Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dare to Poke God

My husband, Jeff, and I spent a few days last week in the hospital with our 13-year-old son, Ryan, who had reconstructive surgery done on his left foot. Per hospital policy, one parent was allowed to spend the night in the room with their child. Jeff spent the first night and I took the second.

When I arrived back at the hospital after Jeff’s night with Ryan, I asked Jeff how he’d slept. “Not well,” was his answer. Smiling, he continued, “It seemed like every time I dozed off, Ryan reached over and poked me to wake me up because he needed something.”

Later, after Jeff went back to the room we were staying in to catch a nap, I commented to Ryan, “I hear Dad didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”

Apologetically, he said, “Yeah, that would be my fault. I kept waking him up.”

I looked him right in the eye and said very deliberately, “That’s okay. That’s what we’re here for.” Comforted by that fact, he soon drifted off for a nap as well.

As I sat there pondering our conversation, I couldn’t help but thank the Lord for being the kind of God we can poke whenever we need something. Anything! Any time!

Sometimes we act as though it is a great bother to ask the Lord for the things we need even when we know there is no way we can get them on our own.

But Jesus tells us this in Matthew 7:7-11:

7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Do you see that?

Ask.

Ask.

Ask!

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record that Jesus told his disciples to ask on multiple occasions. It seems as if He didn’t get his point across to everyone though, because there is still teaching on this subject in several other books of the New Testament as well. Ephesians, James, and 1 John all implore disciples to simply ask of the Father for anything they need.

Perhaps we feel our needs aren’t important enough to bother God with them, or that we don’t deserve them even if we need them. We need to know that God doesn’t think that way! He has done everything He can to deliberately say to us, “That’s okay. That’s what I’m here for.”

Take comfort in that fact and rest in it. Dare to poke God today and ask Him for the things you need right now!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Welcoming Home My Husband

Waiting for the plane to land.
Taken from news video link found on this page:
http://www.wtvh.com/news/local/26322739.html



video

After a 5-hour delay, the plan finally arrives.



video

About an hour after he got off the plane, he was finally done
with processing and able to reunite with us.



He's amazed at how tall the boys have gotten in such a short time.



Not letting go!


Thanks from all of us to those who prayed for us during this trip!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where's The Rest Of Romans???


If you're wondering when I'm going to get to the rest of Romans, the answer is pretty close to, "Not any time soon."

Life ~ such as it is ~ has become a bit more complicated than when I first set out on that little venture. The Bible study is still happening, but time has eluded me. I haven't even found enough hours in any given day to write out all of the randomness in my head.

So, until I am able to change my schedule or something lets up, Romans is on hold. Hopefully, I'll get to do some other writing, but time will tell.

God bless!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Praise in the Storm

Yesterday we had powerful thunderstorms sweep through our area (it was a huge band spanning several counties) that did quite a bit of damage. High winds came in fast and furious along with rain and hail in some places, but it was the wind that caused the damage.

Trailers overturned, trees uprooted and snapped in half, and power lines were knocked down all over the place. A section of our main highway was closed for most of the day because of power lines across all lanes. Several people reported seeing funnel clouds, but the weather service has not confirmed any tornadoes.

I've only heard of one death due to the storm where a logger in an adjacent county was pinned between his truck and a tree that a gust of wind knocked over. Emergency crews could not get to him quickly because of the power lines and trees down in the roads. He died at the hospital later on. Our prayers are with his family, co-workers, and friends.

Below are some pictures I took this morning, mostly for the benefit of my congregation.

* * * * * * * * * *

All of the white pieces lying on the ground used to be our church sign.


Here is one section of the sign and one of four bulbs from the corner lights.


You can see two more bulbs here... one in the foreground, facing us, and one under the end of the white beam that is lying on the ground pulled away from the bottom of the sign. See it? It's under the end that's in the cross shadow. We are assuming the fourth bulb is under the sign or blown farther away than we looked for it.


This leg snapped right at the ground line.


This leg snapped a little higher than ground line. Along this side of the sign is the metal conduit with the electric lines in it that run underground. Had we still had the lines above ground, they could have been ripped out of the wall. Actually, as I look at this picture, I'm thinking that the conduit is probably what kept the sign from being blown any farther than down! That's all it's connected to.


Work crews lining the road for tree removal and line repair.
This is the scene just north of the church.


