Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Real Deal

Car shopping. Not my favorite pastime, but a necessity since our vehicle is closing in on 150,000 miles, with some major repairs looming. We had numerous options. We hadn’t made a decision beyond the fact that we knew we were interested in a pre-owned vehicle. It was only when we began comparing features that we realized we did have some definite requirements and preferences.

My husband and I had narrowed down our search based on price point, function, and value. Since we had a number of different makes and models we were considering, we set off on our search for the perfect choice for our family.

The first vehicle we drove handled well, but had a fairly spartan interior. As we continued our search, we drove a vehicle we loved, but were unable to get the dealer to negotiate to our price point. A third vehicle was quickly checked off our list when we realized it didn’t have some of the features we knew we wanted.

By now, evening was upon us. The sun had gone down and a cold, wintry wind made it easy to call it quits for the day. The drive home gave us an opportunity to compare notes. We were in agreement about the make and model of vehicle. Now, if we could only find one at our price point. After prayer, additional research, and a few phone calls, we found the vehicle that will replace our well-loved Acura. And wow, what a deal!

As I think about the long list of requirements the new vehicle meets, I can’t help but draw a spiritual comparison. There is a void in each one of us that is aching to be filled. We may think that friendship will fill the void. Maybe a successful career or accumulating wealth will be the answer. Many have tried these things only to come up short. The only thing that will meet our many ‘requirements,’ and fill our void is the person, Jesus Christ.

I love contemplating everything He is in my ever-changing circumstances. On those days when I’m struggling, Psalm 121:5 reminds me that, “The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand” (KJV). He is my shelter during life’s inevitable storms (Psalm 61:3). He consistently offers me grace and mercy. “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful” (Psalm 116:5).

When I am weak, He is my strength. “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2). The Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians assure me of my God’s provision, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

He is my treasure and my portion forever. The Psalmist, David, penned the following words that express this thought, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup” (Psalm 16:5a).
I could never find a closer friend. A friend who will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5b) A friend who willingly laid down His life for me. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). In every situation, He is everything I need and so much more. The real deal. What are you in need of today? Let Jesus Christ meet each one of your needs. He alone is faithful and able!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Light

It was pitch black. The silence was uncanny. How could silence be described as deafening? Yet it was. Almost as if the silence pressed against my ears, and became a roaring noise. Strange, but true. I was hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth in Mammoth Cave.

The features of the cave appeared 'other-worldly.' From stalactites and stalagmites to rivers and lakes, I was amazed by everything that existed in this underground cavern. Our tour guide had brought us to this portion of the cave to demonstrate the utter darkness that would surround us if all the lights were extinguished. Unable to make out my hand in front of my face, I was convinced! When the lights were turned on, the darkness was dispelled. With light once again flooding our path, we finished our exploration of the cave. Although this experience was lived out over thirty years ago, the memory of the temporary darkness in the cave left a lasting impression on me.

This week we had a special Christmas party for the children at our church who participate in the Awana program. It is a tremendous program that evangelizes and disciples children, encouraging them in their walk with Jesus Christ. I was captivated by the Director's message. As he read the account of the Christmas story from Luke 2, he brought up the fact that Jesus is the Light of the world. I was reminded of my 'cave' experience.

Just like the lights dispelled the darkness in Mammoth Cave, Jesus came to this earth to dispel the darkness. He acknowledged, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12, KJV). Unfortunately, not everyone wants to trade his/her darkness for Jesus' light. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). If they could only comprehend the great exchange that would take place upon laying down their darkness for God's marvelous light. Everlasting life spent with the Light of the world could be theirs. In Jesus' words, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).

Although He came as a babe in a manager, He came to be the Light that would point us to the Father. He came to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). What will you do with this gift of salvation He's extending to you? Will you move from darkness to the Light? He's beckoning you. His plans for you are great. "For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jeremiah 29:11).

If you've already accepted this amazing gift of salvation by grace through faith, will you be faithful to share the Light of the world with those who are still in darkness around you? The baby we celebrate this Christmas season, came "To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:77-79). Give the best gift this season! The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ - the Light of the world!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Perfect Gift

The list is long. Each year it's challenging to find the perfect gift for each person. Something unique. Something he or she will enjoy.

Since we're not travelling north for Christmas this year, I had to ship the majority of the gifts. Not wanting to pay a fortune in postage, my gift options were significantly limited. Hmmmm. Gift cards would be the perfect solution. Now I just had to decide from which stores to purchase the gift cards. After much thought, and a strategically placed phone call, I chose gift cards from stores that I knew each recipient would enjoy.

Now I only have a few more gifts to purchase. These are the ones for teachers and friends I'll be seeing before Christmas. But wait, have I forgotten to give the most important gift?

As I've pondered the Christmas story this season, I couldn't help but notice the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11, KJV).

Although this event took place some time after the actual day of Jesus' birth, the wise men were careful to bring gifts for the King of Kings. They were gifts that were valuable to them. Things that were treasured. No doubt, they had sacrificed in order to purchase these gifts. The gift of gold spoke of His life: Jesus was royalty. The heavenly King humbled Himself, and left His throne to dwell among those He came to save. Frankincense spoke of his life. The fragrance of a sinless life. Myrrh spoke of his death. Apparently, these wise men were aware that the scriptures foretold the death of the Messiah for the sins of mankind.

In my haste to complete my Christmas shopping, I was leaving out the most important gift. But what could I give to Jesus? Some verses from the Psalms served to inspire me with 'gift' ideas. These were not 'cheap' gifts. These gifts would involve sacrifice.

Perhaps one of the most challenging gifts to give my Savior is a submissive attitude or spirit. One that readily admits sin, confesses and forsakes it. One that is quick to submit to His will. An attitude that is devoid of pride. The Psalmist David describes it as a 'broken' spirit. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17).

The gift of praise. Instead of complaining, I need to praise the Lord for who He is and all He does. Once again, sacrifice is involved. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, praising doesn't come naturally. "I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O Lord; for it is good" (Psalm 54:6).

Along the same line, I can give the gift of thanksgiving. Both praise and thanksgiving are directed toward God, and can be shared with others. What a mighty God we serve! "And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing" (Psalm 107:22).

This Christmas season, I desire to present my life as a 'gift' to my Savior and King. Sacrificing my desires for His will, praising instead of complaining, and offering up thanks to a magnificent God. He is worthy! What are you willing to give the King of Kings?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Very Special Night

The re-enactment was spectacular. From Roman guards and merchants, to the temple priest and townspeople. We were immediately transported back thousands of years to that very special night, when the birth of a baby would change the world.

The light mist that fell from the sky added to the surreal ambiance created by the flaming torches gleaming high above the 'city' walls. We waited with anxious anticipation to be ushered into the re-created town of Bethlehem. A narrator welcomed us and introduced herself as the innkeeper's daughter. She told us not to count on staying overnight in Bethlehem. All of the inns were full, in fact, earlier that evening, her father had had to turn away a couple because there were no more rooms. The young woman was clearly expecting, so her father had offered them the stable out back for shelter.

