Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Silent Monks

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Search and Rescue


I've been following the story of the two missing hikers in Oregon. Evidently, three friends set out Friday morning a week ago to climb Mount Hood. A blizzard came in that night, and the three hikers didn't return. One body was found on Saturday. The news said that the hiker had minor injuries from a fall but died of hypothermia. His gear was gone, so it is supposed that the other two hikers have the gear which would provide them a few extra supplies. However, weather conditions only worsened as the week went on, and at the time of this writing, the search has been called off until the weather clears. What was once a "search and rescue" mission is now being termed as a "recovery" mission. In other words, they've given up hope of finding these two hikers alive.

It's a sad story that has my emotions in an uproar. On the one hand, I can't help but wonder why they would try to climb the mountain when they knew bad weather was imminent. On the other hand, I can't imagine what their friends and families must be going through right now. What a sad twist to the holidays!

Do you realize that we, as Christians, are on a search and rescue mission? When Jesus was on the earth, He said, "I have come to seek and to save that which was lost." However, when He left this earth, He gave us a command to carry on His work. No, we can't save, but we can seek, and we can lead those lost souls to the One who can save.

I can't fathom the number of souls that are lost and on their way to Hell. It's our job to reach them. It's our job to seek them out. It's our job to lead them to the Savior. When are we going to start taking this search and rescue mission seriously? Unfortunately, when our work is called off, there is no recovery mission. Let's act now before it's too late.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Check the Ingredients


Once a month, Jason and I will go to the bargain grocery store and check out what they've gotten in recently that we can use. For the most part, it's a "scratch and dent" kind of place, but you'd be amazed at the discount you can get on some of this stuff just because the cans are ugly.

Anyway, when we go, he tries to stock up on coffee because they'll carry brands that we usually can't afford at a VERY good price. His recent discovery was a lovely hazelnut blend. I love hazelnuts, and usually the smell of anything with hazelnut in it makes my mouth water. That was not the reaction I had yesterday morning when I first smelled the coffee.

"What's that smell?" I asked wrinkling my nose and trying to calm the tickle in the back of my throat. My first thought was that Jason had spilled some of the cinnamon deodorizer that he uses for work. It didn't take me long to realize it was the coffee. I turned the coffee pot off and grabbed the new can of coffee, searching the label for the ingredients. Coffee, Natural and artificial flavors. Hmm, well, I can tell you what one of those flavors is.

I called Jason. "How was your coffee?"

"Great. It's really good. In fact, you might even like it." (No, he wasn't kidding. He didn't realize it had cinnamon in it.)

"No," I replied. "I don't think I'll care for it. In fact, I already don't like it." By this time, my throat was closing up, my eyes were watering, and I could feel a headache coming on. Even my own home is not cinnamon-proof this time of year. What's a girl to do?

As much as I hate it, Jason will have to give away a perfectly good can of coffee. (Anyone like hazelnut coffee with a touch of cinnamon?) This reminds me that in food, all does not necessarily work together for good.

In life, however, we are assured that God is in control. He sees the big picture. He knows the entire plan. He has His eyes on the beginning and the end. He will see that all things work together for good.

Things may not seem good now, but the rest of the story has not yet been told. God is in control of all the ingredients, and He will blend them together in a way that only He can to bring about a result that only He can imagine. Whatever you're going through today, be patient and trust that God will be true to His Word. Trust in His ingredients.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's Our Choice


The other morning I was getting breakfast for my dogs. Mitch wakes up each morning with a growling tummy, so he's very adamant about getting his breakfast. Tippy loves to eat as well, but she has a hard time getting down off the bed by herself. I've discovered that it's easier to fix their breakfast with only one dog dancing around me instead of two, so I leave Tippy on the bed until I have their bowls ready. I set Mitch's bowl on the floor, and while he's eating, I'll get Tippy and then set her bowl on the floor. This usually works well.

On this particular morning, I brought Tippy out, but she immediately left her eating spot and came to me in the kitchen where I was fixing my breakfast. That's odd, I thought. Tippy NEVER leaves food behind.

