I heard something a couple of weeks ago that truly blessed me. I had heard it once before, and I may have even written about it before, but it's been on my mind a lot lately, so I'd like to share it with you.
We all know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were three Hebrew children who stood up for what they believed in and faced a fiery furnace as a result. I want you to read the following passage carefully:
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, [and] spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, [and] spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come [hither]. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. Daniel 3:23-26
Did you see anywhere in that passage where the three Hebrew children saw God in the midst of their fiery trial? No? I didn't either. We know that Nebuchadnezzar could see God walking through the fire, but could Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? They knew God was with them because they believed in His promise that He would never leave them nor forsake them, but did they actually see Him walking with them in the midst of their trial? We may never know the answer until we get to Heaven, but I think there's a powerful lesson here.
Have you ever been through a trial where you felt you were all alone and no one cared? Have you ever struggled to see God in the midst of your troubles? Have you ever questioned if God is really working on your behalf? Honestly, I have.
For me, the past few weeks have been filled with unanswered questions, doubts, worries, and fear. At times, I've even asked God why things in life had to be so difficult. I'm still waiting on that answer. But, by thinking on this story of the three Hebrew children, I realize they must have felt the same way I do now. They stood up for what was right. They did what they knew to be right, and the next thing they knew they were being thrown into a literal "hell on earth." Though their faith was strong, I'm sure at some point they wandered why life had to be so hard and why God wasn't there to help them.
Although I feel I face many of life's fiery trials alone, I can have faith that God is with me. I can know that even though I may not see Him walking with me through the fire, He's still there. That's what faith is all about--believing without seeing. The real blessing comes in knowing that others will be able to see His presence in the grace, strength, and peace He gives me through the difficult times. Nebuchadnezzar and his entire kingdom were changed because of what he saw that day. When we allow God to work through our lives (even the tough times), we can make a difference in the lives of those who witness His presence. Will you allow God to work through you today?
(Excerpt from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead, now available for $2.99 in all e-book formats.)
Click here to order from Amazon. (Kindle version)
Click here to order from Smashwords. (all other versions)
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
We had just finished our fellowship time where we all go around and shake hands while recorded music plays softly in the background. I make a habit not to wander too far from the piano lest I find myself stuck in the aisle when it's time to move on to the next song. Seeing the song leader returning to the platform, I weaved my way to the piano and looked around for the guitarists to give them the key for the next song. They were both halfway down the side aisle, trapped by a flurry of people trying to greet one another before they ran out of time.
The song leader began announcing the song. I made sure my music was in the right place, looked around once again for the guitarists, and upon spotting them approaching, mouthed the key of the song. That done, the song leader gave me "the nod" to begin the introduction of the song. The church sang through the first verse and chorus of my favorite hymn, "When We All Get to Heaven." I looked up at the song leader who looked toward the congregation and opened his mouth. I struck the opening notes for the second verse of the song, then froze. No one was singing, but rather everyone had turned to stare at me. In my embarrassment, I burst into laughter. The preacher declared that we needed to go ahead and sing the last verse since I was so eager to play it. They sang. I played, but all the while, I would have loved nothing more than to have disappeared. I can only imagine the different shades of red my face had become.
After church, I found out that the song leader had indeed said that we were only going to sing one verse of the song. I had been so busy and distracted by trying to give the key to the guitarists that I hadn't heard that important bit of information. When I saw the song leader look out at the people and open his mouth, I naturally assumed he was getting ready to sing. He wasn't. He was getting ready to call the ushers forward. My bad! I can tell you this, though. . .I listened VERY carefully to everything that was said the rest of the service.
The Bible is full of many wise and valuable instructions. It informs us how to live, how to walk, how to fight the world and Satan, how to love, how to forgive, how to grow in Christ and so much more. Every word has meaning. Every sentence is part of a paragraph, every paragraph part of a story. Every story part of the knowledge God wants us to have. No word is insignificant. Every part has meaning. Failure to heed any instruction contained within, no matter how brief, can lead to embarrassment and much worse.
The Bible is God's holy Word. It is a gift. Are we heeding the instructions contained within, or are we, like I was Sunday morning, too distracted with other things (even good things)? Take it from someone who knows. . . it pays to pay attention!