National Grid is on the job.


Remnants of a felled tree stacked in the yard of a friend's house.


I believe this could be the tree those logs came from. It's across the street from my friend's house. You can see branches still on the ground behind the standing tree and a broken branch down behind the boat.


There is a little glare from the windshield in this one (I'm a writer, not a photographer), but you can still see the tipped poles and downed electric lines, some sections with branches still on them. This is on the same street just past and across from my friend's house.

You can find other, more amazing pictures here.

* * * * * * * * * *

This is just a small glimpse of what a lot of the town my church is in looks like, which is why they have declared a state of emergency there. They have no power, which means no traffic lights, and have many trees and power lines to repair. Rumor has it that it will be a couple of days before power is completely restored.

And yet, despite the destruction, I am hearing many stories of God's blessings and provision.

One woman in an area lost her private utility pole. Until she could replace it, they could not hook up power and she didn't know what to do. God's provision was right in her own yard! She had a junk vehicle that she was able to sell and get the money for the new pole. It is being installed today and she could have power as soon as tonight.

Praise the Lord!

A couple from our church had a large tree fall in their yard - completely missing their storage shed. They also had glass windows blown out in their garage, yet not a single pane was chipped! I can picture angels lined up inside the garage waiting to catch them and then setting them down gently on the floor for them to re-install when the husband came home from work!

Praise the Lord!

I heard a story of a Curves member in her sixties who ran home from her neighbor’s house next door to clean things off her porch so they wouldn’t blow away, only to be almost blown away herself! She is legally blind, but could hear a roaring wind coming up the street, so she wrapped her arms tightly around a nearby post. As the strong wind rushed past her house, she turned her head to see the outline of a funnel barreling down the street. Her feet were lifted off the ground, but her grip proved strong and she was fine. I already know how God has provided for her financially to exercise at Curves for strength training and I believe He also put her in place at that porch post.

Praise the Lord!

I'm looking forward to hearing more praises despite damages, too. No matter how great our losses, God still provides!

All of this reminds me of a song by Casting Crowns – Praise You In This Storm. The chorus goes like this:

I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Take a listen here when you can. God bless!



Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Flubbed My American Idol Audition!

Just kidding!

But it sure felt like that.

By God’s grace, Gabe – our Worship Team lead guitar player and recording genius – isn’t Simon Cowell.

At worship practice on Tuesday, we were recording vocal tracks to a song for a project we are working on. The guitars were already recorded and both the lead singer and soprano had already recorded their tracks when it was my turn, so I had the benefit of almost a full band, minus the drums, to pull me through.

I put on the headphones and got used to how loud everything was going to sound in my ears (sort of) and then started a run-through without recording. I opened my mouth to sing and that’s when it all fell apart.

For the life of me, I could not find the notes!

Grant it, this is a fairly new song for us, but it’s not one that I struggle with when we play it during worship services. For some reason, I was just not able to figure out my place in the verses even after I got the chorus going.

Patiently, Gabe replayed a verse over and over… and over for me, but after about eight or seventeen tries (I lost count), he finally decided to cut me a CD of the tracks to take home and practice with so I can try again next week.

I don’t know if it was a memory problem, a case of the jitters (standing there in front of a professional recording microphone with someone really listening to me sing), or the fact that I’d eaten before practice (I don’t have great control on a full stomach), but I just couldn’t accomplish the task.

Whatever the problem was, I know for a fact that Satan tried to use it for his own evil purposes. How do I know? Because of the lies that started rushing into my head:

“This isn’t going to work.”

“You can’t sing anyway, why bother?”

“You’re wasting everyone’s time.”

Ouch!

Today I’d like to publicly address those lies to Satan himself.

Devil, it is written: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This will work and be for good because I love God and am called according to His purpose to be on the worship team!

Devil, it is written: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” (Philippians 4:13) Besides, I’d rather listen to the voice of God and the many voices of my friends over your one puny voice. I don’t have to be perfect, just obedient with what I have.

Devil, it is written: “That which we have seen and heard we declare to [all], that [they] also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3 – word changes mine) Every member of the worship team has a passion to testify of Jesus Christ through the ministry of music. We are a worship team and no one’s time is wasted because the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes!” (Romans 1:16) Again… it is written!

Whew! I feel much better now.

