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Monday, April 28, 2014

God's Photo Album

Every once in a while, I love to sit back and flip through my photo albums.  Since we don't have any kids of our own, our albums are mostly filled with pictures of us, the dogs and kids/youth from our church from several different activities we've chaperoned.  Still, there are many memories held within the pages, and I cherish the time to think back and smile about what we've done and seen in our short time here on earth.

I read something this morning that made me think of photo albums, but as my mind wandered, God implanted a beautiful message within my heart.  Photo albums generally contain pictures of joyful occasions and praise-worthy accomplishments.  Birthday parties.  Graduations.  Anniversaries.  The first step.  The first smile.  The first bicycle ride.  The winning goal at the soccer game.  The class reward.  On the whole, you have smiling faces and happy people.

Seldom (if ever) have I seen a photo album that immortalizes someone's failures.  You know, a picture of "the other kid" getting the reward.  Your child sprawled on the pavement after his first bike wreck.  Your beautiful ballerina in tears after she stumbled across the stage.  Or how about holding up that report card with all D's and F's?  We simply don't take pictures of those things (at least, not on purpose), and many times, if we do happen to catch the booboos on film, we discard the photos or place them somewhere less prominent.  Why?  Because we want to focus on the good.  The accomplishments.  The precious moments.  The happy times.  Who wants pages filled with tear-stained faces and stories of hopelessness?  Not me!

And neither does God.  I believe He probably has some photo albums of His own--one for each of us.  I don't know what images my album holds, but I'm sure there's one of the day I was saved and one of my baptism.  I imagine there's one depicting my surrender to God when He called me away from teaching and my comfort zone.  My wedding day is there as is the day I was born.

 But what isn't there is a single photo of my failures.  The times I've walked the wrong road.  The times I've turned my back on God, determined to do things my way.  The times I've stumbled and found myself sprawled on the pavement, crying tears of frustration and remorse.  Nope, those pictures are absent, for God doesn't want to remember those.  In fact, according to the Bible, He can't remember them.  They're under the blood, cast as far as the east is from the west.  He can't find them and doesn't want to.  Instead, He's content to thumb through my album and praise my accomplishments, precious moments and happy times, even though He knows that none of it would have been possible without Him.  Still, He bestows praise and displays my album for others to see, like a proud Father doting on His little girl.

And just think, one day I'll get to crawl up in His lap and look at the album with Him.  What a glorious and precious day that will be!  Who knows, that picture might find its way in the album too.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.- Psalm 103:10-13

Friday, April 25, 2014

It's Not Too Late, Or Is It?

On Monday, my sweet husband will turn 39.  What's really exciting is that this week he began taking his very first music lessons.  For a while now he's been talking about the possibility of learning a stringed instrument like the guitar or bass guitar.  At first, he shrugged it off with all the usual excuses:  no time, no talent, no teacher.  There was also the financial side of things.  After all, one can't learn an instrument without having an instrument with which to practice.  Then there were the costs of lessons and the other necessities.  Yet despite the excuses why it couldn't happen, the dream stayed alive. . . and flourished.

Pretty soon, it was all he could think about (and talk about it).  He began researching instruments and free online bass lessons.  He studied.  He figured.  And he saved.  He started putting aside his tip money from work, his birthday money and any other little pieces here and there.  After seeing his excitement grow and watching the renewed happiness in his life, I happily donated my birthday money to "the cause."  And finally, last weekend he had enough to buy a bass guitar.

He's spent his time off work happily watching the free tutoring videos online and plucking away at his new instrument.  Others assumed I was bothered by the noise, but the truth is it has thrilled my heart to see him so happy.  He has a dream, and he's excited about it.  But one thing I made him promise me before we dove into this new hobby was that no matter how difficult it became or how frustrated he was with the learning process, he would stick with it.  He's not a quitter, but I know the temptation of shying away from things when the going gets tough, and I don't want to see his dream die.  He has the potential and the drive.  He just needs to avoid the distraction.

As I've watched him practice this week, I realized that of all his initial excuses for not learning a new instrument, one he never said was "I'm too old to start something like this."  Let's face it, we've all heard the expression "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."  But you know what, that's not true.  You can.  In fact, I have.  Old dogs can learn new things and so can people (not that I'm calling my husband old, mind you).  My point is that it's not too late.  Take advantage of today.  Seize the moment.  Do the thing you feel you're too old to do, whether that be cartwheels or going to the zoo.  Act on your dreams.

