no part. But how do you know that you won't find the one soul secretly searching for the fulfillment that only a life in Christ can give them. You just might be able to open their eyes. But never, never study doctrine. It will just turn into an argument and no body benefits.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Just Thinking

Another thing that the Lord has recently done in my life is that He has me tithing. It's funny how this worked out because I always gave a certain amount weekly in my church offering plate and then several months back I thought maybe I should start tithing. I felt it was time to make some kind of commitment. I thought that was the least I could do. So I figured up the 10% and discovered I was already giving 10%! So the only difference now, I guess, is that I can't go lower than what I've been giving. But I'm also giving the 10% on any money that comes my way as a gift or with the recent IRS Stimulus check. I now think of it all as God's money out of which He gives me a share. But it's funny that I was always so adamant that I was no longer under law and as such, I could give whatever I wanted to give. I never thought that I would ever "tithe." I was above tithing. lol. I always gave but I was "free" to give what I wanted. (I'm trying to explain my mindset here.) When I left the Jehovah's Witnesses and found true freedom in Christ I automatically thought "I don't have to give 10%, I'm free." And, yes, I am free but it suddenly came to me that I am just as free to give my tithe. Isn't it funny the way our minds work? And then to find out that I was already tithing was a riot to me. (I have a strange sense of humor!) I had thought I was so "spiritual" to be giving just what I wanted to give and not a penny more or a penny less. No one could tell me how much to give to my Lord, no siree! So anyway, it was funny to me how this all came about. And what have I accomplished, you ask? Not really anything except that I'm conscious of the fact that I tithe and that I have been tithing all along. A small matter that no one else would give any thought to. My mind just works in funny ways and I'm so aware of the changes I'm going experiencing as I'm being put through the sanctification process.

Isn't God simply amazing? I see Him being active in my life every single day. He's in my decision-making and in my relationships with others and with my beloved. He is so active in my life. And I've discovered (through blogging) that He's active in every body's life. That came as such a shock to me. That He is just as active in other people's lives as He is in mine. What an amazing God! This is so different from being a JW which is this incredibly dry and empty cult. A dangerous cult. Looking back I can't believe I fell for so many of Satan's lies. But it was so easy then. Just obey all the rules and everything's okay. (Or more truthfully, pretend to keep all the rules.) But there was nothing internal about those beliefs back then. It was all external and all we talked about were the different "classes" of people. There was nothing personal. There was nothing inside of me at all but fear that I'd break a rule and be rejected. There was no such thing as grace. I was always fearful of being cast out for "conduct unbecoming a Christian." Can you believe we actually called ourselves Christians? I can't. Not after experiencing what it really means to be a Christian. God is such a personal and relational God. He is so full of love for us as individuals. I think it's absolutely amazing that He heard my prayers, my longings and cravings for a real relationship with Him and He took the initiative and called me to Himself. There is no way I would ever have had the courage to leave all that error on my own. He called me out of darkness and into His unbelievable light! We have an amazing God. And I will praise Him every day of my life.

And yet another thing that God is doing in my life is that He's given me an all new appreciation for my marriage and my husband, who I call my beloved because he is. He is my very best friend and a terrific companion. We think so much alike and are interested in so many of the same things. It's almost scary. He is a baptized believer but he isn't active with church. I don't know how that works because there's no way I could avoid being active. I love being a deacon! I love so much being involved. I enjoy doing things for my church family. This coming Sunday is communion Sunday and we're also having a baptism and those fall onto my shoulders. I do communion from start to finish but I just sort of "help out" with the baptisms. I always bring all the wet robes and towels home and launder them and I help clean up the mess baptisms make. All the wet rugs and runners have to be carried outside to dry, etc. Anyway, back to my marriage. The Lord has done such a good job there totally renewing my commitment to my beloved. I actually look for things to do for him, things that I know please him. I feel fulfilled when I know he's happy. It all boils down to an emptying of self. To live sacrificially within the institution of marriage. I'm not happy unless I am busy making him happy. I love him with the deepest kind of human love and I fully believe it's meant to be this way. But do I pray for his state of non-interest in church activities. But he does go with me to small group and has been for quite a little while now. And I'm so grateful for that. God will pull him around. I know He will.

I've spent so much time blogging the last few days that I wonder if this isn't bad in some way. Maybe I need to budget my blogging time. Has anyone else had this happen and if so, how did you handle your situation? I love blogging and reading blogs because other people's blogs are so interesting and the fact that they are all faith-related blogs gives me comfort in that I'm not really wasting my time but, then again, maybe I am. I'm open for suggestions. It seems like I am either blogging or reading. Maybe I need a little balance. Last summer the Lord moved me to make mental lists of morning chores and evening chores. Well, I've kept with the evening chores but some how along the way I lost my morning chores. I think I need to go back to them. It was just 5 or 6 things that I made myself do every morning before I turned on my computer. I think I need to go back to that. How do you budget your time? How do you keep your computer time to reasonable amounts? I don't function as well without "chores" as I do with them. I tend to waste a lot of time.

My hubby wants me to go to the Post Office. And I still have so many things to do that need to be done so I think I'm going to have to get off this computer and spend some time taking care of other responsibilities. I didn't really have anything to write about anyway. It's just that I needed to say more of what the Lord is doing in my life. Some of the changes in me are so subtle and of such little consequence to anyone but me that I don't know why He bothers sometimes. But it's an act of sanctification. He is changing me into the person He wants me to become for Him. But they are critical changes to me. My "inner man" is being changed, or exchanged for the life of Christ. It's just amazing to see Him be so active and to be fully cognizant that it is Him living His life through me. And then the real topper is to see through blogging that He is just as active in everyone else's lives. What an awesome God! Sorry this has been such a nothing blog. I haven't had time to think of blogs to write because my in-depth Bible study takes so much of my time and thought processes that I don't have anything left for creating interesting blogs. But I wanted to blog so you'll know that I'm thinking of all of you and mentioning you in my prayers. I'm just blown away with how good God is! And busy!!! I still look back at the 13 years as a JW with so much regret, but I know that all was not lost because He heard my prayers while I was steeped in error and He called me out to His wonderful Truth. It's amazing.

I finish my big Bible Study on Friday of this week so maybe I can get back to writing real blogs again instead of just my ramblings. Stay close to our Savior.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Surprise A Short Blog

Surprise! I just felt the need to blog tonight so here it is. We had a terrific day today. Had a lazy morning and then went across the river to big sister's house where we ate and played dominoes and then ate some more. [I know that's not part of my diet, but didn't my fast yesterday count for something?] It was raining when I got up and it rained all day. I dumped the rain gauge this evening and recorded .59 of an inch. Not too shabby when all that had been forecasted for the foothills was scattered showers. We even turned on the heater when we got back from across the river just to take the chill off. After the 109 degree days of last week, this has been such a blessing!!

Yesterday was my first fast and everything went perfectly. I got hungry but I never reached the point of panting after food thoughts. Although I am anticipating something like that might happen one of these Fridays. If that happens I guess my "test will be in the pudding" as they say. Or in this case, no pudding allowed. I don't know why I suddenly decided I wanted to give fasting a try except to say that I think it had something to do with Jesus' words "when you fast" in Matthew. I mean it was an assumption of His that I would fast. He didn't say "if you fast" He said "when." He just assumed that I would be fasting. So I picked Fridays and we'll see what happens.

