December 30, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls



 One of the items on my to-do list this year has been to gather all of our ducklings and take a family trip to the Southwestern Theological Seminary to see the  Dead Sea Scrolls. These are a big deal. In several caves in Qumran, now known as the West Bank by the Dead Sea, hundreds of scrolls were found dating back to before Christ. Every book in the Old Testament was represented in the findings except the book of Esther. To this date these are the earliest dated writings by hundreds of years. During my Pentateuch class this year when we were discussing source criticism of course the Dead Sea Scrolls were discussed and with great excitement.

So we made the trip before the exhibit closes on January 13th.  The exhibit was broken up into 3 sections (4 if you went outside to the excavation fun), the first section set up the cultural setting, lots of old pottery, pictures of locations, some bone boxes (after 1 year of burial the bones were retrieved from a grave and then put in an inscribed bone box and put in the family burial site), glass from the first century. The 2nd part was a 7 minute film about the findings and translation information for the scrolls, and then thirdly the scrolls themselves. There were also some original illuminated Bibles in different translations and languages to see, along with a part of the Gutenberg Bible, which is the first Bible that a printing press was used to make. No more hand copying Bibles, this meant that the Bible would soon be accessible to all, not just the rich who could pay for a hand copied Bible.

Once the main exhibition was over there was a small exhibition of St. John's Bible, the first hand-written Bible created in over 500 years. The pages are made of calf-skin and the ink the calligraphers use is made by hand. The images created by the artists to represent the books within the Bible are breathtaking, lots of bright colors, lots of gold. Here is a link to a short video highlighting St. John's Bible.

We enjoyed seeing the scrolls, the exhibit took about 2 hours from beginning to end, I don't want to build it up too much, because the pieces on display are small, somewhat unreadable, and behind glass and lit up for 15 seconds then go dark for 30 seconds. But there are lots of enlarged and enhanced illustrations along with the English translation included. And to be able to look at a piece of scroll, and see the words of scripture that are in my Bible and they match in translation what was written over 2000 years ago was very cool.

I am glad that my kids got to see the scrolls, and take in some of the history. It is one of the things in life that I don't think I will ever forget.

November 26, 2012

A New Name

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The above pic was taken last week. A friend of mine said, "There is something spiritual about that, I couldn't put my finger on it."  I had to hold back tears to get my words out. "That picture is is what it looks like after you have fought the devil for your marriage with the power of Jesus and won". Those cheeks have been stained with tears, maybe wondering if the tears would ever stop. That picture is what it looks like to be one in the name of Christ, not because of our faithfulness, but because of God's faithfulness to us. All praise to the Father.

This is a long post. I am sorry about that. But I didn't want to break it up.

A New Name.

Several years ago we started a tradition to share something that we were thankful for during our extended family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes we say why we are thankful for the person sitting next to us, and sometimes it has been what we are thankful for.

This morning I was thinking about our day ahead and God brought to mind this time of sharing and so I was pondering what I would share. As God tends to do…if He brings something to mind He normally has an agenda. So pretty quickly I felt in my heart that God wanted me to share with our family what a work He had done in my marriage this year.

Much of this path God has called me to walk in contemplation with Him. He has brought people in to be His tools for sure. He has brought prayer warriors and supporters. But quite early when things got rough for Rob and I God made it clear He wanted me to depend on Him, and if I had a problem, I needed to bring it to Him. If I had a hurt, I needed to bring it to Him. There would be no bashing or bitterness, no hateful speech, no holding of grudges. What there would be was humility, honest grief over our situation, lots of tears, lots of scripture, lots of hard work, and begging God to bring a miracle to our marriage.

I was unclear of what to pray for in our marriage, and so I asked for God’s vision for my marriage. I only wanted what God wanted. My prayers brought me peace and they brought me closer to God in dependence and humility in Him than I had ever experienced.

Through several months of struggling it became abundantly clear that Rob and I were dealing with a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

….

On this morning of Thanksgiving, I felt like God gave me the picture of Jacob wrestling the angel all night at Bethel. And after the entire night spent wrestling with this angel,  Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” I felt like that is what Rob and I did this year, we wrestled with unknown forces that had come to steal, kill and destroy us. And we held onto God and would not let go until He blessed us. After Jacob’s time of wrestling he was told by the angel that he would have a new name, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and humans and have overcome.” Jacob named the place he wrestled Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

So I asked God what would your new name be for my marriage. FAITHFUL, I heard. This perplexed me, it didn’t seem right…and He said it again, FAITHFUL. I was confused, knowing that no one is faithful but God, so I asked… because we have been faithful to You? No, BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN FAITHFUL TO YOU.

And that is what happened. This year has been a year of wrestling with God on our side, wrestling against darkness. It became clear that we were believing the lies of Satan against our marriage. And, very clear that the tormenting spirits* sent by Satan to keep us in fear, keep us in the illusion that we were in control, keep us in places that were not of the Lord, places that we didn’t want to be in, but didn’t seem to know how to get out of, or even realize that we were living in the midst of. Therapy, although helpful in some aspects, did not help us with our real issue. You can't keep spirits down, they don't behave, Jesus simply says they must leave.  Through prayer and in the power of Jesus we told them they must leave. And they did.  I saw in my husband’s eyes, deep into his eyes for the first time, the dark forces that plagued each of us and kept us from truly becoming one and whole were gone.

I heard my friend say the other day, “With the power of God behind you, you can go toe to toe with Satan at the gates of hell and not even be afraid.”

I fought with Satan for my marriage, so did Rob. Sometimes we felt blindfolded, but God was in control. We just held on and refused to let go, until we were blessed.

The hero of this story is FAITHFUL, THE LORD.

So I will take the new name FAITHFUL for my marriage, it is a reminder for me not of how good I am, or Rob is, or how much we mess up, but a reminder that the God of the universe has my back and I don’t have to let darkness mess with me. My consistent prayer through this journey has been for God to give me eyes to see, ears to hear and his wisdom through revelation. He gives good gifts.


*What are tormenting spirits? They are tools of Satan that are all around us. They are pride, lust, fear, jealousy, selfishness, unbelief, despair, insecurity, addiction, controlling, hate, suicide, depression, bitterness, lying…..

Ephesians 6 speaks clearly about how darkness is our real enemy, but for whatever reason, how to defeat our real enemy is not spoken of much in our churches. The tools to save us from what is seeking to kill and destroy our lives, our families, our marriages, and our children, are not spoken.We can try to do the right thing, and make things look pretty all we want, but until spirits are dealt with in the power of Jesus they will continue to seek, kill and destroy. Maybe sometimes they will lay dormant until our day of darkness comes, a child falls ill, someone close to us hurts us, we are overworked and exhausted, or maybe it is when we are on a mountain top that we are caught off guard...they will choose the opportune time and rise with vengeance.

As someone who has been fodder for darkness through out much of my life I know what darkness feels like, and I know what freedom feels like. There is no comparison. Satan will trick us into thinking that if we are truthful about the messes we have made that it will be too much to bear, and that is a lie, the truth is, most people are for us, most people will say, let’s get some help on this, let’s walk through this together, thank you for being honest, and then the wall of lies falls like the wall of Jericho, and there is a place that rest and peace can be found; Consequences, sure, but with God for us who can be against us. But most of us go through times, and some never get out, where they believe that hiding in their sin and shame is their only option, and then Satan throws a couple more spirits at us, spirits that lead us into more darkness and more confusion.  Before we know it we are curled in a ball trying to do life with emptiness and hopelessness as our guides.

Micah 7:8 says, “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise, though I sit in darkness the Lord will be my light.”