Off in the distance, I could make out the forms of Roman soldiers marching in formation declaring their allegiance to Caesar Augustus - the Roman ruler of the day. Once they were before us, their captain dismounted from his horse, climbed atop the city gate, and issued Caesar's decree: all the world was to be taxed. We were to register when we entered the city and pay our taxes as required. The guards took their roles seriously and with stern expressions, urged us to, "Move along!" They were not to be trifled with.

After registering, we continued into the 'city,' where we were amazed by the sights and sounds that overwhelmed our senses. Townspeople dressed in traditional garb, stirred large kettles of food that were suspended over open fires. Numerous stalls were erected, from which the Bethlehem merchants were selling their wares. The sounds of eastern music filled our ears. A selection of some of the foods of the day were on display and available to sample.

The shofar sounded, summoning the town's Jewish residents to the synagogue. The priest gave an explanation of the service and taught us a few sentences in Hebrew. He invited us to pick up a 'scroll' on the way out. As we carefully unrolled our scrolls, the words of Psalm 33:20-22 were visible, "Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee" (KJV).

As we descended the temple steps, townspeople with llamas and camels bustled by. The ever-present, Roman soldiers, hurried us on our way. Brick-masons, leather workers, and spice sellers were all busy about their tasks. We entered the heart of Bethlehem.

Another narrator told us the story of the anointing of the shepherd-boy, David, who eventually became the king of Israel. Ultimately, the Messiah would come from this Davidic line. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet had foretold, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6-7).

After a tour of one of the local resident's home, we passed the inn. The innkeeper and his wife, although gracious, confirmed that their inn was full. As we continued on around back, we were met by quite a sight! Angels, robed in white, lit the sky while Mary and Joseph cradled baby Jesus, giving praise to the Father.

Each member of the cast who performed that night, had one goal in mind. To point all who passed through the gates of the recreated city of Bethlehem, to the reason for the season. Jesus Christ. As the angels proclaimed all those years ago, "...unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).

As you fill out your Christmas cards, purchase those final few gifts, and spend time with friends and family, will you take time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas? Jesus Christ, the Savior, was born for you! That's definitely something worth celebrating!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Willing Surrender

Pregnancy. The anticipation of motherhood. In our culture, pregnancy outside of marriage doesn't carry the same impact it did centuries ago. Travel back in time to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, where a young lady named Mary was preparing for her marriage to Joseph.

Mary had been taught the importance of purity. The law which had been given to Moses by God was clear, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). The consequences were severe: death by stoning. She had willingly remained a virgin.

How startled she was when the visitor arrived! Like no other visitor her parents had entertained, this visitor was none other than Gabriel, the angel of God. In her astonishment, she heard him speak, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28, KJV). She was frightened. She didn't understand. She was highly favoured? She was blessed? Before she could formulate a single word, the angel continued, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:30b-33).

Unbelievable! She had been chosen to be the very mother of the Messiah! It still didn't make sense to her. She wasn't yet married to Joseph. She verbalized the question that had been troubling her, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 2:34b). The angel's reply shared God's brilliant plan, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:35-37).

She was a young lady engaged to be married. Her plans were turned upside down. How would Joseph respond to the news that she was expecting? Would he believe that an angel had appeared to her? Would he believe that she was of child by the Holy Ghost?

Instead of selfishly holding on tightly to her plans, Mary sacrificed them to the Lord. Her response stands out as one of willing surrender to the will of God: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1: 38a).

No indication is given that Mary bemoaned her circumstances. She had every reason to be terrified of being stoned. If Joseph didn't believe her, she would face a death sentence. Surely she would be ostracized and looked down upon. Everyone knew she wasn't married yet. Imagine the scornful glances cast Mary's way as she went about her daily chores. The rumors that circulated about her.

Oh, to adopt Mary's spirit! A spirit of unreserved surrender to the will of our Master. Even when it involves hardship and ridicule. Even when the rumors are flying. Christmas is the perfect time to reflect on God's amazing love for us. After all, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

God gave us the ultimate 'gift' of His Son that very first Christmas. Living for Him is a small 'gift' we can give in return. Will you surrender to His plans for you?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shining Brightly

Nothing. I plugged my Christmas tree lights in, anticipating the beautiful sparkle and glow, but was greeted with - nothing. Time to try a different outlet. Still nothing. Maybe I had plugged too many strands of lights together and it had overloaded the circuit. These were not commercial Christmas lights, so what was the rule? Was I only supposed to connect two strands? Or was it three? I think I had connected about five...most likely what was causing the problem.

An extension cord, a new fuse, and half an hour later, our tree was once again shining brightly. Ornaments once again catching the ethereal rays of hundreds of small lights. Lights bright enough to dispel the room's darkness. Lights that made me think of the unusually bright star that had appeared in the east, and been a guide to the wise men who were seeking baby Jesus.

I allowed myself to be transported back in time some two thousand years ago. I imagined myself as a wise man arriving in the bustling city of Jerusalem...

How exciting that my fellow travelers and I would actually be allowed an audience with King Herod! We inquired of him, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2; KJV). Unbeknownst to us, King Herod didn't share our enthusiasm for this new king. He was greatly troubled and quickly gathered together the chief priests and scribes, demanding to know when Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:3). "In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel" came their reply (Matthew 2:5-6).

King Herod appeared fully composed when he called us back into his presence. He seemed extremely interested in knowing when the star had appeared that had led us thus far. He sent us to Bethlehem with the words, "Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also" (Matthew 2:8). Our journey was once again under way.

At dusk, we peered up into the evening sky. What we saw nearly took our breath away. The star. We had seen it in the east, and now it went before us, "till it came and stood over where the young child was" (Matthew 2:9). When we saw the star, we rejoiced with great joy (Matthew 2:10)! But the star was not the object of our worship, it had merely been used of God to lead us to the Christ-child. What a time of worship followed! We presented Jesus with our gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

God warned us in a dream that we were not to go back and tell King Herod that we had found Jesus. We returned to our country by a different route (Matthew 2:12).

As I continued to gaze at our Christmas tree, I realized the similarity between the Christmas lights and my life as a Christian. Just like that star of old pointed the wise men to Christ, and the lights on my tree illuminate the darkness, I'm meant to 'shine' and point others to Jesus.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus speaks bluntly to believers, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Will I take the opportunities placed before me to point others to Christ this Christmas season? Will I embrace Christ's mandate to 'shine' for Him wherever I go? The cry of my heart is echoed in Paul's epistle to the Philippians, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life;" (Philippians 2:15-16a).

Will you decide to let your light shine? Hold the 'word of life' out to someone this Christmas season!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Time: A Special Gift

The Christmas season is upon us. A time of giving. A time to reflect upon the greatest gift ever given to mankind: Jesus Christ. The God-man whose life is the perfect example. The One who reminds us that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35b; KJV).

