Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Time of Brokenness

I'm not sure if you've noticed a trend in my blogs lately, but if not, I'll point it out to you.  My family/household has been going through some trials the past few weeks.  This morning, I settled on a name for this stretch of frustrating circumstances:  the time of brokenness.  Allow me to explain.

The air conditioning in our vehicle is broken.
The front blinker on our vehicle is broken.
Jason's phone is broken.
Jason's headphones are broken.
Our PC is broken.
Mitch's nail on his bad toe (which he is VERY protective of) is broken.
Our bank account in broken (aka, empty).
And most serious of all, our spirits are broken.

I'm not really sure which "breakdown" was the straw that broke the camel's back, but I do know that there's been a dark cloud hovering over our house for the past few weeks.  It seems like every time we get ahead the slightest bit, something else breaks and has to be repaired.  Jason's paychecks are spent before I can even deposit them, leaving no money to fix and/or replace everything that's broken.  This leaves us struggling to make things work as they are -- driving back and forth with no air in 90+ degree weather, fighting with phones and computers to get them to perform the simplest of tasks, and so on.  Frustrations are high.  Spirits are low.  And the bright light at the end of the tunnel seems to grow dimmer all the time.  At this point, it seems like a small flashlight. . . a very small flashlight.

I didn't say all of that to make you feel sorry for me or to have you join my pity party.  I promise that was not my intention.  My goal in writing this post is to remind you of a timely lesson I was re-introduced to yesterday:  Circumstances will change, but our song shouldn't!  The source of our song should not be riches, fame, friendship or anything else of that nature.  The source of our song should be Christ, and He never changes.  So if He doesn't change, and He is the source of our song, then our song shouldn't change.  When things are going well, it's easy to sing, "How Great Thou Art" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness", but you know what?  Those songs are still true even when life is grim and we feel like we're going under for the last time.

No matter what we're going through today, God is always worthy of our praise.  He longs to hear our song today.  He wants to know that we'll trust Him no matter what.  No matter the waves, no matter the fiery darts, no matter the growing storm, God is good and He has a plan.  Yes, even in times of brokenness, God is loving, kind and merciful.  We may not understand what He's doing, but we can certainly understand Who He is, for He's the same yesterday, today and forever.

I may have to sing through my tears, but that's okay.  God doesn't mind my tears.  (In fact, I'm sure He's used to them.)  But the important thing is that by His grace and through His strength, I won't allow my circumstances to dictate my choice of song.  God deserves the best I have to offer, and "Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me" just won't cut it!

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. - Psalm 69:30


P.S. - If God has laid it on your heart to help in some way, there are a couple of ways you can do that.
First off, you can pray for us that God will strengthen us and help us to stay faithful during this trial.  Secondly, you can make a financial donation by simply clicking on the donate button in the left sidebar, under my book display.  Any help would be appreciated, but first and foremost, follow the leading of the Lord.  And thank you, in advance, for your help and prayers.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How Big is Your Jericho?

Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.  And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.  And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.  And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. - Joshua 6:1-5


Not the battle plan I would have come up with.  In fact, I don't even think Joshua himself would have come up with such a plan.  I mean, seriously, think about it from a leader/soldier's viewpoint. "We have swords and spears.  We have shields.  We have bows and arrows.  We have men who are willing and able to fight.  But instead, let's just march around the city for seven days, blow some trumpets and shout.  Yeah, that should do it."  To the human mind, it just makes no sense.  It's inconceivable and even seems reckless. But when God gives orders, it really is best to obey whether those orders make sense or not.  As we know from the battle of Jericho, God's plan worked out just as He said it would.

That being said, may I ask you a question?  How big is your Jericho?  Are there walls surrounding your life, preventing you from reaching your promised land?  Perhaps they are walls of worry or fear?  Or perhaps your walls take the form of disappointment or regret?  Barriers of difficult circumstances seem to tower over you and to span so far in distance that it seems nearly impossible to walk around them. No way over.  No way around.  The task seems hopeless, as I'm sure it did to the children of Israel when Joshua told them of God's plan.  Nevertheless, they obeyed, and the battle was won.