Beth Moore wrote a great study years ago that helped me see more clearly the power I WAS GIVING, to Satan because I was allowing him to mess with me. The study is called, “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.” I have gone through this study with several people who have found themselves in places that they never would have chosen. It changed my life years ago, I see that God has all the power, Satan only has what we allow, we can call God in and this is what I say, “In the name of Jesus, I command the spirit of fear (or whatever spirit that is tormenting you) to leave. Fear must leave for the power of Jesus blood is greater, and I believe in Jesus, I am His, I only want what He wants, I ask Jesus that you fill me with your good gifts to replace the darkness that has left, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control.”  And then each time I feel the temptation to line back up with the spirit of fear (or whatever spirit Satan is throwing at me) I say out loud, I will not receive or align with that spirit. I trust in God. I wont align with what is not true.

I think it was when I saw Satan as a real force, not just the holder of hell, but something real that prowled back and forth across the earth to destroy whatever was in his path, it was then that it clicked in me. I will not let this prince of darkness rule over me any more. I will take charge of my choices with God’s help.

I also know there are times that the spirit of pride has had its way with me and I think, I can deal with this one on my own. I don’t need to ask for God’s help, I can keep myself in check, and it is in that moment Satan has had me right where he wanted me. This was most evident to me when Jack was in his last treatment for cancer. He had suffered brain trauma from the gamma knife radiation, and all that I knew of Jack’s personality was gone for 11 months. In the midst of that time I aligned with the spirit of bitterness that had been knocking on my heart for years, but I wouldn’t allow it to take hold. It did then, and from bitterness I moved to unbelief, and unbelief to despair, from despair to being scared to death because I was in so much darkness I felt myself slipping away. I tried desperately to get myself out of that place, but I was unclear as to what had hold of me. I prayed for God to help me, for weeks I prayed. Then I prayed for him to send someone to help me, and He did. She prayed over me, cast out in the name of Jesus the spirit of unbelief, and bitterness, despair, and fear. I left that time of prayer that day with my head clear. I had been swirling in a fog and I was clear headed again. There has been few days in the last many years since that day that I haven’t uttered the prayer of the father in Matthew, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” I had to fill up those places in me that were left empty with God or I would have been in worse shape than I had started.
The clearest teaching we had on this subject at my church was one bible class a man named Rusty came and taught on spiritual warfare. He taught hard truth on the tools God gives us to fight the enemy. This is what is out to get you, this is how you deal with it. He said, don’t start your day without prayer, and be wise knowing that Satan is out to take you down. This might seem melodramatic, but I have now added to my list of marriages that are breaking down my 12th couple in the last several months. These are the people around me, not a friend of a friend, not an, “I heard about this couple”, but people who I know and love. If Satan can’t turn us into his minions he will destroy us through our own selfish desires that he feeds with his tormenting spirits, and before we know it, we are at a place we never wanted to be. We have been had.

I love this exert from Beth Moore in Godly people,
“In Psalm 51, David was a man stricken by the grief of his own sin. A godly man who turned from the path and foolishly did ungodly things. He was seduced not by a woman but by a powerful unseen force. He denied responsibility for his sins and rationalized his behavior for as long as he could. Then he broke. Leave it to David not to be satisfied with a partial restoration.
David had known the sacred romance. I believe he would rather have died than to be forgiven but held at arm’s distance from a God of no more chances.
“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which though has broken may rejoice” (v.8). Whose joy and gladness did David want to hear? Oh, Beloved, without a doubt it was God’s! His Father’s! Abba, my Abba! I can only bear to come home if You are glad to see me! If I could only hear Your joy over my return, these bones that You have broken will rejoice!”
David couldn’t have stood it any other way. Line it up beside Jesus’ parable of the prodigal, and you find a perfect example why David was a man after God’s own heart. If he couldn’t return to God’s heart, he couldn’t bear to return to God’s home.
Had, you will never be healed any other way. Do not go back to your Father’s table to eat the crumbs on the floor like a dog. Think more of His redemption than that. Do not go back to your Father’s house just to be safe. He wants far more for you than that. You will never heal if you only go back to your Father’s home. You must go back to His heart. Closer than you have ever been.
Ah, there He is just now. Coming across the field. He is running in your direction. He doesn’t even see me right now. He only has eyes for you. Forget your speeches. He wants to hug you. He wants to kiss you. Your healing will come in your very own Abba’s tight and passionate embrace. Let Him hold you so close that you can hear His heart pounding from having run to you.
Don’t stop Him when he wants to put a robe on your back. A ring on your finger. And sandals on your feet. Do not take this moment from Him. Feast on the fatted calf. Then listen as He makes you to hear His joy and gladness. Press your ear to the floor and let your heart be caught in the rhythm of the steps of your Father’s dance. Then get up off that floor and let your broken bones rejoice. That will forever be the most authentic sign of a prodigal’s gratitude.
Don’t be afraid! He wouldn’t run like that if He weren’t glad to see you! Look, at the way He’s springing up that hill! He’s yelling something. I can’t quite make it out. Oh, now I hear it. He’s yelling, “Son!”
That was your name all along! Not Good or Proud.
“Son!”
Farewell, Had.”

We can stand toe to toe with Satan as long as God is with us and we use the power He has given. Shall we rise to this challenge and stop being fodder for the enemy? Let’s take back those places that bring peace and rest to our hearts and turn away from what brings death. Let’s not leave our children a legacy of brokenness but of strength and stubbornness to stand firm in the ways of God.

November 20, 2012

Grandma Sophie's Bread Pudding

This recipe comes from my mother in law, and she got it from her grandma. It is the best bread pudding I have ever enjoyed. That is saying a lot as Perini's comes in 2nd to this for me.

I add the apples, but not the raisins.

And I am a butter purist in dishes like this, I like it over the margarine.

If I can I will swing by McKay's Bakery and pick up a loaf of day old bread.
I have used thick cut white bread too.

The recipe for Whiskey Sauce comes from Better Homes and Gardens, thanks to Perini's the thought of eating bread pudding without Whiskey sauce would be an injustice to the dessert.  

Bread Pudding 3 C Milk
6 Eggs
2 1/2 C Sugar
8 Thick Slices of Bread, torn, use crusts and ends, too (day old bread works great)
2 Sticks butter or margarine
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
Chopped Apples, opt. about a cup
Raisins, opt. about half cup

 Mix milk, eggs and sugar together, mix in bread pieces. Add melted butter and cinnamon, salt and vanilla and if adding apples or raisins mix in at this time. Mix well. Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees 35-45 minutes. Serve warm, can be frozen after cooking.  

Whiskey Sauce
1/4 C Margarine or Butter
1/2 C Sugar
1 Beaten egg yolk
2 Tblsp Water
2 Tblsp Bourbon

 In a small sauce pan melt margarine or butter. Stir in sugar, egg yolk, and water. Cook and stir constantly over medium low heat for 5 to 6 minutes or till sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon. Serve warm. (8 servings)

November 09, 2012

what is the color of hope?


golden rays

so bright

the colors of life
muted

gray sets in
bare branches

dead seeds fall
translucent

winter is a double season

golden rays bring sprigs

colors seem different
more depth

crevices deep in the leaves
veins in the depths bring breath and pulse

what is the color of hope?

golden rays bind again

by t. marcelain

October 04, 2012

The Gift of the Red Bird

I have been enjoying morning walks around ACU this week. My walks are part of my time with God in the mornings. I love taking pictures of the sun rising and of delights along the way. Some days I listen to praise and worship music, some I listen to podcasts of sermons, but every day I am attentively looking around me for the beauty that cries out in worship to their creator. Each day I look for something I haven't seen before. A couple of days ago after seeing some beautiful images that included birds on Instagram, I wished that I could take some bird pictures, too. So I spent one of my walks looking at birds, none close enough to take a picture of with my phone, though. At the end of my walk I asked God to bring me a bird for me to take a picture of with my phone, any bird, a little brown bird, a big black bird, I wasn't picky...just a bird, please Lord.  I know this might sound silly, but I love taking pictures with my phone, and I love finding meaning in the beauty that God has placed before me to take a picture of.