The Lord has been doing a lot of really neat stuff in my life right now. Like the fasting on Fridays. And He's had me doing this study for the past month which, I might add, I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned a few things in the process [like the fact that the Prophets just lay God's big beautiful heart out before you as He woos us to Himself]. I can't believe I have only a few more days left. I'm using the book Know the Bible in 30 Days (like someone could really do that). But I thought why not check it out and I sent off to Guideposts for it. And it turned out to be a huge textbook of over 500 pages. There are 30 days in May and 30 chapters in the book. It takes me around 2 hours to do a day's study when you count the time spent reading the Bible passages you're supposed to read along with the chapter in the textbook--and I have read every one of them--and I did today's study yesterday because I knew I was going to be gone today. I would recommend it to anyone who has the time. (I guess that's one of the blessings of having not having children at home--I have lots of free time.)

The Lord also had me start journaling about 7 months ago. Wow! What a blessing that has turned out to be. In fact I wrote an entire blog about journaling just a little ways back. A week maybe??? Anyway you can scroll down and check out that blog if you're really interested. All I will say about it now is that I just wish I had started writing prayer journals 20 years ago when I came to Christ. It has created a whole new area of intimacy with my Lord and Savior, and I guess now I could add Confidant. Please, if you've never tried it. Give it a whirl. You won't necessarily reap the blessings immediately, but they will come. I think I had been journaling for about 3 months before I could really see the blessing that it had become for me. And now I can't go to sleep at night unless I've spent time in my journal.

Another thing the Lord is doing is this weird thing about skirts and dresses. I am a natural slob when it comes to my attire. Gasp!! I have to admit it. I am never comfortable unless I have on jeans and a T-shirt or shorts and a T-shirt. I have even been known to go to church in my jeans and a dressy top (as I said, I'm a fashion slob, I go strictly for comfort, you get the picture???). Well lately it's been really weird. All I seem to want to wear are skirts and dresses to church.
And I went shopping last Tuesday and bought 3 pairs of pantyhose!!! I know, it's really weird! I have had one pair of pantyhose for the past 5 years, well, maybe 4, so you can kind of figure out how often I used to wear pantyhose. Now I up and buy 3 pair just because I happened to sit at church last Sunday and wondered what would happen if I got a run in the pair I had. This is unheard of from me! So now I'm wondering what's up with this business? What are people going to think when they realize that they can't remember the last time they saw me in jeans? I even wore a skirt around the house all last week when it was so hot. Weird. Really weird.

Tonight I went blogging. I'd check out someone's blogroll and link to someone else and then link off them to someone else and I had a ball. The only problem is that I no more than turned around and it had been over 90 minutes since I'd come up for air. (Another blessing: I can do that now that I don't have children around.) But it was a lot of fun reading all these blogs about children and homeschooling. I miss having children. I miss having children a lot. But I went in search for answers and the Lord has shown me that I have the time, now that I don't have children, to do in-depth Bible studies and I have time to become so in love with Him that my day simply can't start until I've said "good morning" to Him. And it can't end until I've "talked" with Him for an hour or so every night in my prayer journal. Here I was feeling sorry for myself because I'm a grandmother without little children to love and He goes and shows me how much more time I have to fall in love with Him. God is so good!!!

I can't wait to see what He's going to teach me next. And I have learned that as long as we keep our hearts open to Him He will come in and fill them up. What an awesome God! Don't we have an awesome God? Yes, of course, we have an awesome God!! Keep writing your blogs and I will keep reading them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Jesus: Doorway to the Father

John 14:6-11

A large percentage of westerners claim to "know God" and therefore call themselves Christians. But many of them do not believe in Jesus or His assertion that He is the Son of God. It is imperative that we recognize the fact that a person cannot know the Father and be His child unless he or she has already received Jesus Christ and has entered into an intimate and deeply personal relationship with Him.

Jesus is the doorway to salvation. But it's not enough to just "know God" in the sense of simply realizing that there is a supreme Being, God. Jesus taught us that without faith in Him, it is impossible to come to the Father in any way (v6). We must remember that God is holy and He cannot tolerate sin in His presence. And we, along with the rest of civilization, are sinners (Ps 53:1-3). Simply and factually stated: Jesus died in our place to pay our debt and thereby bridged the gap between us, as impure people, and holy God. But any person who receives His sacrifice for sin is forgiven, and declared righteous, and welcomed into close fellowship with God.

Jesus is the doorway to revelation. He was the earthly representation of the One He knew in heaven to be His Father. And Christ's life among us provides the most complete picture we have of God the Father. Through the Son's actions, choices, and teachings, we learn how the Almighty God thinks and what He desires from His followers and what pleases Him and makes him smile.

Jesus boldly stated that He and His Father are one (John 10:30). So omitting Christ from their religious beliefs and practices leaves people with a tainted, narrow, and inaccurate view of their Creator. The fact of the matter is that we can't know God unless we get to know the Son first. And the Son's two-fold purpose is to reveal His Father and bring all people into a vibrant and loving relationship with Him.


Well, I ended up having to borrow the idea for today's devotional but my mind this morning was like a blank piece of paper on which words simply refused to be formed. My brain is more than just a little bit boggy this morning. It just doesn't seem to want to function properly. As I feared, I woke up totally oblivious to the fact that it's Friday and I'm going to fast on Fridays. I had even made a big sign and put it in the kitchen to remind myself not to eat. Well, God was faithful. I forgot and didn't notice the sign I'd put up but the Lord kept me from putting anything in my mouth other than soda and I had already agreed that sodas would be okay just starting out. So even though it could have been disastrous for my first fast ever the Lord kept me true to my pledge. I'm not expecting to get anything out of this fast except hunger of course but I've made up my mind to do this.

lazydranch8 is homeward bound but they aren't making a straight way home. They've got some plans to visit people on the way back and to also visit a few sights. They had a little trouble with Brn Sugar's breathing and had to make a trip to the emergency room but she appears to be okay now. Reminds me of when Ken was a baby with asthma. He had a lot of runs to ERs and doctors' offices. It made for some very scary times. You know what I like best about knowing Heather and her family? The fact that their lives revolve around their religion. They don't live and happen to "do" church; they live church and do life! They are such an amazing and encouraging family. And I pray that someday she will meet a man that feels the same way. No one will ever replace Eric but a man can come along who will give her the companionship she needs. I pray for that for her. She is a remarkable woman the way she has carried on after Eric's tragic death and I just pray for the best for her.

M just got back from the nursery with a small flat of flowers for me to use to replace the Mother's Day flowers that didn't make the transplanting process. These are good hearty plants and they will do well in full sun. So now you know what I'm going to be doing after I finish this blog.

Looks like we have another windy day today. Although it's not as strong as it was yesterday. And it's much cooler today. I'm sitting here with M's hoodie on and I'm still a bit chilled. But just a bit. We've got wildfires burning in parts of California. The governor was on TV awhile ago talking about the fires. This is so early in the year to have wildfires. I think that spells out a rough fire season this year. Hopefully I'm wrong. But I've just never seen wildfires this early in the year. It could be a disastrous year.

