Monday, June 30, 2008

Molded by the Master

If you have ever watched a potter work, you know the thrill of seeing a lovely vessel take shape from a lump of formless clay. God's object lesson for the prophet Jeremiah at 18:1-6 was that the nation of Israel ... as well as every person from the beginning of time ... was to be shaped by His hands. We are all nothing but lumps of human clay waiting for the Master Potter's firm but careful touch.

The potter already has a specific design of a vessel in mind when he places the lump of wet clay on the wheel. The same holds true for us, God has already determined how He plans to work in our lives and what part we are to play in the work of His kingdom (Eph 2:10). He shapes us with His skillful, steady hands and cuts us with various instruments and tools at His disposal to form our character as He begins to make us into the image of His precious Son, Jesus Christ. He shapes us all differently to carry out the unique service He has planned for each one of us. But regardless of our individual features, we all bear the unmistakable imprint of our Potter. We are all uniquely shaped into the image of Christ Jesus, His Son.

Too often we look toward the talents and abilities of those around us and wish to be more like someone else. But we have been perfectly designed and uniquely created for the specific purposes God has for us to fulfill and He makes no mistakes in His pottery work. If we are spending our time wishing to be like someone else, we are wasting our time.

We are to use our God-given talents and attributes in God's specific plan. He created us to fill individualized roles in life and if we refuse to use the spiritual and human gifts He has given us, we waste His effort and we waste our opportunity to serve Him in the way He desires.

The Master Potter is pleased with us, His vessels, and with the way He has designed us and the abilities He has worked into us. We need to honor the Potter as vessels should and we must submit to the pressure of His hands on us as He forms us into the objects He desires, to fulfill the purposes He had in mind beforehand for us to do.


Praise God, the smoke is gone!!! How wonderful it was to stop and look out the glass sliding doors this morning and actually see Hogback Mountain! This is wonderful. I had forgotten just how clearly we usually see this mountain. My understanding is that the fires are still burning so that must mean that the winds have shifted directions. Michael and I sat out on the deck for quite some time this morning, just enjoying the clean air and beautiful scenery over mugs of hot coffee. Then I came in and grabbed my books and went out on the deck alone to have my morning quiet time. Every day it feels like it's a more special day. It was really nice today without the smoke. I tried something a little different and I think I enjoyed it that way. It seems like lately I have struggled with reading retention. I just can't seem to remember what I'm reading if it's a short paragraph or something. I mean, when I get in and read a chapter of a book, I retain what I read as the plot progresses. But when it's something short like a devotional, I can't read it and then tell myself what I read. (I hope this isn't the beginning of a very serious problem but is just that I can't concentrate for one reason or another.) So it was hard to remember how to pray at the conclusion of each devotional. So this morning I opened in prayer and then continued that prayer as I read the material
thought-by-thought . It seemed to work much better that way and I think I got more out of my quiet time. So I will continue to do that as the days go by. Now I'm going to reread the entire month's worth of Andrew Murray's devotions just to seat everything into my mind and heart.

I'm having a hard time focusing on the sermon on Sundays too. For one thing, I think Dan is talking faster and it's hard for me to keep up with him. For the last two Sundays I've had to struggle to remember what the sermon was about. This frightens me to no end, especially with the retention loss in my reading. Am I coming down with dementia of some kind? That's pretty frightening to even think about but I am getting much less out of my reading than I used to. I used to be able to read and turn around and tell you what I just read. I can't do that anymore. And that terrifies me!

I brought a couple magazines home with me yesterday to see if I might like to subscribe. (See how much my world depends on reading?) But after looking them over I have decided not to subscribe to either of them. Maybe I'll go back to Christianity Today. I used to subscribe to that years ago but then it started to seem like all the articles were written from a purely theological perspective, not that there's anything wrong with that. I was just hoping for a little more of real life thrown into the articles. I should check it out. It could be totally different now. Magazines do change. I'm just in the market for a monthly that isn't as shallow as Guideposts. Guideposts reads a lot like it is written by nonChristians who write the story and then sprinkle in a little religion to make it marketable in the Evangelical circles and then submit them to be considered for publication. They don't really read like they were written from the Christian perspective. Or at least that's my take on things. Seems like years ago I used to get a lot more "enlightenment" from Guideposts. Now they're just a bunch of short stories with God sprinkled in here and there to make them acceptable. And I didn't care for their Angels magazine either. Oh well, I will keep searching. I want a magazine that will help me live the Christian life. Maybe I'm hoping for too much. But I'm hoping for a magazine that will have articles about how to live my life as Christ would have me to do. Scripture spelled out. That sort of thing.

Our small group is due to start back up next week and I've suggested that we put it off to September first because we're all so busy in the summer time. Either that or at least take off July. We'll have to see how that flies. I can't help wondering if it isn't just laziness on my part because when we start up again we're going to be watching some VHS tapes I bought years ago on the book of Matthew. They are so good. But because they're my tapes I guess, I have to come up with some issues to discuss or questions to debate with the group. We're a very vocal group. I learned that when I facilitated over 2nd Peter. Some groups are so quiet. Not ours. We are very vocal. You ask a question of this group and it generates a lot of discussion, which is so great! They really are a great group to facilitate. There's nothing worse than a group that won't answer questions or give opinions.

Stacy and Dan, my missionary friends in Liberia, have taken a woman into their home. They have no idea who she is but she's deathly skinny and is very sick. A group of children were taunting the woman who was I guess living on the streets. Her clothes were good for nothing but burning so they gave her clothing to put on after her bath. She washed and braided the woman's hair and then took her to the German clinic for help. They gave her an IV and a bunch of medicine but she's struggling to keep the pills down. She keeps vomiting them back up. So please pray for this woman. I think her name is Mamie. And pray that Dan and Stacy haven't taken someone in who will expose them to some dangerous disease. Liberia (and the world for that matter) is filled with Mamies and what are we to do? We are to love them as Jesus loves them. And sometimes that means getting our hands a little dirty. All I know is that Dan and Stacy did what had to be done. Someone had to care for this poor woman. She is not only sick on the inside. She has horrendous sores and ulcers all over her legs and arms. Stacy is treating them with Aloe Vera because that's all she has. I know from personal experience that Aloe can do wondrous things but whether it will help in this situation I have no idea. Lord I just ask you to bless Dan and Stacy for taking this poor wretched woman into their home and nursing her back to health. That is the ministry they have been called to do. What is the good of preaching salvation if we just let the people die? I'm very proud of them for taking this woman in!

Well, I'm going to cut this short today. I spent a little more time out on the deck this morning and it's almost mid afternoon now so I need to get busy doing things. It seems like the only thing I've accomplished so far today is this blog. Well, I did have my quiet time and the bed is made but that's not much considering what time it is. Hopefully I'll have more to write about the next time I blog. I guess I'll have to go back to setting my alarm to have more time in my day. Without my alarm we sleep until 9:30 or 10:00 and the morning's half gone before I've even done my devotionals. I wish I'd just wake up on my own about 7:00-7:30. But I don't. I sleep for a couple more hours at the least.

Friday, June 27, 2008

God's Great Power

Charles Stanley tells the story: "I was signing books one day when a young man came forward and told me a story as I autographed his copy. 'I put a gun to my chest and was going to kill myself,' he began. 'For some reason, I turned on the television, and there you were, talking about suicide [isn't it amazing the way the Lord works?]. After listening for a while, I knew that the Lord was talking to me, so I laid the gun down and gave my life to Jesus Christ.' "

He hears similar stories all the time ... someone in despair turns on the TV or radio and hears a sermon that speaks directly to his or her need. He doesn't believe for one second that he is responsible. It is the Lord, who is all-powerful, interceding in people's lives. Sometimes He does this by leading them to turn on a program which can help. What's more only a God who can control all things could change a lost and scared young man into a willing and excited servant ... and that's exactly the kind of person who stood before Dr. Stanley that day at the book signing.

The world talks about accidents, luck, and good fortune, but all these terms imply that we are victims of circumstance. The fact is that God is sovereign and the entire world is under His control. Anything that affects us ... blessing or trial ... comes to us because God has allowed it. When we encounter evil, we often wonder why the Lord doesn't put an end to it, because we know that He can. How many times have we caught ourselves thinking, if I were God I would ..." But God does have a purpose and a plan and history has proven that He will produce good from even the worst of human tragedy and that we can be utterly relieved that we are not God!


We are still suffering from all the smoke here in northern California. Every night we go to bed hoping that the morning will bring fresh, clean air to breathe. And every morning we are greeted by the same old dense smoke once again. Every day we hope for clear skies and now for the better part of a week we've been blanketed with a layer of thick smoke choking out our every breath. They said on the news last night that another dry storm is due to roll through the area again this weekend. That's all we need: more lightning fires! I guess eventually there won't be anything left to burn. I don't think the smoke would seem so bad if it were from a local fire. This is drift smoke from fires that are 100 miles or more from here.