Friday, October 21, 2011
In her efforts to search the house, Laura stumbles upon a portal that transports her to a quaint village that harbors its own secrets and mysteries. Overall, the people seem kind enough, but there is an undercurrent of malice and discontentment that forces Laura to seek out the truth, even if it means putting her own life on the line.
J.S. Bailey created a masterpiece with this spell-weaving tale of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. The book was a real page-turner, and each page unfolded a new twist that made me cry, "Huh?" Bailey literally dumps you in the middle of a story, giving you enough information to follow along, but not enough to figure out what's going to happen next. And nothing could have prepared me for the ending! Just when I thought the story was about to wrap up, Bailey threw in one last surprise. The Land Beyond the Portal was one of those books that I just couldn't put down, but when I was done, I was sorry to have finished it so quickly.
I don't think I've ever read a book with such a thorough and well-balanced blend of Christianity, mystery, fantasy and science fiction. Typically books fall into one genre or another, but somehow Bailey pulled off a blending that is sure to satisfy readers of all ages and tastes.
The only negative comment I have about the book is that a couple of the characters (even the "good guys") occasionally took the Lord's name in vain. In my mind, that is the way of the world, and a Christian should know better than to disrespect God by using His name in such a way. I feel it has no place in a Christian work, for as Christians, we should be set apart from the world.
All in all, however, if you're looking for a clean book with detailed characters and an intriguing plot, The Land Beyond the Portal is for you. Get a copy today, but make sure you have plenty of time for reading, for once you start, you won't want to put it down!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Hours later, when I went to cut the brownies, I realized these brownies had some major issues. Typically, when cutting brownies, I place my knife at the edge of the pan and simply drag it across, slicing the brownies into nice little squares. However, when I attempted to do that with this pan of brownies, the brownies followed the knife. These were the gooiest brownies I've ever seen in my life. They were cooked all the way through; they're just extremely gooey. After several attempts at cutting them, I finally gave up and told Jason that we'll just have to spoon them out. How odd is that? (They still taste really good, just in case you're wondering.)
As I sat there that first day, spooned brownie in hand, I only laughed and said, "These certainly didn't come out the way I expected them too." Boy, is that an understatement when it comes to life! My life is not what I imagined it would one day be. In some ways, it's much better than I ever thought imaginable, but in other ways, there are some things I would change if I could. Yes, if I were in control of my life, things would be different. . .but I don't know that that would be a good thing.
I know I've said this many times, but it bears repeating. God sees the entire picture of what our lives can be and what they should be. He created the road map for each and every life. He knows which roads we should take and which decisions we should make. He sees both the beginning and the end. All we see are the immediate circumstances surrounding us. When life hands us something we're unprepared for, our first instinct is to throw up our hands and cry, "I can't handle this! This isn't what I was expecting." But I think the best response would be for us to trade our knife for a spoon. No, it doesn't work as well. Sure, it can get messy. But in the end, you'll still get to enjoy the fruits (or chocolate) of your labor.
When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. When it hands you gooey brownies, grab a spoon. Make the best of each day and every circumstance. After all, God means it for our good.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I had several errands to run, including picking up the decorations for a bridal shower I was to decorate for Friday evening. As I set out Friday morning, the decorations were the least of my worries. I had already scouted the store and picked out the items I wanted. All I had to do was purchase them. In addition, I had to find the tablecloths, but that was no big deal . . . or so I thought. I had no idea that finding round, plastic, white tablecloths was like finding a needle in a haystack. I went from store to store. Most only sold rectangular ones, but those that did sell the round ones sold them for three times the price and didn't have enough to meet my needs. In a panic, I called the lady who usually decorates for our church functions. "Where do you find round tablecloths?" I asked her. She referred me to a place and told me she was out running errands herself and had to go right by there. She offered to pick them up for me and drop them off at the church on her way home. Grateful for her assistance, I hung up the phone and muttered, "Finally!" A few minutes later, she called back to inform me that the store was out of white tablecloths. I felt like screaming!
