Thursday, April 26, 2012

What Do We Have In Common?

It’s always neat to find out that you have things in common with others. Recently, I was tagged by fellow-blogger, Janette Dolores, to answer a few fun questions. I enjoyed reading her answers, and am excited to add mine to the mix.

If you haven’t checked out Janette’s site, take a few minutes to do so! She writes about family and spirituality. You’ll always leave her blog with something to think about.

Sit back with your favorite coffee or tea of choice, and see how much we have in common! Here are my answers:

1        Book or movie and why?
Definitely a book! My daughter constantly makes fun of me because I read at least two or three books at the same time. I’m currently reading Love at Last Sight by Kerry & Chris Shook, and The Storehouse Principle by Al Jandl. Although both of these books are non-fiction, I enjoy fiction as well. My first choice in this genre would probably be historical fiction. Why books over movies? I enjoy being the one to visualize the characters and locations, rather than having all the blanks filled in by a producer.

2        Real book or e-book?
This is a tough one. I read both. I’ve found that I enjoy real books for the fact that I’m reminded of the title and author of the book, every time I pick it up. But the convenience of my Kindle Fire can’t be beat. When I’m going out of town, I can take multiple ‘books’ without having to worry about filling my luggage with everything I’m currently reading. On the downside, I often forget the title of the book I’m reading and the name of the author…

3         Funniest thing you’ve done in the last 5 years.
Had to consult my husband on this one! He immediately brought up the goofy dances I invent on different occasions. The most memorable one? Probably my ping-pong dance. Yes, you read that correctly. My husband, daughter, and I were staying at a lodge in North Georgia. We decided to go down to the game room and play ping pong. I’m not exactly sure why I felt compelled to dance while returning the ball, but there you have it! And fortunately for the other guests, we were the only ones in the room!

4        How would your best friend describe you?
Good question! I actually texted her to find out! Here’s her response, “A very godly woman.” Wow – how humbling. And something I definitely want to live up to!

5        Do you put yourself into the books you read/write or the movies you watch?
Hmmmmmm. No, I don’t think I do. There are definitely character traits that I can identify with – but I don’t put myself in the character’s shoes.   

6        Favorite kind of car and why?
I really enjoy our Land Rover. It’s an LR2 – small enough for me to manage, yet big enough for hauling things. It’s great in all kinds of weather and has settings for off-road excursions as well!

7       Would your choice of party be a catered meal or barbecue out back?
If I were hosting the party? Definitely barbecue out back! My husband smokes a mean pork shoulder! Add some cole slaw, baked beans,  s’more fixin’s, and good friends, and I’m a happy camper – or should I say a happy hostess! 

           What’s your favorite season and why?
Can I have two favorites? Fall and spring. In the fall, I love the changing colors of the leaves. The crispness in the air. And the promise of a fire in the fireplace. Spring is such a wonderful reminder of new life. Everything begins to bloom and I enjoy seeing the light green foliage on the trees in our woods.   

9        What specific lesson have you learned – spiritual, educational, occupational?
The Lord has really been challenging me to live out the life lessons He gives me. Most recently, I’ve been encouraged to trust the Lord as I move outside of my comfort zone. Relying on the Lord to open doors for me instead of trying to force them open, has helped me to develop patience! “Wait on the Lord: be of  good courage, and he shall strengthen thing heart: wait, I say, on the Lord,” (Psalm 27:14 KJV).

          Besides writing, what’s your favorite thing to do when you get some extra time?
I love reading and spending time with family (including our pets – Precious & Joe (retrievers); and our cat, Courtney).

1       What’s one place you can be found at least one time every week?
Church, and the grocery store!

Now that you know more about me, I'd love to know more about you! Simply leave your answer to any one of the questions in the comment section! In addition, I’m tagging seven other bloggers to join in the fun and answer all 11 questions (if you’re unable to participate, I totally understand!):

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Does Anger Control You?

Anger. My dictionary defines it as, "a feeling of extreme displeasure, hostility, indignation, or exasperation toward someone or something," (The American Heritage Dictionary, 1982). I have to admit, I've experienced this emotion on many occasions. From the careless driver who cuts me off in traffic, to the willful disobedience of a child, anger has a way of coming to the surface and demanding action. How do I deal with it?

I'm a tea drinker. There's just something about the aroma and light flavor of a cup of tea that makes me smile. I've also learned a thing or two from the many teabags I've used over the years. As soon as I pour hot water over the teabag, the water is infused with the color of the contents of the bag. It happens in the space of a few seconds - what's on the inside of the teabag, comes out. In the case of tea, that's a good thing. Where anger is concerned, a different story.