We didn't go to the family bar-be-que last night because of all the smoke. Michael's ex-smoker lungs don't need to be outside and I have asthma and neither of us has any business being outside in all that smoke. We don't go outside any more than we have to. My chest is tight and "raw" feeling as it is and poor Michael is coughing his head off and dealing with nosebleeds every time he blows his nose. I will go out later to pick up some hot dog buns for dinner and I'll swing by and get the mail as long as I'm out but we'll stay inside most of the day. I did take my Bible and devotionals out onto the deck to sit and have my quiet time with the Lord this morning. And I slept late this morning which made it later in the day and the smoke had shifted back up into the air (if I go out early enough I can catch the smoke "lying down") so I really had no business being out there but I so enjoy doing my morning devotionals outside. It just makes them kind of special. So I put up with the smoke this morning. I think it's sure different having Michael's lungs be worse than my asthmatic lungs. For years it was me unable to breathe and being in and out of the hospital all the time (15 times in one 12-month period) and now my lungs are better than Michael's. Of course he smoked heavily for 50 years or more until he quit 10 years ago. I'm so glad I was able to quit. Finally with the Lord's help I got off the cigarettes 18 months ago July 1st. That was just part of the revamping and remaking of my spiritual life. The Lord has been making changes in me since then and I'm almost like a new person. Praise God!! He's got me doing all kinds of things. Things that I have tried for years to do with great struggle and now these past 18 months they are all happening with ease. I guess for years and years I kept trying to do things in my own strength. And it wasn't until I just left everything up to the Lord that the changes started happening. The Lord wasn't going to allow me to take credit for anything and I certainly can't. Oh, I believe it still takes effort on my part to continue to do these disciplines but I realize that even my strength is coming from the Lord. I don't quite know how to explain this I just know that even in my own effort it is God's effort behind me that keeps me faithful. If the Lord has the power to sustain the universe by merely speaking commands; I'm sure He can support my personal strength and desires. So although I know I play a part in all this, it's still His strength holding me faithful to these good habits or disciplines I've been working on.

I need to go over to my son's house and check their dogs. (He and my daughter-in-law have gone away for a few days with the Jet Ski.) He has remained friends with a childhood neighbor and they get together quite often and do things. They'll be gone for a few days and I will take care of the animals until they get back. It's the least I can do to try and repay all that they do for us. I am sitting here typing this on a computer that he put together for me. Every so often he'll come over and update our computers and anytime we have a problem he'll come take care of it. He's a very good son. Of course, I might be a wee bit prejudiced in my thinking here. Nah!!

I think I'm going to make this a short blog today and get on over to make sure the dogs are okay. This has got to be one of my worst blogs. I just can't think of anything to write about. Maybe I'll think of something and can come back in on edit and write some more. We'll see.

[Okay, now I am on edit.] When I go over to Ken's house to feed the dogs this evening I need to remember to take our pruning shears because there's a short branch at the far end of Lady's running leash that catches the loop in the leash and she can't go anywhere. She was stuck out there yesterday when I went over. She couldn't reach her water bowl and she was out in the sun. I forgot to take the shears when I went over this morning so I will take care of that tonight. Michael is napping right now but when he wakes up I'll ask him to get the shears for me so I can take them tonight.

When I got back from checking the dogs I was surprised to walk in the house and find the cooler running. We haven't been running it until in the evenings because of all the smoke. We thought about turning on the A/C yesterday but that's such a waste of energy. Anyway I guess Michael decided he could take the smoke over the heat. It's 101 outside right now. I'm certainly not going to complain that the cooler is on but I think he'll regret doing that during the night when he can't breathe and has to get up and sit in his chair in order to sleep. Yesterday the heat in the house just about did me in so I'm very grateful for the cooler today.

The bruises on my toes and foot are now the same color as my nail polish (except for the light green they are turning right around the edges). Slowly but surely the bruising is going away and most of the swelling is gone now too. But I didn't put my ACE bandage back on before I left to do my errands and I really felt the difference by the time I got home. It was just too much walking on a very sore foot. So tonight before I go back over I will remember to put it around my ankle and foot and maybe it won't hurt as bad when I get back home. Ran into three friends from church while I was out this morning and I don't feel too bad because Lynn said she didn't go to the family bar-be-que because of the smoke either, so we weren't the only ones who decided not to go. I would have enjoyed going though. This is a very small town and I'm surprised that I don't run into people I know more often than I do especially when everyone has to go to the Post Office at some time during the day. No, I take that back. Our town has some postal routes for delivery. This is the only place where we've had mail delivery in 20+ years so I forget that not everyone has to go to the Post Office. There are a lot of people from church who bank where I do and so quite often I will run into someone there.

I wish I had something up-building to write about but today my mind is just bare, nothing there. I forgot all about fasting today so I will aim for tomorrow. I have the hardest time remembering not to eat when I get up on Fridays. But this is something I need to do. I made the commitment. Now I just have to live up to it. Truthfully I suspect that it is Satan sneaking himself into my life. He knows I want to fast on Fridays and he encourages me to eat and ruin the fast. I say this because I don't normally eat in the mornings. But just for the past 3-5 weeks (since I've been trying to fast) I get up and stick something into my mouth every Friday morning. I also keep forgetting to pray for our nation every day at 6:00 as I had told myself I would do. The problem is I never know when it's 6:00!! I'm not a clock watcher. Put that with my bad memory and I'm bad. This could be a powerful thing for me. To know that there are tens of thousands (could even be many more) of people praying for this nation all at the same time. That's pretty heady you have to admit. This country is facing possible destruction because of the race for President this year. We are approaching a time of ruin. If Obama gets in (especially if he chooses Clinton as his vice presidential candidate) I think horrible things are going to happen. It just makes me want to cry. I love my country and I love what it stands for and strives to do in this world. And that's what I need to be praying about come 6:00 every night! Obama refuses to wear the lapel flag pin that candidates wear all the time. I don't mean he forgets, he used to wear it and then took it off and now refuses to wear it. When the national anthem is played he doesn't put his hand over his heart like everyone else does. He used to attend a church that is V-E-R-Y critical of whites and this nation. Radical is a good word for it. He's for abortion (and gay marriages too I think). He has absolutely no diplomatic experience whatsoever. It's funny, months ago I was reading a book and to tell how unlikely it would be for someone to have been raised up to a particularly high position, that author said it would be like a "junior senator running for and winning the presidency of the United States." I mean that was the most unlikely event that could ever happen to this author, something that in his mind was the least likely thing to occur and look where we're at. We have a junior senator running for the presidency of the United States of America and it's looking more and more like he just may win it! The only other time I felt this nervous about an election was when John Kerry was running. I'm not very politically minded but I feel strongly against Obama. I'm not all that happy with McCain but he's a lot better than someone who refuses to put his hand over his heart when the National Anthem is played. What kind of president is he going to make??? And what kind of Commander-in-Chief?

I guess I better go and get my animals all fed since it is 30 mins past time and Mario is getting very impatient with me. Here comes Mulder. Guess he's ready too. Anytime from 3:30 on, these beasts all know it's time to eat and they begin to "swarm" (think Jerry Seinfeld). Looks like I ended up adding more on edit but it's been more of just nothing. I probably shouldn't have blogged today unless I had something to blog about. Sorry about that. I'll try to do better from now on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

God's Greatness

The Psalms are filled with David's heart-wrenching cries to God for help and salvation from one situation or another. His prayers are a beautiful blend of requests, praise, and worship that recalls for us God's greatness, power, and protection. David leaned heavily on the Lord's amazing attributes of wisdom, strength, and compassion that we can rely on to meet our every need.

Psalm 139:7 reads: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?" God is everywhere. There is no where we can go and be without Him. He is not limited by time and place as we are therefore we have never been apart from His awareness for so much as a single moment. Even when we are feeling isolated and friendless, we are not alone because God's presence covers us everywhere in the world, there are no exceptions to this fact.

"Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit" (Ps 147:5). God knows everything. When we get on our knees to pray, God is already aware of our needs and feelings that we are about to bring before Him. We won't be making Him aware of anything He doesn't already know, so we can rest in the promise that when we approach God in prayer, He will listen to us. When we ask for guidance, He will provide us clear direction if we are fully submitted to His will.

James 1:17 tells us that "with [God] there is no variation or shifting shadows." God's character is constant. We are able to place confidence in Him because we can trust Him to be faithful, reliable, and merciful in any situation. God's attributes do not change.

When a pray-er remembers an attribute of God that meets his need, he focuses his prayer on God rather than on his requests. By implementing praise into our prayers we'll discover that we are asking for less. worshiping better, and receiving more because our emphasis is in the right place.


Well the smoke is almost unbearable today. Every day it seems to get worse. I woke up this morning with my eyes nearly gluded shut from the dried tears during the night. We have the entire house shut up tight and we're using the overhead fan and a box fan on the floor in the hallway pointed toward Michael's room where he's busy on his computer. You've got to keep the air moving with this heat, although it really isn't all that bad right now as I write this. And we didn't even hit the 100 degree mark yesterday. It got real close but the high was recorded at 98.1. (I love my high/low thermometers.) So anyway maybe it won't get all that hot today. They are talking on the news that this smoke may linger through the weekend. Cough. Cough. Choke. Wheeze. Sniff, sniff. Hope I can wait that long for it to clear. It's just awful, trust me.