I guess I better go plant those flowers and get a few things done around here. It is already noon and I've accomplished nothing except I did get my hair washed and styled. My bed is still unmade, even. And I need to do tomorrow's study today along with today's study because we are going to be gone tomorrow. We're going across the river to my sister's house for an afternoon of dominoes and fun. So I won't have time tomorrow to do its study. I don't know when I'll blog again but I doubt it will be before Monday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

God is Good, All the Time

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18) So says our Lord. When this was spoken, Jesus was speaking to the crowds that had gathered to hear Him speak. He had just finished the Beatitudes and then had gone on to explain a few things. He talked of salt and light, the fulfillment of the Law, murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, eye for eye, love for enemies, giving to the needy, prayers and fasting and He went on the give His "take" on several more thoughts. He took common beliefs and practices and expanded on them to promote a clearer understanding of what they all meant and how we are supposed to conduct ourselves with each other. Everything written in the Ten Commandments and the entire Bible, for that matter, is relational. It deals with either our relationships with each other or our relationships with God. After finishing with these thoughts Jesus moves into the area I want to concentrate on today: Prayer and fasting.

The first thing you can't miss is the assumption of the practice of fasting. It doesn't say "if" you fast, but rather "when" you fast. It is automatically assumed that if you're a follower after God's own heart, you fast. And fast is always coupled with pray. Have you ever noticed that? I have to very quickly state that I don't know what it means to fast. Oh, I know it means to abstain from food. What I mean is that I don't fully understand why going without food is a good thing. What is there about denying ourselves that God finds so pleasing? I don't have the answer. The one thing I do know is that Jesus automatically assumed I would be fasting and praying. Quite honestly I've always thought of fasting as, well, old fashioned. Out of date. It is something that is no longer necessary. And while it isn't necessary for our salvation, it is something that the early Christians found binding to their spiritual nature. We don't need to fast to be saved but obviously it is a discipline that Jesus assumed would be part of our lives. And if Jesus "assumed" it would be, then perhaps I ought to give it a try. Maybe it's like journaling in that you have to do it for a period of time before you can begin to see the benefits of doing it.

Fasting was done both in the Old and New Testaments. Sometimes it was part of a religious ceremony or was done while mourning. Sometimes people did it as a group and sometimes it was done individually. The point is, it was done. And then here Jesus comes along and assumes it's a common practice. Truthfully, I don't know a single soul who has fasted for any purpose. No wait, that's not true any longer. My church did the 40 Days of Purpose campaign last fall and one of my friends fasted for a day during that but she had never fasted before and I don't know if she's done it since. I have never fasted. But I'm thinking that maybe I should. It just seems that the Lord is doing so many incredible things in my life in the last year or so. A year or so ago I decided to begin tithing my money. When I cash my check I immediately ask for the bills I need to slip inside my envelopes that add up to my percentage. I choose to give weekly so I put an equal amount in all four envelopes BEFORE I do anything else with my money. We just recently got a stimulus payment from the IRS and I took out my tithe before I did anything else. And while tithing is not required (because truth be told, ALL my money belongs to God) I have found a real peace over giving since I started tithing. In the past I was never at peace with what I gave. And now, even though I wish I could give more, I sense a real peace about what I give. It's almost as if the Lord pats me on the shoulder and says "you give out of your total, not out of your abundance, and you give first" and He gives me a real sense of peace about the entire issue. At first it was hard to tithe because I'd think about the things I could do with that money but I kept at it and suddenly I was at peace. I no longer felt like I was cheating God. Also over the last year or so I've had this real desire to go to church on Sundays. It's no longer something I think I should do. It's something that I don't feel satisfied without doing. And now my journaling. This is my journey; my walk with our Lord. These are the kind of changes the Lord desires for us to make and when we make up our minds then He steps in and gives us the strength and courage to do it. All that being said, I have decided to fast on Fridays. I won't eat until after 6:00 that evening. I will start out by allowing myself to have soft drinks during the day but then I will move on to denying myself anything but water from the time I get up Friday morning until after 6:00 that evening. I don't really expect to get anything out of it because I've never done it but I won't be the least bit surprised if the Lord blesses me for my efforts. Every time I feel a pang of hunger it will be like an internal alarm clock going off to remind me to pray. I wish I had a way of explaining to you how monumental some of these changes in my life have been over the past year or so. But the part I don't want you to miss is the fact that God blesses my efforts when I've made a commitment and held true to it. I'd like to challenge you to do the same thing. Let's just give fasting a try and see what happens? I'm going to do it. Every Friday.

As I've already said, I don't know what the value of fasting is but what I do know is that Jesus expects me to do it, to fast. That's a sobering thought when I consider that I've never once fasted unto the Lord. After all these years. I'm ashamed to say that I've never done it. But it's the ugly truth. So I'm going to try fasting and just see what happens. I anticipate being blessed. I don't know how or when but, judging by the differences in other disciplines over the past year or so, it ought to be a doozy. You know the Lord has done incredible things in my life. And I know He wants to do so much more. All I have to do is to be willing to give His way a try; to open my heart and my mind fully to Him and, well, just be willing. I'll let you know how my fasting habit progresses.

My study is going really well. I'm enjoying it immensely. I'm going to miss it when I have it completed. I may go right back through the book again. I'm seriously considering that. But I also want to go back and look at the prophets more closely and more thoroughly. And I want to paraphrase the Psalms in my own words (this one will probably be something I'll work on occasionally over a long period of time). Plus, yesterday when we went shopping I paid the Christian bookstore a visit and came away with a couple new things to study. I picked up a "Christianity 101" study of Philippians/Colossians: Experiencing the Joy of Knowing Christ. Also Warren Wiersbe's Be Right, his take on the book of Romans. If I had the money, I would buy every study aid in the store. I just can't seem to let a day go by without studying something. Which reminds me that I still have today's study to do. And I know this has been a very boring blog. I apologize for that. I really should have waited to write until I had something to write. But I've been thinking about fasting for a while now and I thought if I sat down and wrote out my feelings I'd have a better chance of being successful. You don't mind being my sounding board, do you? I didn't think so.

I promise next time to do a little research and write a devotional for you. Those at loveforliberia are doing better now. Stacy had malaria and was sick for a week and Dan had dysentery and was flat on his back for two days. Jakin is seeing a chiropractor for his hip injury and Ashton is not coming back from his malaria as quickly as he should be. Lazydranch8 is having a very good time on their trip and have had no more car trouble. She's a long way from home to have something go wrong. Keep her and her six kids in your prayers. And finally, womanoffaith1 seems to be doing better too. There has been so much illness around my blogging group. I hope I can't catch anything through the keyboard. LOL

Well, this has got to be the worst blog I've ever written. Sorry. Maybe I should just post it and put it out of its misery! Until next time...

Monday, May 19, 2008


For 20 years I've read and been told that every Christian should keep a prayer journal. I ignored that advice for the first 12-15 years and then I actually tried to keep one off and on. But I was never successful at it. I just couldn't stick with it for some reason. Then I bought a book to be my journal and had it laying around the house for 6 months without picking it up for any reason other than to dust it. Then seven months ago I decided it was time to give it another try. It was hard at first and sometimes I would go a couple days between entries, but I did my best to stick with it. And it wasn't long until I was journaling every day and actually looking forward to it. It got to where if I'd forget about it and go to bed without journaling, I would get back up and sit on the couch and journal for as long as I needed to. The past few months I haven't missed a day and my day wouldn't feel complete without writing in my journal. I have to say these past seven months have been such a blessing to me once I got over the struggle to establish the habit of spending time in it every day. If you don't journal, may I encourage you to give it a try. It's just amazing what a blessing it has become for me.