But more importantly, if you haven't made the biggest decision of your life, I urge you to do that right now.  That decision, of course, is receiving Christ as your Savior and Lord.  To do so, you must believe in Him and freely accept His gift of salvation.  He died so that we might live, but unless you accept that sacrifice, your eternal life will not be a pleasant one.  And unfortunately, there will come a day when millions will hear the phrase "Too late."  You don't want to be one of them.  It doesn't matter how old you are or how bad you think you've been, Jesus' blood can wash away all sin.  Will you accept Him today?  Please, don't wait until it's too late!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daring to Dream

Let's face it, we all have dreams, right?  Some dreams are attainable, while others, we know, will always be a dream.  But how do we know the difference?  How do we know which dreams to strive after and which ones to brush off?  And for those of us who have watched dreams die, do we dare to believe that another could possibly come true?  This morning, I read the story of a man who had a dream that not only came true but also flourished in a miraculous way.

Jim Bishop had a dream of building a small family cabin on the two-acre lot he had purchased in the Colorado wilderness.  Comfortable with the necessary tools, he began the construction on his own.  Day after day, he walked the property and gathered up rocks to use in the building of a one-room cottage.  As the cabin began to take shape, Bishop began working on a fireplace that spiraled up from the ceiling of the cottage, giving it a tower-like appearance.  Pretty soon, friends and family would stop by and jokingly ask if he was building a cottage or a castle.  After hearing several similar comments, Bishop figured, "Why not build a castle?"

Rock by rock, wooden beam by wooden beam, the cottage soon grew into a castle.  But Bishop wasn't finished.  He continued to add on.  He created ornate rooms, breathtaking towers, bridges, a ballroom and even a fire-breathing dragon.  His creation is nothing short of indescribable and has become a tourist attraction for many who visit Colorado.  To the public, Bishop Castle is known as the country's largest one-man project, and for a while Bishop agreed with that assessment.  But during the time he worked on the project, his viewpoint began to change.  The work was being done with no blueprints or floor plans.  He was literally making it up as he went, yet somehow, all the pieces seemed to fit together perfectly.  After a while, Bishop realized that it was not chance that was bringing his dream to fruition; there was something more.  Now, Bishop describes the castle as "built by one man with the help of God."

There are a couple of important lessons to be learned from this dreamer.  First off, not only did he dare to dream, but he worked toward the dream.  So often, we have a goal, but we're unwilling to do what's necessary to achieve that goal.  We're too attached to our comfort zones to get up and do the "real work." If we want our dreams to become realities, some serious time and effort are required.

Second, when his plan took a new direction, Bishop didn't grow discouraged or defeated.  He just continued to build and trust that things would work out.  So many times, when God leads us down a new path, we grow frustrated or weary.  "But, God," we complain, "this isn't what I had in mind."  Well, Jim Bishop wasn't planning on building a castle at first either.  His plan was simple--a one-room cottage.  But look at what God accomplished because Jim allowed his plans to be changed.  What could God accomplish in our lives if we'd allow Him to make some changes?

Third, although he didn't seem to realize it at first, after a while, Jim could not deny God's part in the construction.  We need to be careful in that area as well.  When pursuing our dreams, it's easy to get our priorities and perspectives out of whack.  We become very self-focused about what we want and what we have accomplished.  But the Bible makes it very clear that without God, we can do nothing.  Let's keep that in mind.

I don't know what you're dreaming today.  I'm not privy to your innermost goals.  But God knows.  He also knows what He has planned for you, and while the two may not be exactly the same, by allowing God to tweak your dreams, you'll be able to accomplish something far greater.  A castle instead of a cabin.  The will of the Lord instead of the will of yourself.  Remember, God has promised to give us abundantly above all that we could ask or think.  That includes our dreams and goals.  Will you settle for your dream, or will you allow God to make it even better?

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. - Psalm 37:4

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Put That Knowledge To Work

During our devotion time last night, Jason and I were reading from Oswald Chamber's book, My Utmost for His Highest.  Unlike many of his short devotions, this particular one was so straightforward and to the point that it really left no room for discussion.  The focus of the message was clear:  it's not enough to know to do good; we must put that knowledge in action.  The only thing I could think to say at the conclusion of the reading was that I was surprised he didn't use Philippians 4:9 as one of his keys verses:  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.  Jason agreed, and we carried on with our devotions and prayer time.