And so the day went. I couldn't find what I needed. Nothing I wanted was on sale. I couldn't find a decent parking space to save my life. Straw. Straw. Straw. By the end of the day Friday, my camel was looking very weary! The funny thing is that I must have had fifty people during the course of the day say, "Hi, how are you doing?" Did they really want to know, or were they just being nice? Either way, I figured they didn't need to hear my poor, pitiful tale. Besides, I didn't think I could get through it time and time again. So, I gave my usual reply. "Fine." Now before you accuse me of being a liar, allow me to explain. When I said "Fine", others naturally assumed I meant that all was going well, but that's not at all what I meant. In her book, "From Clutter to Clarity," Nancy Twigg gives an excellent definition of "fine."
When people say "fine," what they really mean is that they are Frustrated, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted. Look around. . .We may not be neurotic, but many of us are running on fumes. Every day, we are stretched taught like a rubber band waiting to snap. Demands from our spouses, children, employers, friends, neighbors, and church--there never seems to be enough of ourselves to go around. In trying to please everyone, we end up depleted and depressed, overtaxed and overwhelmed.
So, time after time on Friday, I smiled my secret smile and said, "I'm fine," and I knew exactly what I meant. By Saturday, however, my attitude had caught up with me. I found myself suffering from the first migraine I've had in months, maybe even years. My head pounded. My stomach flip-flopped. My entire body felt like it was made of trembling jelly. I was too sick to enjoy the bridal shower I had decorated for, too sick to spend any time my my husband on his only day off , and too sick to rebuke myself for having such a lousy attitude.
My purpose in sharing this post with you today is to remind you of a powerful lesson. Not only it is wrong to have a bad attitude, but it's also painful. Bad attitudes create stress. Stress wreaks havoc on the body. You know the verse, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine"? Well, the opposite is true, as well. An angry heart doeth bad like a sickness. I don't know about you, but I suffer from enough health problems as it is. I don't wish to add any extra. So I need to watch my attitude.
Are you feeling fine today, or are you feeling F.I.N.E.? Be careful. I can assure you, you could feel much worse. I know I did!
Oh, one final word of advice. If you need round, plastic, white tablecloths for an event, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to find them. You'll be glad you did!
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. - Proverbs 4:23
Monday, October 17, 2011
The woman with the issue of blood was healed when she touched the hem of Christ's garment. Why did she do that? Jesus answers that question when he says, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." She believed that just touching Him could heal her.
The paralytic was healed when his four friends, believing that Jesus could heal him, let him down through the roof.
The ten lepers were healed only after they followed Christ's command to go and shew themselves to the priest. They took a huge risk by going into the city. Because of the laws concerning lepers, they could have been stoned going there in their condition. However, they obeyed in faith, and along the way they were healed.
The Syrophenician woman's daughter was healed when she approached Jesus and requested that He heal her. Jesus paid her a great compliment by saying, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
The centurion (yes, a Roman centurion) came to Jesus asking for healing for his servant. Listen to what Jesus says about him: "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Wow!
Do you see what these miracles (along with many others) have in common? They didn't occur until after the faith was displayed. Each person came to Him, believing that He could do what they asked of Him. Do we do the same? Could it be that you've been asking God for a miracle, but are disappointed time and time again when it doesn't come? It may be that what you're asking for is not part of God's will for your life. Or it may be that He's waiting for a little evidence of faith. I think how we approach the Lord makes a big difference in how our requests are handled.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. - Hebrews 11:6
Friday, October 14, 2011
- Everything you do will always leave a mark.
- You can always correct the mistakes you make.
- What is important is what is inside of you.
- In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings which will only make you better.
- To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
A friend of mine recently posted the above cartoon on Facebook. When I saw it, I was immediately reminded of myself. What's sad is that my husband directed me to the exact same cartoon with the message, "This reminded me of you." Does he know me or what?
The truth is I've been in a spiritual battle for the past couple of weeks. I've been bombarded with weapons I didn't even know Satan possessed. I've grown tired and weary, and to be honest, there have been a few times when I just wanted to give up. I've prayed. I've cried. I've read my Bible. I've quoted Scripture. Yet, the attacks keep coming. It seems I barely have time to recover from one battle before another is beginning.