What do I write in it? Everything. Nothing is off limits. Whatever is on my mind and heart will end up in my journal before I go to sleep. And after awhile it became such a comfort to just take it all to the Lord in my journal. I prayed once and asked what God would want me to pray about and His answer was "Just tell me about your day." Clear. Short. Simple. And that's how I started out. Just writing about my day and writing down what was on my heart. Things I looked forward to and things I regretted. I wrote out my thank yous and requests. And before I knew it I began to see a pattern. God was at work in my journal. I sit down with pencil in hand and He tells me what to write. Before I knew it I was not only recording my requests and questions I was also recording their answers. Like tonight. I was writing about an incident that happen last week and I was just writing about it, that my feelings were really, really hurt and I asked the Lord what possible good could come out of this situation and before I finished recording my question I had God's answer. This has happened several times now and it seems to be happening more frequently. It is really the next best thing to sitting beside my Lord and asking Him questions personally. It is just so rewarding to have those answers often before I've even finished asking the question. So I'm able to record the answers right after asking the question. Now if I'm praying for something to happen or I'm praying for someone's health I can't expect an immediate answer to those kinds of requests. But I'm able to ask the questions ... and get the answers! This didn't happen right away, as soon as I began journaling, but it's happened now several times and just once makes it worthwhile!

So if you haven't taken up journaling I'd sure like to encourage you to try. I don't go in for fancy stuff; I just used a little spiral binder with a built-in elastic band to keep it closed that I bought at WalMart for $3+. So any blank book will work, you needn't spend a lot of money on one. Once you have your journal you'll probably sit there with pencil in hand and a blank mind, wondering what in the world you were supposed to write. I did. I couldn't think of anything to write and so I wrote that I couldn't think of anything to write. And then I wrote how that made me feel. And then before I knew it I had a paragraph written. I usually journal in the evenings before going to bed but you can journal any time you want. You pick the time and the place. The thing to do is to get yourself into the habit of doing it regularly. Then before you know it you're writing every day without fail. And rather than writing paragraphs you'll find you're writing pages.

I can't imagine not journaling now. I get so much out of it. It's therapeutic to just sit down in the evenings and go over the things you've done that day and write down your feelings and emotions and questions you might have. And I promise you, if you keep it up, you'll get a lot more out of it than you put into it. And you'll be wonderfully surprised when God answers your questions before you can even finish writing them. And you'll find that your days just won't be complete without having entered something into your journal. Spelling and syntax won't mean a thing because no one's going to be reading your journal. I'm going to try and go back sometime and read what I've written and look for answers to highlight to make the answered prayers stand out so I can see at a glance God's faithfulness. And from this point on I'm going to highlight them as I record them. I don't know why I didn't think to highlight them or make them stand out in some way as I wrote them because right now all those blessings are buried in a lot of writing. But going back through will give me the opportunity to review everything. And years from now I can go back and see all those answered prayers.

I was reading someone last fall (I believe it was Charles Stanley) that talked about his journaling (in fact that's what made me decide to give it another try) and he talked of having something like 40 or 50 YEARS worth of journals! Can you imagine? As much as I find that I'm really, truly loving the art of journaling I wish to high heaven I had started years and years ago. I'd love to be able to go back to when I was a baby in Christ and see all those answered prayers. That was when Jesus was introducing Himself to me and He and I talked everyday. Every day, all day! And I know I would be utterly amazed at all those questions I used to ask Him and all those answers He gave to my questions. I can see how, during those dry seasons when you just feel like God doesn't seem to be listening, you can go back and be reminded of just how faithful God has been in the past. If you don't journal, please give it a try. Challenge yourself to try it for a month and see if you don't feel like doing it another month and then another and another. Actually, I think it took about 3 months for me to really get into it. Now it's almost like an addiction for me if one can be addicted to prayer. (And wouldn't that be nice?)

Today was somewhat cooler than the past couple days have been. Believe it or not there's a big difference between the 105+ we had today and the 109+ of the two previous days. It made all the difference in the world. And tomorrow is supposed to be cooler and then Wednesday is supposed to be the coolest day of the week. The heat just wears me out. I have so little energy I don't seem to get anything done. Although I did get my bed made, carpets vacuumed, and bathroom scoured and polished today. It's been quite awhile since I've done several things in a single day. But I woke up this morning just before 6:00 but I thought it was just before 7:00 and I knew my alarm was set for 7:30 and I decided that I didn't want to just lie there and wait for the alarm to go off so I went ahead and got up. Michael and I both needed lab work done and we had to be fasting to do it. That's why I had the alarm set so early. The lab opens at 7:00 and we can get over and get our blood drawn and be back home again before we'd usually be stirring. I'm beginning very much to appreciate getting up early on days when I have plans or have things that need to be done. Especially now with the hot weather. It was just beautiful this morning when we got over to the lab just after 7:00 and the flowers were in bloom and were so beautiful. There were pansies and hollyhocks and snap dragons and some that I didn't know what kind they were. It was such a pretty flower bed right there as you enter the building. Took us no time at all to get the work done (we were the first customers of the day) and get home to a cup of coffee. Funny; I don't fast and pray but I'll fast for a blood test. [Fasting: A whole other ball game for another time. It's enough now to simply state that I've been thinking about fasting a lot lately.]

We will be getting up about 7:30 in the morning to get up and get around again and head out to do some shopping. We got our stimulus payment from the IRS and we thought we would do our civic duty and go spend it. Tomorrow. I was prepared to set my alarm for 5:30 so we could get over the river and to WalMart by opening time. But the problem with that is that we have several other places to shop besides WalMart and if we get there too early, we finish up there too early. All our other stops are still closed, 'cause it's too early. Most of them don't open until 9:00 or 10:00. So that kind of put a bit of a damper on our early, early rising. We plan on having a blast with our stimulus money. I can't even remember the last time we had money to just spend on ourselves. We're both going to get some clothes and I'm going to get a new pair of athletic shoes for everyday wear. Although I won't be wearing them every day now that the heat has come upon us. When it's hot I go barefoot as much as possible and then usually thongs if I'm going to be going outside. My feet get sooooooo hot!

One of the items I have on my list are more journals. I like the ones I'm using now and I'd kind of like to keep them the same style for as long as possible. When we did our shopping at the beginning of the month I bought the last book WalMart had left so I have to hope they've gotten more in. But that's like hoping for the Hope diamond in the next chicken egg you crack open. Most of the time with WalMart shopping, if you find something you really like and it's consumable you better buy as much or as many as you can afford because you'll never see it in WalMart again. I know Staples had some just like what I'm using now, for twice as much money of course so I guess in a real pinch I could pick up some there (if they're open that early). But I'd much rather buy them at WalMart. Or the Dollar Tree. They may not have the kind of books I'm using now but they might have something that I could use instead and buy a bunch of those at $1 a piece. I'd like that the most, ha!