This morning, as I did my personal devotions, guess what verse I came across.  Yep, you guessed it--Philippians 4:9.  I laughed and sent Jason a text with the verse and the sentence, "Sound familiar?"  He sent back a smiley face.  God was doing it again.  He was using multiple sources to drive home a singular point.  But as I pondered the verse this morning, I felt a bit like Princess Mia in the Princess Diaries where she says, "The concept is grasped; the execution is a little elusive."

I understand the verse.  I know what it says and what it means.  It makes perfect sense to me.  However, carrying out that particular order sometimes seems very difficult, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why.  I guess it's the flesh.  I want to serve God.  I want to do the things He's taught me to do and avoid the things He's told me to avoid.  Yet when faced with certain circumstances, I make the wrong choice.  I choose the chocolate cake over the fruit or the soda over water.  I choose the easy way instead of the right way.  I choose my feelings over what I know to be true.  I choose anger instead of forgiveness, bitterness over goodness and selfishness over selflessness.  I know better.  I really do.  But still I make the wrong choice.  Fortunately, God's still working on me and helping me to do those things I need to do.

May I remind you today that it's not enough to know what's right; we must also do what's right.  Knowledge is great, but unless we put it into practice, it's pretty much worthless.  I know it isn't easy, but with God all things are possible.  We can do this in His strength.  We need only be willing.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. - James 1:22-25

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Not Small to God

A strange thing happens quite often at our church.  Without coordination or discussion of any kind, the message goes right along with the Sunday School lesson or the songs reinforce the preaching.  Time after time, we've laughed as things tie themselves together in such a way that we have no choice but to say, "It has to be God!"  This past Sunday was one of those days.

As I was getting ready that morning, I felt a strong leading to show a video presentation for the offering.  The particular video on my mind was one that I had put together for Easter last year (or maybe even two years ago; I don't remember).  Anyway, I debated whether or not to do it.  After all, it was Palm Sunday not Easter Sunday.  Wouldn't it be strange to show an Easter presentation a week early? I argued.  But I couldn't shake the feeling that I should do it.  When I asked Jason his opinion, he agreed that I should do it.  Only later did I understand what God was doing.

As we sang the first congregational song (which I pick out each week), the voices of the church rang out.  "Take the name of Jesus with you. . . Precious name, oh how sweet!"  When the pastor stepped to the pulpit immediately following the song, he was laughing.  "I love how the Lord works," he said.  "This morning the title of my message is "Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know."  As he chuckled, I realized he had no idea what other "coincidences" (NOT!) the morning held.

The choir song -- "Because He Lives," which begins "God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus") -- hmm, there's that name.

The second congregation song -- "Oh, How I Love Jesus," which begins, "There is a name I love to hear; I love to speak its worth.  It sounds like music in my ear, the sweetest name on earth."  -- Okay, getting spooky now.

The offertory presentation -- My Name Is Jesus

Let me just say, there was some serious chuckling going on, but amid the laughter, we were marveling.  While God's work in our church service may not have seemed comparable to the Red Sea crossing or the crumbling of Jericho's walls, I believe that it was equally as great.  God used three different people to create a church service that lifted high the name of Jesus.  Every song prepared our hearts to receive the message, and because they were so entwined, it was almost like hearing the message over and over again.

After the service, the pastor asked me, "Did somebody tell you what I was going to preach on?"  I laughed and shook my head, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized Somebody did tell me.  I just didn't realize it.  It was no coincidence I chose those particular congregational songs, and it wasn't until we were singing them that I realized their common theme.  It was no accident that I felt such a strong urging to show that video during the offering time.  God was working in what we would call the "small details."  But one thing this has reminded me of is that these things are not small to God.  The name of Jesus was lifted high over and over again, and that is a big deal!  We have no trouble remembering that nothing is too big for God, but I think we sometimes forget that nothing (or no one) is too small either.  God used a little church in a big way this weekend, and I know of at least one life that was impacted because of it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Know How You Feel

In my daily devotions, I've been going through a reading plan called, "The Active Word".  Basically, it groups together devotions with common themes and gives Scripture to read along with each devotion.  The first series was a brief journey through the Psalms, which I enjoyed immensely since Psalms is my favorite book of the Bible.  The series I'm on now (and have been on for a while it seems) is a study on the attributes of God.  It's been a refreshing and enlightening look at Who God is and what characteristics He possesses.

One of the most recent attributes I studied was God's ability to relate to us.  The devotion spoke in detail of how Christ came to earth to be born of a woman, to walk the ground that we walk, breathe the air that we breathe, and face the earthly trials that we face.  I nodded as I read through the devotion.  I mean, I appreciated the lesson, but it seemed like kid's stuff.  I felt like I wasn't really gleaning any new insight, but then a thought hit me out of the blue.  Please bear with me as I try to explain.

