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Friday, February 27, 2015

No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohannan

Those with no voice—the suffering children of Asia—tell their stories. And as you listen to them, you share their anguish and rejoice in their triumphs. The whole world seems to stop as you look on.

Hope is growing in the hearts of those who never knew such a thing existed. In this truly gripping narrative, K.P. Yohannan shares their stories—stories of lives transformed, of families learning to love, of entire communities flourishing with new life. Witness as this next great wave of transformation sweeps the nations.

A new day is dawning in some of the darkest corners of the world.

My Review:

Having never read any book like this before, I am unsure how to review it.  To say it was a good read would be misleading because the truth is that the stories contained within this tome are heart-wrenching.  I had no idea how many children in Asia alone are suffering from malnutrition and disease, nor did I realize the number of children that are sold into slavery or sex trafficking each and every day.  My mind reels and my heart breaks for these poor children who know so little about love, compassion and goodness.  They have no inkling what a life of ease looks like, and unfortunately, most of them will never find out.

I am glad to have read the book because now I know and understand the need around the world.  However, I caution you that this book will cause you to shed tears for the many little ones who are living a literal hell on earth.  That being said, I still urge you to take the time to read the stories of these little ones and the information about what we can do to help.

The only issue I had with the book was that I felt it gave the reader a rather deceptive view on prayer.  Over and over again, the author tells stories of individuals who prayed, only to have their prayer immediately answered in the affirmative.  Not once did he mention someone who prayed and did not receive the thing for which he had asked.  While I doubt the author intended to lead people astray concerning the concept of prayer, I feel it is necessary to point out that God does answer every prayer, but that does not mean that we will always get the thing for which we prayed.  Sometimes God's answer is "No."  And while we may not understand God's reason for not granting our requests, we must still trust that He is sovereign and He knows best.

This book is being distributed through Gospel for Asia and is intended to educate the rest of the world about the plight of millions of children in Asia.  Gospel for Asia provides food, medical treatment, education and spiritual training to select children in various parts of Asia, and their goal is to expand their outreach in order to help ease the suffering of more children.  This book, along with other materials, offers information on how we can take part in reaching out to these outcast children in the slums of Asia.  The first step is to become aware of what is taking place in the lives of many of these children, which is the main purpose of this book.

Again, I cannot tell you that it will be a pleasant read, but I assure you it will open your eyes to the needs of others.  

Giveaway:

Unlike other giveaways, this book is available to every one of my readers.  That's right.  Gospel of Asia is making this book available for free to each of you.  Simple follow the link below and fill out the information to have the free book sent to you in the mail.  There is no obligation to buy anything or to sign up for any program.  You don't even have to pay for shipping.  Here's the link:
http://www.gfa.org/book/?motiv=WB52-FGB9B&cm_mmc=FlyByBloggerNetwork-_-Blog-_-Post-_-B9

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Don't Just Stand There!

Oliver Cromwell was the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland in the seventeenth century.  During his time in office, Britain faced a shortage of currency.  In response to the crisis, Cromwell sent out representatives to comb the land in search of silver to use for currency.  One group was specifically instructed to search through the cathedrals in hopes that some treasure might be found within.  In the end, Cromwell was informed that the only silver that could be found was in the form of the silver statues of saints that stood in the dark corners of the cathedral.  Having no other option, Cromwell declared, "Well, then, we'll melt down the saints and put them in circulation."

Isn't that what the Lord wants of His saints?  He has no desire for us to lurk in the corners of cathedrals or church houses.  He wants us to be in circulation--reaching out to a lost and lonely world.  Out of the darkness and into the light.  In action.  Working His will in all things.

Let's face it, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how polished and shiny a saint may be.  Sure, he may look nice and appear to be flawless, but he has no purpose.  If all he does is occupy the corners of God's house, what good is he?  Yet, too many saints are content to do just that.  They go to church on Sunday, sing the songs, smile the smiles, shake hands and listen to the sermon.  They walk the walk and talk the talk of a shining saint. . . on Sunday.  But then what happens the rest of the week?  Where's the activity?  Are they living out the sermon that was preached on Sunday, or had they forgotten it before even reaching the car?  Where is the shining saint when the car battery is dead or the boss needs someone to yell at?  Where is he when the neighborhood boy is about to end it all because no one has ever reached out to tell him that Jesus has the answers?

It's time for us to make our ways out of the corners and off the church pews.  Go to church, yes.  But take the message of Christ out into the world the rest of the time.  It's time for us to be melted down and put into circulation.  Time is running out, and there are so many souls who need Christ.  And we can't reach them if we're not willing to take a step in their direction.  Let's get moving!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ken Davis - Snowboarding

With all the winter weather of late, I simply couldn't resist posting this clip again.  It's one of my favorites!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's Your Excuse?