And for the record... I popped that CD into my player on the way home from worship practice and sung it pitch perfect first time through. ;0)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Romans - Chapter 1:1-17


The first half of Romans Chapter 1 is the apostle Paul’s introduction of himself to the Christians in Rome.

Paul really knew how to write! Or he really knew how to be Spirit-led in his writing. He so clearly represents Jesus and presents the gospel in this epistle (letter) that many scholars have called Romans the greatest epistle of them all.

Right away in verse 1, we see that Paul pulls no punches and gets right to the point in just a few words. Paraphrased: “Hi, I’m Paul. I’m a bond-servant of Christ and God set me apart as an apostle to preach the gospel.” Boom!

His humble reference to himself as a “bond-servant” was in clear contrast to the Jewish religious leaders’ title of Rabbi, which means, “my master.” Both Jewish and Gentile Christians of that day would understand that Paul’s position was to serve them on Christ’s behalf rather than lord over them.

Citing his apostleship meant that Paul claimed he was not called by any man to preach the Gospel, but by Christ Himself. Luke supported this claim by recording Paul’s Damascus Road encounter three times in the book of Acts. (9:3-5; 22:6-8; 26:12-18)

(Interesting reading on apostles if you have the time: http://bible.crosswalk.com/Dictionaries/BakersEvangelicalDictionary/bed.cgi)

In verses 2-4, Paul declares his knowledge of prophecy and Scripture, which influenced the Jews, and verses 5-6 affirm the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan. Verse 7 unites both groups under the same pronouncement of God’s love. Talk about knowing and appealing to your audience!

This is followed up by a wonderful word of encouragement for these believers (vv. 8-10) – Paul, an apostle of Christ, praises them for their faith! Remember, Paul had not yet been to Rome to see them. He’d heard about them because their faith was being “proclaimed throughout the whole world.”

I don’t know about you, but people can tell me all day long that I’m doing a good job at something and I just take it with grace, offering a sincere thank you for their praise. However, it makes a big impact on me when a leader in my life tells me I’m doing a good job at something. Suddenly, I realize that important people are noticing what I’m doing and I’m SO glad that it’s not for the wrong reasons!

Paul didn’t keep the news about their faith to himself either; he told others as he went about preaching the gospel. He was proud of them, he thanked God for them, and he prayed for them. He also prayed that he could meet these faithful believers face to face.

His desire to share with them a “spiritual gift” that would help “establish” them is found in verse 11. When a preacher ministers the gospel, God imparts gifts to those who receive the message. Whether it is hope or healing, knowledge or salvation, grace, peace, or comfort, God wants to share His gifts and Paul was eager to bring to the Roman Christians whatever the Lord would share with them through him.

He knew that a spiritual gift from the Lord would help make them even stronger and more stable in their faith, establishing more firmly in their hearts their belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul also knew that being together with them would encourage his faith as well (verse 12).

It seemed important to Paul to let the believers in Rome know that he’d been thinking about them for some time (verse 13) and, had there not been other things to prevent him, he would already have come. He looked forward to ministering there so he could “obtain fruit” among them, possibly salvation of souls, encouragement of believers, and other “fruits” that come of laboring for the harvest. While he loved his fellow Jewish-Christians, his mission was to the Gentiles.

Verse 14 distinguishes “types” of Gentiles that Paul was obligated to preach the gospel to, so that none would think themselves above the others, nor beneath the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, either the Greeks (who were Gentiles) called all others not of their nation Barbarians, or Greeks represented the more cultivated nations of the world while Barbarians were the ruder, more uncivilized parts. Either way, Paul knew to make reference to both groups. He also was clear that he preached to both the educated (wise) and the uneducated (foolish). The gospel is for everyone.

So far, Paul has summed up his credentials, his audience, and his purpose, all of which compel him to be “eager” to preach to the Christians in Rome (verse 15). He knew that God had called him, he had a passion for those God told him to preach and minister to, and he was confident in the gospel he had to share. Paul was “good to go” as soon as he could get to Rome!

Many people today wish they could have the faith to preach (evangelize) like Paul did. What was his secret? Why was he so bold? Did God give him an extra portion of the Holy Spirit or did it have to do with the fact that Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road? Surely, we’d have more faith had we been knocked off our high horse and blinded for three days!