This weekend, as I contemplated the perfect gift for each family member, a student from our Sunday School class allowed me to see that sometimes the best 'gifts' aren't the ones festively wrapped and tied with a bow. Sometimes the best gift we can give someone is - time.

Our daughter, Riley and her friend Kristin ( had begun an afternoon Bible Study with one of our Sunday School class members. Because she lives quite a distance from us, we came up with a plan. With her parent's permission, she could come over to our house following church, have lunch, participate in the Bible study and any other activities we'd planned, then return to church with us for the evening service. Following church, we'd drive her home.

After only a couple of weeks, the three girls had developed quite a bond. Because Riley is an only child, she and our Sunday School student unofficially 'adopted' each other as sisters.

With our evening service being re-scheduled for an hour later, we thought this would be the last week that we would be able to spend the afternoon with her. With a later dismissal time, we were reluctant to still have to drop our student off before making the long drive home.

After lunch, my husband, Steve, and Riley took our guest to the mall. With Riley leaving for college next fall, a laptop computer ranks high on her Christmas wish-list. A visit to the Apple Store would be fun. A trip to Starbucks for some delicious, hot coffee drinks rounded out their afternoon. When they got home, it was clear that big fun was had by all.

The highlight of the day, came when the evening service ended with a time of family prayer and we were privileged to include our Sunday School student in our "family." Although we're not her parents, I was struck by the opportunity that the Lord has given us as her Sunday School teachers and role models. And how the Lord has allowed Riley and Kristin to further encourage her through a time of Bible study. What an awesome responsibility to be "an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12b).

When Riley and I dropped her off at her house later that evening, her gratitude was evident from her cheerful, "Thank you for everything!" Already I was regretting that this was our last Sunday to spend extra time with her. But wait, did it have to be? Her parents had given her permission to stay out an hour later, and as I glanced at the clock, it was only 8:35 p.m. We would arrive at home around 9:15 and still have time to grab a bite to eat, and get ready for Monday's events. Maybe, just maybe...

As Steve and I discussed it later, we agreed that we would make this adjustment to our schedule and be willing to continue to drive our student home following the later service, because it was definitely worth it. Without realizing it, she had given us a special 'gift.' Her grateful attitude reminded us that tangible gifts aren't necessarily the only things we can give. Oftentimes giving the gift of 'time' is much more special.

In addition to those beautiful gifts you wrap and give to your loved ones, be sure you give the gift of 'time' this Christmas season! You'll be so glad you did!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Real Courtney

We knew she was the right one. She was named Courtney. Beautiful green eyes. Long, powdery-gray, silky fur. A two-year old feline, with "Adopt me!" written all over her adorable face. What were we waiting for? Lots of paper work and three days later, we carried our newest family member out of the pet store.

In addition to my husband, daughter and me, our family also included a very handsome Maine Coon, named Nathaniel. His birthday was fast approaching and we thought it would be nice to give him a present. Little did we know that giving him a playmate would not rank very highly on his gift list. We had our first indication of trouble when we set Courtney's carrier on the living room floor, opened it and invited Nathaniel to come over and greet his sister. Courtney exploded out of the box with claws at the ready. Nathaniel's low growls let us know that he disapproved of his 'present,' and we quickly whisked Courtney off to another part of the house.

After a rocky start, our two cats eventually got to the point of tolerating each other, and over the years even seemed to develop a genuine affection for each other, despite different personalities. We had always referred to Nathaniel as our 'lap' cat. Anytime we would sit down, he was right there ready to hop up and join us. He was really more like a dog than a cat. He'd come when you called him, and he thoroughly enjoyed being around people. Courtney, on the other hand, displayed more of the typical feline tendencies. She was much more aloof and tended to hide when people would visit. She decided if and when you were allowed to pet her, and would nip your hand to let you know your attention was no longer appreciated.

This past May, after eighteen and a half wonderful years, our Nathaniel died. Through our sadness, we all wondered how Courtney would respond. We were amazed. Our once aloof Courtney, now leaps up onto the couch to sit on our laps while we watch TV. She loves being petted and even enjoys being brushed. And talk about social! What a transformation! Perhaps she stayed in the background because Nathaniel was the dominant male and had been in our household for many years prior to her arrival. Whatever the reason, although we miss Nathaniel, it's been a treat getting to know the 'real' Courtney.

The same principle is often true with people. How often do I have a preconceived idea about someone, only to get to know him/her, and find out I was entirely wrong? Maybe the girl I labeled a 'nerd' in high school would have become a lifelong friend had I made the effort to get to know her. My perceptions may be far from reality. Even well-established relationships can suffer when I start to second-guess people's intentions. How important it is to refrain from judging others.

In the book of Matthew, Christ couldn't have been clearer, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (7:1-2; KJV). Tough words. But oh, the wisdom when we put them into practice!

We can avoid judging others by acting on Paul's words to the Philippians, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself," (Phil. 2:3-8a).

Am I willing to humble myself, admit that I may have been wrong in my perception of someone else, and take the necessary steps to esteem that person more highly than myself? If so, I'm following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I'll be able to love others through Him. That's my desire today! Will you follow His example?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lessons Learned from the 'Dawgs,' Georgia Bulldogs, That Is!

The second quarter ended with a Bulldog lead. The score favored Georgia with a 20 to 6 lead over the Kentucky Wildcats. The fans were enthusiastic as the marching band, color guard and majorettes took the field. After 'wowing' the crowd with amazing talent and choreography, the performers exited, and the players once again took the field.

Within minutes of beginning the third quarter, Kentucky scored a touchdown to bring their score up to 13 points. Not to be outperformed, Georgia answered back with a touchdown for the Bulldogs. The score was now 27-13. But not for long. The Wildcats scratched and clawed their way to the end zone for another 7 points.

As the fourth quarter play began, fans from both teams were going ballistic. As we stood among the Bulldog fans, we thought our eyes were deceiving us. Could it possibly be that Kentucky had just scored another touchdown? The truth was revealed on the scoreboard, which now read: 27-27. How was it possible? The Bulldogs had held a handy lead throughout the first three quarters.

Chants of, "Go, Georgia Bulldogs!" echoed throughout the stadium. Midway through the quarter, an amazing play by the Wildcats catapulted them into the lead. The scoreboard flashed the score, 34-27, for all the fans to see. Everyone was on their feet, as the Bulldogs reclaimed the ball one yard from Kentucky's goal. A poorly-timed fumble sealed the fate of the Dawgs who ended up bowing to the Cats with a 34-27 loss.

Despite the games' outcome, it was exciting to actually be a spectator at Sanford Stadium. Thousands of fans focusing their attention on a handful of players with one goal - to win the game. As I thought about the game over the next few days, I noted a couple similarities between the game and our lives.

In this 'game' of life, there are others who are watching us. How will we respond when we get overlooked for that promotion? Will we spew harsh words when someone is rude to us? How do we treat our neighbors? Are we a good example? Will we 'fumble' when the pressure is on? I think about Paul's reminder in Hebrews 12:1, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (KJV). Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). As life's players, are we focused on Him and the goals He has for us?

