July 30, 2009

One of my favorite stories, 2 extraordinary men, and what they mean to me.

My bible reading this morning has me in Acts 6 and 7, one of my favorite stories in the bible. It is not a warm fuzzy story, it is not a feel good story, it is a gut wrenching, tearful, I pray that I would stand up for Christ that way story.

The stoning of Stephen, he is seized at the end of Chapter 6,.."Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose..." V. 11 "They secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God."".."They produced false witnesses who testified...."
V. 15 "All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel."


After questioning Stephen and allowing him to speak in his defense he gives us a wonderful Cliff Notes version of Abraham and Moses' life touching on Solomon and the temple, then reminding the Sanhedrin that their fathers persecuted the prophets and that they resist the Holy Spirit, and that they themselves just had Christ crucified....

This was their reaction: Acts 7:54

"When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep."



I have never been able to read about Stephen's stoning without crying. There are so many precious moments within the savagery. I love that Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven. He was so full of the Spirit that it was his reaction to lift His eyes to God, and what did God do? He lovingly opened the heavens so Stephen could see that Christ was on His feet, standing at the right hand of God. Oh to see Christ standing, what a gift, I wonder if Christ had tears, I wonder if His Spirit said, just a moment longer and this will be over, stand strong my brave Stephen. This is the only place in scripture that Christ is depicted standing while in heaven. When one of His children was being persecuted on His account He stood up. This might be the only time in scripture that we read this, but I believe that it is not the only time Christ has stood as His followers are being tortured or dying on His account.

And then Stephen asked that the men's sin not be held against them. Christ said that on the cross, but He is Christ right? He is so powerful that He can be in immense pain and still be full of grace for others. Ah, but Stephen full of the Spirit had grace too. This reminds me of when Christ has shown himself to his disciples after the crucifixion, during his 40 day time on earth before He ascends to heaven. The disciples didn't want to see Him go, but He says, I must go so One greater than Me can come. In Acts 1:8 Christ says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

That is the Power that keeps Stephen strengthened.

Then this is the first glimpse we have of Saul a man who stood by and watched Stephen be stoned to death, Saul who in his own words said he would hunt Christians down and kill them... Who in a short time would be blinded on the road to Damascus, then a holy meeting between him and Christ, this man would become one of Christ's most dedicated followers and preachers, who God used to pen so much of our New Testament scripture. A man who gives us an example of living for Christ in so many ways.

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I love this story for many reasons, I would like to say that I invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in me in fullness, but I know that I still have a long way to go on my journey, although my heart is opened, soft and seeking towards Christ and that is all He asks, to allow Him to mold me into His creation. I also love to see Saul before Christ renamed him Paul. For in him I can know that no one, not even myself is too far gone for God to redeem, and not only redeem but live a victorious life in Christ, a life that is convicted that without Christ in me there is only darkness and these are truths that both Paul and I have experienced. And truths that need to be shared with others. Paul's awakening started on a dusty road, mine on the floor of my bedroom 18 years ago with tearstained eyes and no hope left, only darkness, and 4 words...Jesus please help me.

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Lest we think that the times of murdering and persecuting Christians is over........ pray for boldness, and incredible filling of the Spirit, so they can lift their eyes to God, and their families can stay strong in Christ.

July 26, 2009

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

I just finished reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. I had heard Pastor Cymbala speak on Focus on the Family several months ago and ordered the book through the paperback swap. I set it aside as I was reading another book when it arrived and just today picked it up to read. I started it this morning when we were at Dallas Children's waiting for Jack to head out for Camp Esperanza, there is a two hour wait time between the time we are supposed to arrive and the time the buses pull out. I knew the moment I started the book I would not be able to put it down until I finished it. I think it only took me about 5 or so hours to read all together so it wasn't a long book, just 185 pages.

Over the years this book has been recommended to me, but God's timing is perfect and it was today that my heart was ready to be touched by the powerful gift of prayer that Pastor C talks about. Over the last year I have read several books on prayer, none really speaking to me like this book did. I have a prayer life, I feel God calling me to more. More time dedicated to Him, more time interceeding for needs around me, dedicated prayer. Not just the breath prayers and fall asleep while I am talking to God prayers.