I just read Psalm 8 for my quiet time this morning and it's such a beautiful Psalm: "O LORD, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth. You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise ... When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet ... " The words, and the thoughts behind them, are just so beautiful. David really knew how to pray.

We have no plans for the day. I went out yesterday and got the mail, stopped by the church and picked up a check, then swung by the bank so I could cash it. So I got all my errands done yesterday. No reason to go out in the smoke today. The trash pickup was this morning and I'm so grateful that we now have the pick up. We used to fill up our barrels and then go to the dump every other week, but this is so much nicer. I'm so blessed to be able to afford that little luxury. It's just the two of us so we don't accumulate a lot for the week but it is just really nice to have the pickup. We had it when we lived in Walnut Creek but that was 20 years ago. As I said, I feel blessed. Isn't it amazing when we can feel blessed over such little things? Blessed by the trash pickup?

Sometime yesterday I was reading something that referenced Isaiah 63:7-9 and I was blown away by a phrase in the verses. Isaiah wrote: "I will tell of the kindnesses of Jehovah, the deeds for which He is to be praised, according to all Jehovah has done for us ... yes, the many good thing He has done for the house of Israel, according to His compassion and many kindnesses. He said, 'Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me'; and so He became their Savior. [This is where it gets good, I'll put it in italics for you.] In all their distress He too was distressed ..." Isn't that amazing? Think about it. In our distress, God is distressed too. When we let the trials of the day get to us and we feel all stressed out and just want to scream, the Lord is feeling that distress too. When we are hurt or hurting and the world seems so unfair, the Lord is distressed with us. It's amazing that this huge, magnificent God that rules the galaxies and tells the sun where to go, this incredible God who made the sea and the stars, this almost unbelievable God who is just so big, identifies Himself in our distresses. That just blows me away. Our God is big, and majestic and all-encompassing, and good and holy and He becomes distressed when I am distressed! This great big God cares when things become too much for me! Can you grasp that? I mean this just blew me away yesterday when I looked it up in my Bible and it still blows me away today! It's amazing that when I am distressed, He too is distressed. I think of the song Amazing Love and have a new reverence for it.

I think the smoke has lifted a little bit. Yesterday afternoon it was so thick that you could see it in the air between the front door and my car in the driveway. Of course it's just barely afternoon and the afternoon breezes haven't kicked in yet but I think it may be a little better for us today. We'll see. At least we're not the only ones affected by this smoke. Everyone in northern California is suffering. The smoke (in case I haven't mentioned or you've forgotten) is from the 800+ ( up from the 700 originally counted) lightning fires that were set ablaze a few days ago when a dry system rolled through northern California.

I had my alarm set for 7:30 this morning so I could get up and go back out on the deck with my Bible and devotionals but I woke up 3 minutes before it was supposed to go off so I just shut it off. I'd like to be able to say that I got up but I didn't. I fell back to sleep and slept until 10:00. But I still grabbed my books and went outside for my quiet time. It was smoky (of course) but nice and secluded for my reading. I like to read the Psalms out loud and I feel silly reading out loud here in the living room or back in my bedroom. I wonder what I'll do when winter gets here and I won't be able to go out on the deck because of the rain or the cold. Maybe I'll conquer my weird feelings about reading out loud and can just move it indoors when the need arises. And I guess if worse comes to worse I can always read them silently. But I like to hear the sound of God's Word when I read.

My toes are still purple and I am beginning to think they might be permanently discolored. I had a childhood friend who accidentally shot himself in the face and he always had a big bruise there on the side of his face. He was permanently discolored. As much as I may downplay my ankle injury I think it was much more serious than I wanted to think. Tomorrow will be two weeks and it is still swollen and still discolored. How long does it take for a bruise to go away anyway? Isn't it funny how when we clumsily fall like I did we feel so embarrassed and play down the injuries? Oh it was nothing, I thought I'd just stretch out here on the floor like this for awhile. I do this sort of thing all the time. No need to be concerned. Oh, I hurt my foot a little bit here but it's really nothing. All the while our injury is causing our insides to tie up into knots, the pain is so severe. Why don't we just yell like our injury hurts? Why do we feel the need to pretend? Oh it was really nothing, nothing at all. It was too something and it hurt like the devil!! Actually, I have to say that it wasn't all that bad. I'm just being silly here. I mean, it DID hurt but it wasn't all that much. I'm really surprised that the bruising and swelling was as bad as it was. My entire foot turning purple the way it did. I mean it was the ankle I twisted but the bruise went all the way to the tips of my toes.

Tomorrow we'll have the Thursday evening family bar-be-que at church. I forgot all about going last week and I had really wanted to go because we had Dale Johnson giving an entire concert and I love to hear him sing. I don't know who he is or how we managed to snag him but they played some of his recordings before service the Sunday before and his voice was just incredible. This week I think they're planning on water sports. I'll excuse myself from that activity. Getting hit with a water balloon is not all that much fun to me anymore. When I was a kid, yes, they were fun. We actually got into water fights all the time when we were kids but now that I'm in my senior years it just doesn't hold the same attraction for me. No, I want to go for the fellowship not the sports.

I'm lacking in fellowship. But it's difficult when your beloved isn't as turned on by church activities as you are. So I stay home with him a lot of the time. I wouldn't be much of a wife if I left him home as often as we have activities at the church. I still go, I just don't go as often as I would like to go. Evelyn and Jordan go to everything and I am so envious. Our VBS is running all this week and the kids are having a ball. I meant to bring home some of the fliers last Sunday so I could give it to the neighbors across the street and next door. They both have children. But I forgot to pick up the fliers (didn't remember them until I drove in the driveway at home) and I couldn't remember what the hours were or the age requirements. So I couldn't even just go over and tell them either. I will do my best to remember next year and hopefully my best next year will be better than my best was this year.

Well, I think I'm going to go make myself a sandwich for lunch and get busy getting things done. I didn't get my bed made when I first got out of bed and need to go in and get that done (my house just doesn't feel "put together" without the bed being made) but Michael had a bad night with all the smoke and has gone back in and laid down for a nap so I won't get to that for awhile. I usually try to make it as soon as I get up but I forgot this morning and came out here and got busy. I don't really have any plans for today. I did my Bible study in Romans yesterday and will do another chapter tomorrow but I think for today I'll just spend a couple hours reading some of the magazines that have come in and get caught up. It's so easy to get behind in my reading. Or I may just sit and read Scripture for awhile. I did that on Monday afternoon. I function best if I'm in the Word daily with my Bible studies and devotionals and then to just sit and read Scripture. Being in the Word every single day helps me keep a right attitude about life in general, my life in particular. I think I'll go tend to that sandwich now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Key to Acceptance

Many people, even churchgoers, will be alarmed to discover that efforts at ministry do not in themselves earn us a place in heaven. Some would be shocked to learn that good deeds mean nothing to God unless they are the by-product or the outgrowth of a relationship with Him. The only people who will enter heaven are those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; no matter how many works or acts of kindness or charity they have performed.

The confusion of church members who often lack faith is caused by their definition of the word believe. They believe in God, Jesus, and heaven which is only right for them to do. But they miss the difference between an intellectual knowledge of Christ as God's son and believing in our hearts and acknowledging with our lips our own personal Savior. With every instance in the Bible of someone truly believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior there is a true change in that person. Listen carefully: It is impossible for one to stay the same after meeting Jesus because they come face-to-face with their most desperate need for Him.

Our most earnest desire for a savior begins with the basic recognition that we have sinned against God and are in need of a Savior. We must also be fully aware that there is no hope for salvation apart from Jesus. "No one comes to the Father but through me." Fully recognizing these two basic facts and understanding what they mean for us, we trust only in His sacrifice for the payment of our sins. He settled the score once and for all when He died at Calvary. Some people use the phrase "ask Jesus to forgive you" or "ask Jesus into your heart" and it really doesn't matter how we describe the event ... if we repent of our sins and make a decision to receive Jesus' free grace and forgiveness, we are saved and we are eternally saved. Don't miss that point: we are saved eternally. Our salvation is secure because it is based on what Jesus has done and not on anything we have done or will ever do.

We have God's promise that he will respond to any humble acknowledgment of Jesus' sacrifice. If anyone desires to be with Him in heaven for eternity, they must ask themselves: Have I been saved? And there is no better time than right now.