Most of me wanted the bird, for the birds sake, but a smidgen wanted God to enter into my days and say, I hear, and I care, you are my beloved. So a couple of days go by and I go for my walk today and I wondered, will today be the day that I might be able to get a picture of a bird up close. I rounded the corner and in front of the Administration building there was a bird that was standing still in some pretty grass, I was able to zoom in a bit and got a picture of it before it flew off. I thought, thank you Lord. You gave me a bird that was still, and I was able to zoom in and get a picture of. A big black bird, with a blue sheen on it's back. Here is the bird with a bit of editing done in snapseed to give the image a warm antique tone. I love the negative space in this image, it is peaceful. I was thankful for my little bird friend.
 

After my walk I went to the Quiet Place for prayer, listen to some worship music on my ear buds and read through Psalms 113-116 which is where I am finding even more reason to be thankful to God this week. Such beautiful words.

I then went up to my Pentateuch class which starts at 9:30am. When I got into the classroom a couple of young men were looking through the window at a bird, I assumed it was a small brown bird as that seems to be what flies around most when I look out the window into the trees. I went over to get a glimpse of it and caught a sight of a beautiful red cardinal that was just flying off. I was sad I hadn't gotten my phone out quickly to get a picture of it. I went back to my desk and sat down. Class still had a couple of minutes before starting so I went back to the window with my phone and watched the cardinal as it flew around, and then it flew closer, and closer, and it landed directly on the other side of the glass from me, and it stayed put.

I took about 20 pictures of this beautiful bird and the whole time I heard God saying, you asked for a bird...here is a beautiful bird, just for you. And it sat there longer than I had time to take pictures of it. And then through class the bird just flew around outside my window, even knocking into the glass on occasions. This is not unusual for birds outside this window, but I felt like God was just saying each time the bird got my attention over, and over, here I am, delight in Me, trust in Me, be faithful to Me, I will give you the desires of your heart. I choked back tears through class today, I was overwhelmed, I was grateful. Thank you Father, my beloved. And here is my beautiful red bird.


September 20, 2012

AA - Brave and Courageous though humility.

I went to an open AA Meeting tonight because of an assignment for one of my classes. I was nervous to go, new place, new experience.  The members were welcoming. I double checked that it was an open meeting, where non-alcoholics could attend...family members, college students doing an assignment for class, and it was confirmed...yes, the group is open. I really hadn't made a connection about the family member part until a bit into the meeting. My dad was an alcoholic and died over 10 years ago, I had made my amends with him, forgiven him, it is just not something that I dwell on regularly anymore.

The meeting was wonderful. I went in with a bit of a bias as to what it would be like, because my dad always put AA down with lots of derogatory remarks. I guess some of them stuck because I heard it lots growing up. I remember hearing my dad say so many times he didn't need a group of whiners and complainers to help him quit drinking, he could quit any time he wanted. He had the power. The group was anything but whiners and complainers, they took responsibility for their actions, followed the steps of AA with the help of the group and a sponsor, and took away the power of the bottle.

So many of the members said that the hardest part was admitting they were powerless over alcohol. I sat and listened to this group of members, every age, every color, every socioeconomic class, and thought that they were maybe the most brave and courageous people I knew. They were brave enough to take away the alcohol and see who they were without it, they were brave enough to admit that they didn't have it all together - it takes much more courage to be humble than it does to let pride be your ruler. They were taking control of their lives with the help of God and AA.

One of the members said that he had been sober for several years, and that he had learned a lot through AA, but the most important thing he had learned was that he would never have to walk through anything in his life alone, ever again. Wow. There were men and women ready to be sponsors to any newbies in the group, to walk them through the steps. The commitment that the members had to each other was amazing. Brave and Courageous.

I kept picturing how my dad's life would have been different if he would have said the words, I am powerless over alcohol, I saw his face in lots of the men's faces tonight. I wished with all of my heart that he would have not let fear keep him from getting help. It was fear, he made it sound like he was powerful, but he was just afraid. Afraid of how he would cope without his lover called whiskey, or beer. Afraid. Not a partier, but afraid. Not in control, afraid. It is funny that my last post I wrote on my blog was my experience of being delivered from fear. When fear is in control, it messes with our heads, it seems like a dinosaur - but it is just an illusion. Fear is only a lie, that is all evil has to use to trick us...lies - there is no reality in fear.

The things that I used to be so afraid of, seem silly to me now. Something that would panic me, I find great blessing through trusting God for His provision. I wish my dad would have been able to see that he had much to offer this world without alcohol, I wish he would have said the words...I am powerless, for God delights in those that know that they need him. If we think we have it all together, God wont push his way in, but if we bow to Him and ask for His help he is already there before we finish our sentence. He is the great Healer, Rescuer, and Savior of our souls.

God, we all need you, whether we are alcoholics, drug addicts, suffer from anxiety, are full of pride, are full of fear, use shopping as a drug, read books that take our minds to places we shouldn't be, the one's who don't know Your love, who don't trust you, who keep secrets, who cheat on exams, who let their eyes wander, who are afraid. Come Lord, into our hearts, we invite You to rescue us, You are our only hope.


September 07, 2012

Quotes on Prayer




Our church family will be devoting 24 hours of prayer this September 21-22.

I personally have experienced most or all levels of desire to pray.

I have wondered if my prayers were heard, I have doubted that prayers were useful, I have prayed because I thought it was the right thing to do, I have yearned for a heart that longed to pray, I have had my interest spurred by people who can not survive without prayer, I have asked God to give me the desire to pray, I kept on asking God, and kept on asking, I opened up space in my day for prayer, I made prayer time a priority, I realized that if I didn't pray that I was allowing satan to be the voice I listened to.

Too busy, too tired, too disenchanted, too doubtful...those words are not from the Holy Spirit.

They are ploys to keep me from connecting to God in a place that speaks to the most inner part of me.

If I am not dedicated to prayer I will truly be operating on my own power and strength. I will have closed the channel that God gives me to truly know Him, and if I don't know God, I don't trust God, if I don't trust God then pass me the apple off the tree because I will think He doesn't have my best interests at heart, and will take my life into my own hands.

 God has heard my plea, He has taken my hard heart, and softened it to a place that if I don't make time to pray I am parched. It is the time for my soul to rest with God. There is no right or wrong way to pray, but this is where my journey has me right now. I pray some scriptures, I lift the names of my husband and children, I pray for people whose souls are desperate for Him, and for those who don't know they are desperate for Him, I pray for marriages, I pray for physical help for the sick, and then I rest in a place of stillness with God for however long I can. Some days it is 5 minutes, some it is 35 minutes. When I pray for others I take the time to see their faces in my mind, I lift them to God in my mind. There is something beautiful about this process of pause as I ponder the faces of those I love with God's love. They set more firmly in my heart when I see their eyes, their smiles or their tears. It is a beautiful time of praying for others, it blesses my heart.

As I wrote above, it was through reading that I witnessed the hearts of men and women whose hearts were sold out to praying with God. It was through their words that I read if they had a busy day ahead then it was even more necessary to pray. I read through their words that in prayer came a connection to God that I desperately wanted. It was through their words that I saw that prayer does change things, most of all it changes the one who is praying. I can say that prayer has given me peace in desperate circumstances, it has given me love for those that have broken my heart, it has given me a passion to speak words that bring life and love, all this is from the Father. The only thing I have done is to pursue God (which is actually just a response to God's voice drawing me to Him) and beg Him, plead in the way that Jacob pled when he would not let go of God unless he was blessed. God does it all, if we will just ask with our heart and not let go.