This book is so inspirational, it is a simple book to read. Jim was not a trained pastor in seminary or bible college, so his words are simple, easy to understand. He is someone who called on God in prayer because he was not able to rely on his own cleverness or finesse, he needed God to fill him with grace to be able to minister to a failing church. There are so many quotes I could put here, the book is totally marked up and underlined. One quote that is memorable to me is from page 20 where Jim is walking the journey of how he needs to act as the preacher of this church this is what he wrote.

"How I treasure those early humblings. Those experiences showed me that I didn't need to play the preacher. Jesus called fishermen, not graduates of rabbinical schools. The main requirement was to be natural and sincere. His disciples had to depend totally upon the Lord and His power. In the same way, I had to stop trying to act ministerial - whatever that was. God could only use Jim Cymbala the way he is. What a breakthrough that was for me as I learned to trust in God to use my natural personality. God has always despised sham and pretense, especially in the pulpit. The minute I started trying to effect a posture or pose, God's Spirit would be grieved."

I believe the reason this touches my heart so much are the words natural personality. It took me decades to feel comfortable in my own skin, being my natural self. Thanks be to God that He has given me the confidence that comes from Him to just be me. He loves me just as the song goes....Just As I Am. And that is all He wants to do is to shine His glory through me as simple as I am.

I can't recommend reading this book enough. It is a must read for all who want to see the Hand of God at work in a people who have humbled themselves, love the message of Christ and ask for His hand to be upon them in a mighty way. I pray the same thing for myself and my family and all I know.

July 25, 2009

Friends

Two years ago I was so blessed to take Nic and Vanessa's wedding pics at Gulf Shores, Alabama smack dab on the beach. I met Vanessa through her roommate Laura whose wedding I was also photographing. Nic and Vanessa were in school at ACU and their families live in different states. I think our friendship started sometime around their wedding. They came over to show me a video that they had taken of the Gulf Shores location we would be at. My kids immediately fell in love with them, and they seemed to fit right in as family. Just two years of hanging out with this couple has blessed our family in so many ways. I love that my kids call them, or text them, just to say hi. Pretty much whatever Nic says is gospel truth around here with my kids, some of what he says, like giving Jack smooth lines to impress the girls on the playground make us laugh out loud hysterically. But the best part is that Nic and Vanessa are heading out to the mission field to plant house churches and they are completely in love with Jesus and they have a daily, active relationship with Him. My kids see that wacky, zany and fun go right along with devoted follower of Christ, thanks to Nic and Vanessa.

We got together with Nic and Vanessa this week for a final family meal with them out at Perini's. We had a blast, delicious burgers, tried some jalapeno cheesecake and laughed alot. The weather was perfect, it had rained that night and we were outside under a tarp eating on the patio. It was cool and peaceful with the smell of rain filling the air. It was the perfect ending to two years with Nic and Vanessa. The parting will be bittersweet for us. We will miss them so much, we have celebrated holidays, they have walked the survivor lap with our family along side Jack at the Walk for Life, they are friends that can come over and not have to freak out if our house isn't spotless, it is easy to be their friends.

We will have Skype to keep us in touch and see each other's faces. I imagine my kids will skype, text and call for years to come. We just wont be in the same town anymore. Did I mention that their mission field is Honalulu? We will look forward to seeing the Big Island when we visit, but not more than we will look forward to seeing our friends again face to face. Please pray for Nic and Vanessa to bless and be blessed on their mission field. Places that are touristy like Hawaii look great on the surface, but there is so much brokenness underneath, I pray Nic and Vanessa shine the light of Jesus each day for the rest of their lives.

Here are some pics of the group at Perini's. Don't think there are too many armadillo's in Hawaii so I thought we needed to get their pic with one. ; ) One big happy family...









July 23, 2009

Is your religion worthless? James 1:26

When you pray what do you ask for? Depending on what is going on in my life I might ask God for strength, His strength, discernment, always ask for wisdom, scripture says if we only ask for wisdom God will give it to us, that meant a lot to a young women whose wisdom was nill. (James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.)