It's a nice day so far. I actually shut off my alarm and went back to sleep and slept in until almost 9:00 which I didn't want to happen. But I still just got dressed and then took my books out onto the deck for my quiet time. It is so special when I do that. Being in the cool air and the world somewhat quiet just sets a beautiful setting for communing with my Lord. Michael came out when I was about half finished with my devotional so I just set it aside and visited with him for awhile. Then when he went back inside I went back to my devotionals. It would have been easy for me to get feisty and I confess I wanted to complain to him that he's encroaching on my quiet time and to please go back inside. But risking hurting his feelings would have nullified my purpose in spending time alone with my Lord. I seek change. I seek reformation; and if I chase away those with whom I am learning to relate in this life, what is the value in learning further what I need to do to represent Christ in this world? Slowly I am learning to apply the things I'm learning. To be long-suffering, kind, and patient is a definite challenge when my world is altered from the way I have planned for it to go. I can be so hard-headed and selfish at time. That's my inclination. It's hard to reflect Christ in my day-to-day activities but it's important that I do, for that is my mission in life. One of my Psalms for today says, "... But you are a shield around me, O Jehovah; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To Jehovah I cry aloud and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because Jehovah sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side" (Ps 3:3-6). Jehovah God is the Lord of my life and of my quiet time and He pulls Himself around me and protects me from the world. And I find that an interruption isn't such a big deal. So what if my quiet time was disturbed? The Lord is my shield against any worldly thing disrupting my holy time set aside to spend with Him. I must not fret. The Lord rules my life ... and my quiet time.

It's a beautiful day so far. Lots of drift smoke in the air from all the fires around California. I think this smoke is coming from the fires up in Trinity National Forest. We had some dry lightning come through the area the day before yesterday and the lightning set off over 700 fires. Most of them are small and won't be much of a problem. But some of them are quite substantial. There is one burning near Santa Cruz in the mountains and that is putting up a lot of smoke but I think most of ours is coming from up north. The smoke is thick enough that it smells like smoke, it isn't just the haze in the air. Our third range of mountains we can see out our window is quite muted. Gray instead of green. The wind has just come up within the last few minutes while I've been writing this and it's really blowing in the heavy smoke so that now the third range is almost completely obscured. It's awful out there. It wasn't all that bad earlier when I had my quiet time but this is awful.

[Michael just came back from getting the mail at the Post Office and he says the smoke is giving him a headache. And I can see how it could.]

The air is cool and it feels so good to not have to have the cooler running. That cooler saves my life in the afternoon when the sun heats things up really well (yesterday we hit 105 degrees) but it creates a deep growling sound that drowns out the things I want to hear; like voices. Having a hearing impairment is a definite struggle. That I can hear a fan easier than I can hear a spoken word is frustrating. But I must learn to accept the things I cannot change. I have prayed repeatedly for the return of my hearing so I won't have to rely on hearing aids but God's grace has been sufficient for me.

We grilled burgers for our dinner last night and they were very good. However they were very expensive as it turned out because the heat melted the brand new burner we just installed a week or so ago. Twenty-five dollars, right down the drain. I hate it when things like that happen. A perfectly new burner destroyed in one grilling. Oh well, such is life, I guess. We still have a little George Bush money left for the house so we'll use that money. I can't help but wonder why the Lord allows things like this to happen. He plots the course for my day so why does He allow something like this to happen in my life. That's easy, because it is conforming me into the image of Christ. I must learn to accept that fact, but that is not so easy. One thing I have learned: Suffering has value in this life and the next. I don't pretend to understand it all, how it works and why it works. I just know that suffering has eternal value. And somehow during that suffering we become more transformed into the image of Christ. He is our model. His attitude is what we strive for. And the more conformed into Christ I become, the easier it is for me to suffer loss. We should cherish the things that have value on into the next life and suffering has that kind of eternal value for us. All of us dislike suffering but we can still be joyful that in our suffering we are becoming more and more the people we are meant to be. None of us like suffering. That is normal or maybe that is human. But somehow all this suffering we experience here on earth has value that will be waiting for us when we get to the other side. As we suffer things big or small, real or imagined, all of them go together to create in us the person God wants us to be. I am obviously not talking about a grille burner here. And yet, I am. This isn't the suffering like that of the loss of human life and yet all these little things that we endure do go together to create that person God desires. It's a constant process of transformation. It's rubbing that branch time after time after time that will cause the twig to be bent into the shape or direction we want the bush to grow. It's all the little things that keep pressure on us and change our shape and our attitude. We would be very shallow people if we never faced adversity or pain or disappointment. We would be very different people if we'd never suffered any of these things, big and small. But just knowing that it is a transforming process makes the difficulties easier to take and tolerate. Adversity is difficult, I'll be the first to admit, but it's all for a good cause. Our heavenly Father wants only the best for us and though there are many tears in this life we are building a beautiful person for the next.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Ultimate Rejection

Jesus made it plain that the path to heaven is narrow and difficult. The easier path, we think, is taking the broad road of secular happiness that comes without effort and transversing down those deceiving and enticing side streets to decadence and self-indulgence. But the way to eternal life is marked by submission and self-sacrifice and humility. The true Christian path is riddled with pot holes and narrow shoulders, sharp turns, and relentless inclines.

Jesus warned all of us to walk carefully and not be deceived about our salvation. Confusion can come so quietly that we can be deceived if we are not careful. Those of us who find heaven's road, that narrow and difficult path to salvation, are those who have given our hearts to Jesus and have acknowledged that His sacrificial death at Calvary has paid our sin-debt in full. This is extremely important because in the course of our lives we will meet many people from all walks of life and background who appear to be walking that narrow path though they haven't as of yet actually made a "decision" for Christ. These people appear to be like believers and they may even be feverishly busy with the work of the church but, sadly, they have placed their human performances before their commitment. Even though their activities may be quite commendable ... such as readily volunteering in various ministries and supporting missions, they may even go so far as to uphold some right beliefs, but we need to learn early that actions and thoughts aren't always an accurate reflection of our spirit or our heart.

There are many churchgoers who assume that works are so pleasing to God that heaven is an absolute certainty. But sadly they will be shocked by their ultimate rejection. At the judgment seat of God, Jesus will tell them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23). Lawlessness? How can we be practicing lawlessness with all the good things we do for you? they'll ask. But Jesus will stand firm against such as them. He will not accept anyone who has refused to be forgiven for her or his sins. We are all alike. We are all sinners and as sinners we must all ask to be forgiven. We all far short and are outside God's will and, therefore, we must all confess our sins to God and ask our Redeemer for forgiveness. Absolutely no one is excluded from this requirement.

Under no circumstances do we want to be counted among those who think their good deeds will earn them admission to heaven. There is only one way to get to heaven and that is by receiving Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord (John 14:6). Only then can we be sure that at the end of our earthly walk, we'll step off the narrow road into heaven and into the presence of God, eternally.


A Saturday blog. Surprise. Surprise. Well it just seemed to work into my schedule this week. I should have blogged yesterday but I gave in to worried family members and reluctantly went to the local emergency room and had my ankle looked at. The bruising is really crazy on this thing. I'm all bruised around the outside of my ankle then along the outside of my foot next to the ground, and then my toes. They were bright purple when I got to the ER and I had a hard time convincing the doctor that my toes aren't the point of injury. Granted they look just horrible (the color of my toes really clashes with the color of nail polish I have on! LOL) but that's not where I injured my foot. For anyone who doesn't know, I was sitting on the couch with one leg curled up under me and when I went to get up my foot was asleep and I couldn't make the step necessary to keep me from falling and so I took a tumble here in my living room. That was a week ago and every day my bruising has looked more spectacular than it did the day before. So my hubby and son were very concerned and on my son's way home from work he came by here and insisted on taking me to the ER to get it looked at. It took 3 long, agonizing hours and two sets of X-Rays to find out that I was right all along it was just a soft-tissue injury and it's getting better regardless of how bad it looks. But it really does look horrible. So anyway I spent my free time yesterday in the ER instead of blogging.

I had a seminar to attend at church this morning so I set my alarm for 7:30. I slept until it went off (I usually wake up just minutes before it is due to ring) and laid in bed for another 10 minutes before getting up. But I got dressed and took my devotionals outside to the deck and sat outside in the cool morning air and had my quiet time with the Lord. It was extra special this morning. I'm not sure what was so different this morning but it really was special. So I've decided to do the same thing again tomorrow. It was just a wonderful time of relaxation and fellowship with the Lord. I absolutely loved it and I hope to do it every morning from now on. I'm trying to figure out why it was so special this morning. And as silly as it sounds I think it was because I was dressed up and ready to go to my seminar. I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm wearing skirts and dresses these days in light of Deut. 22:5 although I am not being legalistic about it. I just thought I'd see how it goes and I've come to find out that wearing skirts and dresses is so much more comfortable and cooler than pants and shorts. I wear dresses that are all loose fitting with princess waistlines in lightweight materials. Anyway, I had my dress on already and it just felt different coming to the Lord that time in the morning all dressed and ready to go to my seminar. I know it sounds crazy, but it felt different in a special way and that's all I can think of. So I will try to repeat the process tomorrow when I get up to go to church. Hopefully it will prove to be as relaxing and refreshing as this morning was.

Today's seminar was Discovering Membership: 101 in the Christian Life & Service Seminars. It's a series of four seminars given once a month and today's class finished up the classes for me. I've taken all four of them and now I'm wondering what's next. They have all been so informative and useful even when you take them out of order the way I did. Each one can stand alone but they do progress as you go through the four. But today we looked at our salvation, our statements, our core values, our common identity, our affirmations, and our structure. The classes run from 9:00 to 12:00 and the time just flies by. There weren't many people there today probably about ten counting the pastor. Actually, I love it when the sessions are small. I can hear things better.