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Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting some quotes that I love on prayer from different authors. Some are quotes that drew me in to a yearning for prayer years ago, some are new quotes that I love, too. This list will keep growing, but I wanted to have a place where I could go back and find all the quotes I posted in one place. So starting us off:

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"This evening we had a precious prayer meeting. When the usual time for closing the meeting came, some of us wanted to continue to wait upon the Lord. I suggested that those who had bodily strength, time, and a desire to wait longer upon the Lord, do so. At least thirty remained, and we continued in prayer until after ten. I never knew deeper prayer in the Spirit. I experienced an unusual nearness to the Lord and was able to pray in faith, without doubting."  

January 3, 1842, George Muller from the Autobiography of George Muller. This book is a very special book to me, for the first time (outside the Bible) I had read about someone who through his journey learned to completely rely upon God through prayer for provision for himself and the orphans he was responsible for.

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"I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence - we need to listen to God because it's not what we say but what He says to us and through us that matters. Prayer feeds the soul-as blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul-it brings you closer to God. It also gives you a clean and pure heart. A clean heart can see God, can speak to God, and can see the love of God in others. When you have a clean heart it means you are open and honest with God, you are not hiding anything from Him, and this lets Him take what He wants from you."
Mother Teresa, A Simple Path
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"In the cell of silence and solitude, this is the essential kernel of truth that is heard: when all is said and done, it is good to be near God. by removing the noise and external clutter for periodic entry into the "sanctuary," into the very conscious presence of God, we make ourselves available to gain a completely different perspective, a life-giving rule that equips us to live in an obsessive, materialistic world." 

From the book, Thin Places by Tracy Balzer 

June 25, 2012

The spirit of fear...In Jesus Name - Be GONE!

I am not sure what I have to say about the spirit of fear, but I am going to start typing and see what happens. This last year much has gone on in my life. I have faced trials that I thought or hoped I would never have to face. But I have made it through to a place that is better than before the trials. God really does use fire to refine us and make us stronger. God was an ever present help in trouble for sure. I had his reassurance that if I would just keep my eyes on Him and press onward to the goal that there would be a blessing on the other side.

In the last month it became apparent that the battle was truly spiritual. Lots of spiritual battles were going on, the two spirits I had been tormented by were fear and control,  but the one I am going to talk about today is fear. I have a sweet and gifted friend and her husband (who is also sweet and gifted), who has prayed with Rob and I over the last couple of weeks. It became apparent to her immediately that the spiritual battle was clear and until we dealt with our struggles on a spiritual level we would be wearing ourselves out trying to keeping the spirits under control. I loved her words, "Jesus talks about these spirits, tormenting spirits, and He says in scripture that they must leave, there is no controlling them, no persuading them, they will not behave with therapy, they just need to be told to leave, in Jesus name." I listened to her words and they clicked with me. I however, didn't know how pervasive the spirits I was dealing with were in my life, until they were gone, in Jesus name. Kicked out, adiosed, don't let the door hit  you on the way out. I did know however, that I wanted to be free of them. I could see how over the many years I would fall into the same pattern of fear, and then trying to control the situation to make it manageable. I can remember being a small child and fear taking hold, for 40 years, I thought it was normal to have sweaty palms, a need to gasp for breath, tormenting words swirling around in my head, "You're not good enough," "They don't like you," "You caused all this trouble," "It's all your fault."

We have all heard that when you have been born again into Christ, saved by His blood, and baptized to follow His example we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit and an evil spirit can not live in the same soul. However, we can be tormented by spirits, and the more we feed them, the more control we give them and the more we can be affected by them in our mind and even in our physical body. Our soul is safe, we just live a broken beaten down life because of the constant torment. We can look at examples in scripture for getting rid of a tormenting spirit is to say, out loud, In the name of Jesus, I renounce you spirit of _______, you must leave. You are not welcome, I belong to Jesus and He is who I worship. He is my King. You must get out in His name. This is my paraphrase.

Then we also know that you must fill the empty space with God, a clean house will fill up with even more evil if you don't fill it with God and His goodness. The evil spirits will hang around even though they have been ousted waiting for an opportune time to strike again. And each time we can use those same words to protect our self through the power of Christ.

I have been searching for God's peace in my life for several years. Programs, classes, books, prayer, quiet time, study of the Word,...all valuable, and all precious in many ways to me. But I still would get a wave of fear over me through out my day, I would pray for God's peace, I would try and fix the situation, my heart would race, I would be jittery, I was fearful. God had given me His peace for the taking, but it was being thwarted by an entity of fear that did it's best to freak me out. I can remember saying specifically when Jack was sick, the words of Christ, "In the name of Jesus 'I say get behind me Satan'," and I know it helped. My nightmares stopped. But I never addressed the spirits directly. I guess I didn't know what spirits I was dealing with. In the book "Walking With God," by John Eldridge he says you have to name the spirit, they are tricky and stubborn, they will not all skidaddle unless named, a general calling out wont work. Belief is an important component of this. If we have no conviction that our words are truth, and we don't even believe, then the spirits wont either.

Rob and I were set to go and pray with our friends the next day, but this first day of prayer with her when I was by myself she had discerned the spirits I was dealing with and told me that I needed to pray and ask God where they were showing up, where they were doing their work, and then I needed to pray for them to be gone. I had to be somewhere shortly after I left her office and I started to get sick to my stomach while in the car, I remember my first thought being that I hoped I wasn't sick because then Rob and I couldn't go back to pray with them the next day. These thoughts went on for about 10 minutes. Then, I believe the Holy Spirit convicted me that the illness was not a stomach virus but an attack by these evil spirits because they didn't want us to meet to pray the next day. They knew what was at stake. So while driving in my car I renounced these spirits, commanded them out in Jesus name and within a minute or two I wasn't sick any more. This was the gurgly stomach, headachey, I'm afraid I am getting the flu kind of sickness. And it was gone after my prayer.

As Paul says in Ephesians 6:10, our battle is not with the flesh, it is in the spiritual realms. I believe this, I believed this before, and now God has increased my faith to believe it even more. Faith and belief is truly a process.

As I hit send on this, I will need to pray that prayer again, because fear would like to mess with me for speaking out about my experiences. But fear is no longer welcome in me, I will speak boldly about the gifts of walking with Christ, there is so much victory in Christ to be had, if only I will take hold. Satan isn't an idiot, he knows where we are weak and that is where he will try and attack over and over again. I am ready to proclaim freedom and God's power to keep them from tormenting me, I might have to do it a hundred times a day, but I will - if that is what it takes. I am free indeed, thanks be to God.

- As a side note, I had prayed all week that my church would address the spiritual realm of evil spirits, darkness and the power of Christ, Light. I was desperate to hear words from my church's pulpit to know that we would be a church that wouldn't be afraid to speak of this battle. I couldn't believe it when this exact topic was preached on this Sunday. I told my preacher this story and he said that it had obviously been my prayers that caused Him to rewrite his sermon 5 times that week. God's timing is amazing.

June 21, 2012

Praying in Color and Lectio Devina, too!