I've been reading about Moses for the last few days during my Bible reading.  No matter how many times I read his story, I'm always amazed at how God used a murdering, excuse-making Hebrew-turned Egyptian-turned Hebrew to save a nation.  And please, don't misunderstand me.  I'm not judging Moses.  I'm relating to him.  No, I'm not Hebrew or Egyptian.  Neither have I murdered anyone (unless you count spiders, roaches and those creepy camel crickets, ick!)  But as for the excuse-making, well, let's just say I've had my fair share of experience.

You know the story, but just to recap, here it is in a nutshell.  After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled for his life, settled down with a family and became a shepherd.  During that time, the Lord appeared to Moses in the midst of a burning bush and called upon Moses to go and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  I honestly don't know what surprised Moses more--the burning bush or the command of God.  I can hear him now.  "Me?  You want me to do what?"  And the excuses began.

Excuse #1:  I'm not worthy.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? - Exodus 3:11

Have you ever tried to use this one with God?  Funny, don't we think God is able to determine whether or not we're worthy.  The fact of the matter is that none of us are or will ever be worthy to do anything for God, but He chooses to use us anyway.  That's His call.  He's the One in charge.

Excuse #2:   I don't know how to begin.
And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? - Exodus 3:13

Moses knew that his first job was to get the people to believe that he was there on God's behalf, but how he was supposed to accomplish that he had no idea.  I know how Moses felt.  When God called me to leave my teaching job and begin a career as a writer, I had no idea how to begin.  And, just like Moses, I tried to use that fear as an excuse to not even try.

Excuse #3:   I don't think it will work.
And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. - Exodus 4:1

In other words, "God, I see your plan.  I know what you intend, but I don't think it will work.  The people simply won't believe me.  You'll have to think of something else."  Been there, done that.  "Good plan, God, but that's not what I had in mind.  How about we do it this way?"

Excuse #4:   I don't have the talent.
And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. - Exodus 4:10

Okay, let's think this one through.  Who created Moses?  Who gave him his talents and abilities?  Who knows exactly what Moses is capable of doing?  God, right?  Now, who's calling Moses?  God again.  There's an old saying:  "Where God guides, God provides."  God is not going to call Moses (or any of us) to accomplish a task without giving the talent to perform it.  His call may push us out of our comfort zones, but that does not mean it is beyond our ability.  We can do ALL things through Christ.

Excuse #5:  I think someone else would be better suited for the job.
And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. - Exodus 4:13

"I've heard all that you've said, Lord, but I'm telling you, you've got the wrong guy.  I'm just not cut out for this kind of thing.  Send someone else."  Yes, it's true that God sometimes puts us in a position where we feel inadequate.  "But Lord, I can't write as well as. . . "  "But God, I can't play the piano like. . ."  "But Lord, don't you think it would be better to let someone else fill this role?  It's just not my thing, and to be honest, I don't want to do it."

Notice God's response after that fifth (and final) excuse:  And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses. (Exodus 4:14)  God is not interested in our excuses.  He's interested in our obedience.  He knows what we're capable of, but even more than that, He knows what He's capable of.  If He calls us to do something, the only way we can fail is by not doing it.  No, things may not work out the way we think.  No, the task won't be easy.  And yes, it will cost us a few things.  But won't it be worth it?  Do you realize that Moses was the only one who actually had the opportunity to see God and live?  Yes, the journey was long and arduous, but what a reward!  Imagine what he would have missed if he had said, "Thanks, but no thanks, God."

So, I ask you today to contemplate the role that God has called you to do and ask yourself, "What's my excuse?"  What is holding you back from serving the Lord today?  If you'll go back and read the above passages, you'll see that Moses' excuses didn't hold up.  Chances are yours won't either.  It's time we stop making excuses and get busy.  It's time to trust and obey.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What's In Your Cup?

A friend of mine works for a man who claims to be an atheist.  Despite my friend's many attempts to speak to him about Christ, the man is determined that he is right, almost to the point of complete disrespect to my friend.  During one of her last conversations with her boss, the man made a statement to the effect of "Okay, let's say you're right, and there is a God.  According to you, He made all things.  So He gave me the heart I have, and if He doesn't like it, that's not my fault.  Right?"  My friend was at a loss for words.

I, on the other hand, can think of several. (Blame it on the red hair, I guess!)  In fact, I would very much like to speak to this man and perhaps bring things down to a level he can actually understand.  He is the manager of a fast food restaurant, so my conversation with him would go something like this:

"When a customer orders a drink, you give them an empty cup to fill up at the fountain drink station across the way there, right?"

"That is correct," he would reply.

"So, besides the size of the cup, is there really any difference between them?  I mean, they're really all the same, right?  Probably even made by the same company."

"Yes, probably so.  The only real difference is the size."

"So, you give the customers a cup, then it's up to them to fill it.  Correct?"

"Yep."

"Then, the way I see it, they can fill that cup with whatever they want.  They could fill it with water, tea, soda, coffee or any of the other beverages offered.  In fact, if they really wanted to, they could take that cup out into the parking lot and fill it full of mud.  It's their cup, right?  They can do what they want."