We've had some high clouds come in this afternoon. It's still hotter than blue blazes but it's nice to have that intensity of the sun's heat deflected a bit. It almost looks like a complete cloud cover moving in. We might have some sprinkles and lightning and thunder. I love summer thunder storms but the fire danger is so high right now that I'd just as well not have the lightning. It's 105.8 degrees outside right now. So you don't want to be out unless you have to be. I parked my car under the tree when I pulled up today. When I left church my car was so hot I burned my hands on the metal door handle. I don't like summer. I like today because I have my house clean and I'm dressed in a dress, the television is off (yea!), the cloud cover has moved in and the lighting in the house is subdued and the cooler is on. Has a whole different feel to things. I love the fact that my house is clean. We're having Leo over for dinner again tonight so I was forced to actually do some deep cleaning like mopping floors, etc. Every time I do this I swear I'm not going to let it get bad again but eventually, almost without noticing, things begin to clutter up and before long it's a major undertaking to get it back to the way I like it.

I will pick up Leo at the church this afternoon at 5:00. He wanted to have tamale pie for dinner. So I need to get in there and break up the lettuce [just thought to put the peach pie in the oven to bake] but I have to fry some bacon for Leo's salad. He likes bacon bits. Michael made the croutons the other day. Michael's making the main dish and I'm contributing all the side dishes including dessert and drinks. Leo just called to remind me. Leo, for those who don't know, is a 55 year old African American who attends my church who is slightly retarded. I guess he's what I would call simple. He can't read but he remembers just about anything. I trust his memory over mine any time. But we've been having him over every couple month for dinner and he just loves it. We've had spaghetti, lasagna and today will be the tamale pie. I'm not sure what he'll want the next time he comes. He's a dear, sweet soul that we love very much. Anyway, I do need to get in there and get the bacon cooked and salad made. I like to have everything done before he gets here and then we can spend our time visiting. He's so cute. Everything has to be just so. He wants to sit and have a pepsi while we visit, then iced tea with his dinner. And he has to have the bacon bits and then there's got to be desert. He's a sweet, sweet man.

So until the next time...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

God is Our Keeper

Simply stated, God is sovereign over all, and God is pure goodness. Knowing this, many believers struggle to understand why painful things happen in their lives and in the lives of their friends or family. They can't help but wonder why God wouldn't stop them from experiencing all this pain and heartache.

That question deepens when we read passages in the Bible like Psalm 121:7-8 that says: "The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever." Many people have taken this to mean that the Lord will keep bad things from happening to them. But what the words actually say is that He will keep their souls. And that is altogether different.

The Lord in His wisdom allows pain in our lives, emotional, psychological, and physical. And as hard as it is to believe, sometimes He even orchestrates the difficulty from beginning to end. God understands hurt and He hurts with us, but He also looks into the deeper meaning of our situations. Trials are most often meant to strengthen our faith and make us more like Jesus. Hurts give us compassion for others. At times, God may even use trials and difficulties to prevent us from living mundane, meaningless lives or wasting opportunities that are there for the taking. And sometimes, as hard as it may be for us to understand, with His help, we profit immensely more by walking through the hurt, than by avoiding it completely. The thing we must remember is that there is always value in suffering. When our heavenly Father knows it is best, He doesn't keep us from the pain; instead, He enables us to endure the hardship by giving us wisdom and strength. And, often when we get to the other side, we can see ... with great relief and gratitude ... how His gentle and gracious hand guided us through the entire situation. It was a chance for God to deal directly in our lives with issues that, had they not arisen, we would have missed His help or His hand altogether.

But we must never fear because we have such tremendous hope. And our hope isn't the world's type of hope. Our hope is the assured expectation. It's a sure thing; a done deal. And we can rest assured, knowing that God will keep us through our most difficult times. Especially during those times when we experience our worst and feel utterly alone. Read Psalm 124 and ask God to remind you of its truths when you are in the midst of painful situations in your life.


My ankle and toes are a nice bright shade of purple today. They've gone through the deep blue, almost black phase. It still pops every time I step on it but it mostly doesn't hurt. It's a little achy this morning but I think that's because Pepper jumped up and landed on my foot right at the injury site. Bright white flash of pain and it has ached since. I went ahead and wrapped it with an elastic bandage and we'll see how that goes for awhile. My toes look so funny all blue and purple especially between my toes. It looks like I stepped in something and it squished up between my toes. Eww! [So you don't have to search back, if you don't know, I severely sprained my ankle last Thursday night. I got up off the couch and my right foot was asleep and I just ended up sprawled all over the floor with my ankle going the wrong direction. Boo!]

I wasn't feeling well yesterday (that's why I didn't blog) but I'm feeling okay now. I had stomach cramps, headache, and a little nausea. I think it may have been a slight kidney infection because my urine was dark brown. I've had that happen before only I don't remember feeling so crummy. Oh well, that's behind me now.

Stacy and Dad got a car!! Yea for them. That's a lot better than walking everywhere they want to go. I don't know if Dan got his motorcycle back yet from the man who stole it. Hopefully he got it back okay without any problems. He could still use it sometimes or he could turn around and sell it now that they have a car. Either way it's still his motorcycle. Steven has been working at the orphanage mostly since he got there. I don't know how they fit 13 people in that tiny house they have. But they are doing it. This will likely be Steven's longest three months or his shortest, one way or the other but I don't think they'll go by normally for him.

We have Leo coming for dinner again Saturday night. I told him I'd pick him up about 5:00 and we'd come back here and sit and visit while he drinks a soft drink. Then we'll have dinner and dessert and then I'll take him back home. Michael picked up some fresh bacon so I can make real bacon bits for Leo's salad. And he bought Peach pie and whipped cream for dessert. We really enjoy doing this for him every once in awhile. It gives him something to plan for his weekend. He lives in a care facility just down the road a little bit. He has an afternoon job at the small grocery store, doing janitorial type things Monday - Friday. And this just gives him an extra something to plan for.

Franci is back to blogging. She had computer problems of some kind and that's why she just suddenly quit blogging. I was so worried. The thing is I knew it could be computer problems but I chose to worry. What does that have to say about me? Am I trusting the Lord in every thing?

I potted more portulaca in my planters to replace all the pansies that died off. It is so pretty the way you can get so many different colors of flowers off the same plant. I don't know how that works but I'm here to say it works. One of them has white, yellow, and red orange blossoms on it. Only one of the new plants is currently blooming. It will take them a week or so for the buds to open up.

It has been hot here the past week and thank God for the cooler. However I have to sit right in front of it to blog so I wear my hubby's hoodie to stay comfortable. But we'd die without the cooler. I'm so glad we put new pads in it this year. It doesn't smell like a fish tank now. Speaking of things not smelling, I bought a new filter for my vacuum cleaner and it smells soooo much better now. It used to smell really gross. Tomorrow I will vacuum the house really well in preparation for Leo and then I'll do it again on Saturday. We have so many animals dropping hair everywhere they go that it takes a lot of vacuuming to get the job done right.

I did make it out to church on Sunday, limping all the way. And I had a meeting Tuesday morning with commission one deacons to go over what needs to be done with the membership roles. But then I had an Executive Board meeting last night and I decided to stay home. I could have gone but I would have had to wash my hair (after lying around on it for 2 days) and change my clothes and I just decided that it would be best if I missed this one. Now I have a case of the guilts and I can't help but wonder what I missed.

I have started my study in Romans and I'm using Warren Wiersby's book Be Right. And I'm enjoying it so far. I will study on Tuesdays and Thursdays if I'm up to it. Like this is Thursday and it's already 2:00 and I haven't done a thing with it. Guess I should wind this up and get busy with it. If I don't keep myself on some kind of schedule I'll end up starting something and not finishing it (something for which I am notorious!). I don't want to start off making excuses for not doing my study.

This hasn't been much of a blog. I don't have a lot to write about because I've been laid up with my ankle for the past week and then had two days of flu-like symptoms so I haven't gone much anywhere or done much of anything. I did go to that meeting on Tuesday even though I wasn't feeling well at the time and when I left there I went to the nursery next door and bought more portulaca, that I mentioned earlier, and went to the post office. But that's the extent of what I've done all week. Anyway, I'm going to go do my study now so I'll probably blog again tomorrow and I'll try to have more to write about. [ON EDIT: I did go into the bedroom where is was quiet and did my study. My lessons take just about an hour.]

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trials and Assurances

As we all know too well, trials will erupt and spew fire in every life. Thankfully, though, we can rely on our heavenly Father to help us in times of need, as Psalm 121 assures us.

Verses 1 and 2 read: "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Although thieves would hide in the mountains and prey upon innocent travelers, the psalmist knew just where to turn for help. Likewise, when we come face to face with the unknown ... fears or trials of any kind ... our sovereign Lord will be there to sustain us (Ps 103:19) ... even when others let us down or us doing things in our own strength fails.