At the end of the third quarter I would have assured you of a Bulldog win. After all, they held a healthy lead over the Wildcats until the fourth quarter. Beginning well isn't the only thing that's important. Perhaps ending well is even more important. The same is true in life. We can begin well as a follower of Jesus Christ, but end our life having shifted our focus to self. In Paul's first epistle to Timothy, he charged him to, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12).

As I entered Sanford Stadium a week and a half ago, little did I know that I'd be learning lessons from the Bulldogs! I am much more aware that others take notice of my actions, and I desire to live my life in such a way that I end well. My prayer is to be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). What do others see in you? Will you determine to finish well?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Every Day Thanksgiving

Blessings galore. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful. The delicious food tantalized our taste buds. We gathered with family members to create yet another precious memory. A portrait of Thanksgiving.

In retrospect, I can wholeheartedly echo the words of the Psalmist, David, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations" (Psalm 100: 1-5; KJV).

I'm so grateful that years ago, our nation's leaders elected to set aside a day to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy on a daily basis. On Thanksgiving, I tend to reflect on all the many ways the Lord has blessed me and my family throughout the year. I realize that the things I so often take for granted, like health, a job, freedom to worship, salvation, the opportunity to send our daughter to a Christian school, to name but a few, are all extraordinary blessings from the Lord.

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. For many, just another day. Why restrict our giving of thanks to just one day a year? Our God blesses us daily and is truly worthy of all of our praise. Take note of His activity in your life, each and every day and you'll be able to say, "For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand" (Psalm 95:3,6-7a). How has He blessed you today?!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Closet Cleaning

The month of November is quickly passing. Next week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. This year, our family, my in-laws and two of my husbands’ sisters and their families, will be getting together in Georgia for the traditional turkey with all the trimmings. An excellent time to give thanks.

Preparations for our family’s anticipated arrival can be a bit daunting. Because they haven’t visited in some time, we like to get the house and yard looking their best. Our ‘To-Do’ list reads something like this:

*clean out and organize the garage
*pressure wash the porch and deck
*finish planting the succulent garden
*complete repairs to the waterfall
*clean the screen room
*organize the closets
*clean the refrigerator and pantry
*touch up the scuff marks on the walls

And of course the normal cleaning, laundry and food preparation has to fit in there somewhere too! Can anyone relate? With only two days until our company arrives, I’m doubtful that all the items on our list will be checked off. The more important things have made it to the top of the list.

As I sorted through the coat closet, weeding out summer jackets and flip-flops, I got to thinking about the ‘closets’ in my life. I have a special ‘guest’ who occupies my heart – the Lord Jesus Christ. Am I diligent to keep my heart’s closets clean? Or are there those closets that I post a “Do Not Enter” sign upon?

Some of the closets may look like they’re neat and orderly. Just don’t look too closely or you may see the layer of dust. There’s the closet of ‘Good Intentions.’ All of those things I plan on doing one day. Going to visit the elderly shut-ins. Taking that counseling course. Writing that devotional series. I know they are things God wants me to do, yet I allow distractions to keep me from opening this closet door and getting busy.

Too often the “Do Not Enter” sign hangs above the closet that, should it be opened, would empty its contents onto the floor in an unorganized heap. Areas in my life that I need to yield to the Master. Things that I may not even realize I’m holding onto: anger, bitterness, envy, criticism, pride.

How appropriate to say with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24; KJV). If we are still and listen closely, He will be faithful to reveal those things that are not pleasing to Him. After all, “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psalm 139:1-6).

God is intimately acquainted with all of our ways, and loves us in spite of them! That is truly a reason to rejoice. He loves us enough to patiently point out those ‘closets’ in our lives that need to be opened and cleaned out.

Is there a ‘closet’ in your life that needs to be opened? Your Heavenly Father already knows what’s in there. Allow Him to help you begin the cleaning process today!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Stunning Performance

Beautiful. Majestic. Powerful. Magnificent. Words used to describe the horse. Graceful and still one moment. Wild and full of motion the next. I’ve always been intrigued by horses and gained a new appreciation for this incredible animal this past weekend. We were privileged to attend a performance of Cavalia on Saturday.

Our program guide gave us a glimpse of how this amazing show came into being: “About 10 years ago, Normand Latourelle was working on a production in Quebec, and noticed the spectators’ fascination for horses. This is when the idea of creating a show in which horses could express themselves on stage in all their beauty, their nobleness, their agility and their power, was born.”

The interplay between trainer and horses, acrobats and trick riders, musicians and vocalist, left me with just one word to describe the show: Spectacular. One of my favorite acts involved the horse trainer and seven or eight Arabians together on the stage. Although she was definitely outnumbered, the trainer was certainly in control of the entire performance. I was truly impressed by the talented trainer and knew she was deserving of the applause that filled the arena.

It was fascinating to read about this breed of horse, “Renowned for his high intelligence, the Arabian is the oldest breed of saddle horse…It is difficult to win the Arabian’s trust, but once you have done so, he will do anything to please.” Obviously, the trainer had poured countless hours into getting to know and train these horses, and they had learned that she could be trusted and were willing to obey her every command. As they moved together, prancing this way and that, their fluid motion emphasized the fact that they were performing in harmony. What a beautiful picture!

As I thought back on the inspiring evening, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel. We have a Heavenly ‘Trainer’ who loves each one of us and is interested in gaining our trust so that we will obey His commands. Commands that will protect us and allow us to live productive lives. When each one of us obeys our Trainer, we find ourselves moving together in unity. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (KJV)!

Where there is unity, the spotlight is taken off of the individual and placed on the Trainer. After all, unity is a pretty miraculous accomplishment. Only the Spirit of God could be responsible for a selfless attitude. Only He can produce an attitude like the one reflected in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

When we choose to submit to our Trainer, others take notice. We operate as the ‘body’ God created us to be: unified, without division. Are you willing to set aside ‘self’ in order to work with the ‘body’ to point others to our magnificent Trainer? Together, our stunning performance will cause others to look beyond us to the One who is truly worthy of all of our praise – the Lord Jesus Christ. Let this be your prayer today!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Who Says You Can't Have Your Cake & Eat It Too?!

What an amazing day! Birthdays are always special, but this year was extra special! Yesterday I awoke to a cloudless sky and the promise of sunshine. Following a few wet, chilly days, the warmth of the sunshine was a gift in itself! During my morning devotion, the verse that nearly jumped off the page of my Bible, became the cry of my heart, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Psalm 73:25, KJV). My phone began ringing early with sweet birthday wishes from even sweeter friends and family members. Although my husband was out of town, I was looking forward to a quiet dinner with my daughter, Riley at an Italian restaurant.

