Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thankful Thursday & The Winner Is...

Recently, I've been encouraged by websites that take time to recount the blessings of the Lord. So I've decided to make today - Thankful Thursday.

Take a few moments to read the following passage from Ephesians:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace," (Ephesians 1:3-7; KJV).

Wow! If you're a child of the King, these verses spell out at least 6 reasons to be thankful. Can you find them?

*I'm blessed (v. 3)
*I'm chosen (v. 4)
*I'm adopted (v. 5)
*I'm accepted (v. 6)
*I'm redeemed (v. 7)
*I'm forgiven (v. 7)

Some other things I'm thankful for this week:

*a fantastic family
*good health
*wonderful friends
*the opportunity to write and share the truths of God's Word

Now it's your turn to join in! What are you thankful for this week?

And if you've been waiting on the edge of your seat to learn who the winner of last week's giveaway is...may I have a drum roll please?! A BIG congratulations goes out to: Karen Lange!! She is the winner of a signed copy of The Art of Norma Boeckler! Way to go Karen! And a special thank you to all who participated in the drawing! Have a beautiful week and God bless!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dinner's Ready!

They returned today. Birds of all varieties filled the trees, each waiting for its turn at the feeder.  Beautiful birds. Colorful birds. Downy woodpeckers, cardinals and chickadees. Our feeder has remained empty for quite some time. Once filled, it took our bird-friends a few days to realize they could feast in our neck of the woods once again. The promise of nourishing seed awaits each bird that chooses to eat.

Our feeder, chock-full of tasty seed, reminds me of God’s Word, ready to provide sustenance to all who will come and partake. Jesus invites us, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35; KJV). His ‘feast’ will truly bring nourishment and satisfaction to our souls.

Even as our feathered friends have access to our feeder day and night, we also have access to our Heavenly Father anytime. We have a standing invitation from our Savior to come boldly to His throne of grace, “…that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Unlike businesses that maintain set hours, the Bible shares numerous accounts of those who cried out to God ‘after hours.’ “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord:” (Lamentations 2:19). The prophet, Isaiah, sought God at both ends of the spectrum. “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early:” (Isaiah 26:9).

What do you stand in need of today? Hope, encouragement, direction? Do you hear Him calling your name? Pull up a chair at God’s ‘table’ and let His Word rejuvenate your soul! You won’t go hungry!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:8).

*A re-post from 2/2010.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Special Interview & A Giveaway!

I've known her all my life - and she's one very talented lady. Over the years she's painted beautiful pictures, sketched detailed pen and ink drawings, and designed gorgeous jewelry. And now she's published a book to highlight some of these accomplishments!

How do I know her so well? She just happens to be my Mom - Norma Boeckler. Her book - The Art of Norma Boeckler. So grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage, and join me for an interview with this amazing woman!

Maria: Welcome, Mom! Thanks for joining me today! Your background as an artist is fascinating. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Norma: I am a native of Midland, Michigan, and since the late 1980's, I've been a mixed media artist specializing in watercolor. My work has received national and international attention. I have had extensive training for the past ten years and have taken courses with Famous Artists School and am one of their alumni, and have my own webpage with them. They feature my art on their Facebook page too. I have taken computer courses in Dreamweaver MX and Photoshop. I also was privileged to take a jewelry workshop at Shikoku University, in Tokushima, Japan. While in Japan my artwork was displayed in two galleries where I sold nine paintings.

My book covers and illustrations have been published in eight religious books and I have had articles in religious newspapers, and my hometown newspaper as well. I also designed a website for the book, "Jesus Lord of Creation."  

I have won many awards, “Best of Show” in the Midland Artists Guild, the National Arts Program in Detroit, Heritage Days in West Branch, Michigan, and  many more. I hold memberships in the Midland Artists Guild, National Watercolor Society, Michigan Watercolor Society, and Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptures. To date, I have sold over 400 paintings. 

Maria: Wow! I'm not sure how you found the time to do it all! Where do you find inspiration for your artwork?

Norma: I get my inspiration for the religious art illustrations from old religious books, and artists such as, Albrecht Durer and Gustave Dore. I also read scripture passages to go with each drawing.

For my secular art, I take photos of flowers in my gardens, birds, scenes where I have traveled, and photos taken of my family. Sometimes I just experiment with different media and the result might turn out to be an interesting abstract. I have also taken art seminars to learn new techniques.

Maria: How has your relationship with Jesus Christ impacted your art work?

Norma: My religious art has had a huge affect on all of my artwork. It inspires me to read the scriptures more often, and reminds me with every landscape and bird painting, and many other subjects I do, that the Lord has created everything in this world and He preserves everything. I think of the very first verse in the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 KJV

Maria: That's a powerful verse. How did you decide to put together a book featuring your paintings, illustrations, and jewelry?