Cain and Abel were the first brothers in history. Growing up, I'm sure they had their fair share of squabbles. But one day, Cain gave into his anger, with disastrous results. When the young men offered their sacrifices to the Lord, Abel's sacrifice was accepted, but Cain's was rejected. Cain was mad. In fact, he was furious.

God gave Cain the opportunity to bring a different offering. Instead of offering the right kind of sacrifice, Cain allowed a seed of anger to germinate in his heart, toward his brother. Before long, the 'seed' had grown into a tree. Cain acted on his anger, "And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him," (Genesis 4:8; KJV).

If I'm not careful, I find myself allowing anger to take control, just like Cain. I say things that are unkind, and do things that I later regret. But the choice is mine. Having accepted Christ as my Savior, I have a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the power of the Holy Spirit enables me to choose to respond to life's irritations with love, patience, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Today I have the opportunity to yield to the Lord and allow Him to guide my actions when I experience anger. His Word reminds me that anger is just an emotion - it's what I do with it that's important, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath,"(Ephesians 4:26).

Remember my cup of tea? What's on the inside WILL eventually come out. That's why it's so important to meditate on the right things, "Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things," (Philippians 4:8). My prayer is that, when irritations come, my response will be to overflow with the good things of the Spirit!

Do you allow anger to control you? What step will you take today to have a godly response next time you're faced with anger?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for creating us with emotions. Forgive me when I react to anger with harmful words and actions. Help me to yield to the Holy Spirit and meditate on the right things, in order to respond in the right way when things upset me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pure Trust

It began like any other walk. The route was the same. The evening temperature refreshingly cool.

As I walked my dog, Precious, I noticed a yard that was occupied by two medium-sized, fairly muscular, black, dogs. They barked a stern warning. We rounded the top of the hill when I noticed it. Instead of responding by barking, Precious continued to focus on me, a look of inquiry on her face.

Her eyes never left my face as we continued past the house, black dogs barking all the while. No lunging, no display of aggression, and no barking. Just the upward tilt of her face, searching mine for a clue as to what she should do...

Trust. Pure and simple. Precious trusted me. She knew I would keep her safe. What a response!

Our lives are filled with challenges. How do we respond? It's easy to give in to our flesh and do what comes naturally - retaliate. After all, don't we have 'rights'? Or do we die to self, turn our faces upward, and seek the face of our Master? Trusting Him. Confident in knowing that He will give us the guidance we need to face whatever situation threatens us.

Choose His way. Tilt your face up to your Heavenly Father, who promises to give wisdom to all those who ask. Respond in faith, knowing He is trustworthy!

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that You can be trusted. Help me choose Your way when I'm faced with life's challenges. Amen.   


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Poured Out

The lesson was challenging. Only two verses, but packed with meaning. The general gist? As believers, we're all created to share what the Lord has given us with those around us. Some of us have the gift of compassion, others the gift of encouragement. But if we're not careful, it's easy to allow 'junk' to compete for space within us. The more we empty ourselves of the useless, the more the Lord is able to fill us with the useful.
The analogy in the scripture spoke of vessels made of different substances: gold, silver, wood, earth. But the emphasis is not on the exterior of these containers. It's on the interior. Some of them are honorable vessels, but some are dishonorable. What makes the difference? Purging the 'junk' on the inside and allowing the Master to fill the vessel with good stuff that can be poured out on others.

I'm reminded of a lady who definitely lived up to the definition of an honorable vessel - Tabitha, also known as Dorcas. Remember her? Not much is written about her, but she clearly made a difference in the lives of the early believers in the book of Acts.

Tabitha lived in Joppa and is introduced as a disciple. She was one who followed Christ. And she was well-known in her community, "...this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did," (Acts 9:36b; KJV). Unfortunately, she became sick and died.

Her life had such an impact on the other disciples, that two men were sent to the Apostle Peter to come at once. Peter didn't delay. When he arrived, the sight that greeted him gave Peter a small taste of the way Tabitha had been used by the Lord. A group of widows stood by him weeping and showing him the coats and clothes that Tabitha had made them while she was alive.

It may not have seemed like much, but Tabitha used the abilities God had given her and poured them out on others. She knew these widows were unable to care for themselves, and willingly gave of herself to meet their needs. She was an honorable vessel.

Peter knelt and prayed. With the words, "Tabitha, arise," she opened her eyes and sat up. A miracle! She had been raised from the dead! Imagine the widows' response when Peter presented Tabitha to them alive.

Tabitha had developed the habit of pouring out the gifts the Lord had given her. And when word spread that she had been raised from the dead, many people believed in the Lord. An honorable vessel. Willing to be emptied of self, and filled with the good things of the Lord. Willing to pour those good things out on the lives of others.