Think about the old song, Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.  It says that Joshua fought the battle, but the walls came tumbling down.  Joshua didn't bring the walls down; God did.  Joshua had no control over those walls, but God did.  Likewise, we often have no control over the walls in our lives, but God does.  Let's stop trying to tear the walls down on our own and follow God's plan.  Turn our burdens over to Him.  Praise Him for the prayers He has answered and for those He has yet to answer.  Do what He's asked us to do.  And then watch as the walls crumble to dust before our very eyes.  He did it for Joshua, and He can do it for us.  But like Joshua, we must fight the battle God's way!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Caution: Contents Under Pressure

I've been reading about the process of making violins.  I had no idea how much time and care went into the selection of wood used to make these stringed instruments.  The effort is truly staggering.  To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, allow me to share this tidbit from another website:

Violin makers prefer wood cut from old growth trees, grown at high altitudes on northern slopes. The wood must be cut during the cold dormant months and stored (seasoned) in controlled conditions for several years. Most of the wood used in violin making is split or cut "on the quarter" for greatest strength.


Immediately after the tree is felled, the trunk is bucked into rounds (cut up into cylindrically shaped lengths) only slightly longer than that needed for the finished pieces. Like slicing a pie, these rounds are split or sawn radially into wedge shaped pieces called billets. The billets are sealed on their ends with hot glue, stacked in such a manner that air can circulate all around them, and stored in a cool area away from direct sunlight.


Each piece of wood dries throughout at an equally slow rate. The drying or seasoning time for a piece of violin wood is generally ten years or more, depending on its size and thickness. Fifty year old wood is even better! Kiln drying of commercial lumber destroys the cell structure of the wood and thus its physical and acoustic properties. - www.gussetviolins.com

Did you catch that?  It takes decades for wood to be ready to be used to make a violin.  It must be aged and tempered.  From what I've read elsewhere, trees that have endured extreme abuse from the environment often make some of the best violins because they have grown strong and do not easily break under pressure.  How interesting!

Some days I feel like that wood.  Growing older day after day.  Waking up each morning with new aches and pains. . . and I'm only 35!  Not only that, but I, too, know what it's like to wait for something more.  I want to be used, and in some ways, I know I'm being used by the Lord now.  But I feel there's so much more potential within me that is trapped by circumstances beyond my control.  I want to do more, to be more, but I don't have the time, the money, the energy, the influence, the means, and so on.  And so I wait, longing to be used to my full potential and simultaneously fearing the tempering that must be applied to make me usable.

But like the trees, I can be assured that one day I will reach my goal.  One day, I will be ready for God to take me and mold me into something that makes beautiful music for Him.  One day, I will be made into an exquisite instrument that brings no glory to itself but to the One who brings out the most beautiful music from within me.  And on that day, I will look back at all the waiting and tempering and say, "It was worth it!"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No-Parking Zones

It really aggravates me to see someone parked in a no-parking zone or in a handicapped space when they're obviously not handicapped.  Hale and hearty individuals who think they are better than others or have more important business than others often reserve "the right" to park in fire zones, handicapped spaces and other no-parking zones.  The fleshly side of me would love to see a big tow truck come up and haul their vehicle away.  It's just not right!

However, I must admit that I'm often guilty of parking in no-parking zones myself -- not with my car, mind you, but with my thoughts.  The Bible says, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)  It's hard to argue with the meaning of this verse, isn't it?  Think on these things.  What things?  Good things.  Pleasant things.  Positive things.  So, why, oh why, do my thoughts usually want to park on the bad things, the unpleasant things, the negative things?  Why do they park in the handicap spots of worry, anger, fear and discouragement?  

And better yet, why do I allow them such insolence?  They are my thoughts after all.  I have control over them. . . at least I'm supposed to.  With the Lord's help and strength, I need to set things straight.  I need to bring my thoughts into the captivity of Christ.  I need to park them where they belong.  Why?  Well, for one thing, life would be much smoother.  But as an added benefit, Philippians 4:9 goes on to say, Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

I don't know about you, but I sure do long for peace in my life.  According to the passage above, if I want peace, the process is clear -- stop parking my thoughts in no-parking zones!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Responding to a Very Bad Day


Allow me to relay the story of a man who had a very bad day. You know the kind of day I'm referring to. The one where nothing seems to go right and you long to crawl back in bed until it's over.