"Go eat your food," I prodded her. No luck. "If you don't hurry, Mitch will eat it." Still she stood there begging for my breakfast. "No," I chided, "this is my breakfast. You go eat your own food." She wouldn't budge.

Finally, I walked her over to her bowl. . . only her bowl wasn't there. It was still sitting on the counter where I had set it to fix their breakfast. I laughed at myself, set the food on the floor, and she immediately started chowing down. (Don't laugh at me. I know you've done something similar. Admit it!)

Unlike Tippy, many times we go hungry and it's no one's fault but our own. I'm not speaking of being physically hungry. I'm talking about spiritual malnutrition. God has prepared a feast for us to sit down to every day. The Word of God. The Bread of Life. It's there for the taking. Whether we eat or not is up to us. God has prepared the meal and placed it in front of us. From there, it's up to us. Eat or don't eat. It's our choice.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Soldier's Silent Night

The poem's author, James M. Schmidt, was a Lance Corporal stationed in Washington, D.C., when he wrote the poem back in 1986. In Corporal Schmidt's own words (December, 2002):

"The true story is that while a Lance Corporal serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I, Washington, D.C., under Commandant P.X. Kelly and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers (in 1986), I wrote this poem to hang on the door of the gym in the BEQ. When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave. The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine."


TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, HE LIVED ALL ALONE,

IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF PLASTER AND STONE.

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,

AND TO SEE JUST WHO IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.


I LOOKED ALL ABOUT, A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,

NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS, NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE, JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,

ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.


WITH MEDALS AND BADGES, AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,

A SOBER THOUGHT CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT, IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,

I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER, ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.


THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING, SILENT, ALONE,

CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE, THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,

NOT HOW I PICTURED A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.


WAS THIS THE HERO OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?

CURLED UP ON A PONCHO, THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,

OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.


SOON ROUND THE WORLD, THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,

AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,

BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS, LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.


I COULDN'T HELP WONDER HOW MANY LAY ALONE,

ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,

I DROPPED TO MY KNEES AND STARTED TO CRY;


THE SOLDIER AWAKENED AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,

"SANTA DON'T CRY, THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;

I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,

MY LIFE IS MY GOD, MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS."


THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,

I COULDN'T CONTROL IT, I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS, SO SILENT AND STILL

AND WE BOTH SHIVERED FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.


I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,

THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER, WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,

WHISPERED, "CARRY ON SANTA, IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE."


ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH, AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT."



Friday, December 11, 2009

Owed To Joy


Written by: Ted A. Thompson

The year our youngest daughter, Shelly, was four, she received an unusual Christmas present from "Santa."

She was the perfect age for Christmas, able to understand the true meaning of the season, but still completely enchanted by the magic of it. Her innocent joyfulness was compelling and catching -- a great gift to parents, reminding us of what Christmas should represent no matter how old we are.

The most highly prized gift Shelly received that Christmas Eve was a giant bubble-maker, a simple device of plastic and cloth the inventor promised would create huge billowing bubbles, large enough to swallow a wide-eyed four-year-old. Both Shelly and I were excited about trying it out, but it was after dark so we'd have to wait until the next day.

Later that night I read the instruction booklet while Shelly played with some of her other new toys. The inventor of the bubble-maker had tried all types of soaps for formulating bubbles and found that Joy dishwashing detergent created the best giant bubbles. I'd have to buy some.

The next morning, I was awakened very early by small stirrings in the house. Shelly was up. I knew in my sleepy mind that Christmas Day festivities would soon begin, so I arose and made my way toward the kitchen to start the coffee. In the hallway, I met my daughter, already wide awake, the bubble- maker clutched in her chubby little hand, the magic of Christmas morning embraced in her four-year-old heart. Her eyes were shining with excitement, and she asked, "Daddy, can we make bubbles now?"

I sighed heavily and rubbed my eyes. I looked toward the window, where the sky was only beginning to lighten with the dawn. I looked toward the kitchen, where the coffeepot had yet to start dripping its aromatic reward for early-rising Christmas dads.