Oh, oh, I have to tell you about my study today. Today brought me into the New Testament (NT) and I got soooooooo much out of today's study. About as much as I got with the first six Minor Prophets. Before the author took me into Matthew he spent a good deal of time covering the history between the NT and the Old Testament (OT) and it was just a terrific history lesson. I've never fully understood all that happened between the OT and the NT but I learned so much today. And then the author introduced the Apostles to me and then, of course, Jesus's birth. What a wonderful study today. I was so disappointed when I discovered it was over. It's amazing how fast reading times fly when you're really, really engrossed in them. I will most definitely make it a point to come back to chapter 19 and reread it several times over the next year. I'll get all that information stored into my brain one way or another, ha! This author did a wonderful job of explaining the times, the fact that they had Roman rule, Greek culture, and a Jewish religion of that day and how because of all these things it made for perfect timing for Jesus. The world was ripe for His life and ministry in so many ways. Until next time...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Prophets

I have always sort of shied away from the prophets for various reason, not least of which is God's anger expressed over His people. But what I have discovered in this current study I'm doing is that the prophets reveal the very heart of God. Ever is He forgiving; ever is He yearning for His people (us) to turn to Him in love and obedience. I have missed so much by not having read the prophets numerous times. And when I'm finished with this study I'm going to read them all over again and go into them more deeply. Here, God lays bare His heart over and over again. And He is so long-suffering, always turning aside from His plans to punish His people (us) for their (our) injustices. It breaks my heart the way He is constantly beseeching us to do the right thing. He is forever offering us His love and protection if we will but listen to His heart. Surprisingly some of my favorite quotes come from the books of the prophets. And even more surprising is the evidence of a personal God over peoples all over the earth. It is God revealing Himself as God of the entire world instead of only Israel's God. It is all about God and us as individuals. Some really clear statements of His love and faithfulness and our own hard-heartedness:

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways... As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

"I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please... What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned that will I do."

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the world of our God stands forever." [Talk about His faithfulness!]

"Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

"Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight."

"I will give you an undivided heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."

"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

"Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart...the Lord has turned back your enemy. Jehovah, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm."

"On that day they will say to Jerusalem. Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. Jehovah your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. ... At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes, says Jehovah.

God is just laying His heart bare for us, begging for us to turn to him. These are just
a few of the many, many wonderful passages found in the prophets and I could have quoted so many more. I took these out of the textbook as I had them underlined and so they were readily seen. I would have needed to quote the entire textbook chapters to give a full rendering of the beautiful verses. So if you are anything like I was, let me encourage you to get into the prophets and have a great time getting acquainted with the Lord. His heart just may surprise you. People often seem to think of the God of the Old Testament as a harsh, stern, and exacting God; and the God of the New Testament of that of a kind and loving God filled with grace. If you've ever thought this, make it a point to read the prophets and you will see that God is just as loving and forgiving and full of grace in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. If anything He is a more distant God in the New Testament through most of the books in that, in the NT, He is being explained to us by a third party or writer. In the prophets it is God Himself that does the wooing through His prophets. I just had had no idea of the wealth of beautiful Scriptures found in the prophets, especially the minor prophets. I think everyone knows that Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel are filled with well quoted verses. So the real eye-openers for me were the minor prophets. Beautiful, beautiful entreating words of our Lord and Savior, Jehovah God. What an awesome heavenly Father we have.

We had a minor disaster last night at the Calaveras County fair. One of the rides broke and slammed over 20 people into the ground. Most of them had minor injuries but at least three of them were quite serious and were airlifted to area hospitals. I haven't heard any more than that. You've probably seen or read the news about it. It made national news headlines. It's always fun to have your little corner of the world in the spotlight; I just wish it had been for better reasons. The fair celebrates Mark Twain's story, The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County.

It has been very hot here for the past few days. Our highest reading over the past 3 or 4 days has been 109.6 degrees. That's hot in anybody's book! They had forecasted another day of the scorching temps and insinuated that today might get even hotter, but I don't think that's going to happen. It's the middle of the afternoon and is only 105!!! It may get close by the time 4:00 rolls around. I really don't like hot weather. I get tired of the cold during the winter but the summers just kill me here. I wish I lived where it never got over 75 degrees and never under 55 degrees. I'm sitting here at my computer and the cooler is blowing right "through" me and so I'm nice and comfortable now. If I went over and sat on the couch it would probably feel a lot hotter.

Loveforliberia have been dealing with sickness this past week. Those bugs over there sure knock the breath out of these Americans! Pray for their continued healing. Lazydranch8 and her family and friends (all 18 of them) made it back to Illinois safely. They had to fix a tire on the trailer and the van's transmission went out and had to be repaired or replaced, but otherwise they made it all just fine. Now they are dining on RC Sproul's perfect words and growing closer to the Lord with every sentence. They are at a Christian convention of some kind and will be there for several days and then they will start on their long way home, taking detours and sidetracks to visit interesting people and places. They don't expect to be back in central California until I think, mid-June. I haven't gotten anything new on Womanoffaith1 for several days. I hope she isn't sick too. Seems like there are always so many illnesses going around. But you know, some day we won't have sickness to deal with at all. We will be in perfect health forever. Such a beautiful promise to cling to. God is faithful and He has so much good stuff planned for us. I just can't wait. I mean, I guess I'll have to wait but I'm ready to go!! I hear the weather's always perfect in heaven. No one ever gets cold; no one ever gets hot. Everything is just right at all times. Won't that be nice? Don't you look forward to that day too?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ingrafted Branches

"If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.' Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (Romans 11:17-21.)

With the entire business of abiding in Christ I learn that nothing is of myself. I have no power to make abiding possible. I am just a dead branch and I can do nothing on my own. Left to myself I will dry out and disappear over time. But God steps in to make me one with Himself. I am grafted in and God does everything necessary to attach me to the olive tree. Abiding in Christ is so beautifully pictured as what happens with a real graft to a real tree. The bark of the tree (Christ) is torn away, revealing the soft moist pulp that is nourished by the sap of the root of the tree. The new branch is stripped back to reveal its inner layers and the two are bound together at the point of the "injuries." Jesus was stripped and laid bare at the crucifixion and it is at the cross where I come unto Him. At this point I meet Him stripped and lifeless. I am bound for eternity to Him. All I do is stay there at His side and again He does all the work. When a graft is placed on a tree, the tree grows out tiny microscopic hooks that burrow their way into the "flesh" of the branch. It is much like a velcro attachment. Those tiny little hooks go out into me, the branch, and the sap, the "life" of the tree begins to flow through me. It is the tree that does everything needed to accomplish the grafting process. The tree gives its life to the branch. I was a branch, dead and alone. But I have been bound to Christ and His life now flows through me. Again I do nothing to produce this. The Father is the vineyard keeper and he binds me to Christ, then Christ's sap flows through me, giving me life and strength and making it possible for Him to produce His fruit through me. Everything is done by the tree. As a branch I but accept the sap of life that flows through me. I do not have life of myself, in that I can't attach myself to the tree, I have but to calmly and gratefully accept His life as it begins to flow into me. When the graft has taken I am as much of the tree now as a branch that grew on the tree naturally. But just as the branch can be cut off in the first place, so the new branch can be cut off if it doesn't produce the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). All that is required of me is that I abide. I remain. And fruit appears as naturally through me as if I were the original branch. But then I am warned that I must not get puffed up because just as easily as I was grafted on, I can be cut off again and be nothing but a dead branch, incapable to accomplishing a single thing. I must remember that it is all of the Lord. If I puff up and say, "Look what I have accomplished" I will miss the point entirely. It is not I who does anything. I but abide. I remain. I stand. I abide and let Christ do His work through me. Even in the very process of grafting I do nothing. Christ sends out His "hooks" and attaches Himself to me. So any time I think of me attaching myself to Christ, I must know that in reality it is Christ who does the attaching. What a marvelous God we have! He doesn't just come up with the way things are to be done, He gets in and does it all Himself.