This particular day started as any other. You see, the man was wealthy but still kind. God had blessed him in many ways for his faithfulness. So, the man arose thinking that day would be like every other day. If only he had known what awaited him, he may have stayed in bed.

As the man sat eating his breakfast, one of his servants came with very bad news. "The ox and asses were out in the field, but a group of warriors came and took them away. They also slew all the servants. I ran as fast as I could to tell you the news. I'm the only survivor."

The man shakes his head in disbelief, but before he can answer the servant, another servant runs to the table. "Fire fell from the sky and burned up all the sheep and the servants who were with him. Nothing is left. Just me."

The man is speechless. He puts down his toast and starts to rise but is stopped by yet another servant. "Master, a group of men came and stole all your camels. The servants tried to stop them, but they were slain in the attack. I barely made it myself, but I knew someone needed to tell you."

The man knows better than to ask, "What else can go wrong," but he doesn't have to. The thought had barely entered his mind when yet another servant comes running. "It's terrible, just terrible!" the servant cries. "Your children were having breakfast together at your oldest son's house. Everything was wonderful. They were happy and laughing. But somehow the entire house collapsed. I tried to save them. I really did! But all I found were dead bodies. Dead! They're all dead!"

Now that's a bad day. In the course of a few minutes, the man lost almost everything he had. No warning. No way to prepare. Just boom! It's all gone. That anyone could have such a bad day is astonishing in itself, but what is even more astonishing is the man's response.

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped. - Job 1:20

Worshipped? That can't be right. Cried, sure. Screamed, definitely. Cussed, probably. But worshipped? What kind of response is that?

The proper one.

It's easy to worship God in the good times, but when things are going bad, is He any less worthy of our worship? Of course not. God is worthy of our worship all the time - when things are good and when they're bad. Remember the verse that says, "In everything give thanks"? Remember, it doesn't say to be thankful for all things, but in all things. Even in the midst of our trials, we can find something to be thankful for. Job did, and I don't think any of us have suffered like Job. If he could still worship in the midst of his storm, can't we?

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Want to Be an Abishai

Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint. And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him.- II Samuel 21:15-17a

David's battle against Goliath is legendary.  There are few children who couldn't give you the vivid details of the encounter.  But David's battle against Ishbibenob, the son of the giants?  Well, that one isn't told very often, but it should be.


Second Samuel tells the story.  Israel was at war. . . again, and frankly, David was growing weary.  He was tired of fighting, and though skilled as he was, he was physically fatigued to the point of fainting.  I can only imagine the look on his face when Ishbibenob stepped before him.  David barely had the energy to lift his sword against a man his own size.  How on earth could he muster the strength to fight another giant?  Fortunately for David, he didn't have to.


Abishai, one of David's warriors, obviously noticed David's distress and stepped in to slay the giant.  In so doing, he saved David's life.  Talk about a story to write home about!  I'd love to hear that letter.  "Dear Mom, Life here at boot camp is pretty rough.  The food is better than I expected, so don't worry about me going hungry.  The war is pretty much the same, so there's not really much to report.  Oh, but I did save the life of the king.  It was nothing really.  I mean, anyone could have killed that giant. . ."


Abishai.  What an interesting character, and what a role model!  I don't know about you, but I want to be an Abishai.  I want to help my brothers and sisters in Christ fight their giants.  I want to be one who is called upon to help.  I want to be willing to do whatever is in my power to strengthen and encourage my fellow Christians.  Not for my own glory, mind you.  But for the sake of the weary Christian.  Why?  Because I, too, have faced giants, and typically the giants came at a time when I felt too weary to go on.  During these times in my life, I've experienced the strength and encouragement that an Abishai can bring.  The check that arrived in the mail shortly after an unexpected bill surfaced.  The phone call that brought me out of my pity party.  The letter that reminded me that my work is not in vain.  The hug from a friend at church.  Giant-slayers -- each and every one.