By this point, I have a feeling the manager might be getting slightly uncomfortable because he's probably figured out what I'm getting at.  Yes, God gave him the heart that he has, but he has decided to fill it with mud rather than the life-giving water the Lord has to offer.  God gave him the vessel, but the man is the one who filled it with that which was unclean.  He can no more blame God for his dirty vessel than can the customer blame the manager for his mud-laden cup.

At this point, I would love to ask the manager this one last question:  "If the customer brought in his cup full of mud and asked to exchange it for a clean cup, would you give him one?"

He may or may not.  It probably would depend on the situation and the attitude of the customer who was asking.  God, on the other hand, is happy to exchange a dirty vessel for a clean one.  All we have to do is ask.  God loves to make the unclean clean, but He will not force it upon us, just as the manager would not force the customer to fill his/her cup with a drink not of their own choosing.  It's not complicated.  In fact, God designed it to be simple.  Ask, and ye shall receive.  It's truly that easy.  Now if we can only get people to understand that!

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. - Romans 10:9

Friday, February 20, 2015

Time To Join the Choir

I've been downright cranky this week.  And if you ask me why, I could give you a whole list of reasons that looks something like this: (1) I'm cold, and I don't like to be cold. (2) Because it's cold, I feel confined to my living room which is the only warm room in the house, which means the rest of the house (and housework) is being ignored. (3) I've been trying to get over this nasty flu mess for nearly two weeks.  Just when I think I've about got it licked, it comes back with a vengeance. (4) Poor Jason caught my cold and has been miserable right along with me. (5) Jason has had very little work this week which only adds to the chaos in throwing off my regular daily routine. (6) I had hoped to feel better this week and get my newest book off to the publisher.  Instead, I haven't looked at the manuscript one time this week.  Not once!

Poor, pitiful me, right?  Do you feel sorry for me yet?  Well, please don't.  I don't need your pity and quite frankly, I don't need my own either.  That's probably one more thing that's adding to my crankiness--I'm cranky about being so cranky.  I don't want a few little bumps in the road to completely spoil the journey.  What's my problem?  There is no reason for me to be so out of sorts, and I was reminded of that in the quiet hours of the morning.

As I sat cuddled in my blanket in front of the wood stove this morning, I sipped on a delicious cup of hot tea while reading my daily devotions.  Suddenly, the peaceful quiet of the morning was shattered by bird song.  On such a cold, bitter morning, you would expect the song to be mournful or full of melancholy.  After all, that poor little bird had to be freezing and probably hungry.  This isn't exactly prime worm weather, you know.  Yet, despite these things, the cheerful little bird perched in the sunlight and sang the most beautiful of melodies.  It was sweet and uplifting.  The bird's strong, clear voice rang through my living room as if the bird had been perched on my mantle or coffee table.  The music was unmistakable, and God's lesson to me was clear.

The still, small voice wasn't as loud as the bird song.  In fact, it wasn't audible at all, but it hit my heart with incredible force.  "Well, look at that, Dana.  This poor little bird is out in the cold, tired and hungry, yet he can still find it within himself to sing a song of gladness.  The bird knows that I'll take care of him.  I always have, so he trusts in that.  And in that peace, he is able to greet the dawn with a melody of praise.  What about you, Dana?  Do you have any praise for Me today, or are you going to continue to sit there counting your grumbles and categorizing your fears?  I love you, child, and you know that, so please don't take this the wrong way, but I much prefer the bird's song of praise than the sound of your constant complaints.  How about let's work on that?"

Outdone by a bird!  Ouch, that hurts.  But doesn't God's Word say that if we don't praise Him, the rocks will?  Evidently, the birds are part of that choir too.  And you know what?  That's completely unacceptable to me.  I don't want to be outdone by a bird or a rock.  I have so much more to praise God for than either of these do.  So, why is it the bird can rise and say, "This is the day the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it" and I can't?  Simple.  The bird chose to.  I didn't.  I chose to complain.  I chose to see problems instead of the Solution.  I chose to focus on my fears instead of my faith.  And I lost my song in the process.  No good!

As I began typing out this post, one thought kept running through my mind.  I have many reasons to be cranky, but that does not mean that I have the right to be cranky.  There is a difference.  Besides, what good does it do me to be cranky?  It only makes those around me cranky, and that makes me even more cranky.  You see?  It only leads to more problems.  Praise, on the other hand, leads to an entirely new attitude and outlook and can vanquish all fears and grumbles.  That definitely sounds like the better option, don't you think? 

So, what do you say?  Are you ready to join me for choir practice?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? - Matthew 6:26

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Boy, We're in Hot Water Now!

Yes, we're in hot water, and I absolutely love it!  Okay, I can tell from those strange stares that perhaps I should explain myself.  As you may remember, just last week, we had to replace our hot water heater.  While we had no idea the thing was going to conk out on us last week, we had noticed over the past several months that it wasn't working as it used to.  It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r for the water to heat, and once it did, you had about twenty minutes before it started cooling off.  And let me tell you, once it started cooling off, you had about two minutes before it turned to ice.  Long, hot showers were a thing of the past, and back-to-back showers were taken only when absolutely necessary. (And woe to the poor popsicle--I mean, person--who was second in the shower!)

