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Monday, May 31, 2010

Freedom Is Not Free

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

By: Kelly Strong

Friday, May 28, 2010

Going in the Wrong Direction

Jason was able to take off a couple of hours yesterday, so we took the dogs up to Falls Creek Falls. It's not a long hike, but it is pretty strenuous. Still, the view of the falls is worth every step.

Anyway, we hadn't walked far before the dogs began their exploration. Tippy has only recently discovered the joy of following Mitch into "the great unknown." She usually can't keep up, but she's been doing very well lately, so she's been joining him in his little forays into the forest. The problem with Tippy is that she still can't really keep up. She follows him into the woods just far enough to where she can't see us anymore. From there, she's lost because Mitch has already disappeared. What can I say? She has my sense of direction . . . or lack thereof.

Yesterday, they both took off into the woods. Mitch came down to the trail only moments later. Tippy, however, could be heard but not seen, so we called to her. Evidently, she heard our calls, but she couldn't figure out where we were. The next thing we knew, she popped out of the woods and started running . . . in the opposite direction, back toward the beginning of the trail. We called to her, but she only ran that much faster. (In her defense, sounds can really be distorted in the woods.)

We stopped calling to her figuring that if we didn't she'd probably be back at the truck looking for us. We waited a couple of minutes, and when she didn't come back, Jason went to find her. She had gotten a good ways down the trail, covering ground that we had covered only moments before. When Jason caught up to her, she finally realized her mistake, turned around and ran to him. She was tuckered and a little scared, but otherwise unharmed. She made a point of not wandering off the rest of the trip. Poor thing!

I often hear voices calling to me, and like Tippy, I sometimes struggle to figure out from where (or whom) the voices are coming. Is the Lord speaking to me? Are my own desires calling my name? Is Satan luring me away from the tasks I'm supposed to be doing? Whose voice am I hearing? Where is it coming from? At times, it's truly difficult, and I find myself running in the wrong direction, recovering steps that I've already walked or heading off in a direction I have no business going.

I think, it was for these times that God says, "Be still." You see if Tippy, when she first heard us calling, had stopped and listened, she may have been able to figure out which direction to go. But because she was in such a hurry to get to us, she found herself much farther away. In times of confusion, when I don't know whose voice I'm hearing or from whence it is coming, the best thing I can do is to be still. Silence the voices. Ignore the confusion. Resist the impulse to run. Just be still. In that stillness, God will make all things clear.

It's hard enough to climb the hills once. Let's avoid having to climb them a second time. What do you say?

Be still and know that I am God. - Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Seeing Christ Through Me

I saw a church sign yesterday that read, “Watch your step very carefully. . . everyone else does.” It seems that God has been sending me a lot of reminders lately that people are watching me. I'm not sure why He's been sending this message, but I've learned not to ignore patterns that appear in my life. Instead, I choose to examine them and find out what God is trying to teach me.

It could be that I just need the reminder, or it could be that I'm about to face something that will test my faith. I don't know, but I want to be ready. I've determined today to be more careful in guarding my steps. If others are watching me, I want to be sure they see Christ.

How about you? What do others see when they look at you? Just some food for thought today.

The Reflection
Dana Rongione

Let my life be a mirror,
A shiny piece of glass,
An article in which people look
Each time they venture passed.
As I strive to be Your servant,
Please, Lord, stand in front of me,
So as they gaze upon my life,
It is Your reflection they see.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Let Your Guard Down

Last Thursday, I decided it would be a good idea to take the dogs out for some exercise before the weekend storms came in. A trip to the lake seemed to be my best option, so I packed up my bag, and we headed out. Usually, when we go to the lake, we'll just do the small lake-loop trail, and while at the lake, I'll do some writing while the dogs play. Because of the weather forecast, however, I wanted to make sure they got PLENTY of exercise. So, I decided to do the entire trail.

We started at the lake parking, climbing up to the top of the mountain, then climbed back down and did the lake loop. I was doing my usual summer neck exercise: look up for spiderwebs, look down for snakes, look up, look down. Unfortunately, I still managed to walk through probably fifty spiderwebs. All in all, though, it was a nice trip. We went early enough that it wasn't really hot out. In fact, there was a nice breeze blowing, and the weather was perfect.

When we finally got to the lake, I felt I deserved a much-needed rest, so I decided to sit down on one of the big rocks at the water's edge. When I say these rocks are close to the water, I mean that you can sit on the rock and reach down into the water. If you wanted, you could dangle your feet in the water. I actually just enjoy staring out across the water and looking down at the little fish swimming just below me.