God is omniscient, right?  He knows everything there is to know.  He knows our thoughts, our actions, our feelings and our attitudes.  In fact, He knows us better than we know ourselves, right?  Isn't that knowledge enough to make it where He can relate to us?  What else does He need to know about us in order for Him to relate to us?  What knowledge could He have possibly gained during His time on earth in the body of a man?  He already knew everything!

Do you want to know what I think?  (I hope so because I'm going to tell you anyway.)  I don't think God came to earth so that He could relate to us.  I think He came to earth so that we could relate to the fact that He can relate to us.  In other words, it's one thing to think about God as a Heavenly being who sees all, knows all, and so on.  It's quite another thing to think about God as a man who knew the aches and pains of a fleshly body, who understood what it was like to go hungry, who hobnobbed with the poor and wealthy alike.  Isn't it then easier to believe God when He says, "I know what you're going through, for I've walked in your shoes"?

God didn't have to come to earth to relate to us.  He could do that already.  No, instead, He went the extra mile to ensure that we would have no doubts about His claims that He can relate to us.  He didn't have to prove Himself to us, but He chose to do so anyway.  Do we serve an awesome God or what?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Putting Words in My Mouth

Writing has to be one of the best jobs in the world.  Not the most profitable, mind you, but the best.  However, it can also be lonely and frustrating.  Writing isn't what I do; it's who I am.  Even when I'm not sitting in front of my computer or pouring over a manuscript, my mind is always processing new thoughts and ideas.  Book ideas.  Chapter titles.  Marketing plans.  Product purchases and sales.  Blog suggestions.  My poor brain never gets a day off.  It's always working.

The problem is, as many writers can attest, that so often it seems like all that time and effort are wasted.  We work and work and work, and unlike every other job, we have little to no income to show for it.  We don't get paid by the hour but by the sale.  And for the writer, especially the reclusive kind, convincing people to buy her books is as big a task as single-handedly moving a mountain.  So, as you can imagine, we have our good days and bad days.  When our minds are focused on the task at hand, we're excited and motivated.  However, when our minds wander beyond that task, we find ourselves discouraged and wondering, "What am I doing wrong?"

For all my fellow writers out there, take heart.  I don't post many devotions specifically for writers, but this one was screaming to be posted, and so, I will follow the Lord's leading.  Writing is a calling of the Lord, and as such, He does not require us to be famous--only faithful.  I was reminded of this as I've read my devotions over the past couple of weeks.  Verses jumped out at me one after another, and while the interpretation of the verses was something entirely different, the application spoke volumes to me.  Are you ready?

The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.- Isaiah 50:4  --  It is God who gives me the words to say/write and the knowledge to perform my craft.  He gives me what I need to encourage others, and if that's all I ever accomplish with my writing, it will be worth it.

And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.- Isaiah 51:16  --  Again, God will give me the words.  I need only listen and relate them to others.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!- Isaiah 52:7  --  When I use my talent to publish good news, teach salvation or encourage those who are weary, I am a living testimony to the Almighty God.  Not only that, but no matter my income, my willingness to follow God's will makes me beautiful in His eyes.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. - Isaiah 55:11  --  God's words will not return void.  They will accomplish what He wants them to accomplish.  That may or may not translate to sales on our part, but it will more than likely translate to souls.  Which is more important?

Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. - Jeremiah 1:9  --  God has touched me.  He has seen fit to use me as a willing vessel to spread His words far and wide.  He hasn't commanded me to become a bestseller or to publish the most books.  He has commanded me to speak His message, and not only that, but He has promised to give me what I need to accomplish just that.

Fellow writers, I know that our ministry can sometimes feel daunting, and at times, we feel we're all alone in this battle.  But the truth is we are never alone, and as long as we're doing what God has called us to do, everything will work out according to His plan.  Take heart, and keep writing.  God has big plans for you!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Unexpected Company

It's not unusual for someone to come in a few minutes late for Sunday School.  In fact, it happens quite often.  So when the door opened, at first, I didn't even look up.  I continued on with my lesson, trying to say what I needed to say to hopefully finish the lesson that had taken me three weeks to cover.  But as the figure drew closer to our table, I looked up. . . and nearly swallowed my tongue.  On the one hand, I was thrilled to see this friend of the family who filled the role as my second mother long before I had a mother-in-law.  On the other hand, however, this friend had also been my speech teacher. . . TWICE!