But now, since the installation of our new tankless hot water heater, the hot water lasts as long as you want it to (which is probably going to be bad for our water bill).  I can turn on the shower, and in no time, the water is hot, and the best part is that it remains that way indefinitely. . . even if I'm showering right after Jason.  Hot water!  Yes, it's a blessing.

As I enjoyed my long, hot shower this morning, the Lord brought to mind a couple of things to meditate on.  First off, I now have a better understanding of why the Lord can't stomach lukewarm Christians.  A lukewarm shower is not refreshing in any way, especially in the dead of winter.  Lukewarm just doesn't cut it.  It's not sufficient for killing germs.  It doesn't have what it takes to break up morning congestion.  And it's certainly not up to the task of warming a chilled body.  If anything, it makes it worse!  So, yes, that whole passage about the lukewarm church now has a more powerful punch.

Secondly, I was blessed by the reminder that God's faithfulness and love are like my current hot water--they never run out!  They will never run dry, nor will they ever be used up.  The tank of God's mercy is never on empty. . . NEVER!  No matter how bad I've been or how far I've strayed, I can also rest assured that I won't be left out in the cold.  Not that this assurance gives me a reason or excuse to do my own thing, but rather, it pricks my conscience that I could ever stray from such a loving, caring Father.

Just this morning, I read in II Timothy 2:13 which says, If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.  As soon as I read that verse, my mind drifted to my fears about Jason's current lack of work.  As much as I've tried to have faith, fear and uncertainty have crept in over the past week, constantly whispering in my ear, "Now what are you going to do?  How's God going to help you this time?  Sure, He sent some money, but now, even that is gone.  You're in trouble, big trouble."  The crazy part is that we go through this same situation every year at this same time.  This is the slow season.  It always has been, yet God has always seen us through.  So, why am I still afraid?

I fear I don't have an answer for that, but I'm glad that God's faithfulness is not dependent on my own.  I'm glad He'll still be faithful to me even when I don't trust Him as I should.  And you know what?  That very fact makes me long to trust Him even more.  The Bible says that God is going to take care of me, and it assures me that God's faithfulness to me will never run out.  It will last just as long as I need it to. . . and beyond.

Wow, I have to say that's even better than a long, hot shower!  What do you think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thursday Night Live - Carl Hurley

There are a couple of minutes of music at the beginning and end of this clip, but the comedy of Carl Hurley is worth weeding through it. If you're not interested in the music, just drag the round marker at the bottom of the video to around 1:45. The comedy begins there. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Are You Ready for the Upcoming Storm?

For days now, there has been one subject permeating every conversation--the upcoming winter storm.  The weather alerts have been issued.  The roads have been salted.  The elderly have been warned to stay indoors at all cost.  The public has been urged to prepare for power outages and traffic delays.  And, of course, the grocery stores have long been out of bread and milk.  (Silly me, I forgot that step, and Jason used the last of the milk this morning in his coffee.  OH NO!!!!!!)  We did, however, stock up on firewood, so I think we'll be fine.  In fact, at the time of this writing, I haven't seen a single raindrop or snowflake.  Right now, the sun is still shining.  But hey, when and if the storm comes, we're ready, right?

I realize I'm being a bit dramatic, but I'm always cracked up at the intensity of the panic in the South when the weather forecast calls for ugly weather.  I mean, every source I've come across is stating less than one inch of accumulation.  One inch, people!  Good grief!  Still, I understand the need to be prepared, and I would rather that people overreact than not act at all. . . especially when it comes to preparing for spiritual storms.

Funny, we don't often prepare for them the same way we do physical storms, do we?  We don't stock the shelves or batten down the hatches.  In fact, more often than not, we don't do anything to prepare for the oncoming spiritual storms, and the results are disastrous.

First Peter 1:13 says, Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind. . .  To gird up the loins means to prepare oneself for battle.  But notice, the verse is not talking about physical armor but rather that which protects the mind.  Later on, in I Peter 1:4, it says, Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind. . .  There it is again--armor for the mind.  Do you realize that before you do anything, you think it?  You may not realize you're thinking it, but you are.  The body cannot act or react without the mind first telling it to do so.  Therefore it is safe to say that all spiritual battles (or storms) begin in the mind.  And yet, that is the one area that we so often leave unprotected.

So, how do we protect our minds from stray thoughts and naughty nudges?  The book of Philippians answers that question.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)



I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. (Philippians 3:14-16)

How do we arm our minds?  In a simple phrase, think like Jesus.  We're all familiar with the popular slogan, "What Would Jesus Do?," but it's time we expounded on that and asked ourselves, "What Would Jesus Think?"  And if we're ever in doubt of whether or not Jesus would think a particular thought, we need only run it through the filter of Philippians 4:8:  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

If a thought doesn't fit under any of those qualifiers, then it is not a good thought.  It is an enemy and must be dealt with accordingly.  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (II Corinthians 10:5) Get rid of it!  Don't allow it to settle in and get cozy.  It doesn't belong there, and if left to linger, it has the potential to destroy you.