I have found a new wonderful way to pray. I might be coming a bit late to the game on this, but I am just grateful I have found my way. When I was at the Laity Lodge last week Lauren Winner taught on 6 methods of prayer. One of which was "Praying in Color," by Sybil MacBeth, I thought I hadn't heard of this before but quickly remembered that my friend Holly B. gave me a scripture that she had prayed in color for me many weeks before. She had written out a scripture for me that she was praying for me, but it wasn't just written, it was filled with beautiful color and design. As Lauren spoke on this I was SO excited. I just pulled my iPhone right out and ordered it from Amazon so it would greet me at my door shortly after my arrival home. The book is simple, and even comes in a couple other editions, such as "Praying in Color for Kids," and "Praying in Black and White." There are so many good ideas in the book of how you could use praying in color within your study, memorization of scripture and praying. I knew right away that this prayer method would fit right in with my love of artistic expression. I would quickly like to point out that just because I like artistic expression, does not mean that I am good at drawing or designing, but I can still love it. It doesn't matter if you are talented or not in the drawing and coloring dept., this book would be for anyone. The first of many ideas the book gives is praying for other people. Here is an example of one of my prayers earlier this week. I was praying for people who have blessed my marriage in the last several months. There are lots of names that are cut off here, important names, so many people who have loved Rob and I enough to pray for us and spend time with us, along with our sweet children who are the greatest gift of our marriage. We are so grateful to these people, it was such a gift to spend time in prayer for them. Once the prayer is done, then you can refer back to the prayer several times in the day. You can use the same page the next day  and embellish it with more names and designs, or you can start fresh.


Another way the book talks about using praying in color is to utilize this method when practicing Lectio (pronounced Lexio) Devina. This is a method of reading scripture not just for head knowledge and information gathering, but for transformation. One would choose a small amount of scripture, a verse or maybe a little bit more. Read the scripture, then write it out with the words large on the page. Read through the scripture on your page 5 or 6 times, or as many as you want, and allow the Spirit to draw you to the words that will jump out to you. Circle those words, then rewrite them on another page and spend time meditating on these words while doodling or coloring around them. Allow the words to sink in to your heart, then respond to God with questions or statements, positive or negative, and write those statements on the page. Then when you have chewed on the scripture an ample amount of time you can just sit with God in silence as though you have just had an intense conversation and enjoy the quiet of being still with each other, allowing your mind to just rest in God's love and goodness.
The purpose of praying in color is not to make a pretty picture but to keep you with the prayer and thinking on the persons you are interceding for, or thinking on the words of scripture for a lingering time. When we pray, often times we will go through our list and be done in less than a minute or two, but this takes a bit longer and we are covering the persons in prayer even longer, their names are being lifted to the Father in a way you would savor a good meal, not just running through the drive thru for Taco Bell.

I have struggled with the practice of Lectio Devina as it is difficult for me to stay with the same verse for 5-10 minutes for the practice. This method of prayer has given me a door to Lectio Devina that opens the practice up to me in a powerful way. I have these words in my heart and carry them with me through the day and for days after, "chewing on the word," as Eugene Peterson refers to Lectio. It has been a great blessing.

I want to point out that this is not a feminine prayer method, males and females both are blessed by this. Laity Lodge gave us these nice art books to take home for our continued practice of Praying in Color, and while we were there they let us use some colored markers, but anything would work. Regular crayons, colored pencils, markers, I have some art sticks that I am using right now just because I already had them at home. Markers are nice because they don't smudge and are bright, but whatever is in your junk drawer is great to use. You don't need an art book either, the author of the Praying in Color says she buys lined notebooks when they are on sale, you can do this on the back of an envelope, on computer paper, in your daily journal...

I would love to hear from you in the comments if you have anything to add to this practice of prayer, any ideas or your experiences.

Grateful and blessed.

June 20, 2012

Easy Garlic Naan

I made grilled chicken tikka masala last night. We served it over rice with peas mixed in. It was SO yummy! I love that the Natural Food Grocers carries many of the Indian cooking sauces. I bought the Patak's Tikka Masala. So all I had to do was grill the chicken, then let it simmer in the sauce for ten minutes and voila it was done. Rob and I both love Garlic Naan and I didn't get by the store to buy some yesterday to eat with our meal, so I looked up a recipe to make it at home. Unfortunately for me I hadn't planned ahead enough and Naan is a yeasty thick tortilla so I didn't have time to let the yeast do it's trick. However, Rob suggested that I use one of the many packages of tortilla's in the fridge to make a tortilla version. So that is what I did. I made it again today to go with the leftovers and thought I would take some pics of the easy process.

Ingredients: Tortilla's, butter, minced jarred garlic.

 I warmed a skillet, melted a pat of butter, then laid a tortilla over it. I swished the tortilla all around in the pan to make sure it was covered with the butter. While that side was browing I put a teaspoon of the minced garlic on the topside and spread it around. Once the bottom was toasty brown I flipped it to the garlic side and basically just let it warm up and toast the garlic slightly. Garlic burns so easily that I didn't leave it for long. Then I folded it up with a spatula...voila, easy garlic naan. It tasted SO delicious. It was a huge hit.
 

June 02, 2012

Consolation in Prayer

     I just finished reading a book I bought at the Cenacle during my silent retreat late last year. The book is called When Women Pray by Doucet and Hebert. It is a memoir of sorts, small chapters written by two women. Each woman took every other chapter, each dealing with their own spiritual walk and the connection to their families. The book was intriguing to me, because it is of great interest to be a spectator in other persons walk's toward the Lord. How does one get to where they are, how did the suffer along the way, what did they do with that suffering? Are they a winter or summer Christian? How do they look at the world, and how does their relationship with God translate into how they treat those around them. This is a good book for my inquisitive questions. My questions might be too bold to ask face to face to a stranger, so I love it when a book lays it all out in chapter form for me to follow along. The greatest question for me when I read a book is a question to myself, is there anything I can eek out of this reading that will stay with me, live in my heart, and help me in my journey to be closer to God, to be a greater lover of people, to inspire me to find more rest in my place as God's child?
     The sub-title of the book is "Our Personal Stories of Extraordinary Grace." It was not all flowers and perfume, as I was afraid it could have been. Each chapter started with a quote or two from their favorite personal readings, and then led into a story, and then a discipline to practice. It was an easy book to read, not too deep, just what I needed to lead into my summer readings and a contemplative retreat I will be attending this upcoming weekend. I liked the book, and I am glad I waited to read it, it met me where I am right now and gave me some insight and thought that I will hold onto.
    There is a chapter called "Consolation in Prayer." The lead off quote is by St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises. "I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul, by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord."
The chapter continues....When the spiritual seeker is in a state of consolation, God seems near and the inner spirit is enlivened with the gifts of peace and compassion for self and others. The person often wants to do more for God because of an increase in faith and to spend more time in her community of believers. Consolation leads us outward.
    Consolation in the spiritual sense is not necessarily happiness as we usually perceive it. I think of my friend Brenda, who received deep consolation on one of the saddest days of her life. As she attended her brother's funeral, she was suddenly aware of being lifted on a blanket of prayer. The many people who had assured her they were praying for her truly were praying. She felt God come close. Her heart experienced a peace that was outside of her circumstances.
    St. Ignatius of Loyola advised those in consolation not to become puffed up, lest they decide that this grace is of their own doing. He always taught that the consolation is a gift of grace and not a reward for our goodness. It is helpful, however, for us to write about our consolation so that we can return to our memories when darkness comes. During desolation, the memories of past graces received can lift us and give us hope.
    Perhaps one of the most helpful things to know is that both consolation and desolation in prayer and in life come to every saint, sinner, and pilgrim on the inner journey as a part of God's somewhat mysterious plan. So, if we rest in God's love, perhaps we can have more humility in consolation and courage during desolate times.
  

May 21, 2012

2012 The Summer of Love






Summer time is here. This is the kids last week for school and then we have about 3 months give or take a week of vacation. Each summer I agonize over how to not let my kids spend their downtime in front of the television, video games or computer. This summer as I was making my game plan for "rules" about the screens it became more clear to me that just because I limit what I don't want...doesn't make happen what I do want. As soon as I limit the time, all the kids then feel like they need to use all the time they have to the minute. So even when it might be a day they wont turn the TV or Video Games on, they feel it necessary to get that time in. I am sure there is a psychological reason for this, maybe it's like going on Weight Watchers and knowing you could have a certain amount of points, how many of us have decided...ahh, I just wont use my points today, I want to eat a salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not many. So I think it is the same principle for screen usage.