That was just a short devotion but I still have my study to do for today so I will stop at this point and get on with other things that need to be done. I have no idea what to prepare for dinner and I'm so tired of trying to think up different things to eat that I could scream. I just stopped and took some ground beef out of the freezer. I don't know what I'll do with it but I'll think of something. Maybe with rice. That would be good.

I went to the Miss Calaveras pageant last night. My youngest granddaughter was running for the title. She did really, really well. She won the talent competition, Miss Congeniality, and second runner up! All together she won $600 in scholarships. Not bad for a night's work. I was so please that she at least placed in the county fair's Queen's Court. I would rather her have won the entire competition but we were so proud of her last night. She worked hard for those awards. She danced to a song that she had sang and recorded beforehand. She did such a great job. She plans on using her scholarships to further her education in veterinary medicine.

It's going to be a hot one today. We have reached 106 degrees so far this afternoon. I'm so glad we prepped the cooler last weekend because we've sure needed it today. But I better get on to my study or I won't have time to get it done today. I'm not sure when I will blog again but hopefully it won't be too long. It mostly just depends on the amount of studying I have and how much time it takes to get it done. I should really have done my study first today and then blogged but I was afraid if I did that I wouldn't get around to blogging at all today. Until next time...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nothing Comes to Mind

Well, I wanted to blog today but I could get my thoughts to come together. I've been this way for several days. But I guess I'm not doing too badly considering that I wasn't going to blog for the month of May. My studies have been occupying my mind of late. I've been through the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastics, and the Song of Songs. Tomorrow I will tackle Isaiah. Then Jeremiah. I'm coming into the meat of Scripture and I've noticed that my textbook pages have far fewer sidebars and boxes; just straight text, page after page. It's very time consuming and uses up my brain pretty fast. LOL. It's almost too much to shove in a brain in the course of just one day. But that's probably why I can't think about anything else. I still hope to finish up my thoughts on Abiding. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time. It will revolve around the Scriptures at Rom 11:17-24 and shouldn't take too long. I will try really hard to get it done tomorrow.

Heather reported on her blog that they lost the transmission on their van and had to take an unplanned lay-over while that problem gets taken care of. But they are all healthy and her pics showed nothing but smiling faces! They are a tough family. Eric (husband and father) passed away at the end of January and they are struggling with so many issues. The last thing they needed was a transmission problem. Please continue to pray for them.

Womanoffaith1 is sleeping her life away. Not really but I'm pretty sure it must feel that way to her. She has some medical problems that make her want to sleep all the time. Pray for her and the three kids.

And finally for the Gjerstads in Liberia, they need prayer for just about everything. Everything Stacy does is triple hard over there. Laundry by hand. No running water. No refrigerator. Only an outdoor coal pot (sort of like a hibachi) to cook on. The only electricity from a generator that was on the blink last time I heard so they do everything by candle light. And all 12 of them are crammed into a tiny, 3-bedroom house. The rainy season is looming in their near future when the rain will come down and NOT STOP for the duration of that season. I don't know how they will all stand it. But God is in their midst.

I will try and blog tomorrow if I have the time at all. Lots of reading to do tomorrow. How would you like to read the entire Bible along with a 500+ page textbook in 30 days? Well, I may not be reading the entire Bible but it sure feels like it! And I'm almost halfway through with the study. Seems like I just started it. There's a chapter a day (30 chapters) and today was day 14. Tomorrow will be halfway. Doesn't seem possible that I could be that far already. But that explains why every time someone sees me I've got my nose in a book. Has it been beneficial? I think so. I know more now that I did two weeks ago. I'm sure I'm not retaining as much as I'd like to. I should probably plan on doing this study again in 6 months. I'll have to wait and see about that. Until next time...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I finished the Psalms last night and will move on into the books of wisdom starting today. I'm not looking forward to Job as I just recently finished reading Job. It is a tiring book. I don't know how Job survived his grief. I'm just starting with Proverbs today so I haven't gotten to Job yet. I just know it's in my future. I sat and read all the chapters in Proverbs last night and I was surprised at how many of them made sense. Always before when I looked at them I'd always look at Proverbs that made no sense at all. Or at least they didn't to me at the time. But there really are a great many that make perfect sense.

K and T brought me some flowers for Mother's Day in a big round bowl. But to everyone's surprise they weren't even planted in the bowl. There was no potting soil in the bowl except down in the very bottom (1/2") of the bowl. There were 17 or 18 different flowers that had just been removed from their seedling container with their root balls shoved down in the bowl with no potting soil. Some of them were pretty wilted but I've got my fingers crossed on them. I took all the flowers out of the bowl and filled 3 long planters that we mounted along the deck railing. And I still had enough flowers left to fill the bowl back up again. I was hoping they'd be a little perkier this morning than they are. There's no telling how long those flowers had had their roots exposed to the air so some of them might not make it. But I'm hoping! They are mostly pansies but there's a couple petunias, a marigold, some little daisy-looking flowers, and a couple sweet alyssum. They all look very colorful out on our deck. We have screen shade up along the side of the house that has the deck (which happens to be the west side) where we have some chairs and a table set up and so we put the flowers out in this area and it changed the mood completely. I've been going out there every evening and reading the assigned chapters for my study the next day. It's worked out really nice; it felt totally different sitting out there last evening with those beautiful colorful flowers all around. I'm hoping they won't die this summer in the unrelenting heat. Just about everything I've tried to grow out there has died off in the heat of summer. I have a couple flowers (can't remember what the name is) at the edge of the sidewalk down at the end of the garage and they keep coming back each year. They're hardy plants. All the other flowers I planted with them died off but these two flowers just keep hanging in there. Maybe one of these days I'll have a little color around this place.

Well I have nothing to write about today. I slept late then did a little housework and now I need to get to my study. I am on day 13 already. Amazing how the days just keep on whizzing by. The older I get, the faster they go. I could write a devotional if I could just get my brain to shift into gear. But it appears to be stuck in neutral. Sorry, I will try to do better next time. I'm not sure if I'll blog tomorrow since I have to go to the Miss Calaveras pageant because my granddaughter is trying out. I hope she does well. She'll be dancing to her own music, her own singing so that should make it interesting. The winner is usually a high school senior from one of our high schools but the cut off age is 21 and K hasn't reached 21 yet so she still qualifies. Wish her luck for me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Seminar