The more I tried to watch my words, ensuring that my Southern pronunciations such as git (get), agin (again) and gonna (going to) didn't slip out, the more I stumbled and stuttered.  I couldn't think what I was trying to say, and try as I might, I didn't seem to be able to finish a sentence.  Now please understand, this dear, precious lady was not sitting there with red pen in hand, critiquing my every word.  Nevertheless, I felt nervous and inadequate beyond belief.  Thankfully, in the midst of my flustered state, God reminded me what I was teaching about, and I saw the lesson in a new light.

Immediately, I related to poor Gideon as he stood with his army of three hundred men and stared out at the Midianite army of one hundred thirty-five thousand.  Talk about feeling nervous and inadequate!  If you do the math, you'll see that the Israelite army was outnumbered four hundred fifty to one.  Not good odds.  At least, not from Gideon's standpoint.  But from God's point of view, the odds were perfect.  Not only could the three hundred annihilate the Midianite army, but they could do so by what has to be one of the strangest battle tactics of all time.  I don't have time to go into the entire story, but if you'd like to read it for yourself, you can find it beginning in the sixth chapter of Judges and continuing on until chapter eight.

As I thought about Gideon and witnessed his fear, I remembered how God had called him a mighty man of valor, and suddenly, I found comfort in the thought that God sees beyond who were are.  He sees what we can be.  When I took my first speech class in ninth grade, God saw beyond the bumbling idiot who was so shy and nervous that she couldn't compose a coherent sentence to save her life.  He saw a college a student who would take a similar speech class and be one step closer to becoming what He wanted her to be--still shy and nervous, but growing in faith and knowledge.  But He even saw beyond that.  He saw a woman teaching a Sunday School class week after week, praying that something she says will be a blessing to those who hear it.  Still nervous, still stuttering and stammering from time to time.  Yet still growing more and more into what God wants her to be.  Beyond that, I have no idea what God sees.  Maybe a speaker who travels around the world, encouraging women in the faith.  Who knows?  The point is that God sees what I'm capable of, even when I don't.

I wanted so much to impress my friend/former speech teacher on Sunday that I nearly forgot the point of my lesson.  It doesn't matter how well I speak or how nervous I become.  What matters is that God is using me and molding me to be all that He has created me to be, and each time I follow His will, I become more like Him.  Gideon was not a mighty man of valor when he first encountered God, but after a period of trial, fear and faith, he became one.  And if God could do that for Gideon, can't He do it for us?

It's easy to grow discouraged in our Christian walk.  Sometimes we feel we should be better off or farther along.  We despair of ever becoming what God wants us to be.  But we shouldn't.  God won't give up on us.  No matter our fear or lack of faith.  No matter our questions or excuses.  If we're willing to let Him use us, God will bring us where we need to be.  I'm not saying the road will be easy or that you'll never squirm in your seat, but I can assure you that God is still working on you.  And one thing I know about God is that He never leaves a job unfinished.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Philippians 1:6

Monday, April 7, 2014

Roses or Rotten Eggs?

The rotten-egg smell confused me, but the dreaded click followed by--well, nothing--confirmed my fear.  Something was definitely wrong with my Xterra.  It didn't get it.  It started fine this morning as I went out to run a few errands.  Everything looked fine.  No warning lights.  No hesitations, coughs or moans (from the car, at least).  Suddenly, I noticed a smell.  "Yuck, something smells like rotten eggs," I said, figuring the smell was coming from something I was driving past.  But when the smell didn't diminish, I began to grow concerned.

When I arrived at my first stop, which wasn't too far from home, I looked around inside the vehicle to see if some food or trash had gotten left behind from Jason's recent work trip to Atlanta.  Not seeing anything, I exited the car and went inside the store to do my shopping.  After picking up the few items I needed, I went back to my car and opened the door.  The smell nearly knocked me over.  "What is that?" I complained as I turned the key in the ignition.  Click.  "Seriously?" I whined, turning the key again.  Click"Fabulous," I muttered as I pulled my phone out of my purse and called Jason.  The good news is that he answered immediately.  The bad news is that he couldn't get to me for another hour.  So, I did the only thing I could do.  I made the best of a bad situation.