Norma: After illustrating eight books, I was thinking…what can I do next, and out of the blue, I received an email from author, Ellen C. Maze. She saw my symbol of “Wheat and Tares”(a symbol I did in pen and ink for a religious book) on line and asked to use it in one of her client’s books. After she saw my website, she said, "You should write a book about your art.” I set to work and did my own PDF with help from Ellen, who also mentors writers, and everything worked out just fine. I wanted to do this especially for my children, their spouses and my grandchildren as a memento.

Maria: Share some lessons you learned on your journey to publication with CreateSpace.

Norma: Some lessons I learned while constructing my book were: you have to first set up a main folder with the title of the book, and then categorize separate folders within that folder for each chapter with pictures. This makes it easy to insert pictures into each book page. I did a PDF sample of a few pages and sent it to my book mentor, Ellen. She gave me a few instructions and everything fell into place.

You helped me with the editing. Then I sent it to Ellen, who recommended I publish my book through Amazon's self-publishing company, CreateSpace. She then put it through a process of perfecting the cover, headings, text, and resizing some of the pictures. Ellen took care of the ISBN number for my book, and even helped me set up my CreateSpace account! My book is now available on Amazon as a paperback book, Kindle download, and ebook. You can also purchase it through distributors such as Barnes & Noble. I found the self-publishing process to be fairly easy.

Maria: Sounds like you learned a lot! Do you have plans for another book?

Norma: I am contemplating the idea of doing a book using photography, and adding scripture verses with each pictures, or maybe a children’s book.

Maria: I know you enjoy staying busy! What goals do you have for the future?

Norma: I plan to continue doing pen and ink drawings with watercolor for my church website, where I am Artist-in-Residence, and I will continue to paint more flowers and landscapes. 

Maria: What words of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers?

Norma: The main thing to keep in mind is - the Lord has given each and every one of us a talent and we show our appreciation to Him, by using that talent to His glory. The Lord has been my guide throughout my life.

Maria: Thank you so much for joining us, Mom! Good news! If you're interested in winning a signed copy of my Mom's book, The Art of Norma Boeckler:

• Leave a comment to this post, include your email address in the following format: morgan(dot) maria(dot)i(at)gmail(dot)com. Entries without an email address are not eligible.

• Receive an extra entry by becoming a follower, or by reminding me that you're already a follower.

• Receive a bonus entry by posting about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook and/or Twitter. Please be sure and let me know you did so in your comment.

• This is open to US residents only. My sincere apology to those followers outside the US.

• Deadline to enter is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Winner to be announced in Thursday's post. The winner will be notified via email.

Visit Norma's website:

Connect with her on Facebook:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Big Mess

It was worse than I thought. The torrential downpour had made a mess of our creek and pond. It wasn't unusual for debris from upstream to clog the pipes draining into our pond. But this time, hundreds of tree limbs and logs filled the creek, forming an impenetrable dam. Where to begin the clean up process?

The more limbs and leaf debris I removed, the angrier I became. Clearly, someone who lived upstream had put their 'junk' pile too close to the creek and the heavy rain had carried it into the water and swept it downstream to end up on our property. Ugh! What a big mess! The kind of mess that would take all day to clean up.

The process was painfully slow. Remove all the debris from the creek, load it into a cart on our lawn mower, and finally dispose of the leaf litter, limbs, and logs on the other side of our property. I had plenty of time to think. Time to reflect on how grateful I am that the Lord cleans up my 'messes.'

You know the kind I'm talking about.

That critical spirit. 

The selfish attitude. 

The feelings of pride. 

All 'messes' that need attention. 'Messes' that I'm often oblivious to. But when the storms of life come, my 'messes' come to the surface, and I realize I'm in need of help.

As I humble myself and turn to my Heavenly Father, He's faithful to use His Word to clean up each 'mess' I offer Him. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," (1 John 1:9; KJV). Now that's a comforting promise!

His Word has much to say about my critical spirit.  "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye," (Matthew 7:3-5). As I agree with the truth of God's Word, and submit to Him, He enables me to examine my life and helps me take care of my shortcomings, rather than being critical of others.

What about selfishness? God's Word deals with this topic as well, "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," (Philippians 2:3-4). When this truth makes it to my heart, I can focus on the needs of others.

The Lord hates pride. When I give the Lord His proper place in my life, I view things the way He does, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate," (Proverbs 8:13). I can see the destructive nature of pride and the mess it creates, "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom," (Proverbs 13:10). I understand what happens when I give in to pride, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall," (Proverbs 16:18).