The seminar went well this morning. The only thing upsetting was the fact that there were fifteen confirmations of people who said they were going to be there when they were called on the phone mid-week. There were four of us who actually showed up. The scary thing is that if I hadn't given Margaret a call yesterday evening I would have been another one of them. Because I had told Danette that I would be there but it hadn't registered to me that they had changed Saturdays. Originally the seminar was scheduled for next Saturday. But that's frog jump weekend and so they upped the date and Danette called everyone telling them the date change and confirming who would be there. If I hadn't realized that she had called for confirmations a week early I would have just shown up next weekend puzzled at why no one was there when I went for the seminar. But I got to thinking, Why would Danette call a week early to confirm my participation? Then it dawned on me that she may have told me that the date was changed and I just hadn't caught that. Thank goodness I called Margaret!!! But I wonder how many others just thought that Danette was confirming participation but she was also notifying the date change. I blamed it on my hearing because there was a lot that Danette said that I didn't hear but I wonder if, with that many not showing up, they just didn't catch on about the date change. Well, whatever. I just felt bad for pastor because I'm not sure he would have given up a Saturday for just four people. One thing I've noticed is that I can hear the phone better if I use the one I got from the phone company. I have to have the TV muted to hear but I was able to converse with Margaret over the phone just fine yesterday and she speaks very softly. I also called Christine last night on that phone and I only needed her to repeat one thing and even that I had heard I'd just wanted to make sure I understood. If I continue to have good results on this phone I'll get back on the prayer chain. I have always been on the prayer chain but I dropped out a couple months ago because I just felt that I wasn't living up to what I promised. I mean, it was almost always Margaret that called me and she's so soft spoken that I'd never catch the person's name and most times I'd miss what the problem was and so I'd just say, "Lord, You know who that was for and You know what the problem is and I just place that before You and ask that You be involved in it." Well, for some reason that started to bother me and so I had my name removed from the chain. But if I can now hear on this phone for the hearing impaired I'll get back on the chain because that is a ministry that I really want to be part of.

Seminar was on membership in the church. It was very interesting and informative but I felt it was a little light on the responsibilities that go along with membership. Dan covered all the bases I just thought they could have been emphasized a little stronger. When you become a member of a church you are committing to several things. You are committing yourself to supporting that church physically by being there to help out on quarterly work days by replacing light bulbs, raking or weeding flower beds, fixing a water leak, cleaning the gutters, or any number of other physical things that periodically need attention. You also promise to be there as a church member to vote on how the church is to function, who will be the leaders, and other things that happen in the life of the church.

You are committing yourself to support the church emotionally by praying for her and for other members within the church body who need prayer. You are committing yourself to care about the church and her members.

And you are committing yourself to support the church financially with your tithes and offerings. And that commitment is there whether you make it to church or not. You are promising to pay your tithes and offerings on a regular basis: weekly, monthly, yearly or any other schedule you set up. I give weekly but I think most people give monthly but the important thing is to support the church regularly. If I miss a Sunday, I give twice the normal amount the next Sunday. It helps me cut down on my absences by knowing that I need to attend on Sunday to give my offering. I have tithed weekly since becoming a member of my church. Right now my church is struggling financially and I upped my tithe to 11%. I know that doesn't seem like a big increase but considering that my income hasn't increased, and considering on how low that income is, an extra 1% was a significant increase for me to pay.

I mention all this because of several things. One, about 6 months ago I volunteered to go over each month's attendance list and send "We Miss You" cards to any family that missed four weeks in a row (an entire month). I became aware of the absentee rate. Two, I became aware of the number of people who want to remain a member of my church but never attend. Why are they members if they aren't going to attend? Why do we have ghost members, what's the point? The least we can do is come up with an Active and an Inactive membership roll. Let's get down to the actual figures, down where the rubber meets the road. And finally, I became more aware of the finances involved in running a church. Churches don't run on thin air. Churches have monthly bills just like households do. That money has to come from somewhere. I mean, how can a church know what to invest in when they don't know what funds they're going to have to invest? Do you see my point?

This is one of the great dilemmas of the Church. One of which I've just recently become aware. The Church needs to be able to depend on her members for support. But when half of her membership is absent ... well, you can see my point. It really showed up in the numbers for April. For instance there were 41 households that missed all four Sundays in April. (Nearly twice as many as any other month.) And when those 41 households are absent, the money becomes tight. In our case, very tight. I don't know why I never realized this point before. And before I started keeping track I guess I just thought the church existed on thin air. But when you have that high a number of absent households it can seriously impact the funds of that church. But it reaches even farther than that. Are those who are absent still praying for the Church even when they aren't attending? I'd wager to guess, No. Are they making it a point to show up for the quarterly business meetings? Again, I'd guess, No. It's not all about money but money certainly comes in to play. But if no one shows up on Church workdays, small repairs get pushed aside and they end up getting worse or the church has to consider hiring a general contractor to take care of these needs. The church can't just let itself deteriorate until it falls apart. These points really need to be stressed to the members of every church. We all need to take our responsibilities to heart and live up to our obligations.

Another thing I wanted to touch on today is what makes up my own denomination; what do we believe. Basically we hold to six affirmations:
1. The Covenant Church affirms the centrality of the Word of God.
2. The Covenant Church affirms the necessity of the new birth.
3. The Covenant Church affirms a commitment to the whole mission of the church.
4. The Covenant Church affirms the church as a fellowship of believers.
5. The Covenant Church affirms a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit.
6. The Covenant Church affirms the reality of freedom in Christ.
If you can agree or believe in these six affirmations, then you could become a Covenant Church member. All those silly rules and regulations that churches seem to be in the habit of espousing, are just that, silly. Whether or not you wear makeup, dance, consume alcoholic beverages, wear pants or skirts and dresses, whether you believe that the KJV is the only Bible translation, the role of women in the church and so many other things are just silly. Let's get down to the basics and worship together, down where the rubber meets the road! All this other stuff is just fluff. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we would condone alcoholics or child abusers. There are limits but within these six affirmations we have built a strong denomination.

One of these days I will write out my own journey on the road that led me to Christ. My testimony. My witness. Whatever you want to call it. Last month's seminar was on writing this testimony and I'm sorry to say I haven't even started to write mine and that was a month ago!!! I am a great procrastinator in many areas of my life and sitting down and writing it out has just escaped me temporarily but I will get around to it and when I do I will share it with you.

I will watch for Christine again tomorrow and hopefully she and I can come up with some firm plans to meet and study together. I have decided on Romans. The entire letter! From start to finish. But I will be light and easy the first time through and not get into deep theology at all. But she does need to come to an understanding of just what a Christian is and how a Christian walks her walk. If I do nothing else but teach her how to read the Bible and then stop and reflect on what she's read, I will have had great success. Because that's what it takes to be a Christian. You have to be able to read the Bible and understand what it means for you right now, Today! May 10th, 2008! If I can teach her how to read and meditate on Scripture she'll be able to figure out the rest of her walk for herself. Continue to pray for her that God will protect her from the likes of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons until such time as she's strong enough to stand in her own defense.

We had a beautiful day today with a fairly strong warm wind. I needed a sweater when I left the house at 9:00 this morning but when I left church at noon it was way too warm and taking it off was the first thing I did when I got to my car. We're supposed to be going into a warming trend. I think we will be very glad that we prepped the cooler.