In the past I have done "reading for your TV time," read a certain amount of pages and you get a certain amount of time to sit mindlessly in front of the TV. But still, is reading a sci-fi novel what I want my kids and I to take away from summer? The reading part is good...but I want more than that for myself and for them.

So after much deliberation, this summer I have dubbed...The Summer of Love, 2012. Rather than limiting the screens being the end goal, we will purposely live this scripture each day. Some days we can work together on our Summer of Love projects, and some days they will be independent. Each weekday we will be purposeful about:

1. Loving the Lord with our heart by serving someone else. This could include doing a chore for a sibling or parent, writing a letter to a family member or friend who could use encouragement, baking treats and delivering them to bring a smile, mowing a lawn, serve at Love and Care....
2. Loving the Lord with our mind...learn something. This could be through reading a non-fiction book, looking up something on the computer, taking up a hobby to learn about each day such as astronomy...
3.  Loving the Lord with our soul...read a bit from the Bible, prayer and quiet time with God.
4.  Loving the Lord with our strength...moving our bodies, walking, going to the gym, lifting weights, playing a sport...

It sounds like a lot, but we can tailor each day to our time and activities.

And then for the drum roll, please.... I am not limiting screen time, once these transforming acts (aka criteria) are met.

We would welcome anyone else who wants to join us in our 2012 Summer of Love, and even work in collaboration, too. We will start, Monday, May 28th.

My plan is to take a cell-phone picture of the different acts of kindness the kids do for others, then print them and paste them to a poster board, so that they can look back and see the amount of service in pictures. Not to pat themselves on the back, but to see that small acts each day do make a difference, and by the end of summer they will have faces to look back on, people to remember in prayer, and days to treasure in their heart (Ok, that last one might be pushing it for them...but I sure will treasure each summer day in my heart).

1 week and counting until the Summer of Love 2012 BEGINS!!!!!!!

May 11, 2012

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I have had thoughts rolling around in my head about this weeks current gay marriage controversy. Obama came out for it publicly, I think the first time since he had been elected President. Then, numerous states voted against civil rights/marriage rights of gay couples. There are SO many reasons I don't like politics and one of them is that it takes something that is so personal to many, and turns it into a cause, a huge ball of mumbo jumbo. Who's for it? Who's against it? Who thinks that they have the right to push their beliefs on others, just because they think they are right?

Homosexuality has so much to do with identity. Scripture says we should find our identity in Christ, but really how many people do that? Your identity might be wrapped up in your car, your home, your happy marriage with 2.5 children. When a political machine starts rolling to swing votes, they are happy to use any personal issue to increase their numbers. The Right will use homosexuality as a fear tactic, vote for Mitch Romney as he believes in keeping the family between a man and a woman. As much as I have enjoyed Focus on the Family, I have heard too many times that the gay and lesbian community is threatening American family's. What? The issue of Same Sex Attraction has been around for centuries, thousands of years. What has changed is it is now being used as a political ploy to frighten people to vote for the conservative candidate or visa versa to vote for the liberal candidate. Focus on the Family can claim Same Sex Attraction is weakening the traditional family, they probably wont lose too many contributors, and they will certainly rally continued support when they talk about this issue. But really, what is weakening the American family? It is divorce and the lack of two parent families. But there are a lot of religious right and Focus on the Family check writers out there that this issue comes a bit too close for comfort. If we can claim homosexuality is the big bad wolf, then all who don't struggle with the issue can stay pious and safe in our own little world.

For me the issue just boils down to respect. I can thump the Bible and what it says ALL day on someone's head, I can quote scripture over and over, I can tell someone that their lifestyle doesn't please God...but where is the blessing for anyone in that? It is no wonder that when non-believers and even church going younger generations associate the church with being anti-homosexual. I personally would rather be known for who I love than who I hate. Or we could say, love the sinner, hate the sin. But as I already noted, Same Sex Attraction is tied in with identity. So the perception is we hate the person, unless they change into what we think they should be. I am not comfortable with that. There is a good chance that the person with SSA has prayed, cried and pleaded to have heterosexual desires. We are asking something that is impossible for them to do in most cases. And so then we say, just live a celibate life, like that is no big thing.

I am also not comfortable being swayed by the media, the book I just read for my Christianity in Culture Class, Tempting Faith by David Kuo, speaks to the fact that Washington insiders thinks that outsiders are idiots. And especially Christians...So when a political player looks at the easiest way to sway a vote and decides they can scream and shout about the pro's and con's of any issue to move the mob they will attempt to do just that.

I definitely think all people are entitled to respect, it shouldn't be an us or them. Why can't we just leave the mob mentality and look at people individually and be in each other's lives. God works that way, He is blessed when we love His creation, whether we agree with them on everything or not. Whether or not gay marriage is legalized, that has not one ioda of a claim on whether God chooses to recognize that marriage. Our Christian argument to not allow Same Sex Marriages is an extension of fear, like we have to protect God. He doesn't need our protection, I think He would much rather we be an extension of His love, and leave the judgement to Him.

And when we are afraid that if we aren't the one to tell the gay person who has walked into our path that their way of life is sinful they might not ever know, we can rest easy and know that the 200 other Christians before us did just that, and we can just be a friend.

Each person has value, each person in the United States has rights, it is what our country was founded on. We couldn't say that if we lived in Iran or Iraq. No equal rights amendments there. But here, we have rights. It is easy to want to make a law that will affect an entire population when you haven't cried with an individual that this is a life affecting choice.

There are not easy answers when you choose to embrace the human condition, our human nature is to want to wrap it all up nice and tidy in a bow. Difficult issues generally do not work that way, and that is OK. God's love has won it all. Those of us who believe that Jesus died for our sins, and is calling us to follow Him, and we have done just that, can rest in that overflow of love that He has for us and share His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. How many of those attributes do we see in our Presidential candidates? Let's be that for those around us.

















May 03, 2012

Being brave makes me cry.





This has been a difficult semester for me outside of school. There are things that happen in life that one can't prepare for, nor would we wish them on our worst enemy, but when bad things happen, we have a choice...make lemonade or turn into a lemon and become bitter. Thanks be to God (and God alone) I haven't chosen the latter, but I am trying for the first time in my life to deal with my emotions.

My nature is to smooth things over, trying my very best to not upset anyone or anything around me, and just put on a smile and walk in a forward direction. I grew into this method of dealing with difficulty from being a child of an alcoholic. Every day was a time bomb, almost every day brought tears, but the next day we would wake up and no one would talk much about the explosion of anger, or the sadness from the day before. My dad was real good at telling us to look at the positive side, no dwelling on the past, look to the future. That certainly served him well, as he was the one that was inflicting the pain. I have allowed fear and habit to paralyze me well into my adult life to a place of avoiding conflict, if I do enter into conflict, I normally start to cry. And because I don't want to cry all the time, I just put on a happy face and run from conflict. This type of behavior does have it's good points, positive people are generally more resilient than negative people. One can look at a glass and decide it is half full, even if there is a slow leak. There are always people around you enduring circumstances of greater pain than your own. When Jack was sick, these were certainly coping mechanisms that I relied heavily on. Someone at church once called me the Jolly Green Christian, always smiling, always positive. I am glad to be happy, I am glad to be positive, and I have thought in my older years that even though I learned these things through dysfunction, they have made me resilient in many ways, and for that I am grateful.

But I think there are times when the rose colored glasses must come off and one must give oneself a serious reality check, and face struggles and pain head on,... knowing that with conflict, healthy conflict, tears will fall. I must be brave enough to cry and let my heart show. I must be brave enough to lament. I must be brave enough to not smile if it means hiding what is broken. I must be brave enough to let truth rise to the surface. I must be brave enough to look deeply into myself and see what hurts.