Jason and I were recently talking about how self-absorbed people are as a whole these days.  They do what's good for them, when it's good for them with no thought of how it might affect others.  They walk down the middle of the street or parking lot, oblivious to the pile of cars waiting to get around them.  They take the closest park spot even though they know the old lady behind them needs it more.  They break in line because they're in a hurry (like everyone else isn't?).  Many people, I feel, are not bad or mean; they're just self-absorbed.  Abishai is the opposite of that.  Abishai noticed David's dilemma.  I want to be aware of the plight of others around me, not just focused on me and my needs.  I don't want to be self-absorbed!  I want to be an Abishai!


How about you?  Are you content to fight your own giants, or are you willing to help your brothers and sisters fight theirs too?  The choice is yours, but let me tell you there's no grander feeling on this earth than knowing that you've made a difference in someone's life.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Shepherd's Definition of "Cast"

"Cast." It's a simple enough word.  While it's not used as regularly as it once was, I think we all know the standard definition, but according to the online dictionary, there are over 40 definitions of the word "cast".  Forty!  That's insane!  And yet, I recently discovered a definition that I like very much.

Have you ever heard of a "cast sheep"?  If not, don't worry; you're in good company.  A cast sheep is one that has somehow rolled over onto its back and can't get up.  This generally happens to sheep who are somewhat unhealthy or those who are pregnant.  When a sheep becomes "cast", it finds itself in a position in which only the shepherd can help.  Well-meaning passersby may attempt to help the distressed sheep, but without the proper knowledge, the individuals could actually hurt the sheep by breaking its back or one of its legs.  The shepherd knows the proper technique for rescuing the cast sheep and understands the importance of timing for a sheep that remains cast for too long could die.

Over and over again, the Bible tells us to cast our cares and burdens on the Lord.  Probably the most famous of these verses is I Peter 5:7 which says, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."  It was Peter who penned these words under the instruction of the Holy Spirit.  Peter the disciple.  Peter the fisherman.  And because of his involvement in this verse, I fear we often think of the word "cast" from a fisherman's point of view.  When a fisherman casts his net or line, he never really lets go of it, and he has every intention of hauling or reeling it back in.  Isn't that how we often "cast" our burdens to the Lord?  We never really let go, and we have no real intention of leaving them with Him.


Upon my recent education about cast sheep, I've come to the conclusion that our cares that are cast to the Lord should be like those cast sheep -- they should be in a place and position where only the Shepherd can deal with them.  The cast sheep cannot help themselves, no matter how hard they may try.  The same can be said for us.  For the distressed animal, their only hope is to wait for the shepherd to deliver them.  We are in the same predicament.  There's nothing we can do about our problems and struggles, so why do we refuse to release them?  Why don't we truly cast them off, not so they can be reeled in again but so that they are in a place where only the Shepherd can help?


How has your casting been going lately?  Are you like the fisherman who never lets go of your burdens, or are you practicing the shepherd's view of casting?  Let's stop stressing ourselves out for no reason.  Let's resolve to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Lane Road Ahead


Okay, so I'm driving down the road, minding my own business. I come upon a sign that reads, "Road Work Ahead." In anticipation of congested traffic, I tap my brakes. Shortly after, I come upon another sign. This one reads, "One Lane Road Ahead." GRRR! I hate it when they do that! Which lane? Do I need to be in the right lane or the left? How am I supposed to be prepared if the instructions are so unclear?

I've come to the conclusion that for me the correct lane is whichever lane I am not in. I don't know if it works that way for you, but it seems to for me. So, with this in mind, I switch to the other lane. Guess what? Yep, I was still in the wrong lane! If they really want to prepare oncoming traffic for construction, why don't they make their instructions exact? Would it be so hard to say, "Right lane closed ahead?" (Although, I have come upon those signs only to discover that the left lane was closed instead. No wonder I hate driving!)

Aren't you glad that God's directions are always clear? "Don't kill." That's pretty easy to understand. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Crystal clear. "Fret not." Understandable. (Not easy, but understandable.) The Bible tells us that God is not the author of confusion. He says what He means and means what He says. End of discussion. He is not out to trick or frustrate us. He does not leave us wondering what we're supposed to do next. "Which lane do I need to be in?" God will direct, and unlike some road signs, His directions will be clear and without error.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Depth of Deception by Alexander Galant


 About the Book:

The year is 1982, and a beautiful young woman, dressed in Edwardian clothing, is found floating unconscious in the North Atlantic with a 1912 boarding pass to the RMS Titanic. 