As I stared out across the water on this day, I felt myself relax. All my tensions seemed to melt away. My worries disappeared. I was at peace. I turned to look at Mitch who had just run behind me when I spotted a strange looking stick in the water right beside me. "Cool," I said, "that stick looks just like a . . ."

I was on my feet in a flash. (I had no idea I could move that fast!) The unique stick I was looking at was actually a water snake with his beady little eyes poking out of the water and his little forked tongue flicking in and out. He wasn't even a foot from where I had just been sitting. If I had wanted to (NOT!), I could have reached out and touched him. (Talk about too close for comfort!) My quick movement evidently startled him and caused him to slither under the rock I was standing on. His movement caught Mitch's attention and sent him into the water in an attempt to locate the slithering beast. Needless to say, my state of peacefulness had disappeared (not to mention my bladder control).

As I walked the rest of the trail back to the car, I thought about how funny (I use that word lightly) it was that the entire time I was on the lookout for snakes, I didn't see any. The moment I let my guard down, however, there was one just inches from me. (My skin is still crawling!)

Many times the Bible tells us to be on guard. Why? Because it's easy (especially when things are going fairly well) to be lured into a false sense of security. In those times of peace, we forget that Satan is still seeking to destroy us. He doesn't stop attacking just because we're having a good day or a good week. He is always looking for ways to hinder our Christian growth and keep us from serving the Lord. If we're not on guard all the time, he might just succeed.

Don't let your guard down!

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. - Matthew 26:41

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller

In the first book of her newest series, The Mysteries of Middlefield, Kathleen Fuller introduces Mary Beth, a thirteen-year-old Amish girl who simply wants some peace and quiet away from her three pesky brothers. In an effort to escape her world of chores and boyish pranks, she turns an abandoned barn into a secret place of her own. With her food stash, her journal, and her privacy, Mary Beth finds great comfort in her hideout. There are only two problems. First of all, her father has forbidden her from going to the barn. Second, she's not as alone as she thought. Someone else is using her secret place, and this person is seeking more than just privacy.

In A Summer Secret, Fuller does an excellent job of helping the reader to understand and appreciate the Amish lifestyle. Her characters and setting are realistic, and her plot is compelling. Fuller weaves an air of intrigue around the stranger occupying the barn while at the same time giving the reader a pang of pity for the quandary Mary Beth, her main character, is facing. She also hits on some contemporary issues that are unfortunately very common in today's society.

While the ending was pretty obvious and the mystery itself wasn't intense at all, it was still an interesting read. When it comes to clean fiction, A Summer Secret meets all criteria. Though intended for juvenile readers, I believe many adults would also enjoy reading this Christian mystery. I know I did!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Following After Frustration

One of the things I love about working from home is that I can sleep in until I'm ready to get up. Some mornings, that's 7:00 while other mornings, it's more like 9:30. I need my sleep, and I'm not happy when I don't get enough (just ask Jason).

This morning was not a 7:00 morning – at least, I wasn't ready to get up at 7:00. The construction crew outside our house had another idea. They were kind enough to get an early start on drilling holes in the road just outside our house. Do you have any idea how loud that is? Not only that, it shook the entire house. I was not pleased!

Now, however, as I sit in the stillness of the morning, I'm glad I got an early start to my day. The sky is overcast, leaving the temperature very comfortable. There's a slight breeze blowing across the water of the lake. The mist is just beginning to clear from the mountains high above me. The birds are singing, and thanks to the cooler temperatures, the bugs are much less pesky this morning. All in all, it's quite peaceful out here. If I had slept in like I had wanted to, I would have missed all this. I would have come out later in the day when it would no doubt be hot and miserable. The bugs would be eating at me, and I would have never felt the serenity I feel right now.

Many times in life, things happen that frustrate us. Whether they be big or small, frustrations come frequently. The funny thing is, though, that sometimes those frustrations lead us to better things, just as my being awakened early today led to my being able to enjoy the peaceful time. I work so much better when I'm at peace. My thoughts flow, and I seem to be able to keep my focus much more easily. I'm more productive when I follow God's urgings, even if He has to use a construction crew to get my attention!