Bravery is not acting without fear, it is acting in spite of it. I am no great mountain of strength, I have however come to trust that God is. I trust that He has my back, and if I face difficulties and allow myself to feel pain and speak truth, that He will protect me from my invisible fears. These fears are self-inflicted. These invisible fears, have built invisible walls, that I totally convinced myself are real. This is new territory for me. In many ways it feels selfish, but it's not. It definitely hurts, a lot. But God tells us that He brings beauty from the ashes, and I believe Him. I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? It comes from the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He is my Reward. On earth my reward will be learning to stand strong on truth, no matter how hard it is.


April 30, 2012

Walking in Circles, is better than not walking at all.

In the words of Samuel, "Yes, Lord, your servant is waiting." Often times we seem to wait, and wait, and still no answer,..it seems. Scripture tells us that the path that a Christ follower must walk is a narrow path. What is it that makes it narrow? Is it that we must deny ourselves daily and lift up our cross to follow Him? Can we see in the words of Paul -What I want to do I don't do, what I don't want to do,... I do. Is it that we are prideful and want to choose the kind of path we want to walk on, maybe some pretty sights along the way, flowers, a lovely river, it might be somewhat difficult to see this in ourselves as what we see as normal, is really our normal.We want a pretty path, and a road map, and sometimes we get this...what seems like a maze.


The picture above really isn't a maze it is a labyrinth. There aren't any trick turns, there isn't a dead end, but it is kind of windy. When I walked this labyrinth in December I wondered, as I wonder each time I walk a labyrinth, will I ever get to the center? Back and forth, same path as I just walked it seems, just a couple of inches over from the path where my feet just tread. When I do get to the center, I will take a minute or two to pray and then I look up. This is what I saw that day.

Once I have completed the first half of the walk, to the center,  I want to just walk over the lines and be done with it, not walk the windy path again that leads me to the way out. That is the way my Christian walk is. Walking to God, the center, feeling as though I am in the sweet spot of God's embrace, and then it's time to walk again, and it seems that the embrace gets a bit more foggy, the trees get in the way a bit, with each step away from the center. When my life is in crisis, when the rug gets pulled out below me, when all that I thought I knew suddenly comes crashing down I run to that center. The blessing to me of Spiritual Disciplines is that I am close to the center most of the time. Not all of the time though. The disciplines only till the soil, they make the ground ready for God to do his handiwork within me. The frustrating part is when the soul is tilled, the ground watered, and then I wait. When God will You do your work of growing me, I wonder? When will I feel that growth? Sometimes I think it will never happen, and then I see that it is in the patience and trust that has grown in the desert has changed my heart to be more in line with God's desire. I have learned to be gentle with myself, and not to be demanding of God on my good days, and He does bring the growth, but with certainty it is never on my time schedule. It happens in the midst of my angst for Him, in the middle of my love for Him, in the middle of submission to Him. Sometimes when our walk is scary we might feel like we are in the maze, but instead of being able to use our eyes to guide us, we feel as though we are blindfolded. We can't see where we are supposed to be, but God can and does. Sometimes the darkness is of our own making, sometimes we are in the fallout of someone else's darkness. But be sure God is there holding us to Him.
My prayer today for those who are on a confusing path,
Father God. You have put in us the desire to search for You. The desire to seek You. We are seeking, we are desiring, but we are afraid to just be still and trust. Even though this walk is scary, and hard, I will trust when I am afraid, believe when I want to not believe anymore. I choose You, God. Take this weary soul and do with me what You will. I am your servant, and I am listening, I am waiting. You truly are my breathe, in and out. You have saved me from a great enemy, myself, my prideful self who feels they must understand everything, be in control of everything, and have all my ducks in a row. May I walk through tall grass with my bare feet and wander the adventure with You. In Christ's Name, Amen.

April 25, 2012

Why I Am Excited for Summer!!

One more test and several final exams and this school year is in the books for me. I might lose my 4.0 because of my math class, however, I am willing to accept that fact with the sheer excitement and gratefulness that I will NEVER have to take another math class...ever. Other than the dreaded math, my other classes are finishing up superbly. I have learned so much and the farther I get into my degree the more I enjoy my classes. I am looking ahead to our summer and I am pretty excited about it. To start out our summer we will be picking up our newest member of our family, Jovie, on May 5th. Jovie is a form of the word for joy in French, it is also Elf's girlfriend's name in Elf. Now it will be our little puppy's name, too. Here are two pics I took of her last weekend when we went for a visit. She had just turned 4 weeks old.

Couponing...I can start buying a newspaper and scouring the websites for coupons again. I do love it, but during the semester I am just glad to run to the store on my way home from school to pick up groceries for dinner. Not enough time to coupon for me during school.

Taking pictures...I took a sabbatical from my business this spring. Once school started back up in January I knew I was in for a long semester ahead and decided that for the good of my sanity I needed to step back from my business for a season. However, with summer around the corner, I have some shoots on the calendar which I am looking forward to. I really am not sure how much I will shoot once the school year starts up again, probably not at all. I might have moved my business into a summer gig.

Helping Rob with his cleaning business, and helping market a business we will be buying in the next couple of weeks or so. Rob started a cleaning business, M5 Cleaning Services, which has been going well. He likes it, a lot. I like it, a lot. It is pretty cool to be in charge of your own schedule. We are in the process of buying an Air Castle Business, which is already a viable business. We will already have regular clients in the Universities, schools and churches, along with many birthday party goers. However, there is much to do with getting the marketing and advertising where we want it to be, so that will be my real summer job. I will also be the receptionist/office manager for the business, thankfully for cell-phones I can reception from wherever I am. Both businesses are great family businesses, the kids can help out, and learn work ethic and customer service. Good stuff.

Reading for pleasure...yes, please. I have about 5 books stacked up just waiting for me to read about my favorite things like spiritual practices, discernment and love languages for your teenager...good times are ahead.

Swim club, yes, I am ready. So that is my...why I am excited for summer list. Today was 104 degrees...I think that summer is here.

Thankful and grateful.

April 11, 2012

Just life.



4 weeks until school finishes up for me. I think I will have or be close to Senior hours when I start school in the Fall. Yay for that! Time does fly when you are having fun and studying each day. Last weekend was Easter and we had a nice family weekend. The kids have participated in LTC (Leadership Training for Christ) for the past many years on Easter weekend, it didn't work out this year for them to go, so it was nice thinking about the Easter meal before 8:30pm the night before Easter day.

I have for the most part enjoyed my classes this semester. Math has been difficult, I knew it would be, but it's almost over...that's all I have to say about that. I am learning a lot in my Family Studies class and my Christianity in Culture, and the surprising delight of the semester is British Writers, covering from 400AD until the 1700's. So interesting, I have always been enthralled with the royals, but never knew much about them. I am learning about names that I have heard but never knew where they fit..such as Chaucer, Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth, and the old stuff written by monks who came to England to Christianize the Germans way back when. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the readings and writing I have done in British Writers. My Christianity in Culture class has pulled no punches, it has been full of insight and grit each class period. Dr. Jerry Taylor is the professor and I will be forever grateful for all the tough questions that he poses...I am also grateful for the hearts of many of the students who are in the midst of discovering who they are in the middle of culture and who have freely shared their thoughts with the class. Truly insightful.

The kids are all doing well with their days. The boys are enjoying a much needed break from swimming, Sophie is continuing to swim as she chose to do swimming in lieu of her physical education for school, her break wont come until Summer. Jack is working hard on a script that he will perform on Friday at ACU, in a program kind of like UIL, but for their school it is called LIT.