Over in England, Callum Toughill, an insurance investigator, is assigned the case of a missing brooch that was stolen during a horrific, unsolved murder in 1909 Glasgow. He is chosen because it was his own grandfather who had botched the original investigation. Despite the painful family memory and likelihood that all evidence will be long gone, Callum dives in. As he begins to uncover the tangled truth that the missing brooch may have ended up on the ill-fated RMS Titanic, someone is one step ahead, trying to stop him. 

Miraculously the mysterious young woman, nicknamed 'Myra' because of the inscription on her locket, survives and awakes in a Manhattan hospital with no memory of who she is. Myra’s vague recollections are from the gilded age of 1912 and she is lost in the alien, harsh world of 1982. A respected and wealthy Titanic survivor named Edward Hoffman assists in exposing her as a fake, but the plan backfires and stirs up more details in Myra's memory which include the fact that Edward may be her son. Is it a bizarre case of time-travel or an elaborate hoax?

About the Author: 
  
Alexander Galant was the historical researcher for the novel 'Dracula the Un-Dead', which was on the New York Times Best Sellers list in October 2009. Alexander also co-wrote the screenplay adaptation that was optioned briefly by Jan de Bont and adapted the novel into a dramatic stage reading for the Toronto book launch of Dracula the Un-Dead, which brought out the highest turnout for any event on the book tour.

Alexander has also written and directed several short films including "The Jigsaw Puzzle", which won the Festival Buzz Award (most talked-about film) in the New York Independent Film Festival; "First Light", Winner Bronze Remi Award for Fantasy Horror at the WorldFest Houston, USA, Special Commendation Award at the Festival of Fantastic Films, UK, and Best Technical Achievement from the International Festival of Cinema and Technology; "The Missing Piece", Winner Silver Remi Award for Suspense Thriller at the WorldFest Houston, USA; and co-wrote and directed "Star Wars: Blasted Behavior", a finalist in the Atom Films/LucasFilm Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge (George Lucas was one of the judges), which also won the Best Foreign Sci-Fi Film Award at the New York International Film Festival and continues to make the festival circuit this year.

Alexander's love of historical details can also be seen in some of the stage productions he has directed, such as the silent film era of "Singin' in the Rain" (Act-Co Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in Live Theatre), a 50-year span in "Love Letters" and the World War II Amsterdam annex for "The Diary of Anne Frank".

My Review:

I can honestly say that this is one of the best mysteries I've ever read, and I've read a lot of mysteries. The story was intriguing from the very start, and the myriad of characters literally kept me on the edge of my seat. I must admit, however, that by the time I was a third of the way through, I wished I had been making notes to keep track of who the different characters were, how they were related and to which time frame they belonged. There was a lot of information to keep up with, which made the story much more involved but also made it a little harder to keep up with.

Nevertheless, I found that once I had begun, I just couldn't put it down. I thought I had it figured out (and in a way I did), but nothing could have prepared me for the ending. After reading the epilogue, I just sat in stunned silence--that is, after I yelled, "Oh man!" The whole thing was masterfully done, and I'm eager to read the next book by Alexander Galant. (I already read the "sneak peek" at the end of Depth of Deception.  It sounds like another winner.)

For the Christian reader, I must point out that this is not a Christian book and does contain profanity. In the first few chapters, there wasn't any. Then, the author sprinkled a few in here and there. But by the middle of the book, it was constant in every chapter. Being such an avid reader, I've trained myself to skim across curse words without paying them much heed, but if you don't have that ability, you may find the profanity distracting. I, personally, felt it was overused and actually distracted the reader from the plot and characters. That being said, there's a great story if you're willing to overlook the profanity. Normally, I wouldn't even recommend a book with that much profanity, but the story is just awesome, so I do recommend it with the cautionary note about the use (and overuse) or profanity.

At the time of this posting, Depth of Deception is available on Kindle for a mere 99 cents.

Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007O3IKTY (Kindle)

Website:


June 25 - Introduction at VBT Cafe' Blog
June 27 - Reviewed & Interviewed at On Emily's Bookshelf
June 29 - Guest Blogging at AZ Publishing Services
July 1 - Reviewed & Interviewed at A Book Lover's Library
 July 3 - Interviewed at KWOD Radio
July 7 - Reviewed & Guest Blogging at Waiting On Sunday To Drown
July 10 - Interviewed at MK McClintock's Blog
July 11 - Guest Blogging at Celestial Reviews
 July 12 - Reviewed at A Word Fitly Spoken
July 15 - Guest Blogging with Cindy Vine 
July 16 - Guest Blogging at The Book Hoard
July 17 - Reviewed & Guest Blogging at Words I Write Crazy
July 18 - Guest Blogging at Lori's Reading Corner
July 20 - Reviewed & Guest Blogging at The Lucky Ladybug

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Pit of Voices

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. - Psalm 40:2

I believe all Christians can relate to this verse in one form or another.  How many times has God delivered us from danger?  How many times has He led us where we needed to go?  While there's loads of good meat in this one verse alone, I want to focus on the phrase "an horrible pit".

Have you ever felt like you were in a pit and no matter how hard you struggled, you just couldn't get out?  Maybe it was a pit of despair.  Or perhaps it was a pit of loneliness.  A pit of depression or a pit of fatigue.  I think we would all agree that those are horrible pits to find oneself in.  But the pit to which David is referring here is even worse.  In the Hebrew, the phrase "an horrible pit" is translated as "pit of voices".  Unfortunately, we can relate to that pit as well.

The world cries out to us, "Have it your way!"  Satan whispers in our ears, "Hath God said. . .?"  Even our own flesh calls out, "Life is hard.  I deserve a little happiness, don't I?"  And somewhere amid the cacophony is the still, small voice of the Savior saying, "Child, follow my lead."

We used to play a game with our church youth group that illustrated this pit of voices rather well.  Each team was made up of two players.  One player traversed an obstacle course while blindfolded, and the other gave the teammate directions.  The trick was that every other team was allowed to speak to the obstacle-facing contestant, and of course, they often chose to shout out incorrect directions meant to confuse, overwhelm and lead astray.  The only way the player could be successful was if he/she drowned out all other voices except that of his/her teammate.

Sometimes in life, I feel like I'm a contestant in this game without even realizing it.  Just like the player, friend and foe alike are filling my ears with advice, direction and suggestions.  It's up to me to filter out all other noise and to listen intently for that still, small voice.  Only then will I successfully finish the course.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Do You Know Who I Am?

Last Sunday morning, we had a missionary come in to present his ministry to the church.  This man graduated from the very school I had attended all my life, so I recognized him right away, though I must admit I couldn't remember his name.  (I'm terrible with names.  Ask my nine years' worth of students.)  Anyway, during fellowship time, I went over to shake his hand.  He smiled at me and said, "I know you.  You used to be Christi White."  I smiled back and corrected, "No, I'm Dana."  He never blinked.  "Oh, okay.  So you're the one who's now a Ravioli or something."  "Rongione," I corrected again.  "Right," he said.

Outwardly, I was smiling, but inwardly, I was crying.  This is not the first, second or even fiftieth time this has happened.  I'm always Christi (my sister) or Christi's sister or Mrs. White's daughter or Jason's wife. . . and now Ravioli.  Doesn't anyone know me as me?  Don't I have a name of my own?  Would it be so difficult for someone to recognize and remember me for who I am and for what I've accomplished?  I know this sounds extremely selfish and proud, and I apologize.  It just becomes discouraging after a while.  I'm proud to be Mrs. White's daughter and Christi's sister and Jason's wife, but every once in a while it would be nice to have someone come up and say, "You're Dana, right?"  Yes!  I do have my own identity! 

It's just that identity is often shadowed by those I'm related to who are more forthright and social.  I'm used to being in the background, and most of the time I don't mind.  But sometimes it's disheartening when I feel invisible.  Sometimes I feel like if I weren't Mrs. White's daughter or Christi's sister or Jason's wife, I wouldn't have any identity at all.  In short, I'd be a nobody. 

Spiritually speaking, I hope I'm never seen as who I truly am but only by whose I am.  When Satan comes to me and questions, "Who do you think you are?"  I don't want to answer him, "I'm Dana."  That would do me no good.  But rather I would answer, "I'm a child of the King.  I'm one for whom Jesus came to die.  I've been bought with His blood, and I'm precious to Him.  You'd better leave me alone because my big Brother's got my back."