After checking the news, my blog comments, and e-mail, I completed a few revisions on a Christmas article I was submitting to a local publication and pressed the 'send' button on my computer. Now I would just have to wait for a response. Did I mention that I'm not very patient? I think I check my e-mail at least a zillion times a day for potential news on articles I've submitted. Will my article be accepted or will I need to go back to the proverbial drawing board - or, writing board in this case?! Nothing to do but wait.

I headed out the door to my favorite Talbot's outlet. My 'Thrill of the Hunt' coupon would give me an additional ten percent off the already-drastically-reduced inventory. I love a good bargain! After a successful shopping experience, I headed over to pick up Riley from school. Once home, I logged into my e-mail account just in case there was any 'news.' Ugh! Nothing! I picked up the phone. I knew the publisher was wrapping up the December issue by the end of the week, so I just had to make sure the e-mail with my attached article had made it to its intended destination.

Just as I had feared, the publisher was unable to open my attached document until a few minutes prior to my call. Unfortunately, she relayed that my article was much too long to fit in the space that they had remaining in their publication. She felt the article would lose its message if it were edited further. I was disappointed, already beginning to think through other magazines that might accept my article for December publication...Wait a minute. Did I hear what I thought I heard? She wanted to post my article, as written, on their publication's web-site for inclusion in the Community News section! A happy dance was in order!

As I sat with both my husband, Steve, who had made it home earlier then anticipated (another great gift!), and Riley, I couldn't stop smiling. The Lord had certainly blessed me beyond measure! I was reminded of James' words, penned so long ago, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). Words that are just as true today. We serve a good God!

As we split a piece of rich, chocolate cake and sipped our hot coffee, I realized that on this particular day, my Heavenly Father had allowed me to 'have my cake, and eat it too!' Isn't God good? Praise His name, today!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Doubting Castle

Thoughts raced through my mind. I felt like I was being punished. Why had the Lord allowed me to get in an accident? At first, I thought if only the physical pain would subside, I'd be fine. But long after my back healed from the soft tissue damage I'd experienced, I was plagued by anxiety. Irrational fears haunted my days and I was unable to sleep at night. What was happening to me? Never before had I encountered such a fierce mental struggle.

Unwittingly, I had uncovered a stronghold in my thought process. If something bad happened, it meant that God didn't love me. In her book entitled, Praying God's Word, Beth Moore defines a stronghold as, "Anything that exalts itself in our minds, 'pretending' to be bigger or more powerful than our God. It steals much of our focus and causes us to feel overpowered. Controlled. Mastered" (p. 3). That's exactly where I found myself. I began questioning God's love for me and unintentionally gave the enemy a foothold in my life. Peter gives us an excellent description of our enemy, in addition to some good advice, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

Several years earlier, I had read the words penned by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds); Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (KJV; emphasis mine). According to these verses, the battle takes place in our minds. The most effective way to influence our actions is to influence our thinking. Our enemy knows this and daily bombards us with lies, hoping that we won't be able to distinguish a lie from the truth.

Throughout my struggle, God's word assured me that I was not alone. He walked beside me each step of the way, no matter how I felt. The Lord even provided armor for me that would protect me from my enemy. I didn't have to develop a strategy or plot a sneak attack, God's word promised me that all I had to do was stand: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). If I would wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God and lift up the shield of faith which is "able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked," the Lord promised to help me overcome (Ephesians 6:16).

Doctors and counselors played a role in my healing process. Ultimately, it was the word of God that restored my hope and joy. Once I was able to identify my stronghold, feeling unloved, and recognize the lie I was believing, God allowed something bad to happen to me therefore He doesn't love me, I was able to replace the lie with God's truth. I'm assured of God's love for me in the book of Romans, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (5:8). When I chose to believe that God truly loved me and began living like the person of value He created me to be, the chains that imprisoned me were loosed and I could walk away from my stronghold.

I can fully relate to Paul Bunyan's character, Christian, in his timeless classic, Pilgrim's Progress, "What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That is good news; good brother, pluck it out of thy bosom, and try. Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the dungeon-door, whose bolt, as he turned the key, gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out."

Once we're set free from a stronghold, we have a choice to make: do we walk in the truth, or when difficulty strikes do we revert back to the lie? In Galatians 5:1 we're encouraged to, "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." God's plan for us is to live in the liberty of Christ. Secure in His love and trusting that those things He allows to come into our lives are ultimately for our good and His glory.

Are you wrestling with a stronghold? Replace any lies you've believed with the truth of God's word. Use your newly found 'key' of truth to open the gates of 'Doubting Castle.' Take a step of faith and return to the Master's path for your life! You'll be glad you did!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Actively Involved

It’s raining leaves today. There is no question as to why it’s called ‘fall.’ The crisp crunch of the leaves that carpet the path from my back door to the doghouses calls me to focus my attention on the beauty of God’s creation. The changing of the seasons gives me special reason to pause and reflect on the majesty of my Creator. Each new season points to a creative God who gives us glimpses of His glory in ways that beckon us to get to know Him better.

The very first verse of the Bible assures us that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1; KJV). The power of the spoken word of God! In just six days, all the things that make up the universe as we know it were created by our amazing God. As I was thinking about the numerous types of plants, trees, fish, birds, insects and animals that He merely spoke into existence, I was reminded that it was different when he created man and woman.

Before God created man, we’re given a glimpse of what He thought about what He had created up to this point, “…God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25). But man alone was created in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). Instead of merely speaking him into existence, Genesis 2:7 shows us God’s active involvement in man’s creation: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Our purpose is much different than that of any other creature God created. We were ‘formed’ in order to enjoy fellowship with our Creator, bringing Him honor and glory as we follow Him in obedience. It’s astounding to think that the God of the universe would desire a relationship with us. What a loving Father! And He is able to use His creation to continually point us back to Him.

In Psalm 19, David was quick to share how the very creation of God reveals His greatness, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (1-3). When I think of the glorious sunsets God paints with just a stroke of His brush, or the complexity and perfection of each snowflake He’s created, I wholeheartedly agree with the Psalmist.

What have you noticed recently in God’s creation that reveals His greatness? I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t allow the busyness of life to keep you from noticing the handiwork of your Heavenly Father! Praise Him for His goodness today!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Straight Ahead

I remember seeing them quite often on horses. Especially on horses that were in busy places. They are nothing more than a pair of leather flaps that attach to the horse’s bridle. Blinders. Although they are tiny in relation to the size of the horse, they serve a very important function. Blinders help the horse focus on what is in front of it, eliminating things in the horse’s peripheral vision that might cause it to become distracted.

Growing up in Michigan, I had the opportunity to travel to Mackinaw Island on several occasions. If you’re familiar with this beautiful destination, you’re well aware that horses and bicycles are the only accepted methods of transportation on the island. For me, it not only made it memorable, but also lots of fun! Remembering the exhilaration of biking around the island with its gorgeous scenery has me wanting to book my family’s summer vacation. All along the route, horse-drawn carriages would go by with their friendly passengers waving a greeting. You guessed it! All of the horses were wearing blinders.