For starters, I went into a different store in the shopping center and purchased a bag of chocolate-covered donuts and a Pepsi.  (Hey, in my defense, I had left the house without having breakfast, and with all the added stress of the morning, I had a doozy of a headache coming on.)  Anyway, I made my way back out to my car with my breakfast of champions and devoured nearly half the bag of donuts as I completed my daily Bible reading on my phone.  When I had finished that, I still had plenty of time before Jason arrived, so I tucked the remaining donuts away (before I ate those too) and visited the thrift store in the shopping center.  Several minutes later, I exited with a cute little sweater and a much-better attitude than I had had an hour earlier.

Why am I telling you all this?  Simply because sometimes life does not cooperate with our well-laid plans.  I had errands to run.  I had things to do.  I had made plans, and in just a few minutes, all my plans crumbled.  The result was an attitude of bitterness, anger and frustration.  It's only natural.  The problem is that it's the wrong nature.  It's the fleshly nature.  The spiritual nature should have a totally different reaction.  A spiritual reaction would have been to assess the situation and say, "Lord, I don't know why this is happening, but I trust that You have Your reasons and that they are for my good.  Help me to praise You anyway.  This is still the day that You have made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it."

I'm telling you about my rotten day (and equally rotten attitude) to remind you that there is a right and wrong way to respond when life seems to be pitching one lemon after another.  One looks at the problem.  The other looks at the problem-solver.  One focuses on the bad.  The other focuses on the good.  One evokes anger and frustration.  The other, gratitude and joy.  I urge you to choose the right response.  Even when things look bad, God is still good.  For example, I could have been on the side of the road instead of in a parking lot.  I could have been stranded without a cell signal or, worse yet, chocolate and Pepsi.  God was even good enough to allow me to be broken down in a shopping center with three of my favorite stores:  Family Dollar, Big Lots and a thrift store.  God took care of me, and in the end, all was well.

It turns out there was something seriously wrong with my battery, which was the cause of both the inability to start the car and the horrible smell.  Fortunately, it's still under warranty, so we should be able to get a new one without charge.  But even if it had been something more serious or costly, God would have still deserved praise.  The question is, would I have been willing to give it?

In the movie, Facing the Giants, the coach makes the statement, "Your attitude is like the aroma of your heart."  Well, I'm ashamed to tell you that my heart smelled nearly as bad as my car did this morning.  Don't make the same mistake I did.  I can't promise you that today will turn out the way you have planned.  I can't even assure you that it will be a good day.  What I can tell you, though, is that you have a choice in how you react to the day.  Will your heart smell like roses or rotten eggs?  It's completely up to you!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What Can I Say?

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. - Romans 8:26

I can't tell you how many times I've gone to the Lord and couldn't figure out what to say. I was hurting. I had a need, but the words just wouldn't come. At times, I'm not even sure what I want, much less how to ask for it. There are times that I go to pour my burden out unto the Lord only to discover that there are no words to describe how I feel. (And let me tell you, it's not good for a writer to be without words!)

During these times, I'm so thankful that the Lord knows my needs and desires. I'm so grateful that the Spirit makes intercession for me and speaks to the Father when I just can't find the words to express my feelings and emotions. If you're experiencing a loss of words today, never fear. Go to the Lord, bask in His presence, and allow the Spirit to talk for you. He knows what we need, and He's the only One who can get the message across.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Friends in High Places

(I hope you don't mind my pulling out an old post for this morning.)

This morning, I had the rare opportunity to hear beautiful music played on a 17th century violin that once belonged to Nicolo Amati.  If you don't have any idea who Nicolo Amati is, don't worry.  You're in good company.  I didn't know either until the violinist told us.  Nicolo Amati was the mentor of Antonio Stradivari.  Does that name sound a little more familiar?  If not, here's a little clip from Wikipedia:

The name Stradivarius is associated with violins built by members of the Stradivari family, particularly Antonio Stradivari. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or reproduce, though this belief is controversial. The name "Stradivarius" has become a superlative often associated with excellence; to be called "the Stradivari" of any field is to be deemed the finest there is. The fame of Stradivarius instruments is widespread, appearing in numerous works of fiction.

A member of the audience asked the violinist how much the violin was worth. She basically said that it's worth several houses.  Strativarius instruments have sold for millions of dollars, so I can only imagine what an instrument built and owned by Stradivari's mentor would cost.  But I do know that the music played on it this morning was priceless.

As I drove home, I imagined what it will be like when I reach Heaven.  The Lamb's Book of Life will be opened, and my name will be read.  The throng gathered around will say, "Who?"  Then my Father will speak.  "Dana Rongione is my child.  I sent my Son to die for her.  She may not be famous, and she may not always do right, but in my eyes, she's priceless."

Isn't it good to have Friends in high places?