It doesn't matter what my 'mess' is, when I recognize it and relinquish it to my Father, He cleans me up and restores me!

Are you dealing with a 'mess'? Confess your sin, and allow the Lord to clean you up today!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your willingness to forgive my sins. Help me identify the 'messes' in my life that need to be turned over to You. Forgive me for being critical, selfish, and prideful. Thank You for the truth of Your powerful Word that is able to keep me clean. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spiritual Fast Food

Fast food. It becomes an option when I haven’t had time to prepare dinner. It’s quick, convenient, and usually tastes good – although I wouldn’t want to vouch for its nutritional value. Just last week, I opted for fast food when dinner time rolled around and I hadn’t consulted my weekly menu plan. A brief glance at the plan reaffirmed what I already knew. There was no way I could make calzones and serve them for dinner, unless we were interested in a midnight snack.

Off to the drive-through. Our order was ready quickly. From the time we got in line, to the time we finished our meal, less than an hour had passed. Whoever came up with the term ‘fast’ food, was definitely accurate!
Advantages of fast food aside, I DO enjoy cooking a meal and savoring each dish at a more leisurely pace. There’s something about preparing things that are tasty and nutritional that leaves me with a feeling of satisfaction. Although fast food has its place when I’m in a pinch, my preference is home cooking every time.

In a lot of ways, time is the currency of our day. With a major emphasis placed on being productive, I can’t help considering what my spiritual ‘meals’ look like on a daily basis. Am I interested in quality ‘food’ or satisfied with spiritual fast food? Am I so busy with the good, that I crowd out the best - the opportunity to spend time with my Heavenly Father?
There are days when reading a quick chapter in God’s Word and praying while on the road is the best I can do. But what truly satisfies? Those days when I open His Word, take time to sit at His feet, and really consider what He’s saying to me. The times when I pray His Word back to Him over the situations that concern me. The moments I’m completely still, reveling in the knowledge that He IS God.

The more time I spend in relationship with Him, the more I desire the things that truly satisfy my spiritual appetite. The Psalmist, David, a man after God’s own heart, put it this way, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much find gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb,” (Psalm 19:7-10; KJV).

The spiritual hunger that I experience can only be satisfied by spending time with God. David recognized this when he cried out, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is…Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee…My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips,” (Psalm 63:1,3,5).

Spiritual fast food or a real spiritual meal? What will you choose to satisfy your spiritual appetite today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to hunger and thirst for a closer relationship with You. Fill me with the things that will truly satisfy my spiritual appetite. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*A re-post from 9/2011.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Seasons of Life

School is winding down. Another year has passed. Soon each graduate will don cap and gown, march onto the stage, and receive a well-earned diploma. A thrilling time. A time for reflection. A time for celebration.

One season of life has been completed and another is about to begin. The excitement of venturing out for the first time is mixed with a twinge of apprehension about the future. Countless decisions vie for attention. Which college to attend? What major to choose? Where to work? Who to date?

I remember heading off to college with many of these questions swirling around in my mind. Not a single one takes God by surprise. His Word offers help and guidance for every season of life. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths," (Proverbs 3:5-6; KJV). Whether poised on the brink of leaving home for the first time, or dropping your high-school graduate off on campus, the Heavenly Father's point is clear: don't try to figure everything out, bring each concern to Me, and trust Me to guide your every step.

Look back on your life. Take a look at God's track record. Has He ever failed you? If He's brought you this far, won't He continue to lead you? Let His Word encourage you: "...I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," (Hebrews 13:5b). He has a purpose and a plan for your life. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end," (Jeremiah 29:11).

As you yield to Him, be aware of His work in your life. Remember Joseph? The one whose brothers sold him into slavery? Despite his difficult circumstances, he submitted himself to the Lord with amazing results. Over and over we're told that other's noticed the hand of God on Joseph's life. (Genesis 39:3, 21; 41:38). Eventually the Lord allowed Joseph to become second in command in the land of Egypt, and to be reconciled with his family.

Life can be exciting, but it can also be intimidating. Remember that God loves you and is in control. Seek His guidance and then follow the path He lays out for you. Praise Him when He uses you to point others to Him. No matter what season of life you're in, look forward with anticipation to the unique plan God has for you! And celebrate!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Every Opportunity

When I received the friend request, I knew the name sounded familiar. I repeated the name several times, and it dawned on me. The young lady had been a member of a teen Bible study I had co-taught several years earlier. It was so good to reconnect and find out that she was doing well. Now in high school, she continues to grow in Christ through an outreach on campus.