When faced with a frustration today, don't get mad. Instead, allow God to use that frustration to lead you to a better place. I'm not saying it always works that way, but I do know that all things work together for good in the end. You never know where you might end up.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Interview With Richard Dawkins

This is a very controversial video, so I warn you -- you might just get mad!!!! I think, however, it's important to know some of the lies that are being spread in today's world. The fight is on, and people like Richard Dawkins are making it even more difficult to reach people for Christ. We need to pray that God will get ahold of this man and stop the spread of such atheism and blatant disrespect for God.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Do You Want Proof?

I mentioned the other day how much I like to read. Sometimes I read for enjoyment, but sometimes I really read to learn new things. In my reading this morning, I came across something very interesting. Did you know there's a member of the iguana family named the Jesus Christ lizard? I'm serious. I'm not making it up. This creature is so named because when he flees from a predator, he is very fast and can even run across water. In fact, he can run about 10-20 meters without sinking. Is that awesome or what?

You know what's even more awesome? The fact that as much as scientists try to deny the existence of Christ and the truth of the Bible, the proof is staring them in the face. Why would they name this creature after a person and event that never occurred? It makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Want to know what I think (you might as well say "yes" because I'm going to tell you anyway)? I think they believe in a lot more than they claim to. I think they just don't want to admit it because then they would be accountable to someone higher than themselves. I truly think it's a matter of pride. Unfortunately for them, they will be held accountable whether they acknowledge Christ's existence or not.

Anyway, just an interesting fact that came my way this morning. Here's a video of this little critter running across the waves. (I think I'll name him Peter!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

To Err is Human

Remember the quote, To err is human, to forgive divine? Well, I've got a new take on it. It goes like this: To err is human, to cover it up is just good sense.

I scheduled for a package to be picked up from my house on Monday. I've done this many times because it beats standing in line at the post office. Plus, the mail carrier will pick it up for free. I've always been satisfied with this service until Monday. On that day, the mailman forgot my package. It sat on the top step of my side porch until late Monday evening when I brought it in out of the rain.

At first I was frustrated. How dare he forget my package! Then the Lord reminded me that everyone makes mistakes, and I just needed to let it go, so I did. Jason offered to take the package to the post office while he was out on Tuesday. Fine. No big deal . . . until I got the e-mail.

On Tuesday morning, I received a pick-up confirmation from USPS (I had never received one of these before). The e-mail contained my confirmation number, so I knew exactly what package they were talking about. The form read, "This message was sent to confirm that your package was picked up on 5-6-10." Monday's date was 5-10-10; the package wasn't even ready on the 6th.

I think that when it was realized that my package had been forgotten, someone tried to cover it up. In the process, they got a few key facts mixed up. This upset me. It's one thing to make a mistake, but it's another thing altogether to lie to cover it up.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I'm often guilty of doing the same thing. I mess up somewhere along the way, but instead of admitting my mistake, I try to cover it up. Why? Don't I realize it will only create a bigger mess? Don't I recognize the opportunity to learn from my mistake?

To err is human, but let's be careful in how we deal with our mistakes. Trying to cover them up will only lead to greater heartache and confusion. I don't know about you, but I'm confused enough as it is! I don't need to add to it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Weed, Be Gone!

Did you know there are 205 varieties of weeds in America? I'm pretty sure there are at least 150 different kinds in my yard alone. We don't even have grass anymore. It's all weeds! Some are tall and skinny while others are short and bushy. Some have flower-like blooms that add color to the otherwise green landscape. But all of them are a hindrance. They prevent the growth of the grass.

There are many weeds in our lives as well, but I want to take just a minute to talk about three of the most popular.

1. Worry (Mt. 6:25-34) - When we allow the weed of worry to come into our lives, it literally strangles our faith. We become unproductive in our Christian walk as our focus is on the cares of this world instead of our daily walk with the Lord.

2. Riches (Mt. 6:19-21) - I would like to think that I don't have to worry about this one because I'm not rich. The truth is, though, that often the pursuit of riches is the problem. I don't expect to become a millionaire, but I wouldn't mind having enough money to pay all my bills. Would you? That desire, in and of itself, is not the problem. The problem occurs when I try to "work things out" for myself. Instead of doing the work God has called me to do, I find myself chasing after the next money-making plan. The result is a confused, side-tracked Christian with nothing but frustration to show for my efforts.

3. Pleasures - I love to read! Give me a good book and a cup of hot chocolate, and I am as content as can be. I can read for hours at a time, getting lost in plots, characters, and settings. Unfortunately, I can get so caught up in a book that I neglect all else. My housework goes undone. My writing is ignored. Even my Bible often goes untouched when I'm enthralled in a novel. There's nothing wrong with enjoying things in this life as long as we don't forsake all else.