At first, it may seem unnecessary and maybe even a bit cruel for a horse to wear blinders. But the more I got to thinking about it, those who put blinders on their horses were doing it ultimately to protect the animals. If the horse is only able to see the path straight ahead, it won’t wander from the path into possible danger. Wow! The same is true for me. God’s word provides spiritual ‘blinders,’ or instructions that will help me stay on the path He’s prepared for me, preventing me from being distracted by things that are potentially harmful.

King Solomon gives us good advice in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (KJV). It’s important to guard our hearts. The things that we look at, and the things that we hear have a tremendous influence on what we say and do. We can’t live our lives with our eyes closed and our ears plugged. So just how do we put on spiritual ‘blinders?’

We can establish some boundaries and borders in our lives that reflect the principles of God’s word. Carefully thinking through what we’ll allow ourselves to see, hear, and do. Determining how we’ll react in challenging situations. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David penned scripture that can help us. He prayed for God’s help to walk in such a way, that he’d be blameless. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me” (Psalm 101:3-6).

We have a choice to make. What will we allow ourselves to look at? What will we listen to? What will we act on? David decided to avoid looking at wicked things. He removed himself from those who gossiped. He chose to hang around with those who were godly and even hired them as his servants. If we set up godly boundaries in these areas of our lives, we’ll have a much better chance of staying on the path and avoiding those situations that will cause us to be distracted. We’ll have a godly legacy to leave our children.

Begin establishing godly borders today, knowing that His plan for you is success: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57).

Can you think of a time when your spiritual 'blinders' helped you stay on the right path? I’d love to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Rewards of Friendship

They encourage us. They laugh with us. They cry with us. They are patient with us. They overlook our faults, yet speak the truth when we need to hear it the most. Friends. My American Heritage Dictionary defines 'friend' as, "A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts; a person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; comrade; one who supports..."
I think about one of the amazing stories of friendship in the Bible, that of Ruth and Naomi. Yes, they were also daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, but their relationship was truly amazing.

Naomi and her family had travelled to the land of Moab due to a famine in their city of Bethlehemjudah. While in the country of Moab, Naomi's sons met and married women from that land. In the course of just a few Bible verses in the book of Ruth, we're told that Naomi's husband and both of her sons die. Talk about overwhelming grief and tragedy!

Naomi decides to go back to her hometown and gives her blessing for both of her daughter-in-laws to remain in their country with their people. One of the women decides to remain, while Ruth makes the shocking decision to go with her mother-in-law. Look at her strong devotion spelled out in Ruth 1:16, "And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God" (KJV). At a time when there was almost nothing worse than being a widow, Ruth chose her friendship with Naomi over the opportunity to stay in her country and remarry.

Back in Bethlehemjudah, things were anything but easy. Ruth proved herself more than a shallow friend. She was willing to glean in the fields in order to provide food for Naomi and herself. She was careful to listen to the advice of her mother-in-law and act on it. I'm sure Ruth was both an encouragement and a blessing in the life of Naomi.

This true story has a fairy-tale ending. Ruth ends up catching the eye of the most eligible bachelor in the city, Boaz. It just so happens that Boaz is also a near kinsman, meaning he has the opportunity to 'redeem,' or marry Ruth. You guessed it! They end up getting married and we're let in on a pretty exciting detail - Boaz and Ruth's son, Obed, ends up being the grandfather of David, the future King of Israel (Ruth 4:22)! God certainly blessed the faithfulness of Ruth's choice to be a good friend to Naomi!

Fast forward to the present. Friendships are just as important, although they may look a little different. Because of the internet, we can establish friendships with those who may be miles, even continents away. Today, I'd like to take the opportunity to honor several of my blogger friends who have been an encouragement to me. Special thanks go to Theresa at Unstoppable Spirit for giving me the Loyal Award!

I am both honored and humbled that so many of you stop by and read my posts on a regular basis. I'd like to pass this award along to the following friends:

I was further overwhelmed with the, Inspirational Blog Award, from Ellie Kings! Ellie, I'd like to give you an award for talking me through the process of posting these awards to my site!! I think you should write a booklet entitled, "Award Posting for Dummies!" Thanks again.

I would like to pass this award along to the following friends:

Thanks again to all of you who stop by. My prayer is to point you to the "friend that sticketh closer than a brother," the Lord Jesus Christ (Proverbs 18:24)! God bless you!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Living Room Intimacy

It's just a few weeks away. Thanksgiving. A time to reflect on a year's worth of blessings. A time to get together with family and friends. A time to enjoy a delicious feast. Perhaps more than all of these things, Thanksgiving provides us with a time to meditate on God and praise Him for who He is.

If I'm honest with myself, I'm usually quick to thank God for the things He has given me, but I don't spend as much time just thanking Him for who He is. This morning I was reminded of a Bible verse that a dear friend of mine put to music, Isaiah 43:10, "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me" (KJV). Can I ever really grasp the fact that the very God of the universe created me to have a personal relationship with Him? This verse in Isaiah plainly spells out the fact that He has chosen me (and you) for the express purpose of knowing and believing Him. Truly mind-boggling.

Think about those individuals you would say you know pretty well. I'm sure we could all agree that in order to really 'know' someone, we have to spend time with them. God desires that we spend time with Him, so we can get to know Him. In his book entitled, My Heart: Christ's Home, Robert B. Munger does a fantastic job verbalizing the process of getting to know the Lord. After accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior, Munger invites Christ to take a journey through the 'rooms' of his heart. He says with sincerity, "Lord, I want this heart of mine to be Yours. I want to have You settle down here and be perfectly at home. Everything that I have belongs to You. Let me show you around."

As they make their way through the various 'rooms,' the Lord identifies the living room as comfortable and intimate. He says, "This is a delightful room. Let us come here often. It is secluded and quiet, and we can fellowship together." Munger goes on to express his excitement, "I couldn't think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes with Christ in close companionship. He promised, 'I will be here early every morning. Meet Me here, and we will start the day together.'

As His walk with Christ continues, Munger meets daily with Him and enjoys drawing close to His Master. Over time, however, a busy schedule begins crowding out these daily meetings, until one day, Munger passes the living room and realizes that Christ is still waiting for him. He muses, "He is my guest. I invited Him into my heart! He has come as my Savior and Friend, and yet I am neglecting Him." The reality check has been performed, there is nothing left to do but repent. Munger shares an important discovery: "The truth that Christ desires my companionship, that He wants me to be with Him and waits for me, has done more to transform my quiet time with God than any other single fact. Don't let Christ wait alone in the living room of your heart, but every day find time when , with your Bible and in prayer, you may be together with Him."

It is so important for us to focus on the right thing. Not praising Him exclusively for what He has done for us, but magnifying Him because of who He is. The Bible overflows with the names of our Savior. He is Elohim, mighty Creator. He is Jehovah Jireh, my provider. He is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. He is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our peace. And these are just a few of the names by which He is known!