If it had anything to do with the latter, how do you explain the lack of faith in some who actually walked with Jesus and saw Him perform miracles? Throughout history, man has denied Jesus Christ even when they come face to face with Him.

I am convinced that it had to do with the fact that Paul actually listened to what Jesus told him and then had a conversation with Him. Paul developed a relationship with Jesus right from the beginning that he never let go of!

By the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul walked and talked with Jesus every day. It was this experience of a personal relationship with Christ that led Paul to boldly declare, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘but the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Verses 16-17)

We can all have that!

Every man, woman, and child on the planet is invited to experience the power of salvation – “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 – italics mine)

God does reveal His righteousness – “The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations.” (Psalm 98:2)

The longer we spend time with Jesus the more we experience with Him so our faith grows. He shares more and more over time taking our faith from one level to another with each revelation of His righteousness.

Paul spent time with Jesus. It’s that simple. His faith was great because his relationship with Jesus was great. It was important to him and he worked to maintain it. Knowing Jesus so well is why he was eager to go wherever and to whomever the Lord asked him to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Oh, that I should desire to know the Lord so well, that none who cross my path should pass without a seed being planted!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Romans - Introduction

Bible study is greatly enhanced when we take time to look at the scripture’s background – the who, what, where, when, and why of the words recorded for our teaching. It places what we read into context so we avoid the errors of guesswork and injection of our own ideas.

With as great care as possible, scholars have used clues in scripture as well as other historical references to determine as closely as possible the necessary details to give us a picture of what was going on at the time each book of the Bible was written.

Not everyone agrees precisely on those details for every book, so I’m asking that you resist the temptation to nit-pick the details and look to the spirit of the purpose of the message. In other words, don’t miss out on spiritual growth because you’re hung up on a minor point!

God is not bound by time, place, or person. His word is His word no matter when it was given, where it was given, or to whom it was given. The Biblical framework presented by those who have studied the specifics of scripture is adequate to our understanding of God throughout history.

The group at my church is using material from two online studies available for free use:
We are also making use of Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible by James Strong, The Hayford Bible Handbook by Jack Hayford, Survey of the New Testament by Paul Benware, many resources at Crosswalk.com, and any other useful source that comes along.

All of these guides are merely supplements to the revelation that God gives to each student as we go through the lessons. Surprisingly, we’ve found that God has “planted the seeds” of Romans in our lives from our childhood and we all have experiences from the past or present that really bring home the message of Romans to our souls.

I say our souls because it is touching our minds through new knowledge and connections with our experiences, our wills through changed attitudes and renewed commitments, and our emotions through healing from uncertainties about our faith. We’re on an amazing road to victory in our lives and we’ve only just begun!

With that being said…

The Book of ROMANS

WHO: Written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Rome

WHAT: A letter of introduction and presentation of the gospel dictated to and penned by Paul’s scribe, Tertius

WHERE: Paul most likely wrote this letter while in Corinth, Greece on his third missionary journey. It was sent to the churches in Rome, a city of political and economic importance with an estimated population of four million at that time.

WHEN: Written in 58 A.D.

WHY: The theme of Romans is “The Gospel is God’s power to save all that believe.”

I found an excellent Introduction to Romans by Keith Sharp for further details and encourage you to read through that.

Stay tuned for Notes on our Bible study as we go along!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Music To My Heart


Ever have a song get stuck in your head? Sometimes it’s just a part of a song or a little ditty you heard on a television commercial or something, but it plays over and over in your head and won’t leave you alone until you focus your mind elsewhere.

My kids are good at starting me off on “music in my head” sessions. I’ll hear them singing something goofy or random in passing and the next thing I know, I’m humming or singing it. I’ll catch myself and try to think of something else, but before long it’s back with a vengeance until I put something else in my brain, like another song… one I actually like! Yeah, I know you know what I’m talking about here. ;0)

I’ve found that the Lord is really good at that, too. That’s why I’m writing this morning – because I’ve got part of a song stuck in my head that the Lord woke me up with and it won’t leave me alone. Now, the songs the Lord puts in my head don’t drive me insane, but they are persistent and there are only two ways to deal with them.

The obvious way is to put something else in my brain. Getting out of bed and starting my day is generally sufficient to accomplish this, since my brain immediately fills up with all the tasks on my list for the day and how best to tackle them. It is beyond me why I ever want to do this, since that list can drive me insane quicker than my kid’s little ditties!