Are you willing to be an honorable vessel? Are there things that need to be purged from your life? What step will you take today to be poured out on the lives of others?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for the challenges found in Your Word. Help me to purge myself of the things that are displeasing to You. Fill me with the things You want me to pour out on others. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Godly Heritage

The statement bothered me. The governor emphasized that in order to turn America around, we must once again believe in ourselves, and not in a benevolent leader in Washington who would take care of us. Although I agreed with him that those in Washington are not our hope, I was disappointed that no mention was made about the God of the Bible who made this nation what it is. The emphasis was placed on believing in ourselves. The truth is, it's only by turning back to God and believing in Him, that our nation will once again be great.

I thought about the pilgrims and the reason they came to America. They didn't come in search of an easier life or to become wealthy, they came in search of religious freedom. They desired to worship God according to the Bible and not as the Church of England mandated. Both the Government of England, and the Church of England were run by King James 1. Those who didn't belong to the Church were in direct disobedience to the King. In the eyes of the King, this was nothing short of treason. The pilgrims were willing to leave everything they had known, to pursue what was truly important to them - God.

The documents drafted by our founding fathers were based on biblical principles, and became the basis for America's laws. The sovereign authority of God and not man is clearly spelled out in the Mayflower Compact, Declaration, Constitution, and the Pledge of Allegiance, to name but a few. The Declaration establishes the existence of absolute truth, and the sanctity of life.

Give some serious thought to the following words from Faith Facts: It has been said that America has never been a Christian nation, or that our founders were a bunch of atheists, agnostics, and deists. But consider the facts. At least 50 of the 55 framers of the U. S. Constitution were Christians... Every single American president has taken his oath on the Bible and has referenced God in his inaugural address. Every one of the 50 state constitutions call on God for support. The Supreme Court, in 1892 after an exhaustive 10-year study of the matter, said: "This is a religious people. This is a Christian nation." Even today, the Supreme Court opens each session with the verbal declaration, "God save the United States of America."

The history of our nation is important. It has shaped who I am today. As a Christian, what is my responsibility before God and to my country? The writer of second Chronicles doesn't mince words, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land, " (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV).  The importance of prayer is echoed yet again by the Apostle Paul, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty," (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

When I humble myself, giving Christ His rightful place, I realize the answers for our nation don't lie within man, but within a holy God. As I seek the Lord's face and discern His will according to His word, I'm able to see my own sinfulness contrasted with His holiness. I'm given the opportunity to turn from my selfish ways and intercede for my nation's leaders and all those in authority. As a result, the holy God of heaven will hear me, forgive my sin, and heal this land. Imagine the implications, if each Christian would believe these truths from the Bible and obey God. Our nation could once again be described as "one nation, under God..." With God in His rightful place, His purpose will be made known, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth," (1 Timothy 2:4).

Have you considered the history of America? Will you humble yourself and pray for our nation's leaders? In order for America to be great, we must turn back to God. Share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone today!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for those who have given us a godly heritage. Help me to take my responsibility to You and my country seriously. It's so easy to get caught up in living for self. I ask forgiveness for my sin and pray that I'd have the desire to seek You diligently. I pray for President Obama and Vice President Biden and all those who were newly elected as Senators and Congress men and women. Open their eyes to the truth of Your Word. Give me boldness to be a witness for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.   

*A re-post from 11/2010.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The High Road

There was only one way to describe the temperature: frigid. With freezing rain pelting our special riding gear, it was impossible to tell we were on the island of Maui. Hawaii was supposed to be all about sunshine and warm temperatures. But on the summit of Haleakala in February, cloud cover and cold temperatures ruled. 

My husband, Steve, and I had scheduled what we thought would be a fun, sun-filled day of horseback riding into the crater of Haleakala National Park. Our guide would lead us down, into the crater, through amazing landscape. We'd enjoy a picnic lunch before heading back up the mountain. The ride was supposed to last approximately five hours - including our stop for lunch.

As we began the descent over the rim of the crater, it was impossible to see due to the rain. With the wind blowing the tiny ice crystals into our faces, we were thankful for the rubber raingear provided by our guide. Our horses seemed unaffected by the cold, and followed the lead horse without hesitation.

When the icy rain changed to a cool mist, I was finally able to pay more attention and take in the scenery. And I made a discovery. Although my horse, Sully, was following the guide's horse, when we came to a section of trail where there was an option, Sully took the section of trail with the higher incline. I thought it might just be a coincidence, but every time we came to a place where he had a choice, he repeatedly took the 'high road.' He never stumbled. And he was able to maintain his footing while walking down the steep mountain.