Some kind-hearted onlookers have tried to help by saying things like, "Well, consider it a good thing. It just means you must be doing God's will. Satan wouldn't waste his time with you if you were out of God's will." I understand what they're saying, and I appreciate their help. But truthfully, it doesn't make the battles any easier.
Too often, over the course of the past couple of weeks, I've felt just like the little girl in the cartoon above. I've felt scared. I've been paralyzed by the unknown. I've felt like I was sinking and like I would soon go under for the very last time. Yet, every day, through some means or another, God has reminded me that He is holding me up. Through a verse, a devotion, a song, a sermon, and even a cartoon, my loving Father has assured me that He won't let me sink.
I know the battle's not over, but through His reassurance, God has given me some new weapons to use. With Him, we will claim the victory. Praise the Lord that "when the waves are over my head, they're under His feet."
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. - Psalm 56:3
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
When I chose to read this book for a review, I wasn't entirely sure if I would like it or not. I enjoy a good fantasy (providing it doesn't get dark), so I felt it was worth a try. What I discovered was that the plot and characters have a lot of potential. Overall, Lawhead has a good storyline, but I feel he could have told the story in fewer words. The story was burdened with excessive description and a lot of filler that didn't have any bearing on the story. In addition, the constant bouncing back and forth from past to present and from character to character made it very confusing.
To be honest, if I hadn't agreed to read the book in its entirety, I would have put it down before I reached the halfway mark. I kept waiting for it to get interesting, but it really didn't pull me in until the last few chapters. This being the first book in a trilogy, the story really doesn't end. That being said, I'm not sure how many loose ends the author intended to leave, but I felt that several things were truly odd, and I have yet to figure out where they actually fit into the story.
Lastly, for a Christian fantasy, I didn't see anything in the story that distinguished the book as Christian. On the contrary, there were a few words and phrases that I felt were inappropriate for a book in the Christian market.
I'm not saying that I hated the book or that I would never read anything else by this author. However, I prefer a clean book with lots of meat and less filler. Good story. Great potential. But not a compelling read.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Monday, October 10, 2011
The last chapter I read was an encounter with three different groups of gnomes. The first group was content to sit in the middle of a cave filled with tunnels and go nowhere. Their philosophy was that they weren't either happy or sad where they were, and if they left and ended up somewhere they didn't want to be, they would be much worse off, so it was better to just stay put. The second group loved to explore, but they were very indecisive. They would barely explore the beginnings of a tunnel before they would decide that maybe they should try a different tunnel instead. Thus, they had explored the beginnings of most of the tunnels but had no idea where any of them led. The third group explored the tunnels to their fullest extent and made maps along the way so they could keep track of where they had been and where each tunnel led.
As I read, the tale was both comical and convicting. The question soared through my mind: which group of gnomes am I most like? Am I content to stay where I am in life, neither happy or sad, unproductive but never having to take a risk? Do I wander around aimlessly, never finishing the things I start and always second-guessing the Lord's will for my life? Or am I willing to explore the open doors set before me, following the map (the Bible) that God has given me to guide my way?
The more I thought about it, the more I felt I resembled the second group of gnomes. I thought about the many projects I felt the Lord was leading me to complete that now sit unfinished on my hard drive or in my office. I thought about the many times I forsook my calling to chase after the latest scheme or money-making effort because I felt I wasn't contributing enough financially to our family. I thought about the many times I started down the same path again and again. Yes, to my dismay, I related the best with the second group. But I don't have to stay that way, and I don't intend to.
What about you? Where are you in life? Which group of gnomes do you resemble most, and are you happy about your findings? If not, rest assured that we can grow. We can become better Christians. We can learn to trust more and to follow better. Our only limit is our unwillingness.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Lord, I come before you.
I do not understand
All the hurt I'm feeling;
I've taken all I can.
I need to see the beauty
I feel from all the pain
I ask for sweet refreshing
Of blessings in the rain.
Extend your hand of mercy
And take away my fear.
Let me feel your presence,
To know that you are near.
Bring comfort in my sorrow
And balm to soothe my pain,
Hope for my tomorrow
And blessings in the rain.
You are a God of mercy.
Do take away my fears.