"Shelly," I said, my voice almost pleading and perhaps a little annoyed, "it's too early. I haven't even had my coffee yet."

Her smile fell away. Immediately I felt a father's remorse for bursting her bright Christmas bubble with what I suddenly realized was my own selfish problem, and my heart broke a little.

But I was a grown-up. I could fix this. In a flash of adult inspiration, I unshouldered the responsibility. Recalling the inventor's recommendation of a particular brand of bubble-making detergent -- which I knew we did not have in the house -- I laid the blame squarely on him, pointing out gently, "Besides, you have to have Joy."

I watched her eyes light back up as she realized, in less than an instant, that she could neutralize this small problem with the great and wonderful truth she was about to reveal.

"Oh, Daddy," she promised, with all the honesty and enthusiasm and Christmas excitement she could possibly communicate, "Oh, Daddy, I do."

I broke records getting to the store, and in no time at all we were out on the front lawn creating gigantic, billowing, gossamer orbs--each one filled with Joy and sent forth shimmering into the Christmas sun.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When God's Directions Don't Make Sense

Have you ever been in the place where your common sense argues with God's directions? Frustrating, isn't it? You know you're where God wants you and that you're doing what He wants you to do, but things aren't working out so well. Common sense tells you to try a different approach. What do you do?

A friend of mine mentioned this recently to me on the phone. Just like it is for many of us, money is tight. She is a stay-at-home mom. Her common sense is telling her to get a job, but she knows that she's where the Lord has called her to be. I relayed to her that I know EXACTLY how she feels. With Jason's 6-month layoff, we're still struggling to get our heads above water. My common sense is telling me to leave my writing and go get a job that actually pays. The sad part is that I've actually tried even though I knew the Lord wanted me to stay home and write.

I was scared. I was desperate. I was confused. I kept thinking if God really wanted me to do this, He would provide for our needs. Little did I realize He was providing for our needs, just not in the way I wanted. So, I applied for jobs and even took a job tutoring. Boy, was that mistake!!! My common sense was leading me off the path the Lord had laid out for me.

Don't get me wrong. I love my job! As I type this blog entry, I'm propped up in my warm bed. My business attire consists of sweats and some days, flannel pajamas. Some days I work in my office. Other days I work in the living room in front of the fire. I love to write, and I enjoy the freedom I have by working from home. I just wish there were a big paycheck waiting for me at the end of the week.

My point? God's ways don't always make sense to us. I'm sure other people have looked at my circumstances and thought, Why don't you go get a real job? Honestly, I've thought it myself. But then God reminds me that His ways are not my ways. He knows all things. He knows where this path will lead. He knows what's best for me. And I know enough to know that the path He has me on is where I need to stay. Even if I don't understand, I can trust that He has my best interest at heart. Trust -- what a novel idea!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. - Isaiah 55:7

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Leaning on the Lord


When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? - John 13:21-25

What a beautiful image described in these verses. John, the human author of the book of John, often referred to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" or "the beloved disciple." Here we see him actually resting with his head on Jesus' chest. He is completely and totally leaning on Jesus. He's relaxed. He's at ease. He feels loved and secure.

Isn't it good to know that we can do the same? No, we can't physically lean on Jesus at this time, but we can go to Him spiritually, lay our head in His lap, and find comfort in His presence. I fear many people treat their time with Jesus as a scheduled event. I know I once did. My time with the Lord was simple part of my daily routine. Read Bible? Check. Pray? Check. Listen? Check. Praise? Check. I completed my "tasks" and went on with my day, feeling proud of myself for getting it done. Boy, was I missing out!

Since that time, I've come to realize how special my time with the Lord is. I've come to enjoy our time together so much that I don't want to get on with my day. I simply want to spend more time with Him. I've discovered the joy of laying my head on His chest and allowing Him to dry my tears. I've discovered the peace that only His gentle embrace can give. I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

So I challenge you today to make your time with the Lord special. And don't forget, He looks forward to spending time with us far more than we look forward to spending time with Him. Let's not disappoint Him!

