Thursday, September 30, 2010

Christmas is for Giving Books

Christmas may not be quite around the corner, but it will be here before you know it!  It's always that way, you know.  So, I'm going to help you out by telling you about some good reads, one to read during the season and two to give as great gifts to others (or yourself, if you're into that.  Grin). 

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year.  I love the memories of years past, the feelings of anticipation, the sights, the sounds, the smells.  And I love the stories.  Every year Robert J. Morgan, a pastor in Nashville, gifts his congregation with a Christmas story.  Now you have a chance to read six of those in The Nativity Collection: Six Stories That Share the Smiles, the Heart, and the Hope of ChristmasThe title describes it perfectly.  These short stories and their sweet illustrations bring to mind all the beauty of Christmas.  It would be a perfect read-aloud with your family around the dinner table or a great book to enjoy on your own during the quiet of an evening. 

A great gift to give would be Francine Rivers' Marta's Legacy set.  Earlier this year, I read and reviewed Her Mother's Hope.  As soon as I saw that the sequel, Her Daughter's Dream was available, I snatched it up.  This book was all that I'd hoped it would be.  It continued to explore those mother-daughter relationships that had so frustrated me in the first book (in a good way) and to detail the consequences of the messiness of loving.  Rivers did a beautiful job of showing how our imperfect love can cause misunderstanding and hurt, but that there is hope.  This book just affirms why she is one of my favorite current authors. 

Finally, if you want a book that's not attached to another, pick up The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner.  My brother and sis-in-love gave me this great read for my birthday.  In this book Lauren, an extremely wealthy college student, wishes to strike out on her own.  She takes a job transcribing a diary of a victim of the Salem witch trials.  I appreciated the many layers of this well-told story that explore the ways we judge others and reminds us of a time in America's past while weaving with it a modern tale.

I will be taking off this next week for multiple reasons. 
Until next time,

My honest review for The Nativity Collection was done in exchange for a free copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing through BookSneeze.  The other two were just worthy of sharing with you!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our Life Preserver

"Come and see what God has done,
how awesome His works in man's behalf!

He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot—
come, let us rejoice in Him.

He rules forever by His power,
His eyes watch the nations—
let not the rebellious rise up against him. 

Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of His praise be heard; 
He has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping. 

For you, O God, tested us;
You refined us like silver. 
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.

You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but You brought us to a place of abundance."
~Psalm 66:5-12

Praise be to our Life Preserver, who longs to bring us life abundantly! 

He didn't save us out of the waters and the fire to merely pass time between cradle and grave.  He saved us to pass on life -- to be satisfied, soul-breathing, purpose-driven, praise-bearing, life-giving preservers of His existence.   

Be Christ.  Be life-givers.  Be.

For more life-giving thoughts, visit Internet Cafe Devotions.


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Father of the Rain

I listen to the crunch, crunch of my feet across the ground as I walk.  The land is bone dry.  The grass is brown; the leaves are brittle.  I feel the parched stalks break off beneath my weight.  They snap with each step.  An arid land.

My spirit feels that.

The farmers harvest on because the work must be done, but the fields are ripe for fire.  Fire that scorches and destroys hundreds of acres in minutes.  We watched it happen last week.  The conditions were favorable:  wind and drought and heat.  Crops lost, houses endangered.  The smell of fear mingling with the smoke.   

Sometimes we press on, continuing to do what needs to be done because the matter is urgent, or we think it is important.  But it takes it's toll on body and spirit.  The conditions worsen until we wake up so dry that our hearts are ripe for destruction, ripe for just one word or one problem to arise that will spark a fierce storm in our soul. A storm fanned into flame with winds of weariness and the heat of resentment stored.

We can continue to persevere, justifying the urgency or worth of the work.  Or we can cry out for rain that has been so long in coming that we've forgotten what it feels like, tastes like, smells like.  But we know it exists.  And we know the Source.

"The LORD answered . . . 'Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?  Does the rain have a father?  Who fathers the drops of dew?'"  (Job 38:27-28)

You, Lord.  You are the Source.  I need my time with You.

My season of sowing stretches before me into years, God willing, and I'm discovering just how greatly I need His rain on a consistent basis.  The sprinkles here and there just aren't enough.  I need a soaking rain.

There are seasons for all things.  So today, I pray for His teaching to fall like rain on us all, even as I pray for water to satisfy our thirsty land.  Let the rainy season come.

holy experience

For the blessings that have rained down already, I give thanks.  Gifts #305 - 321:

a walk with my family

chubby fingers that pick up triangles of toast

eyes to see the beauty of every day

sitting, all five of us, on the couch covered in blankets

His Word that falls like rain


music that says what I feel

her "Hi, Mommy" apology when she's done something wrong

The Stinker's endless jokes and good humor

The Thinker's success at school

dancing in the family room with The Princess

cooler temperatures

field fires extinguished and no one hurt

sparkling red glass  . . .

and a mom who knows my color

His words from which flow righteousness and healing

His rain that will come


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

As Surely as the Sun Rises

let us press on to acknowledge Him.
As surely as the sun rises, He will appear;
He will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth."
~Hosea 6:3

As surely as the sun rises . . .