I don't even want God to see me for who I really am -- sinful, stubborn, moody.  No, instead I wish for Him to see me through the blood of Christ.  I want Him to see me as clean and righteous because of my acceptance of His holy gift.  Yes, when it comes to spiritual matters, I wish to gladly remain in the background, hiding my true identity behind the cross of Christ.

Physically speaking. . . well, I'm still working on it.  I'll keep you updated on my progress.  In the meantime, if you see someone walking around who looks like me, call the name "Dana".  Even if it's my sister instead of me, that's okay.  I'm sure she won't mind.  (I'll make it up to you, Christi!)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Missed Chances


A massive flood hit a small town near the Mississippi River. One levy in the river had broke, causing the flooding to occur while another levy was predicted to break in the hour.

A man who owned a house along the river stood on the roof of his house as water had engulfed the rest of it. Water levels were slowly rising. A rescue boat came to save the man from his house. The boat approached and the rescuers told the man another levy was about to break and the water would move over his house, sweeping him away to his drowning death. The man told the rescuers he did not need help because he believed in God and that God would save him. Twenty minutes later, the rescuers returned, trying to help the man escape. Once again, the man waved off the rescuers saying that God would save him. Ten minutes afterwards, the rescuers returned again, saying it would be the last time they could return because the levy was about to break. They asked him one last time to get on the rescue boat. He said once again that he believed in God and God would save him from the levy should it break. A few minutes after the rescuers left, the levy broke and the rushing waters engulfed the house, carrying away the man to his drowning death.

When the man reached Heavens, he stood at the gates to enter. He told the men at the gates that he wanted to see God. When he saw God, he asked, "What happened? I thought you were going to save me? Why didn't you save me?" God replied, "I did try to save you. I sent the boat three times."

We laugh, but aren't we the same way? We pray for God to do something, but we aren't paying attention when He tries to work in our lives. We have these pre-conceived notions of how God will work and how He will meet our needs. It's hard for us to remember that God's ways are not our ways.

The really bad part is that we, just like the man in the story, accuse God of not answering our prayers. The fact is that He does answer our prayers but we aren't looking for His answer. God will answer our prayers in His time and His way. It's up to us to be paying attention when the answer comes and to recognize it for what it is!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ultimate Dog Tease

My nephew showed me this video several weeks ago, and I just can't stop thinking about it.  This dog reminds me so much of Mitch, it's not even funny.  Anyway, if you're up for a quick laugh, this will do it!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Blessings

Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. - Psalm 40:5

After a verse like that, there's really no need to comment, but I'm going to anyway.  Why?  Because I was reminded of this verse last week before I ever read it in preparing for my Sunday School lesson.  I've read the verse before, obviously, but it's one that tends to slip into the background during the daily grind.  A pity, for it should be forefront in my mind at all times.

As I'm sure you're aware, it's the beginning of the month. (If you're not aware, you might want to check your calendar!)  For my household, that means mortgage time. . . and power bill time (yikes!). . .and cell phone bill time and gas bill time. . . and . . . and . . . You get the picture.  As you may also remember, my husband and I just went on vacation, and I just had an expensive doctor's visit.  To sum it up, this is a scary and stressful time, but I was determined that this month I was not going to worry about it.  I was going to trust God and leave the results up to Him.

As I paid the bills, I cringed a little, but I was able to stop the worry thoughts before they surfaced.  I stared at the figures that told me I'd have enough to pay all the bills except for the doctor's bill.  But I knew I had to pay the doctor's bill.  In fact, I had received a letter reminding me that payment was required in full the day of the appointment.  Hmm, things looked grim.  Still, through God's grace, I said, "God will work it out, or He won't.  Worry won't help."  And you know what?  I really didn't worry this time.  I left it in God's hands, and you know what happened?  I'm so glad you asked!