"He who keeps you will not slumber" (Ps 121:3). With all the billions of people in the world, it is difficult for us to comprehend how God could possibly know even the smallest detail of our lives ... or why He would care for us so much that He would number all the hairs on our heads. But this passage confirms for us the fact that God is alive and well and alert to every aspect of our lives and pays attention to all our needs. We are never left to just ourselves alone; God is ever with us.

"The Lord is your keeper" (v. 5). The Hebrew word for "keep" comes from the same root as does "guard" and "protect." We would use this term when a parent asks someone to "keep" her child while she is away temporarily. The childcare provider is expected to protect and provide for the needs of this child. In the same way, God promises to keep His children, which means that He will defend us, give us just what we need, and grow us into His likeness, and guard us from evil.

The world would seem to be a dangerous and lonely place without these promises of God. But we can successfully face unknowns and difficult times with confidence, knowing that the Lord will always keep us and help us live our lives for His glory.


Nothing new and exciting going on around our home here in the foothills. It's going to be another warm day but I don't think it's going to get as hot as it got yesterday. I'm all for the cooler temps. I can't believe it but we have actually had a very nice spring up here. Last year we didn't have a spring at all. It went straight from winter to summer! This year we've had a long, leisurely spring. It's been very nice. I like having four distinct seasons. Of course I could totally go without summer. I know we need it to grow things but I just hate the heat.

I made it to church yesterday but my ankle hurt for the rest of the day so I probably shouldn't have gone. But I wanted to go so badly. Saturday evening we will be having Leo over for dinner again. He's got his heart set on Tamale Pie, salad with bacon bits, and peach pie for dessert. Michael had to run to the store yesterday after I got home and he ran into Leo while he was out and Leo had to remind him that he likes bacon bits in his salad. I always fry up a couple strips of bacon for him to put in his salad.

My ankle is slowing healing. It's still pretty swollen and discolored but I can walk on it pretty well with a limp of course, but I no longer need crutches. Yea! Sure a dumb thing to have happen, turning my ankle like that, but things happen. Heather and her clan are slowly making their way home after spending quite a few days on the road. It's been great for the family. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to work at creating new memories ... a whole new life. Especially when you were quite happy with the life you had. But life tosses us a curve ball occasionally and we have to dodge the pitch once in awhile. Heather can go and make instant friends wherever she winds up. She can turn a car problem into immediate friendships. What an inspiration and blessing she is to everyone who is privileged enough to know her. I think they are finally on their last leg home. I bet it will feel really good to finally get back home after having been gone for as long as they have. Please pray for their continued safety on the road. And that they won't have any more car troubles.

I can't believe I have stayed true to my journal for as long as I have. I'm so good at getting bored with things and just giving them up in no time. But journaling has turned out to be one of my favorite times during the day. And when I journal at night I can write all about what the Lord did in my life that day and it's amazing how much He really does do. When I first started I worried that I wouldn't have anything to say in a journal but it has so far proved to be an interesting closing to my day. I've started high-lighting the answers in yellow so it will be easier to find the answered prayers when I look back and it's amazing the number of high-lighted sentences I have in my journal now.

We're having a bar-be-que Thursday night at church in the patio with a free Dale Johnson concert. I'm not familiar with him but they played a few of his songs before service yesterday and he has a beautiful voice. I'm looking forward to going. Hope I'm not still hobbling around then. I'd like to be walking normally.

Well, I am sitting here without anything to write about. That's what happens when you get laid up with a bad ankle. I know this hasn't been much of a blog at all but I'm going to go ahead and post this and just hope to do better the next time. I really apologize for this one. There's just nothing to write about. So until next time...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Giving Out of Need

In elementary school we learned how to subtract, how to "take away," leaving us with less than what we started with. Contrary to the laws of mathematics, God tells us that when we give, we will receive even more in return. "Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure -- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38).

God's design for giving requires that we depend on His revelation rather than on our sense of reason. Logic would check the bank account before deciding how much is available to tithe. Scripture, however, tells us that all our wealth belongs to the Father and we are to give back to Him the first fruits of our labor (Deut. 10:14; 18:4-5). When we obey, we are trusting Him to take care of us ... which sometimes means choosing to ignore what makes sense, humanly speaking. God doesn't always provide in the manner we expect or desire. Instead, He satisfies our needs and blesses us in the way He knows will truly be the best for us.

When facing hard financial circumstances we can be tempted to justify holding onto our resources. But God, understanding the situation perfectly, knows that we give not simply out of our surplus, but out of our need. The Macedonian church, for example, gave generously even while experiencing affliction (2Cor 8:2). This pleased the Lord greatly because they were giving by faith out of their need not out of their excess. Anyone can give out of their excess. But when we give out of our need the Lord is blessed by our gift. We are to live out our lives sacrificially. Doing so with our finances is often a test of faith. God says if we will give, He will give back to us. Do we believe Him and make that sacrifice, or do we "wait and see" what we have left? We should give first ... give the first fruits of our labors ... and then take for ourselves. So many of us have that concept just the opposite of what it should be. We give first. Then we gain. We don't wait to see what we have left to give. We give first.

Ask God what He would like for you to give. Pray for the courage to obey. Give. Then eagerly await His blessings. We are to do it this way because that's the way it works. That's the way it pleases the Lord. And there is no better feeling than to do something knowing that it pleases our God.


This was a short post but it concludes my thoughts on giving and tithing. I probably could have just tacked this onto the bottom of my last blog but I didn't think to do that. Actually, I thought I'd have more to say about this but my "idea bottle" is empty. Ever have that happen? Where you sit there with your hands poised to strike the keys but just nothing comes to mind to write. That's me, but I am working with a handicap today. I got up off the couch last night to go fix dinner and my right foot was asleep and I just went down, boom! I was sprawled out all over the floor with my ankle going the opposite direction it was supposed to go. It's pretty swollen today and discolored but it really doesn't look as bad as I thought it would. Poor Michael had to do dinner all by himself last night. Usually we make eggs Benedict together. But he had to manage without my help last night. And dinner was so good too. It always tastes so much better when you don't have to help cook it. It's relatively easy to fix anyway but I usually fix the sauce. We make ours a little different than most people do. We scramble our eggs and we use fried spam as the meat. And I don't like cheese on mine while Michael does. We've just taken a tried and true recipe and customized it for our individual preferences and we end up with a real winner of a dinner. Well, I think I'll go elevate my foot for awhile. I'm not going to enjoy being laid up with a bad ankle at all. I have so many things I should be doing and so many things I want to be doing and I have to sit around and do none of them. But I will try and get some reading done today. And I have the feeling that I'm going to want to take a nap this afternoon too. I didn't do too badly through the night. I had to get up once or twice to go to the bathroom but I was able to do that without falling again so I don't think I'm doing too bad. I sure wish I could find my copy of Streams in the Desert but I just don't know where else to look for it. I was late getting my bed made and I didn't get to my morning devotional until just a few minutes ago and haven't quite got it finished but at least I got started on it. I guess late is better than not at all.

Franci is back up and running. She's been out of commission because of a computer problem. I figured it was either that or she'd been raptured because she went almost a month without blogging. I'm so happy she's got her problem corrected and is back blogging with us. Heather and her family are still on their trip. Right now she's attending a Christian Educational Conference in Colorado and then will be heading on toward home I think. I'm so glad she was able to attend this conference. And believe it or not but its put on by men! Did you catch that? Men are involved! Praise God! Somewhere there needs to be a happy medium between men controlling everything and men leaving everything up to the women to do. I think our churches are severely remiss in masculine leadership. The JWs were totally men controlling everything (women were definitely second-class members) totally! And now I find that in the Christian church (or the ones I'm familiar with) men don't do enough. We need good, strong leadership from our men! Now, ladies, how do we go about getting this from them??? How do we get men more involved? I mean, if we women just up and quit and said it was time for the men to stand up and lead, nothing would get done. But somehow we have to find that medium and stick to it. Our churches desperately need male leadership but I have absolutely no idea how to get them to lead. We have even had to go to female ushers because we don't have enough men interested in serving. Only 2 out of 9 deacon positions are held by men. This is really sad and I think something needs to be done about it but I'm just not sure how to fix the problem. How do we get the men to stand up and take the lead in leadership?

Stacy and Dan are healing nicely after their motorcycle accident last week. But keep them in your prayers. Steven has arrived in Liberia West Africa to spend the summer with the Gjerstads. Their church took up a love gift so they could buy themselves a car and hopefully Dan has seen to that. They really do need transportation. I'm so excited for them to do what they feel called to do. I worry about the kids but I think when you feel the Lord leading you you pretty much have to go along with Him. Just ask that the Lord will bless them with a really good vehicle for very little money.

It's going to be another warm day today but at least we have only a slight breeze instead of the wind we've been having. We're quite tired of the wind. I think our high yesterday was 103 and I'm pretty sure today will top that. It's much hotter, much earlier! We're less than a month away from the Fourth of July. Usually by this time we are enduring scorching heat. Not that 103 isn't hot. It is. But it's a far cry from 114!