Lord, uphold me by your hand,
And dry up all my tears.
To find out more about Irene's book or to purchase a copy, click here.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Last week, I promised myself that I would get some things done and caught up this week. Today marks the beginning of the week, and my "to-do" list for today alone is a mile long. There are errands to run, articles to write and marketing to complete. The laundry basket is overflowing. There's a wedding shower to plan, dinner arrangements to be made, a meeting to attend. And my house--well, let's just say I won't be winning any "Housekeeper of the Year" awards any time soon.
As I lay in bed this morning, I thought of all that needed to be done, and my heart sank. I just want to sleep, I thought. I'm so very tired. Everyone needs to rest every now and then, right. Why must every day be so hectic? Truthfully, I wanted nothing more than to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. I wanted to sleep away my worries and cares. I wanted to dream rather than do.
But then I was reminded of the title of a book on my bookshelf: Every Day Deserves a Chance. I realized that I had used my attitude to doom the day before it had even begun. I didn't give the day a chance to be a good day. I took one look at my day's obligations and allowed my feelings of fatigue and stress to dictate the kind of day I was going to have. I had the chance to make it a good day, and I blew it! Instead of giving up on the day, I should have taken my thoughts and concerns to the Lord. I could have showed Him my "to-do" list and explained how overwhelmed I was feeling. I could have asked for strength and energy to conquer the items on my list. I could have handled it so much better, but I didn't give the day a chance.
There's nothing I can do about today. I started it off wrong, and I'm trying to make the best of it now. That's all I can do. But I have a goal for tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, when I awake, I pray the Lord will bring to my mind Psalm 118: 24: This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. I hope I will then commit my day to the Lord and allow Him to guide me through each task.
Did you give today a chance? Are you allowing your doubts or worries to dictate the kind of day you'll have? Remember that every day is a gift from the Lord. Let's not waste any!
Monday, October 3, 2011
I am a worrier! I worry when I don't have things to worry about. I worry about how to pay the bills, how to get everything done in a day, how to help my husband more, how to be a better Christian, how to be a better wife, and on and on. Around our house, it's a big joke about how much I worry. We use phrases to describe me like "I make coffee nervous" and "You're such an Eeyore Christian." But I realized this morning, that my worry is no laughing matter.
I know the promises of God. I read them daily. I memorize them. I quote them. I even just finished teaching a series of lessons on the promises of God to our ladies' Sunday School class. Yes, I'm quite familiar with the promises of God, yet I still worry. According to the statement above, what does that mean? It means that I don't believe them.
At first, I argued the point. "I do believe. I know God's promises are true. I know He says what He means and means what He says. I know God never lies." But is that really belief? The more I examined my life, the more I realized the truth. I don't really believe. I approach life expecting to be disappointed. I ask for things knowing that there's no way my prayer can be answered. The sad part is that I don't even realize I'm doing it.
How is this possible? It's called "stinking thinking." It occurs when I allow my worries and negative thoughts to outweigh my faith in God's promises. Worry takes place because I allow my mind to be so filled with the negative that there's no room left for the positive. My trust has been displaced by worry and fear, and I allowed it to happen. You see, worry doesn't take over in one fail swoop. No, it is patient. It works slowly, delving into your mind day after day and slowly replacing each of God's promises. Then, when trials arise, the first thing that comes to mind is not one of God's promises, but one of the many worries that have taken root.
I admit that I knew I had a problem with worry, and I have been trying to work on it. But I think I've been going about it the wrong way. I've been trying to just conquer the fear and doubt, and I'm ashamed to say, I think I often try to do it in my own strength. But worry cannot be uprooted this way. To get rid of worry, I have to get rid of the "stinking thinking" and to do that, I need to replace those negative thoughts and fears with God's promises. Yes, I know them, but I need to bring them to the surface, and I need to believe in them with all my heart. I need to take what I know in my head and apply it to my heart.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being weighed down by "stinking thinking." I'm ready for a change. I'm ready to live life to its fullest. I'm ready to start my days with confidence and expectation. I'm ready to become a better person by thinking better thoughts. I'm ready to believe God's promises are true with all my heart, soul and mind. Will you join me?
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. - Mark 9:24