Weeds -- they're annoying and potentially dangerous. They grow like crazy. They choke out all the good stuff. And probably the most dangerous part of all is that they give the appearance of life. We must watch out for things that will hinder our spiritual walk. Let's learn to recognize the weeds and deal with them accordingly. After all, we don't want them taking root in our lives.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reliable Forecast

I would like to have a word with the weatherman. He said that yesterday was supposed to be mostly sunny with a high of 72° -- beautiful weather for taking the dogs to the lake. The only problem is that he was WRONG!

It was not mostly sunny; it was quite cloudy all day. It was also windy and cool. Thankfully, I had taken a jacket for the morning chill. I ended up wearing it the entire time. My hands were so chilled I could barely write. The temperature was 58° when I began my hike. It was 60° when I was done. Ooooh, heatwave!

I'm not complaining about the weather, mind you. The cool temperature was quite a relief from the extreme heat we've been dealing with. No, my complaint is not with the weather--it's with the weatherman. If he doesn't know what the weather will be like, he should just say so.

Aren't you glad that our heavenly forecast is much more reliable than the weather forecast? I'm reminded of the old Roger Bennett song, "I've Read the Back of the Book and We Win." There's no question about it. Jesus will rule and reign for all eternity, and those of us who are saved will rule and reign with Him. What a glorious day! And just think, the weather will always be perfect!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sure-fire Way to Avoid Neck Pain

The hike down to Lake Wattacoo (my favorite getaway) has become quite daunting. First off, I have to watch every step because the snakes are out, and they have no compunction about stretching out across the trail. Second, I have to keep my head up and watch for spider webs. They're everywhere right now, and they can often be difficult to spot (that is, until it's stuck to my forehead). So, my hike went like this: look down for the snakes, look up for the webs, look down for the snakes, look up for the webs, look down, look up, etc. By the time I finally arrived at the lake, my neck was tired from the workout.

Life can sometimes be similar. We strive so hard to keep our eyes focused on Christ, but we must also be wary of the snares Satan has placed before us. The difference is that God is much more accomodating than the snakes and spiders. He has assured us that if we will stay focused on Him, He will warn us of any upcoming snares. No need to wear out our neck muscles. Just look to Him. He will direct our steps.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. - Psalm 37:23-26

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Book of Remembrance

It is said that the older one gets the more sketchy his memory becomes. If that's true, I'm in BIG trouble! My memory is already terrible, and I haven't even reached my mid-30's. I struggle to remember names, places, directions, and even my own ideas.

Another problem I have is remembering which devotions I've done on my blog, which ones I've done as articles, and which ones I've used for ladies' meetings. So, if it should happen that I've already done a post similar to this one, please bear with me.

The truly sad part is that my physical memory is the least of my problems. I seem to have giant holes in my spiritual memory. You know, like remembering all the ways God has blessed me and how often He's delivered me from trouble. Yep, whenever I'm facing a new trial, I get a bad case of spiritual amnesia. I forget how good God's been to me. I forget His promise that He'll never leave me. I forget all the ways that He has provided for me. I'm so focused on the current problem that I forget everything else.

The children of Israel had a similar problem. Do you know how God dealt with it? He gave them the idea for a book of remembrance.

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. - Malachi 3:16

Now, I'm not sure as to the extent of what was in that book, but I'm pretty sure it included the parting of the Red Sea, the manna from heaven, God's guidance via the pillars of cloud and fire, the deliverance from the Egyptians, and so on. I think every time someone wanted to complain, the book was opened and the events were recounted.

Not long ago, I began my own book of remembrance. I took a leather journal and started writing down each blessing I received. My book includes everything from monetary gifts to the free box of donuts we received from the grocery store because they were priced incorrectly. Big. Small. It doesn't matter. If it's a blessing, I write it down. Then, when I feel like throwing myself a glorious pity party, I open my book of remembrance instead. I can read in my own words how God is good and faithful. My pity party quickly transforms into a praise party!

I encourage you to start your own book of remembrance. You'll be amazed at the difference it can make in your life and your attitude.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some things to jot down in my book. . . if only I can remember where I put it!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Striving to Do God's Will

Do you ever feel like the work you're doing is in vain? Do you ever look at what you've accomplished and determine that it's not enough? Do you ever find yourself wondering if you're truly following God's will or if you've missed a "Turn now" sign somewhere?

