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Archive for the ‘Miracles’ Category

As autumn sweeps over the valley I call home I can’t help but marvel at the beauty and wonder that in all actuality signals the death of summer and warns us that winter is just around the corner. I am a warm weather lover. I don’t shed my jacket until the air hits at least 75 degrees, 80 is better and 85 is perfect. I want to be out in it, inhaling sunshine. But as soon as that pre-winter chill hits, I’m the sit by the fire and read girl, a quilt over my legs and a hot beverage in my hand.

Still – autumn captures me. I love russet maples. I love the sight of trees that rain down gold and yellow. I love the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and I smile when one lands lightly on my hair or floats past close enough to brush my cheek. Logically I know they are dying. But spiritually, I sense them dancing.

They have accomplished their mission in life, to bud and unfurl and shine lush green, giving shelter to birds and squirrels and frisky house cats. They have dressed the branches in a vibrant veil of life and given the breeze something to tickle. They’ve provided shade for the summer lover, a cool spot to sit and watch bees and butterflies do their thing.

And now that their virile days are over, they don’t go out without making a statement. Oh no – nothing quiet about their golden age. They transform. They get out their catchiest outfits, they wear red, they laugh in rusty tones, they twirl and float and settle soft.
They know the secret. They know that while others might see their purpose at an end, they have much more to offer. Children will love to jump and play in them, friends will enjoy walking through them, couples will grasp hands for warmth and share special moments taking in the beauty they add to the landscape.

Winter will come, snow will cover them until the world forgets they were ever there. But they will still be doing their work, mulching the earth to provide nourishment for the new growth that comes with the spring.

Never forget that like the leaves, God has a purpose and a plan for us at every age. Our mission is to listen, follow His leading, and embrace our value in our current season. Don’t lament the fertile green we once wore when you can dress in a ball gown of autumn colors. Don’t regret the day you find you must rest at the root of the tree when you can treasure the memory of the journey that brought you there and the rich heritage you leave for the new growth that is nourished by it.

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” . Psalm 71:18

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bth_MarywithBabyJesus[1]It’s 4:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve and I never expected to be so heavy on this day with the things that are weighing on my heart. I’m not the only one I know. So many are facing much greater burdens and much greater life challenges. This season of joy and love and peace doesn’t always live up to it’s reputation, does it?

Well – actually it does. The TV specials are sparkly and white and soft and beautiful. We are led to believe that for Christmas to be Christmas we need the perfect outfit, the perfectly decorated tree, the perfectly wrapped gifts and the perfect loving family around the table. But today I’m realizing again that although the birth of Christ was the climax of that Bethlehem night, there are so many subtle lessons surrounding the momentous event.

Stress, worry, pain, shock, disappointment, confusion – all the things we live with today were in existence then. I would guess that a few sharp words may have been exchanged between Mary and Joseph along their journey, brought on by exhaustion and the weight of responsibility. Stress does that to us – brings out the irritation in our voice, the too quick answer, the sharp word.

I suspect that as Mary and Joseph made their way through the streets of the city on their way to the stable they fought crowds that had flooded the city. You can’t tell me the merchants didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to expand their line of products and overflow their streetside stalls. To purchase a simple meal Joseph would have had to stand in a long line, with impatient shoppers,  wailing children, tired, cranky clerks. Been there?

And as gentle as Mary appears in scripture, there is no way she didn’t crinkle her nose and give Joseph that “You’ve got to be kidding me” look when they entered the barn. Eating isn’t the only thing animals do in a barn, people!

God sent His Son in an ordinary way because He wanted ordinary people to be able to relate and accept this incredible gift. He wanted the poorest to know poverty doesn’t keep us from Him. He wanted the rich to know you must bow not buy your way to Him. He wanted the clean freaks to know even filth and unpleasant smells can’t keep Him away. He wanted the simple to know it’s not complicated, and the wise to know it doesn’t take a masters degree to find Him.

And the gifts – if you are anything like me, you have been wracking your brain, scouring the stores, scanning the internet trying to find the right one for each person on your list. I know Christmas isn’t about the gifts – but then again, it is. If I stopped shopping and tried to explain to my family from the 5 year old on up that I didn’t do gifts this year because Christmas is about the birth of Christ – I don’t think that would go over well. They know that but it doesn’t mean they are willing to give up gift giving.

So how can we take all of the not so wonderful things of Christmas and make them a part of the wonder, the miracle and the message? Here’s what I’m trying to do.

First, I’m taking my burdens, stress. irritations, frustrations and worry and I’m putting them in a gift box lined with prayer as tissue paper. I’m not skimping on the tissue paper either. I’m stuffing that box full until it pretty much overflows. Tissue paper is cheap. Prayer costs even less. 