The only wise choice I made at that time in my life was to know I had no wisdom, and wanted some. So I started praying each day for wisdom, and I might not be as wise as many, but compared to my wisdom 18 years ago I have been blessed richly. One consistent prayer, I ask God each time when I pray on my own and when I pray with my kids is to make me more like Jesus tomorrow than I am today. That probably sounds cliche but that is what I want and that is what I want for my kids. I don't want to be rich, I don't want a fancy home, earthly things just seem to keep me as their possession not the other way around. I just want to love with a love that comes from Christ. I want to love those who other's either don't see, or those who for whatever reason are not easy to love. I want to love people as they are, no strings attached, but I want to see them through the eyes of Christ, for what they can become. For what they can overcome if they will just follow the path God has for them. A friend helps a lot in those circumstances.

God has many times in my life brought people with same-s*x attraction into my life. I have several times written of my friend Carey here who passed several years ago. I have recounted Carey's story several times in the last couple of weeks and each time I am caught off guard with tears. God might have used me in Carey's life, but truly God used Carey to teach me more than I ever taught him. He just needed a friend. A friend who could bring food when he was sick, or a friend who could answer questions from scripture but not spout off scripture as a deadly weapon, mostly Carey just liked to laugh and be a friend.

The study by Barna cites that most Christians are defined by non-Christians as h*m*s*xual haters. That is how we are defined. I would say that many who represent Christ by holding a sign, and saying ugly words, hateful words outside a funeral, do not represent Christ at all. Christ was very clear in scripture that we are not to judge the world, but by our love they will come to know Him. Hate never changes someone's hearts or desires. But love does.

It was Christ's unconditional love that brought me from drug and alcohol abuse. It was never someone telling me I shouldn't be participating in all the mess I was in. The people who helped me along the way were kind, loving and authentic with their own struggles. The spirit of condemnation that many have repulse and put walls up between them and others.

I am writing this today because I heard someone speak words that would have been hurtful and possibly turned someone away from Christ if they had been present when spoken. I have a news flash for everyone out there, people who you hang out with have baggage, if they don't have baggage their family has baggage, there is baggage somewhere.

It is time that God's people start talking like God's people, acting like God's people, loving like God's people. Not just choosing what sin's we can accept in those around us and bash the rest. A great man of faith who I am blessed to know, M.C. Cranfill used to make a business card up to carry with him. He might still have some in his wallet. He put the name of our church, then underneath, Hospital for Sinners. I wonder if there are certain sinners some don't welcome with open arms into our church? We will answer to God on how much we love, and the pain we cause others who are searching for Christ. Would our words or actions cause them to just leave and give up for there is no hope for them even in Christ, for His followers make that very clear?

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

July 20, 2009

This and That

Monday morning. About to get to work to finish up a wedding edit today, hopefully anyway.

Jack goes to Camp Esperanza next Sunday, so I want to enjoy our week together before he is off to play at Camp John Mark. Camp Esperanza is a camp for kids that have had, or currently have cancer. It is a week of crazy fun. I love that he gets to go. Each summer he is given the gift to see that his facial paralysis from the treatment of his cancer is not that big of a deal. It has never bothered him, one reason being is that he see's kids that have lost limbs among many other side effects to the cancer or treatment, it is a place where they can all hang out and be kids together.

We have now seen Harry Potter 6 twice. The first being the 12:01 showing on opening night. We had a great time hanging out with all the other fans while waiting for the movie to start. The costumes were fun and it was a fun night for my kids. We went and saw it Saturday night, I actually saw the entire movie this time, not dosing off here and there like I did the first time. It was better the 2nd time I saw it.

I am going to start a 6 week countdown to my revamped photography website. I will be doing some giveaways through my Facebook fan page for Marcelain Photography each week. Click here if you want to sign up.