I'm what you would call an "overthinker." I think too long and too hard about things that should be obvious. Believe it or not, I actually missed the yield sign on my driving test because the correct answer just seemed too obvious. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and I missed the yield sign!!!!! Why? Why do I do that? Why do I over-complicate things?

I think somewhere, deep in the back of my mind, I'm convinced that everyone is out to trick me. That's the only conclusion I can draw. I simply have this frustrating tendency to think too much into things.

In my Christian walk, this can prove to be a real problem. I'm walking along, doing the will of God. . . or am I? Suddenly, in the midst of my walk, I doubt my purpose and my calling. Sure, I know God called me to do this, but what about this? Within minutes of the doubt surfacing in my mind, I have a list of reasons why I think I'm on the wrong path. Maybe I misunderstood God's calling. Maybe I didn't hear correctly. Maybe I followed my own wishes instead of his. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Did you see what just happened? I went from productive to paranoid in a matter of minutes. Why? Doubt. I despise doubt, but I seem to be good buddies with it. The scary part is that I usually don't realize what's happening until someone points it out to me. Doubt has me so self-absorbed and distracted that I truly can't focus on anything else. . .especially the Lord's will.

So why am I writing this? Well, because I've been in that place (this week, actually), and I have a feeling that some of you may be there too. There are times when we will question everything we do and the motives behind those actions. We want to serve the Lord so much that we become distracted and weighed down by doubt of whether or not we're serving in the right capacity. We must be on guard. When we get to this place, we're running around in circles, chasing our tails instead of fighting the good fight. This is exactly what Satan wants.

Instead, let's keep doing the Lord's will. If we're not sure what that is, let's just continue to do the work we're sure of. If the Lord wants to move us or to add to our ministry, He will give us a clear sign. When I think back to all the major decisions in my life, I remember a very CLEAR signal from God. He will keep us in His will as long as we desire to stay there. He won't let us stray.

Let's get busy. We all have a job to do!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Was Noah's Ark Found?

Here's an interesting video clip. Listen to the skepticism of the reporters. You can tell by their remarks that they think we're all loony for believing in the Bible.

Click here to view the video.

(PS - I would have embedded the video here in the blog, but the embed code wasn't correct.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Radical by David Platt

In Radical, David Platt looks at how Christianity in America has become far too comfortable. He suggests that Americans have become more interested in pursuing the "American dream" than in fulfilling their obligations to Christ. Platt mentions that many Christians will go so far as to twist the Word of God to mean what they desire it to mean. With this in mind, Platt challenges the reader to a year-long journey to make radical changes for the cause of Christ.

Radical is the no-excuse, no-holds-barred work of a pastor who is fed up with what Christianity has become in America. In his passionate way, David Platt shares his burden about a Christian religion that has strayed far from what it is supposed to be. His book teaches and convicts readers. His goal is to help Christians see what they're missing out on by holding back in their faith.

The book contains stories that will make you weep, as well as those that will shock you. It gives the readers a bold look at where Christians are failing in today's society and how to bring about a positive change. Platt speaks with no apologies, and his message will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows, especially among the "religious" crowd. However, I found his radical statements to be true and straight down the line of what the Bible teaches.

Say "goodbye" to watered-down theology and "feel good" messages. While Platt's message may not be popular, I believe it is God-sent.

To purchase Radical, click here.

This book was reviewed as part of the "Blogging for Books" program by Random House. All opinions expressed were my own.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thank God for Good People!

Yesterday, our pastor celebrated his 17th anniversary at our church. It was a very special day with songs, messages, and a slide show presentation -- all meant to honor our pastor. (There also wasn't a dry eye in the house. Not a good day to wear mascara!) I feel it is a privilege to have a pastor who has such a heart for people and such a desire to serve God. My only regret is that I often neglect to tell him how important he is to me until a "special occasion."

Aren't we all bad to do that? Not just with our pastors, but with anyone in our lives who has a great impact. We notice what they do. We appreciate what they do. But so often we neglect to tell them how much of a blessing they are to our lives. I realize we can't spend every hour of every day telling people how much we appreciate them, but are we spending any time during the day doing this?

This is just a thought that came to my mind as we celebrated our pastor's anniversary. Let's be careful that we don't wait until a "special occasion" to tell others how much they impact our lives. We don't know that there will be another "special occasion." Life is short. Let's tell others now! Besides, it may just brighten their days!

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. - James 4:14