Next, I’m putting the lid on that box because I know if I don’t I’ll be reaching in and taking those burdens out again and again to rearrange and ponder and carry them around for a while before putting them back. I’m taping the lid down so it won’t come off.

Then I’m pulling out the most beautiful wrapping paper I can find and covering that box with it because I want it to be visibly worthy of laying at the feet of Jesus. I want Him to know I’m serious about handing it over.

And the next thing I’m doing, after I walk away from the box, is pulling out every bit of kindness and gentleness and generosity I can find in my clothes closet and that’s the outfit I’m wearing today and tomorrow and hopefully beyond this weekend so I can bring the missing joy, peace and love to those around me.

Because I’m learning the lesson of Christmas.  God knows the pressure. He is aware of the demands on my time. He understands the things that make my heart heavy and my tears flow. But He set the Star of Bethlehem in the sky to show me the way to the Son of God in the manger and allow me to discover the truth of Christmas. 

It’s putting my trust in the Baby who became the Savior,

so I could travel from the Manger to the Cross,

and let Him come from Heaven to my Heart,

to make peace where there is none, to bring joy where there is sadness, and to give hope when things appear bleak. He gave Himself to me and I’m paying it forward.

Praying a beautiful Christmas for all of you.

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4197o3w9xeL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I recently read After Easter by Jeremy R. Howard and Doug Powell and this is a review of the book.

This may seem a little late since Easter is long past, but truthfully you could read this book anytime and be amazed all over again by the miracle of the cross.

A new Christian will read this book and journey from the Garden to the Cross, gaining a good understanding of how the whole redemption story came to be. A seasoned Christian will read the book and be refreshed in remembering the significance of why the Son of God had to die. Both will be humbled again by the realization that He did it for us.

I like how this book gives scriptural and scientific evidence for the events that led to the empty tomb, and even gives clear details of how the early church began and took the mission of Christ seriously.

The book can be read in a short period time but that certainly doesn’t indicate it is shallow. Quite the opposite. The depth of detail contained in its 60 pages is amazing. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to boost their witnessing ability. It would make a nice gift and should certainly be in every church library.

I am a Lifeway/B&H blogger and received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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FerventWhat a great book with real, practical, helpful thoughts on making your prayer time powerful. In Fervent, Priscilla highlights ten strategies to focus on as we spend time in prayer. They are key to opening our hearts and minds to the true power in prayer.

I loved that strategy #1, right out of the gate, was to pray for renewed passion for prayer. Priscilla says “Fervent prayer is fueled by passion.” So very true but we get complacent, even lazy in our prayer life because the passion dims. We treat prayer time like a task to check off our to do list instead of the great privilege of coming before God and having a conversation.

Each strategy chapter includes Priscilla’s thoughts on why the strategy topic is key, a down to earth story illustrations from her life or the life of others to prove her point, and a host of scriptures that support the chapter. In fact, scripture is abundant throughout the book tying every thought back to God’s word. This is truly one of the author’s strengths.

I felt one especially “nailed-it” point she brought out in her chapter on “Our Hurts” was to point out that the bible tells us not just to forgive but to offer comfort to those that hurt us. What a challenge and yet, when acted upon, what a huge place of grace.

I also liked the way Priscilla began each chapter with a thought on “If I were the enemy I would ..” It made so much sense seeing it in writing that satan will attack the areas most likely to interfere with your ability to be completely focused in prayer.

I received this book from the Lifeway bloggers group in order to offer a review. I’m so blessed that this is the book I had opportunity to read and comment on. It was truly prayer-life changing and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to discover the power in fervent prayer. Some of my favorite women will find this book in their Christmas stockings for sure!

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We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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imagesQARDRAR3Having just finished our first and very successful Community Outreach Harvest Party at church I’ve been contemplating all the parts and pieces, comments and participation that made up this event.

It was a ton of work. Planning meetings and prep and set up just about did me in. And then just keeping things running on the day of the event challenged us all.

It took a ton of prayer and faith. You never know how these things will go. You can invest a lot of time and money and see no result or you can plan for a few and end up with a bunch.

It took a ton of courage. My least favorite thing in the whole world (with the exception of peas and squash) is going door to door to hand out flyers. But – I did it and found it not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.

It took a ton of risk. We risked doing away with our regular Sunday morning church service to move out of the building into the parking lot to try to catch the attention of the neighbors. But just like in the stock market, sometimes risk pays off. And it did with this event. We had fun and made contact with several families we otherwise would not have.