Each morning that I wake, I do not wonder if the sun is going to rise.  It is something that I expect, that I take for granted.  It is something that is sure.  Few things are certain, but this is one of them. 

As is Christ's return.  He will appear.  He will restore.  He will renew.

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, 'These words are trustworthy and true'" (Revelation 22:1-6).

There are so many prophecies fulfilled and promises kept in God's Word, that I believe this one is well.  He is faithful.  He will do it.  As surely as the sun rises.

"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.'
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). 

Grace be with you while we wait.

Prepare for Him by reading more from the Word at Internet Cafe Devotions.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Give Thanks With Me

Why do we need to be told to give thanks?

This is the question I pondered as I pushed the cart out of the store after a frustrating discussion with my son.  He wanted something; I said no.  He sulked; I lectured. 

I silently fumed at his ungrateful attitude as I counted all of his blessings . . . a dinner out with family at his favorite restaurant, a fabulous soccer game the day before and meal out after that, his getting to wear the pair of shoes he wanted to church and getting to ride with his cousin on the way to the restaurant afterwards.  The list continued in my head with each step, until a familiar Voice interrupted my thoughts.

"What about your ungrateful attitude?  How many times have you been told, 'No,' and sulked?"  And I realize the lecture that I gave to my son could have been said in front of a mirror.

We are forgetful creatures, happy to enjoy the blessings we are given without remembering from Whom they come.  Quick to complain when we feel we're missing out on something good, yet slow to remember to give credit when it's due.

Let's not be like those with darkened hearts and foolish thinking that know God but don't acknowledge or give thanks to Him (Romans 1:21).  Let's not be like the nine lepers who were cured by Jesus, but did not return to show their gratitude (Luke 17:12-17).  Instead, together let's

     Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
     make known among the nations what he has done.
     Sing to him, sing praise to him;
     tell of all his wonderful acts.
     Glory in his holy name;
     let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
     Look to the LORD and his strength;
     seek his face always.
     Remember the wonders he has done,
     his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.
                                                 ~1 Chronicles 16:8-12

Intentionally remember and give thanks with me today.  As I continue my count to One Thousand, I ask you to share with me that for which you are thankful. 

holy experience

Because I need to give thanks for gifts #288 - 304

a nephew's decision to be baptized

dinner with family to celebrate

fried green tomatoes, shared

attending church and being surrounded by those I love most

money to buy what we need

a Voice to interrupt my self-righteousness

teaching moments

a husband's help when I have a headache

cuddling on the couch with the one I love most

beautiful weather

a bike ride with The Thinker

holding his hand as we walked down the lane (and he didn't pull away!)

the thoughts of my beautiful accountability partners

resisting temptation

new beginnings

His mercies are new every morning

much for which to give thanks


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Farmer Preacher

We climb up, up the ladder, Baby Girl and I.  We squeeze into the cab with her grandpa, my dad.  The space seems smaller since the last time I sat here (although the seat assures me it is I who have grown), but the honest smells of dust and grease and hard work are the same.

As we cozy close together, my shoulder against my dad's, Baby Girl clings tightly to my hands and presses back into my body.  It's her first harvest up close, up high.

He talks about the beans, how they're not as good as he'd hoped.  Too much rain too early, too little later on.  For years this farmer-dad of mine has been teaching me lessons about everything, but most of all, leading me in the Way. 

And now, the farmer has turned preacher.  He will be sharing his love, his knowledge, his Lord with many, in a new way.

"Look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest."  John 4:35

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."  Matthew 9:37

Go glean.  Go bless.

Consider gleaning from God's Word at Internet Cafe Devotions.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Hold Me Prisoner

Something recently has captivated my mind . . . it was a phrase I stumbled upon about being a prisoner, and I realized that I'm ready to be held hostage in a new way. 

I have been enslaved before.  I've been a prisoner of bad habits, technology, thinking patterns, other's opinions, busyness and laziness (to name a few).  There are many forms imprisonment can take.  We can be enslaved to people, relationships, food, emotions, drama, money and the things which it buys.  All of these jailers confine and strangle and suffocate.  But there is One who is set apart from all the others.

"Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you"  (Zechariah 9:12).

"Rejoice greatly . . . Shout!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation . . . He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah 9:9-10).

I wish to be a prisoner of hope, a hope that does not disappoint.  I wish to be a bondservant of the God of hope (Romans 5:13) that does not destroy, but restores -- a double portion!

I am tired of being entrapped by the cares of this world.  I am tired of the tiny confines I find myself in, cells of my own creating with walls of selfishness, worry, carelessness and other sins.  Instead, I'd like to run to the Fortress whose home is wide and spacious.  So today I I'm journeying to my Strong Tower:

I'm setting my mind on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).
I'm fixing my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).
I'm committing myself to the encouragement of the Scriptures that give hope (Romans 15:4).
I'm anchoring my soul to the hope of God's unchanging promises through Christ (Hebrews 6:19).