God doesn't waste words.  There is a reason He has given us the instructions on how and why to arm our minds.  Just as we prepare our homes for upcoming storms, so should we prepare our minds for the oncoming attacks of the devil.  We know they're coming.  We've seen the alerts and heard the warnings.  God has given us specific directions on how to prepare, and if I may give you one more verse of Scripture, here's what we need to do with those directions:  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. (Philippians 4:9) 

We've learned, received, heard and seen.  We know what to do, so why aren't we doing it?

Guess what.  I just glanced out the window and noticed that the precipitation has finally begun to fall.  I'm not worried because I took the time to prepare.  Now, can I say the same about my next spiritual battle?  Can you?  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Anytime, Lord! -- Repost

 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me. - Psalm 40:13

Does this prayer sound familiar?  Does it remind you of any of your own prayers?  It does me.  In fact, I can recall countless prayers that went something like this:  "Dear Lord, I know you're there, and I know you love me.  Since you love me, I know you don't enjoy seeing me suffer.  So, Lord, please end both our misery.  Help me, Lord, and please help me now!"

Evidently, David felt the same way.  But the thing about this verse that makes me downright laugh is the context in which it is placed.  The entire chapter is praise to God for how wonderful He is and how much He had done for David.  That in itself makes this verse seem out of place, but when you compare it to verse one of the same chapter, you'll understand why I get so tickled.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. - Psalm 40:1

Do you see the irony?  In verse one, David proclaims, "I waited patiently for the Lord," but then in verse thirteen, he turns around and says, "Lord, hurry up please!"  Does that sound patient to you?  Patient?  No.  Familiar?  Unfortunately, yes.  

You see, in verse twelve, David began focusing on his enemies and his troubles, and within a few short minutes, he had totally lost track of his praise.  He lost his focus, and his mood shifted right along with it.  When he was focused on God, He was praising God and recognizing the hand of God in his life.  But when he was focused on life's trials, that's all he could see.

Isn't it amazing how quickly we can go from patient to panicked, from praising to pitying, from commending to complaining?  All it takes is a small shift in our focus.  And while it's comical to see David's shift so perfectly spelled out in the Psalms, it's not at all funny to see it in my own life.  I don't enjoy seeing how weak my faith is or how easily my mood shifts.  It's convicting, but at the same time, it's a reminder to be on guard.

Stop worrying and hurrying.  God has it under control, and He will bring all things about in His time.  We might as well just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Turning Trials Into Triumphs

I wanted to write a beautiful post about love today in honor of Valentine's Day.  I had made plans to write such a post and had been thinking about what to say.  But, the Lord is leading in a different direction.  Well, sort of.  When it all boils down to it, the post is about love in its truest form.  It's just not the approach I had in mind.  But what do I know?  So, here's what the Lord laid on my heart for today.

Last weekend, I received a VERY generous financial gift from a dear friend.  I was blown away by her generosity, knowing that she has recently undergone a myriad of trials in her own life.  On the bottom of the check, it stated "As God leads."  So, I was determined to not spend a dime of that money until I knew exactly where God wanted it to be spent.  I began praying about the matter but hadn't reached any conclusions.  Still, each day, I praised God for His miraculous provision.  Despite Jason's sketchy work schedule for the past month and a half, all the bills were paid and there was still a little money in the bank.  Then, God blessed us with this financial feast on top of it all!  I couldn't stop praising Him!

Thursday, after returning from the grocery store, I went outside to get some firewood.  Upon entering the laundry room, I was greeted by the sight of spewing water.  The seal on the hot water heater had basically disintegrated, and water was everywhere.  Everything was soaked.  Good times!

In days past, this entire ordeal would have had me in a panic attack.  There would have been tears and frustration and accusations toward God.  But praise the Lord, this time was different.  I thought of a post I wrote several years back about how God provided for Elijah's needs before the prophet even realized he had any.  If you'd like, you can read that post here.  Upon that recollection, I began to do a mental inventory.

1) God had already miraculously provided the money to replace the hot water heater.

2) Jason didn't have any jobs all afternoon, which meant he was free to find, purchase and replace the water heater.

3) Jason was home when I first noticed the problem.  According to him, I would have never been able to get the water turned off as it was a struggle even for him.  Who knows how long water would have spewed out before he could get to it?  We may have needed Noah to stop by!

4) Jason works for a carpet cleaning company, so he had all the necessary equipment to clean up the standing water.

5) Jason's boss also works for a natural gas company and was able to help Jason with the installation so that we didn't have to pay a service fee on top of everything else.