On Thursday, I received a payment from Amazon for some of my books that had been sold.  It was just over $16, but I was thrilled.  On Friday morning, I went to my doctor's appointment as planned.  I received a glowing bill of health (always a  blessing) and an equal thrill when I went to check out.  I had my debit card in hand when the billing clerk informed me, "Since you're self-pay, you get a 30% discount, and you get 90 days to pay the bill.  You don't even have to pay anything today if you don't want to.  Just make sure you make the payment before the 90 days are up."  Hallelujah!  My bill was reduced from $207 to $145, and I haven't paid a dime of it yet.  That alone made the difference in making ends meet this week, but God wasn't finished rewarding my faith.  On Saturday, I received a payment from a bookstore in Colorado that had sold one of my books.  Again, the amount was small (just over $6), but I praised the Lord like it had been $100.  Then, as if that weren't enough, on Sunday morning, I was cleaning out my purse when I noticed a bank envelope that seemed to have something in it.  Upon opening it, I discovered $16 in cash that had been left over from the change at our yard sale a few weeks ago.  I forgot it was even in there!

It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?  But I assure you, it is the truth.  God is so good!  He has blessed me in so many ways that I could never count them all.  Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done.  Many indeed!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Armed and Ready

This time last year, I began one very difficult personal battle and simultaneously lost another equally difficult battle.  It was around this time that Mitch, our shepherd mix, badly injured his foot, resulting in three major surgeries (costing over $1,000) and a few months of inactivity (for him and me).  You see, Mitch is very active, and the only way to keep him settled was to be settled myself.  If I was up and moving around, he wanted to be too.  If I exercised, he wanted to exercise.

The battle I had been fighting and winning was that of living healthy.  For several months up to that point, I had been eating the right foods in the proper portions, exercising daily, managing my stress, getting adequate rest, etc.  But from the first night we brought Mitch home from the vet, all my efforts went out the window.  Sleep was not happening, since I jumped at every whimper he made.  Daily stress drove me back to my poor food choices, and I felt I needed chocolate and caffeine to survive.  Before long, my inactivity caught up with me, and I found myself sluggish and moody.  The battle that had been going so well was quickly lost, and a new battle of fear and worry required all my time and effort.

Since Mitch's recovery, I've been striving to get myself back on track with my healthy living plan, but there's always been some excuse to put it off.  "The holidays are coming.  No sense in trying to eat right now."  "I would, but now is just not a good time for me.  There's too much going on.  Maybe when things settle down."  In fact, over the past six months, I've put forth a half-hearted effort to get my eating and exercising back on track, but my motivation usually melts as quickly as the chocolate chunks in my latest batch of brownies.  It's too hard.  I'm too stressed.  I want to change, but I don't want to put forth the effort and do the work that's required to see those changes take place.

Well, my friends, by God's grace, that ends today.  And one reason I'm sharing this with you is because it adds a little extra motivation to the mix.  (I can't very well back out now after I've told all of you that I'm going to change, can I?)  Seriously, I think a lot of the problem is the feeling of loneliness that accompanies a new health plan.  I know God is always with me, but sometimes it's nice to have a fellow human going through the same struggle I'm going through.  It's during these times and in this way that we can help and encourage one another.

Such is the basis for a new group I'm starting on Facebook.  I hope to have it up and running some time next week, but to do that, I need your help.  First, I'm trying to think of a good name for the group.  The site will be a place where Christians can gather to share healthy recipes, diet ideas, healthy living book reviews or suggestions, diet-related prayer requests, articles on food, nutrition and/or exercise, and anything else you can think of along the lines of living healthy and glorifying God with our bodies.  With that in mind, I've created a list of suggested titles, and I'd like to get your feedback on them.  You can go here and vote for your favorite title:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MCG8RB5

Second, I need you to help me spread the word.  Tell your friends and family, and hey, even invite your enemies.  I want this site to be a haven and a source of strength and encouragement to all of us who are struggling to make difficult changes for the health of our bodies and in the process, our spirits.

I'll be sure to let you know as soon as the group has been formed and everything is ready to go.  I'll also be creating a separate blog for diet/health related articles and devotions.  I'll let you know as soon as that's ready too.  This is a big project, and I was a little scared about adding something else to my schedule, but I feel it's something the Lord wants me to do, and I also feel it is a vital step in getting back on track in my own healthy living plan.

For now, I'm off to war.  Will you join me?