So I’ve found a better way and it’s quite easy to do actually because the songs from the Lord are songs of worship and praise. Simply put, I embrace them.

It is a joyful thing to wake up with a song from the Lord in your mind. The things in our minds are a reflection of what’s in our hearts. The days I wake up with His songs in my head let me know that my relationship with Him is right, that I am in love with the Lord and He is in love with me.

Of course, He is always in love with me but, if I do not love Him, my heart doesn’t always sing for joy. On those days, the thoughts in my mind are far from worship and praise. They are more like grumbling and complaining about having to wake up. How much better to wake up in love with the Lord!

Psalm 28:7 reads, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”

I do trust in the Lord and that is why my heart sings. It is a good time in this country for Christian music, too. So many talented artists are able to share their hearts freely through amazing worship and praise songs. Praise the Lord for that.

We have no excuse for not filling our heads with songs that the Lord can place in our hearts for His glory somewhere along the line! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, look for a KLOVE radio station in your area and tune in to some amazing love songs.

Before I end, I’d like to stick my song in your head. It’s part of “I Wait For The Lord” by Jeremy Camp and you can hear this little segment if you go here.

I wait for the Lord
My soul waits
I wait for the Lord

In His word I place my trust
In his word I rest
In His word I place my trust
For I know I must wait

Allow your soul to wait on the Lord today. Your soul is your mind, will, and emotions – willingly fix your thoughts on Him. Get into Scripture and let God’s words fill your soul with a rest you can trust in. It doesn’t come if we busy ourselves with the tasks and routines of life. It comes when we wait on the Lord.

Are you singing the song in your head yet?

Embrace it!

My kids would be proud of me. :0)

Friday, April 11, 2008

“Florida Pastor Finds Jesus Image in Split Potato”


I know this story broke back in January, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to comment on. You can read the article at: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,324579,00.html

Why does it surprise man to see an image of Jesus in a potato? Doesn’t the Bible say He is in all creation?

Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Could it be that men have denied this for so long that God has to point it out more obviously so they will see and believe to the saving of their souls?

If God could create the potato, why could He not appear in one? Some say that does not seem like a way God would make Himself known. I’m sure people around Baalam said the same thing when he told them that God spoke to him through his donkey. (Numbers 22) They must have thought the guy was nuts. But I bet it made a believer out of Baalam!

Balaam recognized that he was hearing the voice of the living, almighty God. It is the presence of God that makes a difference in the unusual things we see and hear.

So, what did Baalam do about this talking donkey? Did he take it home and pamper it, never using the animal for menial labor again because this beast had done the extraordinary by speaking human speech? Hopefully, not.

When we recognize the presence of God, it should cause us to worship Him, not the thing He works through.

The article said that Pastor Renee Brewster froze the part of the potato with Jesus’ image in it, but I’m pretty sure she’s not worshipping it. It’s just a cool thing to have found. I’d be impressed to find one!

Here’s another thought about the potato in case it didn’t cross your mind when you looked at the photo. There would have been nothing newsworthy had Pastor Renee cut the potato at any other angle than the one she did!

How could she possibly have known ahead of time what direction to cut the potato? Even when you consider that most people will probably cut a potato in the long direction (that’s a personal theory), had she cut it off center of where she did, the image would not have resembled Christ on the cross at all.

There is an attribute of God called 'divine providence' - divine being “of God” and providence being “forethought; providential care; to make provision for a thing.” A definition of providential is, “peculiarly fortunate or appropriate; as if by divine intervention.” Isn’t it possible that God directed her thoughts or her very hands to cut the potato exactly as it needed to be cut?

Everyone will have their own answer for this situation, but I prefer to believe that the Creator of our universe exists and that He cares so much about mankind, that He will place His image in a common potato to get our attention, letting us know He is real, and that He is able to lead us in all things - even the mundane of making potato salad - by His Divine Providence if we will only listen to His voice.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A God of All Comfort

My husband and I attended our first military funeral service recently. A 23-year-old young man died in Iraq after his vehicle struck a roadside bomb while serving with the United States Army. He was the son of a co-worker and friend.