Was the situation frustrating?  Sure, nobody likes to have their day interrupted by spewing water.  I mean, this wasn't exactly what I'd call showers of blessing.  On the other hand, God took care of every detail before we even knew we had a need.  He already had plans in motion to provide for us.  So, I can't find it within myself to complain.  Instead, I want to offer up more praises to the One who loves and cares for me so.

So, you see, this post is about love after all--the love of my heavenly Father.  Only a loving God would take such good care of His children.  Only the one, true God would set out to prove His love time and time again.  As if Calvary weren't proof enough, He continues to shower us with blessings (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun).

Do you love Him today?  If so, what are you doing to show it?

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Settling for Mediocre

And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. - Exodus 14:11-12

 How often in our lives do we settle for mediocre simply because we're too afraid to take a risk on something better?  Here in Exodus, God is leading His people to the land of Canaan, a ripe, fertile land flowing with milk and honey.  In this paradise, the people would finally be free from their bondage to the Egyptians.  No more slavery.  No more mistreatment.  No more demeaning labor.  Freedom was within reach.  A new life, and a much better life at that, was waiting at the end of the path of God's leading.  All they had to do was follow.  But no, even that was too difficult.

"Didn't we tell you to leave us alone, Moses?  We were fine in Egypt.  Yes, we were slaves and mistreated, but at least we were alive.  You've brought us here to die.  It would be much better if we were back in Egypt!"

The ingratitude is overwhelming, but more than that, the shortsightedness is astounding.  According to the Israelites, they only had two options:  die in the wilderness or be slaves in Egypt.  So what happened to God's option--to journey to Canaan?  Why didn't God's plan figure into this equation?

I guess we could ask ourselves the same question, couldn't we?  After all, we know that God never intended for us to settle for mediocre lives.  He tells us so in John 10:10 when He says, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  Life is good.  Abundant life is better.  Existing in Egypt is one thing.  Living in paradise in quite another.  Yet, so often, we sell ourselves short because, like the Israelites, we're unwilling to face the journey.  

It's too hard.  

The road is too long.  

The way is too rough.  

Sacrifices will have to be made along the way, and this whole journey will require me to get out of my comfort zone.  I don't know if I'm really up to that.  I mean, yes, I'm currently a slave to my circumstances or my health or my finances (or fill in the blank), but I'm use to that.  I don't like it here, but at least I'm comfortable.

The uncertainty of the trip is too overwhelming.

And all the while Canaan is in sight, if only we would take that step of faith and begin the journey.  Let's not miss out on the best that God has for us.  He has gone through great pains to make this journey possible, and He promises to lead us every step of the way.  All we have to do is follow.  

Don't look back.  Leave Egypt behind, and take that first step on the journey to God's best for your life.  My first step may look different than yours, but that's okay.  You know what God wants you to do.  Follow His leading, and enjoy the journey of a lifetime!  It's time to stop settling for mediocre.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Yoke Is Easy - Repost


Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

I have read many different accounts about what the last part of those verses means. My yoke is easy -- sounds kind of strange, doesn't it? Probably my favorite account is one I heard a couple of weeks ago.

According to Wikipedia, a yoke is a wooden beam which is used between a pair of oxen to allow them to pull a load (oxen almost always work in pairs). Okay, already, I'm seeing the picture. Jesus and I are yoked together, pulling the load of my life and my burdens. But wait. It gets better.

When a new ox is being trained, the owner will yoke him to one of his strongest and best trained oxen. The yoke can be adjusted to determine how much of the load each ox will carry. For most purposes, the oxen carry equal loads, but in the case of training, the new ox will have a very light load while the stronger, trained ox will pull the majority of the load. Basically, the new ox is merely going through the motions without having to carry the weight of his burden. Are you getting the picture now?

Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." When we are yoked with Jesus, we are like that new ox. We are weak and untrained. Jesus yokes to us, bearing the weight of our burdens and leading us through the motions of our daily walk with Him. I don't know about you, but that gives me glory bumps!

Jesus never promised that the way would be easy. In fact, I can testify that it won't be. But He promised to be with us and to bear our burdens. That alone is more than we deserve. I'm so thankful to have a Savior who cares enough about me that He's willing to train me in the way that I should go. Aren't you?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Red Light, Green Light

Have you ever been so afraid of getting out of God's will that you found yourself faced with complete and total indecision?  You knew a decision had to be made, but after much prayer and no answer (from what you could tell), you were at a loss at what to do next.  I found myself in such a place last week.

Being in the last stages of a new book, I found myself at the point of decision--which book do I work on next?  You see, the final stages of my current book are the tedious points of formatting and preparing for publication.  Because these are such tedious tasks, I can only work on them for short periods of time lest I go mad!  In the stretches of time in between, I thought it best to start on a new project.  I was ready to do some writing.  Not editing.  Not formatting.  Writing!  But with a long list of book ideas, I had no idea where to begin.