I washed my car when I got home today. I figure it's time to instigate the Saturday rule around here. Saturdays are for washing and cleaning cars except in the wintertime. So now my car will be nice and clean when I go to church in the morning.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It Continues

Another day deep in the dark pages of the history of the people of God. Oh! how depressing! In eight more days (8 more studies) I will finally be in the NT (New Testament). It is a chore and a strong determination that keeps me from just setting this aside and thinking I'll do it some other time in the future, rather than slop through the blood and gore to do the study as it was meant to be done. Granted today wasn't as bad as it has been but it's still filled with events and attitudes that weary my spirit. The author must have realized how trying these chapters would be (seeing everything distilled and concentrated the way he's done it) because at the conclusion of tomorrow's lesson (I have a seminar to go to tomorrow so I did tomorrow's study today) he wrote: "We need to remind ourselves that the story is pre-Christian. The New Testament would teach a better way of dealing with enemies." [Well, I should hope so.] The thing is this is history and history is partially meant to teach us things today that we learned the hard way in the distant past. And the worst is almost over because Sunday moves into the Psalms. Whoopie! While they are certainly not void of the wont for blood, they do begin to bring in a little rejoicing, a little joy, and praising of our glorious God who desired the very best for us before the creation of the world. He has desired to give us blessing after blessing if we would but serve Him and worship Him alone. We failed over and over again but He stayed faithful to His promises and managed to reserve a faithful remnant at all times so that He could fulfill His promises in future days with future generations. More deserving generations? No, I don't think so. We are not to this day, deserving of a blessing. We go astray and lead and encourage others to go astray with us time and time again. God keeps His promises because He is deserving, He is worthy of his promises. There was so much idolatry during this period of time I've been looking at. I can maybe see drifting away and forgetting or getting into such a spirit of laziness that we just don't want to bother or take the time. But spending time, energy, and revenue worshiping foreign, false gods ... idols?! I just can't see it. I mean, how mighty can a god be if we have to carry him wherever he might want to go. Why worship something that you can carry around in your pocket? Or step on? Or drop down the latrine? What kind of god is that???

But you know, what a great king Josiah was! He took the throne at the age of eight and when he was just sixteen years old the high priest found the book of God in the temple. The book was read aloud to the young king and afterward his rule went throughout the land reestablishing pure worship. He brought about a sweeping religious reform by destroying all the pagan temples and idols, including a place called Topheth, where people, including some of Judah's kings, had sacrificed their own children to the false god Molech. He tore down a temple to Ashtoreth that had been built by King Solomon and Josiah reinstated the Passover celebration. Josiah's rule didn't last too long though. Sadly, he was killed in battle at the age of thirty-nine still a young man.

As I mentioned earlier I will be going to a seminar tomorrow from 9:00 to noon. This one is on membership. What it means to be a member of a church. What the benefits and responsibilities of membership are. After tomorrow I will have one more seminar and then I will have completed all four in the series. I think there may be a fifth one, I'm not sure. They only advertised the four but I thought I read somewhere where about a fifth one but I only saw reference to it one time so I don't know what that means. These seminars have all been so beneficial. We learn so much in them. Actually tomorrow's will be the first seminar of the series but I'm taking them out of order. (It's okay; I can do that.) I've taken numbers three and four and I will take the second one, last, in June. Did I confuse you there? If I did, just ignore it. It's not important.

Our swarm of hummingbirds seems to have left the area. We were having four and five out there waiting turns to get to the feeder and then all of a sudden there's just one or two. I saw two last night but since last Sunday we've only seen one once or twice a day. They must have just stopped by on their way to somewhere else. I miss them. They are so much fun to watch feeding. And each one has its own distinct personality and we named them in the past. One year we had Bill and Bob. Bill had a bent beak and Bob sat around constantly bobbing his head up and down.

Did I tell you that our redbud is NOT dying? I can't remember if I told you or not. It was suggested to us that perhaps the late frost had taken the tree and that seems to be what it was because it's starting to "green" itself. It's starting to turn green; you can see it in the sunlight. So it's not dying after all. And once we realized it was the frost we noticed that the tip end of several branches on the big oak tree (that had also already leafed out) had shriveled up after the frost and looked dead too. Whew! I was so worried about that tree.

My friends in Liberia are doing okay although I haven't gotten an update in about a week. I say okay because Ashton is slow coming back from another bout of malaria and Jakin was playing soccer and hurt his hip. They thought it might be dislocated. They had plans to take him to the hospital ship out in the bay and have him looked at. Ashton too because it is taking so long for Ashton to get better this time. They wanted to make sure it wasn't something worse.

Heather and her brood are preparing for a 3-week trip back east. I'm not sure what day they plan to leave but I'd appreciate it if you would keep her on your prayer list. A "bug" was working its way through all of them so a prayer for good health would be appreciated, I know. Also for safety while they are on the road. They will be going in their 15-passenger van and 31 foot trailer. So if any one is out driving around and you see something that might look like them, wave real big. They'll love it.

I'd also like prayers for Christine. Christine in a baby, baby Christian who was just baptized a few weeks ago and she is so much like a dry sponge ready to soak up anything from anyone. She needs protection that she won't be misled by false teachers. I'm in particular talking about Jehovah's Witnesses. She is prime for their magic spell. Believe me I know. She sat with me last Sunday and I asked her if she'd like to get together sometime during the week and just kind of go over the basics (like she didn't understand about communion, she didn't know if she was supposed to be partaking or not) and answering any questions she might have. I just want to get her planted solidly on her feet before the wolves and scavengers can get their teeth into her. She said she'd like to do that so if you could, please pray that we will be able to find a day and time where we can meet together at church and just start with the basics. She needs to learn that her salvation is secure and rules and regulations won't save you. I thought we'd start with either Galatians or Philippians (or the second half of Romans) and just start reading them together and just talking about what we read. You know, what it means to a Christian today. She doesn't understand that the Law has been fulfilled, that your salvation rests on your faith alone, that we are saved by grace. I was exactly where she's at spiritually when the Witnesses got me. I knew just enough to know there was so much more I wanted to know and the Witnesses offered me a tempting dish of self-righteousness, a way to earn my salvation and I don't want that to happen to her. Christine is so shy. She's like a little bird that doesn't call attention to herself, just as sweet as anyone can be. I don't think she's had the chance to make many friends here at the church and, truthfully, I think she's too shy to make any for awhile. I'm hoping she'll sit with me again on Sunday. I'll watch for her because I have a little book in my Bible to give her. I told her I would be bringing it for her. It's called Christianity 101: Now That You're a Christian, a Guide to You Faith in Plan Language. I thought that would help her a little bit until she and I can work out the logistics of an actual study. But pray for me that I can teach; and pray for her that she can learn. It's just that I can see myself in her so clearly. I was younger than Christine but I had recently become aware of my own spirituality. I knew I believed there was one true God and I believed in Him. I just wasn't sure what all went with my new faith. And the Witnesses came along and said, you must do these things. You must not do these things. Right on down the line. And where that made it easy for me to "know" I was saved (because I kept the rules) it just opened me up to a world of bondage. As a JW you are never free! You are never saved! All you have to do is mess up just once and you're kicked out on your ear. Bondage. Such bondage. Thanks in advance for your prayers. I just took it on my own to reach out to her. I mean, our age differences are so great (she's 19) but she just looked so lost when she walked in the door last Sunday.

A little history on Christine. Back in October our church went through the 40 Days of Purpose campaign and we chose to go with the small group model. We were all supposed to go around and invite our neighbors to a small group meeting. My friend, Evelyn, thank God, was obedient to that and she went to Christine's house and invited her parents to the small group. She mentioned to Christine that she might like to go to Youth Group sometime. Well, Christine's parents weren't interested in the small group, but Christine began going to the Youth Group activities. (I think Evelyn took her to the first couple nights.) Anyway, Christine came to a saving understanding of the grace of God and asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. And she was baptized a month or so ago. I thank God every day for Evelyn's faithfulness. Through her obedience a lamb was brought into the fold. Praise God! So anyway you can see what I mean by her being such a baby Christian. And I love that her name is Christine. Please pray for her.