The biggest lesson for me and I hope for others was – church isn’t all about a nice comfortable seat in a nice sterile sanctuary where you sit back and get fed. Just consider the early church and the effort it took to get it going.

In order for the first churches to get off the ground 2000 years ago, a ton of work went into the preparation. The disciples had to plan long journeys on foot, by boat and maybe on horseback. They had to map out the most efficient route and plan for finding provision and shelter along the way. A mission trip back then wasn’t jump on a plane and be on the mission field in a few hours. It took months, years even, just to get where they were going.

The startup churches took a ton of prayer and faith. After all, they were trying to change hundreds of years of tradition and belief, ritual and law. They were leaving loved ones behind, possibly to never see them again. They didn’t have a Bible to carry along with them to pull out scripture when they needed it. They were speaking the words that would become the Bible and they were praying they got it right.

To preach the word and start up new church cells took a ton of courage for sure. As evidenced in scripture, the disciples suffered much for spreading the gospel. They were beaten, imprisoned, spit on, mocked and even martyred. No doubt their families suffered as well by association.

And without doubt, risk was involved. What if no one listened? What if their friends and family turned against them? What if, what if, what if? They experienced the misinterpretation of what they had preached and had to go back and re-teach. They ministered in violent times – where the innocent were tried and convicted and crucified. Many of them had seen that firsthand!

The early church services were held on hillsides, beside sick beds, under open skies and hidden away in secret sanctuaries. They happened on stormy seas, on sandy beaches, and on crowded streets. Wherever the Word of God was offered – be it verbally or through a smile or a healing touch, by laughter and fellowshipping with the Godly men who made it their mission to teach, through soft words of comfort in tough times or shouts of joy in a baptismal stream – wherever, church happened.

The only place it probably didn’t happen back then was in cushioned chairs surrounded by painted walls and controlled temperatures.

Even though we didn’t have “church” as we have come to know it last Sunday, as my pastor said, “We were church – to the friends and neighbors who came and saw God’s people reaching out.”

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. Luke 14:23

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images84YL6NK0I have been feeling the heaviness of responsibility for two weeks and it is pretty much all tied to the new Bible study I’m leading. I struggled with the decision to do Beth Moore’s Children of the Day (a study of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians). Don’t get me wrong, I love her studies, but they are intense and demand a lot of time if you are going to get the most out of them. I have such a mix in my group, from brand new Christians to seasoned believers, it’s hard to always know that the material I’ve selected will meet everyone’s needs.

All that said, I felt impressed to move forward with Children of the Day. We are only in the first session, but I’ve already had some amazing testimonies from my ladies. One of my favorites was this – “I’ve never ever committed to actually following through on all the lessons of a Bible study until now. So far I’ve done every one and I’m hooked.”

I’ve had three ladies tell me in separate, one on one conversations “This is exactly what I needed right now.” And one who said, “I’ve been looking for something to motivate and get me moving and this is it, I can tell.” And today I heard from one who just made a decision to join us that ‘she doesn’t know anything about the Bible.’

I’m excited but I’m nervous at the same time. With so many women expecting great things I worry that I’m not smart enough, strong enough, educated enough to be their leader. I’ve been having mini panic attacks and major anxiety over this. So today I pick up my current personal bible study on the book of Esther (also by Beth Moore) and there God meets me with just what I need. Again!

This morning’s lesson focused on Esther 4:12-14. Mordecai has requested that Esther approach the king on behalf of the Jews and Esther has responded with the fact that she is most definitely not the person to approach the king. He hasn’t been interested in her for the past month. She has obviously lost favor with him. And death comes to those who approach the king without an invitation. There must be someone better for the job.

I’m sure you remember Mordecai’s response. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God puts us in a time and place for a purpose. To back off when that purpose becomes apparent is to deny that God can and does use us, inadequate as we are, in mighty ways. With Esther, Mordecai assured her that God would still accomplish His purpose because to annihilate the Jews would go against all of His Old Testament promises. But Esther and her father’s family would not be moving forward in history if she didn’t accept this task.

With me, I recognized from this study that God didn’t have to use me to see that these ladies’ spiritual growth takes place. But for some mysterious reason, He has chosen to use me. And – if I refuse – I am the one who will suffer, not them. I am the one who will not experience the miracles and the wonder and the enlightenment that takes place when His plan collides with my ministry.

Am I still nervous? You bet. But I’m taking it on because He will be with me, and it’s His show. It may look like I’m center stage, but I’m not. And that’s a good thing. Because when His shadow covers my spot at the head of the table, I’m disabled and He’s enabled to do great things.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Phil 2:13
Or as the Message Bible puts it:
“Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”
Wow!

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