This hasn't been much of a blog but it's the best I can do for the day. Since I only blogged twice this week I will try and squeeze in another blog over the weekend but no promises. I think it's now time to go elevate my foot for awhile. It's starting to throb. But at least I've been able to put a little weight on it using the crutches for most of my weight. That's a lot better than I thought it would be today. Actually, it's a lot better in every way than I thought it would be today. It doesn't seem to be as blue as it looked last night either. They just made a TV announcement a little while ago that Tim Russert has died of a heart attack at age 58. That's younger than me. It gets kind of scary when people your own age start dying off. That's a real shocker. I always thought he was a fair-minded journalist. He will be missed and I lift his family up to the Lord to give them the strength they need to get though the days ahead.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


[Just a note to advise my readers that I am experiencing computer problems and if I should just up and quit blogging, it's my computer and I'll get the problem fixed. ASAP. Thanks!]

Monday, June 9, 2008

We Are Blessed to Give

I recently upped my tithing percentage and during the course of making that decision, I thought a lot about giving: why I give, what it means to me, what it means to God, and whether or not any of it makes any difference. I began to think of giving as one more method or opportunity to practice unselfishly the very act of giving itself. There is great value in the giving. For it doesn't matter so much how much we give of ourselves as it does the mere fact that we make a regular attempt to please God in the area of giving back to him and giving to others. As with any developing skill, the better we are at a particular talent, the more we'll enjoy doing it. The more we give the more we'll find we want to give. It's much like when an orchestra skillfully plays a beautiful masterpiece, and an accomplished musician, one who practices the art of music in some way, will gain greater pleasure from listening to the music than will a person with an untrained ear. You might be surprised to find that the same holds true for giving. A skill, learned and practiced, becomes more abundant and is more easily accomplished. It's intrinsic value increases.

In the Old Testament 10% of everything owned or conquered belonged to God. In the New Testament we come to understand that 100% of everything we own or have belongs to God. And God requires us to give and to give back to Him for a multitude of reasons. When you and I sacrificially give back money to the Lord, we are acknowledging that in reality everything we have, all our holdings and possessions and talents, actually belong to Him in the first place! We are merely returning what is not, and never has been, ours to keep (Ps 50:10). Giving is another opportunity to practice the skills and talents necessary to learn to give out of obedience (Ex 25:2). When we obediently contribute money to a ministry or reach out to help the needy, we are taking part in the work of God's kingdom and this gives us great joy. And our offerings are an opportunity for God to reveal His character in and through us. As we demonstrate generosity, He will faithfully provide for our needs and bless us in abundance (2Cor 9:8). The saying "You can't outgive God" proves to be true over and over again. Our sacrifices always bring blessings.

But giving involves much more that just money. God has blessed each one of us with time, talents, and resources ... along with plenty of opportunities to share them with others and we need to avail ourselves to each opportunity. It is important to obediently hold onto the Holy Spirit's guidance so we will know what, to whom, and how much we should give. Do we have a particular talent that God could use in His church? Music? Leadership? Missions? If we but stop and take the time, we will find that we have many areas in which we can practice giving sacrificially. Something as simple and unassuming as hanging around the doors at church and greeting people when they walk in or making it a point to introduce ourselves to someone we don't know is a talent given back to the Lord (Matt 25:44-45).

It is important for us to recognize that the Lord is continuously giving to us: comfort, salvation, breath of life, encouragement, and countless other blessings. Every moment of our lives is one blessing after another. We are indebted to Him and should give back, and not just out of a sense of obligation, the feeling that we are required to do so, but with true gratitude and joy. We give out of the abundance of our hearts that long to give even more. One real test of giving is whether we're giving out of our excess or whether we're giving out of our struggles. I've heard it said that if it doesn't hurt, we aren't giving enough. God will bless any gift in any amount but we periodically need to ask the Lord to reveal to us any areas of selfishness or other hindrances to sharing on our part. When we give graciously out of our struggles, we'll find that the more we give the more we'll want to give. Giving is not so much an obligation as it is an opportunity to grow more Christlike and to express our love and joy and appreciation for all that God does for us or all he does in our name. We accept an abundance of gifts and joys from the Lord on a continuous basis, the least we can do is pay our tithes. And if 10% comes out of our abundance, we need to up the percentage until we feel it coming out of our struggles. And in all of this, we need to remember that the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2Cor 9:7).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Meeting God Daily

Many of us have been blessed with close, personal friends. Imagine, if you can, what it would be like if we never spent time with these people but instead just thought and talked about how wonderful these special people are to us. Wouldn't that be foolish behavior? What reward is there in that? Yet some of us ... as Christians ... do just that. Many of us spend hours and hours acquiring a vast knowledge about God and the Bible, but we miss out on having a deep, rich fellowship with the Father who is the best Friend anyone could ever have. Any study we undertake should be for the sole purpose of meeting God Himself and not simply a time of information gathering.

It's quite easily possible to fill our lives to the full with all kinds of spiritual information and activities ... all of which are good ... but fail to develop a close, personal relationship with the Lord. Stop and take a quick inventory to see if this might be true of you: Do you attend church only out of a sense of duty or as a habit? Do you pray with artificial enthusiasm with lofty or repetitive words rather than speaking to God from the depths of your heart? Do you serve your church, and if you do, do you serve out of a sense of obligation? These are questions that only we can answer ourselves but they are questions that we should stop and ask ourselves periodically.

We read in Scripture about many people whose personal encounter with the Lord was energizing and life-altering. Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul were just a few believers who spoke one-on-one with God. We probably don't expect the dramatic "burning bush" experiences around our prayers today yet I cannot help but wonder why not? Why is it that we don't anticipate great things to happen when we pray? Why is it that we fail to ask for great things? But it doesn't matter if our bushes are burning or not, all believers should still, at the very least, have precious, intimate times spent alone with God. Whenever we open the Bible and read His Word, inviting the Holy Spirit to illuminate its meaning, we can hear directly from our Father in heaven.

Scripture tells us to "draw near to God and He will draw near to [us]" (James 4:8). Walking closely with the Lord requires discipline, time and commitment. If we aren't already, let us start now by dedicating a portion of our day to meeting with our best Friend for He desires this very act. God is a relational being and as such He deeply desires to commune with us. I once asked God to teach me to pray, for I had just learned that God exists in a Triune form, and His answer was simple: "Just tell me about your day; just talk with me." And that is all it takes to meet God at the beginning of every Day. When we start off our day in prayer to the Father we're boosting our day with heavenly power for God longs to fellowship with us and we know that whatever it is that we ask for He is eager to give. Never let a day go by without spending time in prayer. And prayer isn't just a time of asking and receiving. No, it is a time of fellowshipping, spending time with the Lord, sharing our plans and activities, discussing our joys and our sorrows, it is a time of individual worship, that one-on-one time that the Saints have had down through all of history. We need to remind ourselves that before there was "history" there was God. He was before all things and we have the unbelievable privilege of having His full attention for as long as we want it. Prayer is so much more than asking and receiving. Let's build strong habits of daily praise and worship for our Maker. Let's meet God daily.


I have a busy day planned out so I will keep today's blog down to a minimum. Last night's meeting went along fine and I even came out of my gloomy mood I was in all day. I hate it when I have days like that but I think it must be because we are human and humans are very complex creations. And we just get through the days and the moods the best way we know how. They can make us appreciate all our good days. My phone has been busy this morning. This is the day to call Marj I guess. First call this morning was from our associate pastor asking me to give a prayer during the service Sunday. I told him I would find someone who would do it as I just know I would freeze up and there would be nothing but stuttering and stammering if it were left up to me. So then I had to call around to find a deacon willing to do it and finally! I found somebody. Yea! If she had said no I would have had to do it even with all my fear and trembling. Then I got a call that small group is starting up again on Monday. We're going to be looking at a video series of Matthew that I bought years ago from Guideposts. They are such wonderful tapes. It is word-for-word out of the NIV translation. The actor who portrays Jesus does just a wonderful job of portraying Jesus as a joyful Christ. When he heals the sick it fills him with happiness and joy and I do believe our Savior was full of joy. I don't think he was a somber person at all. People were attracted to him because of his personality and nothing attracts quite like joy. So now I have to watch the first video and come up with some discussion questions. I will be the facilitator because they are my tapes I guess. Anyway it's been a busy morning and, oh yeah, I had to talk with Joann about meeting with Ken to go over the membership rolls and get them updated and usable and now I have to call Ken and let him know that the three of us will get together after he gets back from his trip. Just a lot of little odds and ends that I'm so happy didn't come in yesterday because in the mood I was in. I wouldn't have been able to do even these simple things. Yesterday all I could do was simply exist. I don't like days like yesterday at all but somehow, someway they must accomplish something. My days are all ordained by my Creator and He plots out my life. Maybe that's just a way of recharging us for better days. What do you think? Do you have bad days like that where you just exist? Depressed? Sad? Uninterested? Blah? What do you think it means and are we to work to get out of that mood or just resign ourselves to the fact and move on?