Monday, December 7, 2009

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True. . .


We've all heard the saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." I get a good dose of that daily. Being a freelance writer, I have to focus a lot of time on marketing and advertising, which means I see a lot of ads for other products. The hype online today is unbelievable!

Make $2,500 today. Guaranteed! No experience required! Start your own business today and be a millionaire by the end of the month! Grab this FREE report and find out how to have thousands of customers beating down your door! Make $300-$500 every hour filling out simple forms! Even a child could do this!
Blah, blah, blah! Heard it. Seen it. Unfortunately, I've even tried some. The outcome? They didn't work. There's always some catch or some fine print. There's always some important tidbit of information that they conveniently leave out (but of course you can purchase that information for a small fee of $29.99). I get utterly disgusted seeing this junk every day! The bad part is that it gives a bad name and reputation to those of us who are truly marketing something real and honest. Some days it's just more than I can stand, and I allow myself to become discouraged and depressed.

It's then that I am reminded of God's promises. They sound too good to be true, but they are true! God doesn't lie. If He said He will do something, He will! Oh, what a joy to know that there's something real and honest to rely on. What a relief to know that there's no fine print or missing information. God's Word spells out His promises loud and clear, and the best part is that He sticks to His Word. God keeps His promises. There's no hype involved!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little Irritations


The piano at church has been driving me crazy. A few weeks ago while playing an offeratory, I noticed the high "A" key was sticking. It was annoying at the time, but I calmed myself by reminding myself that it wasn't a key I used often because I don't often play in the higher range.

About a week later, the "G" below middle "C" began sticking. It was far worse than the "A" and any of you who know about music know that that particular key is played ALL THE TIME! During one service, I was so distracted by the constant sticking that I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. I stopped playing the hymn after the second verse, only to discover seconds later that there was another verse. The congregation was singing acappella because I was fiddling with the stuck note instead of playing the song. Needless to say, it was rather embarrassing.

Since that time, I have planned my offeratories around the stuck keys. It hasn't been easy, and I've had to remind myself to play that "G" an octave lower. I discovered that in trying to avoid those keys I messed up in other places. My "groove" was thrown off all because of a couple of stuck keys!

Do you see where I'm going with this? Many times in life, it only takes one wrong attitude or one bad habit to cause a major disruption in our Christian walk. These problems cause a note of discord in the beautiful melody God is trying to play through us. Whether it be a sin that we just won't let go of or an attitude of bitterness, these obstacles hinder us from making beautiful music for the Lord. Sure, we can"get by" just as I got by on the piano, but the melody won't sound as sweet. To restore the music, we need to fix the problems.

That's what made the difference with the church piano. The tuner/repairman came to look at the piano last week. He discovered the problem. Evidently, a mouse had decided to make his home inside the piano. He built himself a nest, chewed on some of the felt, and then died inside the piano. Why we didn't smell him I don't know! (Just think: I had been that close to a mouse for weeks and had no idea. Yuck!!!!) Anyway, the tuner removed the mouse (or what was left of him) and repaired the damage he had done. The piano plays perfectly now (although my groove could still use a little tweaking!)

What if we had ignored the problem and continued to try to "get by?" I cringe to think about it. There was a problem. It needed to be fixed. After the repairs were made, things were back as they should be.

That's all God wants from us. He wants us to examine ourselves and see what belongs and what is out of place. A mouse in the piano is DEFINITELY out of place. How about your life? Do you see something that just doesn't belong? How about getting rid of it and allowing the Lord to use you again as an instrument for His glory!

Now that I know a mouse can get inside the piano, I'll be watching more carefully. I can't tell you the number of times I checked around my feet last Sunday. The same is true in our lives. Once we know what we're dealing with, we know what to watch out for. That alone will make a big difference!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Just a Matter of Perspective


One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”


“It was great, Dad.”

“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son.
“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

The boy’s father was speechless.


Then his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.”

Author Unknown


In the midst of economic crisis, may we never forget how rich we truly are!

*Story from inspirationalstories.com.