Reading....started the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. I do love the Redeeming Love novel, I am not as quite taken with this series, but will keep on reading. I am excited to do a book club at church again, this time our book will be, "Searching For God Knows What," by Donald Miller. Don't have a start date set on that yet, but will post when we do. I really haven't had a lot of time to read lately.

Some odds and ends but nothing major going on here, working a lot!

July 10, 2009

Blessed are those who don't fall away on account of Me.

I just finished my homework for this weeks bible study. Our ladies are in the study Anointed, Transformed and Redeemed, A Study of David, with Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and Kay Arthur. It is just a very rich study. There are so many parts of this study, especially the two sessions with Beth that just take my breath away. Today is the second video with Beth and I can't wait for all the ladies to see it.

In our last class we had together I just almost couldn't pull words together to end the class. I had intended to pray over needs that the video discussion brought up, but I just had tears and no breath. Today I will do better with that. This couple of weeks is addressing when we go through suffering, it can lead us to believe that God has betrayed us. Our faith can be devastated because of the events that have happened. This is such a tender subject to me. Tender because I worked through this very issue with God just a short time ago through Jack's diagnosis, and tender because my heart aches for people around me who are dealing with this very issue right now. Our choice to allow anger with God to have the last word on our tongues and in our hearts is so destructive and certainly plays into Satan's wishes for us.

As I was working through this devestation with God a couple of years ago, He opened my eyes to a verse in Matthew. It was a verse that shone a new light on my anger with God. Beth speaks of it in this study, and I can barely read the words without my heart welling up because I remember my feelings so well from that time. "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me!" Luke 7:23. Before Jack's illness I had probably read over that verse and it never spoke to me, I really just didn't get it, I had no reason to really. God was a redeeming God that brought me from a pit so dark I couldn't see my hands in front of my face. He had never really offended me before, I was a product of my bad decisions in life. Nothing bad that had happened to me before could be blamed on anyone but myself. Take that enamored and highly glossed over view of a God who saves, then add into that a God who allows your 6 year old to have a baseball size brain tumor and there is definately some refiguring of assumptions that went on in my head. It took me many months to reconcile that my Great Redeemer could also allow events that are heartbreaking, partially because we are not in heaven yet, and His plan for us is so different than that for ourselves. When I read Luke 7:23 it was like a light came on, we will have opportunities that we can walk away because of what God allows in our lives, and He knows it. Blessed is the man who doesn't.

The blessings have poured forth in my life since I have reconciled the struggle of "If God is good, then how come..." God poured blessings of faithfulness and boldness into my spirit, more than I can ever imagine. My heart is tender for Him, more than it ever has been. My love and longing for the Lord just brings tears to my eyes. I am blessed because I allowed God to pour Himself into my life when I was broken and hurting, if I would have walked away, where would I have gone? To the darkness again? If I had stayed angry and gone to church, sang the songs, sat silently in my anger, where would I be? I would be bitter and each day my heart would turn a bit more black. I would not have a life of joy.

I am glad I did not walk away from God because He did not behave the way I expected Him to. For He is the I AM and I am His.

July 09, 2009

Last Artwalk Tonight for Me.

Thursday morning. One more day till I see my kids. I can't wait to hear about their week at camp. I spied Jack on campus when I was up there shooting pics on Monday, I got a wave and a bit of a smile. As I was taking pics I restrained throwing down my gear and smothering him with hugs and kisses.

My husband is FINALLY reading The Shack. I am so excited to hear his comments on it and be able to discuss it with him. He has made it through the tough part in the beginning and McKenzie has arrived back at the Shack.

I have gotten ALOT of work done this week. Right now a book is uploading so my computer is working while I am visiting my lonely blog. I haven't had anything jumping out at me to write about lately, maybe because my editing work is drowning out my writing. There is a season for everything I guess.

I am reading too many books right now. I borrowed the Mark of the Lion series and I am anticipating for the story to start once the foundation is laid out. I am still in the foundation part of the book so it hasn't grabbed me yet, but I am assured that I will love it so I am going to keep on reading.

I am reading Grace's Window: Entering the Seasons of Prayer. I am not loving this but I want to. I think as with the Mark of the Lion book, I am just not far enough into it.