Knowing that I have the opportunity to impact lives for Jesus Christ is truly humbling. Beginning in my own family, each day offers me the chance to teach the principles of God's Word from ordinary experiences. The words of Moses reiterate this fact, "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up," (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; KJV). Basically, it should be natural to speak of the Lord and His ways. And to speak of Him often. Every time an occasion presents itself, whether to family or a new acquaintance.

Life is full of difficulties. From sibling rivalries to unfair treatment, what better time to introduce the caring, compassionate Savior, who invites us into His presence? "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," (Hebrews 4:16). No matter what the difficulty, He wants us to leave our burden with Him, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you," (1 Peter 5:7). As prayers are lifted, and answers are received, faith in a mighty God begins to grow.

Good times can also present challenges. There is a delicate balance between enjoying a victory, and becoming prideful in its wake. Being reminded of the One who gave the victory goes a long way in cultivating the right attitude. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights..." (James 1:17a). Reviewing God's many blessings keeps us focused on His goodness, "O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever," (Psalm 107:1).

Numerous opportunities to share Christ's principles present themselves every day. I only need to keep my eyes open for the teachable moments. Each day we get the chance to make a mark on those who are in the sphere of our influence. Are we diligently teaching the ways of the Master? Pointing others to the Truth?

As you consider those on whom you have an impact, pray that the Lord would equip you to make much of Him! May we have the excitement of Peter and John, who boldly proclaimed, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard," (Acts 4:20).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunities You give me to influence others for You. Equip me with the ability to share Your principles naturally with those You bring across my path. Help me to keep my eyes open for teachable moments, and communicate Your ways so others may grow in their faith. In Jesus' name, Amen.
*A re-post from 10/2010

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

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Inspired Word

As I completed a discipleship course with some friends recently, I was challenged by the words of the following Psalm. As you meditate on the verses, may you be encouraged today!

Psalm 119:1-24 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. 4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. 8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. 9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12 Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. 13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. 17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. 18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. 19 I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me. 20 My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times. 21 Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments. 22 Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies. 23 Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. 24 Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.

Praise the Lord for His inspired Word!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What Are You Wearing?

I completed the dreaded task a couple of weeks ago. You know, making the BIG switch. Swapping the winter clothes out of my closet, for those that make the summer heat more bearable. It's quite a job and I put it off as long as possible.

Reality set in the next day when I realized a few things from my summer wardrobe were a little on the tight side. Something had happened since the last time I'd worn these guessed it, I'd added a couple of pounds. Nothing too serious, but serious enough to cause some discomfort. Time to get a bit more disciplined about my eating and exercise.

As I increased the time and intensity of my workout this morning, I thought about clothing. Although I may not be able to wear some of the clothes in my closet, the wardrobe that God provides for me, will always fit. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel shoes, and the helmet of salvation - each article of spiritual clothing, designed by the master Tailor in just the right size.

How relieving to know that I can never outgrow God's truth. The 'belt' He provides is up to any challenge I might encounter. Battling the lie that you just can't handle life's stress anymore? The belt of truth overcomes this falsehood: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9; KJV).  Feeling challenged to forgive someone? Look to the truth: "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col. 3:13). Whatever stage in life; youth, teen, adult, the belt of truth that God provides for me will always fit. I need only to put it on! The truth of His Word is guaranteed to make me free (John 8:32).

The breastplate of righteousness is neither too tight nor too loose. When I live in a way that's consistent with my Father's instruction manual, the Bible, this breastplate is extremely comfortable. Putting God first, treating others with kindness and respect, helping those in need, and following His will for my life keep me living right, and put me in the position to be blessed by my loving, Heavenly Father. The book of Matthew reminds us, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (6:33).

I've got some shoes that pinch my toes, causing blisters. Another pair that painfully squeeze the back of my heel . Then there are those shoes that are so comfortable, I barely notice I've got them on. God's gospel shoes fit like a dream, and give me the motivation to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those He brings across my path. Satan wants me to think that others aren't interested in hearing the plan of salvation, so he seeks to rough up my terrain and cause my 'feet' discomfort. But the truth is, everyone needs to hear about the Savior. And He is more powerful than our enemy: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

I'm not much of a hat person, but I understand that a hat can provide protection. Have you ever allowed a thought to drift through your mind, causing you to doubt God? Without the helmet of salvation firmly in place, those thoughts will go unchecked, playing directly into the hand of the enemy. Beware! As much as the enemy wants us to doubt our salvation, the Lord wants us to be assured of our salvation. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:13; emphasis added mine).

So what are you wearing? If you're in need of a wardrobe makeover, may I recommend the master Tailor? Jesus Christ. The belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, gospel shoes, and helmet of salvation will look good on you! And they're perfect all year round! 

*A re-post from April 2010.   

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