I couldn't help relating his behavior to my decisions in life. When I'm given the option, do I immediately select the high road, or do I settle for following the status quo? The truth is, I have to be aware of the consequences of my actions and carefully think through how they'll affect not only myself, but others as well.

Just like my horse, Sully, was leading the horse and rider behind him, I also have people who look up to and follow me. While I understand that perfection is impossible, am I doing my best to make choices consistent with a life lived for the Savior?

The Apostle Paul spoke about this very subject to the believers in Thessalonica. He encouraged the Christians to do some things: build each other up, avoid quarreling, comfort the frightened, rejoice, pray, and be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:11-18). He also warned them to avoid some things: laziness, and situations which could draw them into evil.  His words serve as a good reminder "Abstain from all appearance of evil," (1 Thessalonians 5:22; KJV).

It may not be possible to avoid all evil, since I live in a sinful world, but the next time I'm faced with a decision, I'll remember Sully, and choose to avoid temptation and take the 'high road.'

What about you? What step will you take to avoid temptation and take the high road today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for the many lessons You teach us through Your creation. Help me to remember that others are following me. Give me the wisdom and courage to take the high road when I'm tempted. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

More Than A Meal

I've given lots of thought to this year's Easter menu. I'm leaning toward grilled steak, asparagus, deviled eggs, tangy pea salad, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and apple pie. Not exactly traditional, I know. And much different than the meal served up thousands of years ago.

Remember the first Passover celebrated by the children of Israel? Moses shared God's instructions with the Israelites. On the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish year, every household was to sacrifice a one year old, male lamb that was without defect. Their meal was to consist of roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. But the meal was not the main focus of the celebration.

There were very important instructions regarding the blood of the slain lamb. Moses explained God's directions, "And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you," (Exodus 12:22-23; KJV).

What a beautiful picture! It provides a glimpse of God's ultimate plan. Fast forward many years, to the day when the perfect Lamb of God became the final sacrifice ever needed. As Jesus Christ hung on the cross, the sinless Son of God shed His blood to pay the sin debt owed by mankind.

Just as the children of Israel had to apply the blood of the slain lamb to the top and sides of their doorposts to avoid physical death, each person must put his/her faith in Christ's sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, in order to avoid eternal separation from God. The Apostle Paul states clearly, "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ," (Ephesians 2:13).

The lambs sacrificed by the Israelites remained dead. The miracle of Easter is that Christ didn't remain in the tomb, He rose from the dead! He conquered sin, death, and the grave for you and me. His Word proclaims the truth, "And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay," (Matthew 28:5-6).

This Easter, enjoy a delicious meal and time spent with family, but choose to focus on the main reason we celebrate - the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for you, and His resurrection from the dead! Hallelujah! He is risen!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Your Son to shed His blood on the cross to pay for my sins. Forgive me when I allow things to distract me from the true meaning of Easter. Help me to embrace Your sacrifice and share the good news of Your resurrection with others. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An Important Mission

The gift was unexpected. It wasn't a special occasion. My daughter handed me the bag, with the knowledge that I'd be delighted. As I lifted the adorable sock monkey out of the bag, I was immediately transported to my childhood.

We took our playing seriously. Stuffed animals came alive with a little imagination. Our favorite animals happened to be monkeys, and my brother and I built an entire imaginary world around these lovable, stuffed friends.

We spent hours coming up with elaborate schemes and plots that involved our furry monkeys. In our minds, they were witty sleuths able to catch the most sinister of villains. They jetted around the countryside on missions to wipe out evil. They were a force for good, and justice always prevailed.

Although I may not be a witty sleuth, it's exciting to think that I've been commissioned as an ambassador with an important mission. An official representative of Christ Himself, sent to share His message with others. The Apostle Paul spells out this special mission, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:18-21; KJV).

The ministry of reconciliation. According to my dictionary, to reconcile, means to re-establish friendship between, to settle or resolve, as a dispute. My special mission, then, is to share with others the fact that God sent Jesus Christ to the earth to pay every man's sin debt, and because of His sacrifice, we can have a relationship with a holy God if we personally accept the payment Christ made.

What an important mission! A mission that wipes out evil and establishes a relationship between a holy God and sinful man. As I share this message, there will be those who eagerly accept it, and there will be those who reject it. Regardless of the response, I'm to be committed to sharing this word of reconciliation with others.

Do you desire to be a force for good, vanquishing evil in this world, and making an eternal impact? What an opportunity to carry out an all-important, life-changing mission. Choose to be a productive ambassador for Christ, sharing the ministry of reconciliation with others!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for giving me an important mission. Help me to be faithful to share the gospel with those You bring across my path. In Jesus' name, Amen.