Well, I've got a lot to do so I'm going to let this be it for my blog today. I will probably not blog before Monday but who knows? The urge to blog has been known to strike me out of the blue. Do take care and stay close with the Lord. Let your daily meetings with God be filled with Joy and love. I'm a nighttime pray-er but I'm going to work on forming the habit of turning to God first thing in the morning because what better way could I start my day? I think it's worth the effort of trying to form a new habit first thing in the morning. If you aren't a morning pray-er would you be willing to join me in forming this great new habit? And if you already have this habit, could you share your experiences with me? How do you do it every morning? Do you have a sit-down with the Lord or do you just kind of do it on the run? What did you do to get into the habit? Have you found anything special, any little tricks to remind yourself? I mean, I have been wanting to have a morning prayer time for years and years but it takes me so long to wake up in the mornings and there's always so much confusion in the house first thing that by the time things are squared away it's noon so if you have any tips on forming this habit I'd love to hear from you. So until next time ... stay close to the Lord ...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Still Thinking

If we respond to others simply out of habit, chances are we're usually pretty kind to them. Most people are pleasant at first glance. At other times, though, when things aren't going our way or they aren't going as easily for us as we think they should, we can just as easily be angry, sour, vengeful, or hurtful with the things we say and with our actions. Our niceties can easily turn into grumblings.

Yet, if we're looking at Jesus' teachings, then we know we are to love those around us even when things are unpleasant and we think those around us are unlovable. Maybe especially when things line up this way. We mustn't forget that Jesus walked the walk and talked the talk: He loved us enough to die for us even while we were yet sinners steeped in darkness (Rom 5:8). Surely then, out of sheer gratitude for what He has done and with His strength, in the person of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to love others (1Jn 3:14).

While it may be difficult or hard to respond to unkindness or rudeness with the type of love Jesus prescribes, such godly behavior can often lead to great blessings. First and foremost, it pleases our heavenly Father when we seek to love the unlovable. Remember that Jesus touched the "untouchables" and we are called to do the same. When we do or say things that please the Father it gives us an incredible sense of accomplishment, joy, peace, and satisfaction. Next, believers should feel a sense of excitement and anticipation to step back and watch how God moves and acts within these relationships and circumstances and situations. Clearly His love comes into play here and we will have a strong awareness of the Holy Spirit, working from within. It is He who is working from inside us to enable God's love to flow to others through our yielded lives. But we must recognize the fact that we are to submit to Him first. If we are submissive to our Lord, He will take our yielded lives and turn them into blessings for others.

Jesus reveals something more to us in John 13:35 when He says: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples; if you have love for one another." This speaks of an important benefit that will be reaped in a yielded life. Since this type of unconditional, totally unselfish love is uncommon to see in our society, those around us will notice and God will get all the glory.

Using the Golden Rule out of Monday's devotional (treating other as we want to be treated) will build deep, satisfying relationships with others that we desire in this life. We find that life lacks meaning without these kinds of significant social connections regardless of how many possessions or acquaintances we have. Jesus wants us to have vibrant, thriving relationships so think about the people with whom you come in contact throughout your week and ask yourself: "Am I treating this person the way Jesus means for me to treat them?" And in your answer look for yet more ways of demonstrating the behavior that Jesus modeled. Let the Holy Spirit guide you into situations where His love will manifest itself in your life.


We awoke just two minutes before the 6:00AM alarm clock was due to sound off and I took the opportunity to turn it off and get out of bed before it had the chance to shake, rattle, and roll. (Because of my hearing loss I have an alarm clock with an extension on it that "shakes" the bed and wakes me up.) It was nice to avoid that horrible method of awakening. It's not pleasant. My beloved says it sounds a lot like a 747 taking off under our bed. But it wakes me up when I need it and the fact that it cost a bloody fortune is of small concern when I weigh it against the freedom it gives me to wake up whenever I want. Just like normal people! We noticed a lot of wild lilac in full bloom on our way down into the canyon as we headed out with the sunrise. There wasn't much traffic at all at that time in the morning. It was really a nice drive across the river and we got to WalMart about 7:10 or 7:15. (They open at 7:00.) When we came out of WalMart after our shopping we could see liquid dripping from the rear of the bus. A gas leak. Just what we needed. The thing is it already had a leak if we filled it too full so we always had to keep it low on gas to avoid the leak. But this was a new leak because it hadn't been leaking in our driveway which would have happened if we had overfilled it when we put gas in it yesterday. Just one more problem to deal with. Then when we came out of the supermarket, we noticed that the bus was dripping from the radiator in the front of the bus. It was funny with the gas leak. We put a small plastic trash basket underneath the bus to catch the drips only to have the gasoline "eat" through the plastic. What a disaster!!! So things could have gone a little better for us, I'd say. But with a lot of laughs we made our way through the struggle and persevered until we reached home where the gas leak promptly stopped dripping (and it had been a rather, shall we say, significant "drip?" More like an ever-so-small steady stream.) We probably leaked a full gallon for the entire trip -- or more -- and at $4.469 a gallon that was quite a leak. But the bus runs so well otherwise. Oh well, this will give Michael something else to do with all his free time.

We stopped at the butcher's shop and bought 4 pounds of ground chuck (the only meat for the month) and we had remembered our ice chest and blue ice this month so we were able to put them in a cool place for the journey home. Then we swung by my sister's house and picked up 10 shirts she had for me, all brand new except for 2 or 3, so I made out like a bandit!! I'll be able to wear them with the new skirts I bought at the thrift store last week. I had wanted to stop at the thrift store while we were across the river but by that time we'd already discovered the gas leak and knew we needed to head home in haste. I'm in the market for more dresses. These last two I got last week are absolutely wonderful dresses! They are the most comfortable things I've ever worn. They're not binding on any part of my body yet don't look like mu mus (or is it moo moos?) I would love to have 6 or 8 more of them. Then I would be really happy. I mean, I'm happy already with what I have but I'd like more dresses. I will make it a point to stop often at the thrift store here in town to see if they have more of those types of dresses for sale. My beloved calls them granny dresses because of style not because they look like dresses only a granny would wear. "Granny" dresses were popular in the 70s but they've recently made a comeback. And they are so comfortable!!!

Our day today has been a little trying but with the grace of God we came through smiling all the way. And it was genuine. It wasn't a smile through gritted teeth, or at least mine wasn't. I just let the Lord go before me in all this mess this morning. I mean, we got all our shopping done and we made it home safely so what more could I have asked for? My beloved lost his temper a couple times using very unpleasant words left and right (that part of the navy has never left this sailor, much to my dismay). I can't believe he can be so much fun yet full of such ugliness! And it's such a habit for him he doesn't even realize he's doing it. But it didn't help that he kept dropping things and things kept falling over and the shorts were rolled up into a tight roll and then taped together with the tape-world's answer to super glue! But I compared receipts from last month to this month and we actually got home and hadn't been overcharged for a single item and nothing was missing. Usually there's at least one mistake. But I noticed that last month I was charged for 4 boxes of litter and I only got 3 (I always buy 3) and the boxes I bought today were each 64 cents higher than last month. Every thing else had stayed the same so I guess things aren't going up too drastically. It's just that every thing in America is trucked to the stores and that takes gasoline and gasoline costs an arm and a leg now so the prices on every thing are inching upward.

I think since I got up so early this morning I'm going to go lie down on the couch with my dog and catch a little cat nap. Michael is already sleeping in on the bed so I'll stay out here. I almost forgot, I bought a $5 movie DVD today and it should be good because it has Denzel Washington in it. Its name is The Bone Collector. I noticed when I got home that it was R rated so I'm not too happy with that but we'll just see how it goes. We can always turn it off if it gets too bad. The thing is that most nights on the TV there's nothing good to watch and we end up just numbing our minds with COPS reruns or something on Court TV. Oh I guess it's called True TV now instead of Court TV. Anyway one of these nights we can watch a movie. I wish I had more biblical movies or animated movies. The fun stuff. I don't want to see a movie that is full of profanity and nudity and steamy scenes. I sit with my husband and get embarrassed watching some of the movies they put on TV.

I have a deacon's meeting tomorrow night so before now and then I have to write up an agenda and make copies. I need to come up with something we can use as a devotional to start the meeting off in case Lynn forgets to bring something. She had said she would but she's about as forgetful as I am about things so I should plan on something else just to be safe.

My grandson graduates from High School next week and he's the last one. All my grandkids are pretty much grown and gone. I can't believe how quickly they grew up. I miss having them be little, I really truly do. Back when they were little, spending a night at grandma's was the high light of their week. Back when they couldn't hug grandma enough and every other word out of their mouths was "grandma." Those days are gone and my heart aches sometimes. We used to sit and eat popcorn watching funny and endearing animated movies. I enjoyed the movies just as much as they did. Sniff. Sniff. I miss them.

Well, if I'm going to get that nap I better get to it before it gets too late. I know this hasn't been the best of a post but it's the best I can do for today and I wanted to blog. I may come back and add more when I edit it after my nap. So if you're reading it now and it's full of mistakes or confusing sentence structures, check back later and see if I've edited it. I'm not sure if I'll blog tomorrow or not. It may be Friday before I get back to blogging. Take care.