So, I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.  I waited for an answer.  I searched for God's will.  But after nearly two weeks, I still hadn't written a word because I couldn't decide which book God wanted me to write next.  I was tired and frustrated and couldn't figure out why the Lord was making this so difficult. After all, I was simply trying to do His will.

As I usually do when faced with a spiritual dilemma, I talked with Jason.  I explained my prayers and God's silence on the matters.  He followed my outpouring with a few pointed questions, one of which was, "Which one do you want to write next?"  After some thought, I told him which one I would most like to write at the present time.  "Then go with that one," Jason said.  "If the Lord wants you to work on it, then He'll allow you to do it.  If not, He'll hinder it.  But you need to get moving.  It's easier to steer a vessel when it's already in motion."  Whoa, when did he get so wise?

Seriously, he had an excellent point.  Have you ever tried to steer a car that wasn't moving?  It's nearly impossible!  But once the car is in motion, it becomes so simple to steer it in any direction.  I was so stumped by God's next step for me that I was standing completely still.  I wasn't getting anything accomplished.

Now, let me tread carefully here.  I am not saying that we shouldn't seek God's direction in matters or that we should just do what we want and leave it up to God to tell us "yay" or "nay."  The point that I'm trying to get across is that there is a time to be still and a time to get moving.  And just so you'll see that I'm not making this up to suit my own fancy, I'll give you proof.

 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. - Exodus 14:13-16

Did you catch it?  Standing there on the banks of the Red Sea, the children of Israel throw up their hands in despair and complain to Moses about their current plight.  So Moses tells them, "Don't worry about it.  Just stand still and see what God will do."  Immediately after Moses' statement, however, the Lord says, "Moses, why are you just standing here talking to me?  Tell the children of Israel to get moving."  Moses told them to stand still, but God said keep moving.  Red light, green light. God needed the people in motion.  He had a work to accomplish, and it involved action on the part of the Israelites.  And once they were moving, God was able to direct them exactly where they needed to go.

Now, I realize that there are places in the Scriptures where the situation is reversed, and that's fine.  It still proves my point.  There is a time to be still and wait on God's direction.  Then there is a time to start walking in the general direction in which the Lord has already directed and allow Him to guide you from there.  Knowing when it's a time to wait and when it's a time to act is between you and the Lord, but I'm certain He'll give you peace one way or another when the time comes.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What? No Shortcut?

 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. - Exodus 13:17-18

Have you ever been on a long journey and discovered that you had unknowingly taken the long way around?  The journey could have taken half the time, but no, your trip took forever!!!!  It was an accident, right?  Surely, if you had know that you could take a shorter route, you would have, unless you took the "scenic" route on purpose.

In the case of the children of Israel, their prolonged journey was not an accident.  God led them the long way around.  Now, it's important to note that this passage is not talking about the time when Moses sent out the twelve spies to survey the land, and ten of them came back and said, "Nope, we can't do it."  That's later in the story.  This is the initial departure from Egypt.  From the very start, God decided to take the long way around, and if you look at the map, it was certainly the long way!

But just as the passage in Exodus tells us that God took them the long way around, it also explains why.  The land of the Philistines was at war.  His people were tired, weak and for the most part, unarmed.  God did not want to subject them to the perils of war.  How many would have died if they had gone that route?  How many would have been injured?  And knowing what we know about the children of Israel, how far would they have gone before they decided, "You know what?  Egypt wasn't so bad after all.  Let's just go back there."  You see, God had a better plan for His children, but that plan involved taking a longer route.

Sometimes God does the same with us.  He has great plans and an indescribable destination for each of us, but often those plans entail us taking the long way around.  There are few shortcuts when it comes to God's plans for our lives.  God knows we need the time and we need the strength that can only be gained through the journey.  Think about it, a beginning hiker cannot hike as fast or as far as as a seasoned hiker.  So how did the seasoned hiker gain such speed, strength and stamina?  By hiking, of course.  The more we hike, the more proficient we become at it and the more hike we can tackle in the future.  We can read about hiking all day long, but the only way to truly prepare our bodies for hiking is to start hiking.  I believe the same is true in our spiritual journey.

The children of Israel had nothing to fear.  God was leading them every step of the way.  He was their shield against all enemies.  And above all, they could follow Him because He knew where He was going.  Even though the road was long and rough, they could rest assured that God would get them to their final destination.  After all, He'd gotten them this far.  Why would He stop caring for them now?

I pose the same question to you.  God has gotten you this far on the journey.  Do you believe He's stopped caring for you?  Absolutely not.  He's still leading and guiding.  I know the road is rough and long, and I'm sure you've made your fair share of requests for a shortcut, but take heart, dear friend.  God has a purpose for this journey.  If He could accomplish what He wants in your life through the shortcut, He would.  But masterpieces take time, and that is exactly what you are--a masterpiece of God's mercy.