We are missing our little girl, Snickers. Our house is too quiet. We have found a litter of Dachshund's that were born a couple of weeks ago. We plan on visiting them next week and hopefully choosing one to bring home on May 5th, when they can leave their mama. Snickers left a legacy of joy, and although she can't be replaced, we are ready to have another little wagging tail greeting us when we walk in the front door.

Rob started a cleaning service a couple of weeks ago...M5 Cleaning Service. He is cleaning residences, small businesses, and doing professional window washing. He is loving it, being his own boss is a blessing. There is even another possible business in the works but we don't know for sure and I will post that if and when we sign on the dotted line. We are so thankful to God for providing work for Rob and I am thankful for Rob who is working hard to provide for his family. M5 Cleaning Service is on Facebook, so feel free to "like" it to keep up with all of the happenings.

There isn't a meaning to the leaf at the top of the page...I just wanted to put a picture up...this pic is from when Rob and I visited the ruins in Belize last year. The leaf was huge!

April 04, 2012

Mary, the anointer.




"Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him."

Matthew 26:14-16

Today is Holy Wednesday. This day is also known as "Spy Wednesday". This day in history, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus poured expensive perfume on the body of Christ while he was in the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany. The Sanhedrin had already decided to kill Jesus. Judas Iscariot was upset about Mary wasting the money on perfume to pour on Christ, he said the money could have been given to the poor. But we know he wanted the money to line his own pockets. Judas went to the Sanhedrin disgruntled, and for thirty pieces of silver he would help them kill the Christ.

Christ defended Mary's use of the perfume in Matthew 26:10-13

"Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Just like scripture says, here we are about 2000 years later and we are still endeared to the woman who anointed Christ's body for his impending burial. She loved Him so much that she basically humiliated herself in front of onlookers to honor her Jesus. Ah, to have that heart, and not to be afraid, to look to Christ and have his honor be our guide in all we do. Thank you, Mary, for your example.

April 01, 2012

Snickers

Today was a sad day at our house. Our little dog, Snickers, passed away overnight. She brought so much joy to our lives. We have talked a lot today about how quiet it is around our house. She isn't here to notify us of someone walking by our house, or barking at the birds out back. My feet are awful lonely as she isn't snuggled up to them like she normally is when I type on the computer.

She had been a bit lethargic this week, then she got sick several times on Friday night-Saturday morning while we were sleeping. Rob and I woke up to hearing her at about 4am and tended to her, and scrubbed our floors and carpets. We stayed up with her to keep an eye on her, but she seemed content to just sleep. I called the emergency vet on Saturday morning, yesterday. They told us we could bring her in. She still had a wag in her tail, but her energy was really low and could only take about 5 or 6 steps before having to rest. I had hoped she had a virus and it would pass. The blood work came back normal and the vet gave us a bunch of meds for her, we could have left her there for them to watch, but we wanted her home with us. Just where she would want to be I feel sure. We all ached for her while she would walk here and there, and not chasing the birds. But we hoped that we would wake up this morning and the medicines would have made her tummy better and she would be on the mend. She drank some water and Gatorade last night before bed and kept it down, so I was more hopeful than earlier in the day that she was feeling better.

This morning when I woke up I looked through the house to find her and see how she was doing. I couldn't find her in the living room or in the kids room. I hesitantly walked back into my room to look under my computer desk, one of her favorite spots, hesitantly because I knew I hadn't heard her breath when I woke up. I looked under my desk and there she was, just lying on her side like she was about to wake up any minute. But she wasn't about to wake up. She had passed in the night. She was in one of her favorite spots.

As weak and weary as she was she didn't seem as though she was in pain. She just seemed like she wanted to rest. The Dr. said it was probably a mass inside her. She was at home, and we were glad to be all together.

We are all SO SAD with her passing. Words can't express how it feels to know that we wont ever see those eyes that looked at us with such intense love and adoration again. She was such a special part of our family. It is so quiet without her. She had just turned 9 years old.

We love you Snick!












February 10, 2012

The Quiet Has Changed Me.


"When the mind comes into its own stillness and enters the silent land, the sense of separation goes."Martin Laird from Into The Silent Land, A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation.

I started a new book last night, Into the Silent Land.

Have you ever felt that you have been alone and God is not present? I can look back in these times of my life and know that I did all the things that I knew to do to bring back the feeling of connection on my part. The broken connection was just that, it was a feeling, that dwelt within me. But, it wasn't truth. It was a lie. God was always present within me. I just didn't feel it. Feelings are pretty dicey. We can do great things, we can do hurtful things all because of feelings. They don't always tell us the truth, and they can entice us from what is Good and Beautiful, to what feels good but will bring ruin.

Through my readings and practices, what has been so evasive or maybe just not complete, is starting to break through the fog of unknown.

God you have heard me say...
Where are you God? I am reading, serving, singing, running after You. I am so empty because I know you are there, but I can't feel you.

And where was God. He is everywhere, but more personally, He was and is in me. In all the seeking I have done at times of dryness, if I would have just stopped, been jealous for the silence and aloneness to commune with You, God. Thirty minutes a day has transformed me. Me, God, quiet. My breath is what I hear. Nothing miraculous that I can see or feel, but the miracle is what is silent within me and transforming. Devotion to my quiet time with God has lifted me to Him where He is my well-spring. His glory pours forth to my soul.

It is no wonder that so many seek, but feel they cannot find. The life of screens has taken our down time and ushered us into drowning out the voice of God that lives within us. The life of busyness, that we are addicted to, and embarrassed if we do not participate in, is turning many into empty tombs.

Father, forgive me for my busyness. I am thankful that You are so present in my silence. Within me is You. And I need you so badly. I am grateful for Your love.




Winter Snow
But You came like a winter snow, yes, You did
You were quiet, You were soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Ooh no, Your voice wasn't in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
It was still, it was small, it was hidden

Oh, You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Falling, oh yeah, to the earth below
You came falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

February 07, 2012

May I Never Look Away and Forget.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1

I have been in the book of James for weeks now while working through our women's bible study on James, called Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore. James is a special book to me for many reasons. First and foremost it was the book that 20 years ago ushered me into clarity on what a Christian is supposed to do and act like. Many will say that James focus' more on works than faith, but I see works being the overflow of faith. They work together as good friends not as adversaries. Sometimes as Christians we don't want to do the hard thing. Sometimes we know God's word, maybe even we know the words like the lines on our hands. But they are not written on our hearts.

Starting in James 1:19...

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

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There are times within our walk with Christ that we are at a fork in the road, a couple of paths ahead to choose from. One leads to destruction, but might feel good for a while. The other leads to Love. True love from God above. Love that will fill our hearts with the fruit of the Spirit...God's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

I have written on my blog over the last many years of my pursuit of God and Him calling me deeper. And I have written about how I am inspired by the great men and women of faith who have walked the earth with us, or gone on before, those people who are tangible representations of God's love. Those people have helped me see that great faith in God is possible. They would be the first to say that they were nothing special, only broken people who recognized their overwhelming need for God to be in their lives. They were willing to sacrifice pride, possessions, personal glory and time, to name a few, to humble themselves to the path that God would call them to. These people were not special in that they were people born of great faith, they were people who simply responded to God's call and made some difficult sacrifices along the way. As the scripture says above, they allowed perseverance to run its full course in order for it to do it's work and refine them into maturity.

My greatest desire is to allow perseverance to finish it's course in me. I will be giving perseverance reign in me until the day that Jesus calls me home, and it will be that day that I have been made complete in Christ. Until then, I want to not be like the man who forgets his own face in the mirror, I want to be someone who lives the love I have been so mercifully and undeservedly given by the Creator of the Universe, otherwise known as Abba Father.
Thanks be to God for the influences of Christ. May I never look away and forget.