I believe that The King is returning someday.  I believe that, like the Unicorn in The Last Battle, we will be able to say, "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this."  I believe in a New Heaven and a New Earth. 

But for now, we wait in the shadow. "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?" (Romans 8:24).

And I believe that Hope will someday be Reality.  So I don't want to lose sight of that which is real, that which is good, that which is more than what is here in front of me. I'm tearing down walls that confine, and I'm letting my mind be captivated once again by hope.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13).

holy experience

I'm praising Him today that in His hope there is great freedom, and I am remaining captivated by His enduring love and His generous abundance that allows me to count to 1,000.

Gifts #257 - 287:

a God of Hope

a Hope to come

that it will be MORE

that we can count on loving it because of the good we know here

Prince Caspian . . . a movie to remind me again of a world to come

good authors, such as C.S. Lewis

cool night air for sleeping


beautiful morning walks with The Thinker

first soccer games played and won

two teams of players we love

a husband who loves to coach his boys

Baby Girl wrote on the piano keys with purple crayon, not purple permanent marker

the terrible twos are just a phase, even if entered early

a husband's help

easy dinners

my crockpot

coming home late to a cooked meal

the smell of clean laundry

a washing machine

a dryer


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All Alone

"The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone."  Exodus 18:18

"It is not good for the man to be alone."  Genesis 2:18

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

Alone. God's Word over and over shows us that we aren't meant to be alone. We were created out of relationship for relationship.

I need my husband to get me out of bed each morning to exercise; I wouldn't do it without him. I need my accountability partners' silent pressure to read my Bible each morning; I'd be even more inconsistent without them. I need my family's and friends' expectations to be at church each week; otherwise, I'd be tempted to stay home in my pjs or go hiking if the weather even hinted of niceness.

I need community. I need other people to encourage me to press on to do the right thing each and every day. I simply can't do this Jesus walk alone. I wasn't meant to.

And neither were you.

I encourage you to visit Internet Cafe Devotions for more Word-filled inspiration.


Monday, September 6, 2010

I've Been Cheated, Been Mistreated . . . . and Still Have Love

I was lied to.  Duped.  Scammed.  Played the fool.  Taken advantage of . . . the ways of describing it seem endless.

I spent a month of my time helping someone who didn't really need my help (at least not the way she represented the need).  I worried over her, worked to help her, prayed for her, tried to be a friend to her.  For no reason that I can fully understand at this time.

Relationships are messy and involve risk.  There are times I've shied away from them because I have the innate desire to protect myself.  While I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, there is a small part of me that is skeptical.  So to overcome that, I take risks.  I try on trust.

And sometimes I discover a treasure of a friendship I wouldn't have had otherwise.

But sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I'm left with a little scrape on my heart and a question in my mind and that snide inner voice that says, "I told you so."  A seeming confirmation that skepticism should remain firmly planted.  Sometimes there is no treasure (or so it seems).

I can chalk it up to life's lessons.  I can grow more cautious.  I can grow bitter and cynical. 

Or I could just forgive and go on, and find a gift in the mess . . . the gift of God's Word spoken to my heart the very day I realized my suspicions were correct after all, a gift that has allowed me to be completely free from all anger or bitterness.  In this I find my treasure:

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. . . . .

"But love your enemies, do good to them . . . Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. . . .

"Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you"  (Luke 6:27 - 38).

I need the full measure, and so that's what I'm giving  -- a full measure of forgiveness for the full measure I've received.  The lies may have been endless, but so is His forgiveness -- a true treasure within a treasure.

I invite you to experience it today, my friend.

holy experience

Thanking God for these gifts #241 - 256

He is my friend

He knows all

the courage and heart to take risks

His mercy

the timing of a scripture read that He knew in advance I would need

truth revealed

my family's patience

I am loved

God loves all

people can change

a beautiful weekend that hinted of fall

an impromptu picnic

fun soccer practices

catching up on much-needed rest

praising Him with new insight


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Imperfect Imitation

Where I am, she is.  What I do, she does.  What I wear, she wants to wear. 

She studies me.  She literally sits at my feet as I go about my work of getting ready or grading a paper or fixing supper.  She wants to be with me and soak me in. 

But sometimes the results are less than perfect.

Jesus said to His followers, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:8).

He commended Mary for sitting at his feet and listening to what He said (Luke10:38-42).  She was drinking in His words and knowing the Father through Him.

God asks us to do the same -- to look at His Son, the image of the invisible God, and know Him.  He gives us Jesus, and says, "Know Me."  We can study Him, sitting at His feet each day through the Word, through prayer, through music . . . and drink Him in.

And then we are asked as we get to know Him, to imitate Him.  "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1). 

He knows our results will often be less than perfect -- that the mascara might wind up all over our face when we were aiming for the eye.  He knows that we may say the wrong words, do the wrong things, love less than we should. 

But He also knows with practice, we will look more and more like Christ, the exact representation of God, and we will be able to say as Paul did, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

And as we imitate Christ, others just might see Jesus and get to know our Father.

For more of the Word, visit Internet Cafe Devotions.

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