The Bible also gives us beautiful word pictures that give us an accurate portrait of who God is. Psalm 3:3 describes Him, "But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head." In Exodus 2:15a, the Lord used Moses to pen a different description for us, "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation." Have you ever thought of God as your 'portion?' The writer of Lamentations did: "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him" (Lam. 3:24). Perhaps Psalm 18:2 spells out the most characteristics of our God in one verse: "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." Wow! Did you catch each one of those descriptions of our mighty God? He's our rock, fortress, deliverer, strength, buckler, horn and high tower!

He desires to be all these things and more to each one of us. During this Thanksgiving month, spend time with the Lord in the 'living room' of your heart and be careful to praise Him for who He is!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Worn Path

The fall colors are glorious this year. Because of an unusually early frost, the leaves have begun showing off their brilliant shades of crimson, yellow, and orange a bit sooner than is typical here in the south. With a definite chill in the air last weekend, my husband, Steve, and I set off with a few of our Sunday school students, to conquer the corn maze at Cagel's Dairy Farm. Our class, made up of seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students, had chosen this particular outing and the three that attended, were not to be deterred by the cloudy skies or cold temperatures. Did I mention that, contrary to popular belief, we really do wear winter coats here in the south?

Once we purchased our tickets, we were ready to head into phase one of the challenging maze of maize. There were ten signs with various questions posted throughout the maze. Each multiple choice question was followed by three answers. If you chose the right answer, you were able to follow the instructions to find the next sign. Each of our students had an opportunity to be the leader. It was humorous to almost see the wheels turning in their heads as they came to a decision-making spot along the path. Should I turn right? Maybe left? No, I'll continue straight ahead...I think. Early on in our quest, 'eeny, meeny, miny, mo' seemed to be the most popular decision maker!

After making it to the third sign, Steve made a clever observation. All of the paths that had successfully led us to the next sign, had been worn paths. It was clear that many feet had traversed the same path before us. Some of the other paths at the cross points were less worn and had patches of grass growing on them. Ah-ha! A visible clue in addition to the written clues that were provided for us on the signs! Although we didn't make it through the maze without errors, Steve's observation certainly proved useful.

As I'm busy living this thing called 'life,' I inevitably come to those crossroads-moments where I must make a decision. Do I continue forward? Should I pursue something different? What should I do? I'm challenged by the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (6:16a, KJV). Oftentimes I'm tempted to listen to my own voice of reason. Unfortunately, this approach is not uncommon. Take a look at the second half of the verse in Jeremiah: "But they said, We will not walk therein" (6:16b). Ouch! Too often that's a picture of my rebellion against God's plan for me.

In order to successfully navigate the path of life God has for me, I must submit to His ultimate authority and search for the 'signs' He gives me to keep me moving in the right direction. The 'signs' include seeking direction from His word, spending time with Him in prayer, and getting counsel from other godly people in my life. Will I make it through life's maze without errors? Because I'm human, the answer is, "Absolutely not!" But I can take hope in the fact that God's word is, "...a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). And I can cling to the truth Joshua penned, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Joshua 1:9)

When you're at a crossroad, what is your response? I'll go my way? Maybe I'll try God's way? Take a look at God's definition of success: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8). As you navigate life's path today, know that submitting to God's will in every area is a tried and true method for success. You have His word on it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 'Gift' of Learning

I was surprised. I had tentatively voiced my desire for a laptop computer, and instead of looking at me as if I'd suddenly sprouted wings, my husband, Steve, agreed that it would be a good investment. My combination birthday/Christmas present arrived the second of October; delivered directly to my doorstep. Steve was thrilled that it had been built, shipped and sent, ahead of schedule. No need to wait until my birthday, which is in mid-November, he was eager to have me open my present as soon as possible. I didn't need further coaxing.

Once the box was opened and the computer, manuals and software were removed, I realized it wasn't going to be as simple as just turning the laptop on and getting busy. There were things that needed to be set up. Page layouts that I wanted to customize. I was so used to the way everything was on our home computer, that it was a little shocking to realize that I had a lot to learn before I could even begin my first writing assignment.

Thankful for my computer-savvy husband, he walked me through the necessary steps to set up my new laptop. I must admit that just about every time I use it, I learn something new. And because it's something I enjoy, I've taken a couple of steps away from my oh-so-cautious nature, and actually tried a few new things. Unlike my perspective when I was in school, I'm realizing that learning can be fun. Being challenged is a good thing.

Have you ever stopped to consider that opening God's word, the Bible, is very similar? Whether you are new to it, or have read all 66 books several times, there is always something new to learn or consider. Hebrews 4:12 affirms this fact, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (KJV). Since our thoughts and emotions are constantly changing, God can speak to us from His word today, about a specific topic that we may not have been dealing with last week.

Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking that we're very familiar with everything in the Bible. The truth is, the word of God is alive and active. The gospel of John points to Jesus Christ as the Word: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth"(John 1:14). Instead of being satisfied with a quick perusal of God's word, we're wise to embrace Christ's recommendation, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing"(John 15:5).

Just like I was thankful for my husband who was able to teach me how to configure my laptop, I'm very grateful for the Holy Spirit who teaches me the truth of God's word. According to John 16, the Holy Spirit of God has quite a job description: "...he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. ..Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:8-11, 13; emphasis mine). The Holy Spirit is able to give us understanding, so we can accurately interpret scripture. How amazing!

God's word is His love letter to us. Are we actively reading it in order to get to know Him better? Are we able to glean wisdom from a familiar passage of scripture that we can apply to our everyday lives? Are we willing to learn the lessons He's eager to teach us? Isaiah 55:11 reassures us that God's word, "...shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Knowing that His word will accomplish its purpose, make the decision today to be a lifelong student of the Master.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Appointment

On Friday, I headed to the dentist for my semiannual cleaning. I don't mind going to the dentist. My husband thinks I'm crazy and jokingly refers to me as the 'dentist's pet.' I guess he's just a little jealous that I was fortunate in the tooth department and very rarely get cavities.

My hygienist was exceptionally sweet, and we chit-chatted back and forth when my mouth was free of scaling tools and the suction straw. First she used a metal instrument to check my gums and measure any areas that showed signs of recession. Next came the scaling tools that applied pressure to remove any plaque or tartar build-up that had accumulated over the previous six months. Although the scraping sound was vaguely reminiscent of fingernails on a chalkboard, my hygienist was surprisingly gentle during this phase of the cleaning.

Once plaque-free, my teeth were ready to be polished. I didn't know so many flavors of tooth polish existed. I was offered the traditional mint, followed by some pretty creative flavors: bubblegum, grape, cinnamon and even cookie dough in case I wanted to imagine that I was back at home mixing up a batch of cookies. I stuck with mint. After a final squirt of water to rinse out any remaining gritty polish, flossing was all that remained. The dentist came in to give my teeth a final examination, and with my goody bag of new tooth brush, paste and dental floss in hand, I left the office having scheduled my next appointment for mid-2010.