Keep walking. You'll get there, and when you do, it will be better than anything you've ever imagined.  And in the end, you'll be glad you didn't take the shortcut.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Making the Most of Our Journey

The past couple of hikes we've taken with the dogs have been somewhat shorter in distance.  Due to lack of time and more obligations than we could accomplish in a single day, we've had to limit our hikes to about an hour's worth of actual hiking.  The way we figure it, a short hike is better than no hike at all.  The crazy thing is that our shepherd mix, Mitchell, has already figured out the pattern.  If we get up in the morning and immediately get ready to go, chances are he's in for a longer hike.  But if we accomplish several things in the morning and don't head out for our hike until lunch time or later, he understands that the hike will be shortened.  Don't ask me how he knows this.  The dog is brilliant!  I wish I had his brains (not to mention his sense of direction, but we won't go there right now).

Knowing that the hike won't be as long as he wants it to be, Mitch has learned how to make the most of his journey.  While Jason, Tippy (our beagle) and I walk a couple of miles or so, he covers probably fives miles or more.  That dog runs, leaps and scurries through every inch of territory he can.  He knows that he's not allowed to get out of our sight, but you'd be amazed how much ground a dog can cover in the woods and still be within sight.  And Mitch takes advantage of every inch.  Sniffing, digging, exploring.  Up the hills.  Down the hills.  Back and forth.  Good grief, I'm getting exhausted just telling you about it.  Let's just say that my loving pup (who in actually eight years old, believe it or not) enjoys every minute of his hikes, leaving one tired but happy canine at the end of the day.

As I thought about this last weekend, I wondered if I make the most of my journey in the same way Mitch does.  Do I take time to explore, or am I content to simply plod along down the well-beaten path?  Like Mitch, my journey has a time limit, so am I taking advantage of every minute, or am I allowing life to merely pass me by.  There is so much I could do, so much I could accomplish for the Lord.  There are seeds of salvation to be planted and buckets full of encouragement to be sprinkled about like confetti.  What am I missing out on by sticking to my comfort zone?  What magnificent things could I discover if I made the effort to make the most of my journey?

Jason, Tippy and I walk the trails.  Mitch explores them with wild abandon and unbridled zeal.  As a result Jason, Tippy and I enjoy our hikes, but Mitch has a blast.  Could it be that we're not getting more out of life because we're not putting more into it?  It makes you wonder, huh?

 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? - Psalm 34:12

Monday, February 2, 2015

What Would You Change?

I've had a particular song rolling around in my head for the past several days.  (Yeah, I know, the fact that I've had a song in my head is not really groundbreaking news, is it?)  The song is a fun, mildly upbeat tune from one of my favorite Southern Gospel groups, The Booth Brothers.  The key line of the song that is determined to play over and over in my mind is "Even if I could, I wouldn't change a thing."

The problem is that I'm not sure I am at the place spiritually where I can honestly say that.  I'd like to, but I don't think I've quite arrived.  Take this morning, for example.  If I could, I would have prevented the power from going out.  I also would have boosted the speed on both my tablet and computer that have evidently decided to take the day off (or at least work at half pace).  I would remove the incessant dull ache in my shoulder and the pinching pain in my lower back.  I would rid my poor pups of every ailment, such as arthritis, skin conditions and fatty tumors.  If my dear husband had to work a job outside the home, I would ensure that it was a job that he loved, doing things that combined his talents and interests.  Oh, and I would certainly make sure there was enough money in the bank to cover all the upcoming bills.  And while we're at it, how about I knock off a few pounds?  Ah, yes, much better!  And that's just the things I would change this morning. . . if I could.

Each time I catch myself humming the merry, little tune, I stop myself and think about what I'm saying.  Can I honestly sing this song?  Do I mean what I'm saying, or am I just singing without a thought of what's coming out of my mouth?  Typically, I stop singing and try to get my mind to focus on something that I can honestly say.  But the crazy song insists on coming back to my mind time and time again, making me wonder if there's something here that God is trying to teach me.

Obviously, He longs for me to be at a place where I trust every decision He has made with my life to the degree that I can honestly say, "Even if I could, I wouldn't change a thing."  But even though I'm not at that point yet, there is still much to ruminate on.  Let's say that God hands me a magic wand and allows me to change all the things that I want to change.  Then what?  Would I be happier or healthier?  Would I be more or less spiritual?  Would I be the same person I am today, or would those changes impact my life in ways that I could never imagine, and not necessarily for the good?  And where would I be in my relationship with God if I never needed to depend on Him or have faith in Him because I was the one with all the power?

You know, the more I think about it, the closer I come to the point where I can honestly say, "No, I wouldn't change a thing."  I'm certain that if God would reveal His complete master plan for my life, I would be able to say it without pause.  But since I can't see the whole plan, I have to trust that everything in my life is right where God wants and needs it to be.  Each unpleasant factor that I would gladly change is part of His master plan and plays an important role in making me who God wants me to be.

So I wonder, if you could, would you change anything about yourself or your circumstances?  Or are you at the place where you can boldly and honestly state, "Even if I could, I wouldn't change a thing"?

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. - II Corinthians 11:30