Just pulled off my bookshelf yesterday, Sacred Pathways, why I do not know. It is a bummer when you want to read a bunch of books, but don't have time to finish one. Seasons, right. This is my season for computer work, my season for reading will be back soon.
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I was SO excited to see Tom Perini on the Today show just an hour or so ago. He made his incredible burger and won best burger in the competition. We are so blessed to have this incredible restaurant in our little west Texas area.

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Yesterday I took the day time off from working, and spent some much needed time with the Lord. Pulled out my Power of a Praying Parent, and Power of a Praying Wife books. Spent time in scripture and intentional prayer for my husband and kids. It was a day of refreshment and peace. I am grateful that God doesn't allow me to put Him in the background, his gentle nudges keep Him front and center even when I am up to my ears in work. The days I recognize that I am pushing His nudges to the background because of busyness are never as great as they could be. So many great men and women of faith have shown, the busier they are the more time they spend in prayer. I am SO far away from that mindset, but I am praying for a heart like that.

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Tonight is my LAST ARTWALK in my studio. I am never up there, with the exception of Art Walk and when I meet clients here and there. The rent was quite reasonable which is why I have kept it even after moving my "office" part of my work back home a year ago. I couldn't get my editing work done when my kids were at school, and I didn't want to be at the office when my kids were home, not to mention while I am working on the computer I can be multitasking while I am uploading. The last several months I just felt like I was spending money, reasonable as though it may have been, that could go somewhere else. So this is my last night for Artwalk and last month up at the Cockerell Galleries. If I have pics framed or unframed of clients, then those are on sale to them so they don't have to be stuck in my closet. Come by tonight or contact me if you want to purchase an image of you or your family that is on my wall at my studio.

July 01, 2009

Holla

Late Wednesday night. Tonight was the last night for our Vacation Bible School at church, averaging over 250 kids a night. That's a lot of kids!! It was a blast, I look forward to it each year. My kids all love it, VBS is one of those memories that sticks with you for life.

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I went to the chiropractor today to get an adjustment, I mentioned to him that Jack's MRI showed a couple of areas the docs were watching then talked with him about some holistic treatments that might benefit Jack. After talking with another mom whose daughter was healed through holistic medicine after traditional medicine did all it could do for her, I learned how important detoxing was in her daughters healing. There were several methods of detoxing, but none that are easy to come by close to home for us. My doctor told me about the ionic foot bath's that he does for his patients. It is easy and in 20 minutes with your feet in a warm foot bath along with an ionic contraption, toxins are released from your system and into the water. I knew that Jack has just the normal toxins from every day life, but also toxins associated with chemo and radiation that have been left in his body. I am not real sure that this procedure is the most effective, in fact I am sure there are some other ways, but some are uncomfortable and most far away. So I decided to give the ionic foot bath a try with Jack at the docs office. It was amazing what came through the pores in his feet. I wont show you the pic because it is not something that is pretty to look at, but his body shed a lot of toxic substances, a lot of heavy metals. Jack will need to do this procedure about 20 or so times to clear most of the junk out of his system. One more little thing that we can do to keep him on the road of recovery.

***After doing some research and even a helpful comment from someone on the post I think we will use a different sort of detox. There is so much info on either side of this foot bath detox. I am not willing to just hope for the best. So I am going to look into some other alternatives. Easy is not always best. ; )

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Took the kids to see Transformers 2 the other night. I am generally quite particular about what I allow my kids to watch. Garbage in...garbage out. But for some reason, twice now both with the Transformer movies I have assumed they are kid friendly. You know what they say about assuming. I knew it was PG-13, but assumed it was for the violence of robots blowing each other up, because we are talking about Transformers here...right. Not only was the movie way too long, like almost 3 hours, it was filled with a bunch of trash. It certainly brought some conversations about. 2 Thumbs down from me.
Note to self: Transformers 3, don't assume it is for kids.

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Next week all 3 of my kids go to camp. I can hear my computer whirrrrrrring with all the work I am going to get done. I will miss them terribly, but I am so excited to get some great amounts of editing done.