My trip to the dentist reminded me of the importance of regular self check-ups. It's crucial to examine myself in the light of God's Word and allow Him to use His 'scaling' instruments to remove those 'plaque-like' things in my life that hinder my growth. I'm challenged to pray with the Psalmist, David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24, KJV).

When we've identified sin in our lives, what a good opportunity to offer up a prayer to God from the words of Psalm 51:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (1-10).

When we admit our faults and shortcomings, and submit ourselves to the Father's scrutiny, although He may need to 'scrape' some of those areas with the heavenly tool of His Word, I can testify to the fact that He is surprisingly gentle. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul verified that it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Once the sin is purged from our lives and our 'cleaning' is complete, we can once again "...teach transgressors thy (God's) ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee (God)" (Psalm 51:13). Wow! Just to think that when we are walking in fellowship with God, He can use us to bring others to Himself, should motivate us to go to Him for regular 'check-ups.'

Have you scheduled an appointment with your Heavenly Father today?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Unexpected Blessing

My schedule was full. From the moment the alarm went off and my feet hit the floor, I knew I needed to use my time wisely in order to get to each scheduled meeting and appointment on time. After my Bible study, I put on my gym shoes and headed down to the basement to exercise. I spent a few extra minutes in prayer while I walked quickly up and down the inclines on my treadmill. Before I started my exercise routine, I was tired. I had gone to bed late the previous evening and was up fairly early, and now I was paying the price.

In spite of being tired, I was looking forward to each activity on my agenda, and while I headed to the shower, I was busy making mental notes of the things I would need to take with me. There was my laptop, the articles I had printed out for a friend, the plates of cookies and brownies to be delivered to the first responders, and the food for the friend who was sick at home. I breezed through my shower and began getting ready.

Have you ever noticed that when you don't have much time, suddenly, you can't find a thing to wear?! To further compound the problem, our weather has been a bit odd. One day it's hot. The next day it's freezing cold. My summer clothes were still hanging in my closet, and although it was cool, I knew the temperature was supposed to climb into the mid-70's by afternoon. I sprinted to the guest bedroom closet and began looking through my fall/winter wardrobe for a possible outfit. I was still having a hard time coming up with an outfit I wanted to wear. The style of that blouse wasn't right with this skirt. That sweater might be great this morning, but by afternoon, I'd be way too hot. Decisions, decisions...

By the time I settled my clothing dilemma, it was high time to leave. Only one problem, I hadn't plated my brownies or cookies. I'd have to call my friend who was making the deliveries with me and see if we could meet just a few minutes later. Fortunately, she too was running a bit behind and suggested I finish up and meet her at her house as soon as I could. A wave of relief washed over me. Now I just had to re-schedule my Bible study meeting, because I knew I wouldn't be back in time for that. Again, my request to change our meeting time was well-received.

Once the cookies and brownies were ready to go, I began the first of many trips to load the car. After everything was arranged, I grabbed my purse and began the challenging task of extracting my keys from its bottomless depths. I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The harder I searched, the more I became convinced that I didn't have my keys. This couldn't be happening. My husband was out of town on business, so I couldn't borrow his keys. I was fairly certain that my daughter had forgotten to return my keys after she borrowed them the previous evening. A quick call to her school confirmed my suspicions. I had no choice but to call my friend and explain my situation...

As I look back on it, the entire morning was rather amusing. I was so concerned about not having enough time to get to my scheduled events, but the Lord knew all along that I would have plenty of time to do other things that day. The schedule I was prepared for, had been completely rearranged. All of a sudden, I had ample time to do whatever I wanted. I was like an elated school kid on a snow day. I knew this was a special gift from God.

I was reminded of the faithfulness of the Lord, even in the seemingly small things. After several busy days, He knew I needed a break. Having the day 'off' was an unexpected blessing and gave me pause to say with the Psalmist, David, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him" (Psalm 34:8, KJV).

What unexpected blessings has He showered on you? Be sure you thank Him today!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Created for a Purpose

Something was definitely wrong. It was cold. As I stood at the kitchen sink, the air blowing out of the vent onto my feet was anything but warm. Overnight, the temperature in our balmy state of Georgia had plummeted, causing us to flip the switch from air conditioning to heat. The only problem was that no warm air was rushing out of the vents to greet us. After a brief trip to the basement, my husband realized that the pilot light was not on and was stubbornly refusing to be re-lit. Time to call the heating and air specialists.

We placed a call to FlowTech Mechanical Services first thing Monday morning. Fortunately they were able to put us on the schedule for later in the evening. Unfortunately, that meant we had to endure the arctic chill that had crept into our house overnight. Its icy fingers convinced us that layers were an absolute 'must.' Clothed in a winter coat and toasty slippers, I wrapped my hands around a steaming mug of coffee, resisting the urge to don a pair of gloves. Ok, so it wasn't quite that cold, but you get the picture! Since our upstairs heating unit was working just fine, both my husband and I retreated upstairs to begin the day's work.

Throughout the day, it was humorous to note that neither one of us spent an extended period of time downstairs. Each of us would only do what was absolutely necessary, before heading back to the comfort of the upstairs. The temperature difference from the chilly downstairs to the pleasantly warm upstairs was noticeable.

It didn't take the heating/air specialist long to determine the cause of our problem. The circuit board was bad and would no longer allow the igniter to do its job; hence the cold air in spite of moving the switch to 'heat.' If I'm not mistaken, when it was originally manufactured, the circuit board's job was to provide power to the igniter which, in turn, causes the unit to heat the air and push it out through the vents, warming the house.

What an accurate picture of our lives before salvation. God created each one of us in His image. Genesis 1:27 spells it out plainly, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (KJV). He created us for a specific purpose: to walk in fellowship with Him, bringing Him honor and glory. When Adam and Eve chose to sin against God, man was no longer in fellowship with his Creator. He could no longer fulfill his God-given role. Similarly, when the circuit board in our furnace stopped working, the pilot light went out and the unit stopped performing the function it was created to fulfill. It no longer heated our home.

A blood sacrifice had to be made to atone for sin so man could once again enjoy a relationship with God (Heb. 9:22). Throughout the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were made according to God's instructions. When God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ to this earth, He became the ultimate sacrifice to forever atone for the sins of the whole world (Heb. 10:10).

When we accept God's gift of salvation by grace through faith, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul words it beautifully in the book of Ephesians, " whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (1:13b). We are once again brought into fellowship with God and we can chose to live a life that is pleasing to Him. We can chose to fulfill His purpose for our lives. In much the same way, when the faulty circuit board was replaced, power raced to the igniter, and once the pilot light was lit, warm air coursed through our house. The furnace was doing the job it was created to do.

What about you? Have you accepted God's gift of salvation by grace through faith so you can walk in fellowship with your Creator? If so, are you fulfilling the role He's called you to? Pray for His guidance as you follow Him, today.