It seems amazing to me that this would be the first military funeral service for us since so many people we know are deployed. This is good news because it means the number of soldiers surviving is greater than the number of soldiers dying. It is also amazing to me because our first military funeral could very well have been that of our own son.

Due to the seating arrangement in the church, I was able to clearly see the faces of this young man’s family, especially his mom. Sliding quietly into the front pew between loved ones, she seemed to be drained of all feeling. Before long, though, she was at the mercy of an assortment of emotions that would quickly overtake her and then leave just as suddenly.

When they spoke of this son’s exemplary military service, her face beamed with a strong pride. I shed tears thinking of her exemplary service in support of her son and yet, was comforted to know my son lived to be supported still.

When they spoke of this son’s humorous ways, she enjoyed a brief moment of laughter. I smiled deeply as I felt her rare joy and yet, was sad that she would not share that laughter with her son like I could continue to do with mine.

When they spoke of the family being notified of this son’s death, she began sobbing uncontrollably. I silently cried with her as I felt her grief and yet, was grateful that our notice held no such permanence.

Two moms. Two sons. Two lives… the same and yet, so very different.

Circumstances can bind people together who never knew each other existed before that one certain moment in time when their worlds came crashing together. This felt like a collision to me. It was as if this mom’s moment in time became my moment for a short time. I wondered how that could be and the Lord was faithful to answer.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Verse 4 in The Message reads:
“He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”


God has invested His compassion in me, not only for my benefit, but also for those around me. His comfort was crucial in my time of need when my son was injured in Iraq and He poured it out in abundance so I would have enough for that day and enough to share another day. This day.

The Bible also says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15 - NIV) Sharing the sadness eases the burden; makes it light enough to get through the trial.

I was honored to attend our first military funeral; to recognize this son’s sacrifice and to be an extension of God’s comfort for his mom. And yet… I pray it is our last.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spiritual Lesson From a Snowbank

(Photo: Low side of the snowbank - February 20, 2008)

This winter has been a blast. Literally! Heavy lake-effect snow blasted us several times this year. Except for about one foot, what you see in this picture is the result of one day's worth of snowfall! Ok, so some of what you see was shoveled there, but it's all from the same day.

And, of course, it was a day our snowblower decided not to work after the first run of the morning, so the boys and I were relegated to - as I said - shoveling in order to clear the driveway before husband and college daughter arrived home at the end of the day. Not once, but twice we found ourselves battling the barrage of white stuff that was mounting by inches per hour… all day long!

Midway through our second snow removal campaign (which was greeted with much less enthusiasm than the first, I might add), we found ourselves completely sapped of energy in the fight to get the driveway cleared on time. Not only did we have what fell from the sky to contend with, but also the heavier onslaught left at driveway's end by our hard-working state snowplow drivers, as they roared past our house (multiple times) in their own unending battle to keep the roads passable. Our efforts noticeably slowed to a crawl.

And yet, we pressed on - youngest son clearing two-three feet of snow off the mini-van (again) and next oldest son pitching in with Mom to clear enough of the driveway for the car to enter. At one point, I suddenly realized a very discouraging thing. As we hoisted each shovelful of snow to toss away, we were not getting the snow on top of the pile, but merely at the top of the pile. Everything we were working so hard to get rid of was only smacking the side of the heap and then rolling back down the slope into the driveway again!

Now, mind you, I am 5' 7" and both of my boys are at least 5' 10"... we are not short by any means. At least we didn't think we were until this winter! The problem was two-fold. First, those lovely white snowbanks surrounding the driveway had grown as tall (or taller in some areas) as myself. Second, we were plain exhausted! We simply had no room left to put the snow and no strength left to cast it far enough away!

While my sturdy son redoubled his efforts and was able to launch his snow higher and farther once he realized what was happening, I devised another plan: scoop the snow, walk up the driveway where the banks were lower, dump it there, walk back, and repeat.

Alas, for all our valiant efforts, the competition was too great. We watched in slight defeat as my husband dropped off college daughter curbside, drove to the corner where he could park in a neatly plowed lot, then walked home in the road (because all of our neighbors had also lost their battles and there were no clear sidewalks, let alone evidence that any existed to begin with).

Thankfully, dear husband was able to start the snowblower. While our newfound hero (Dad) beat back our enemy of the day, our sons and I gratefully traded in our shovels and snowbrush for mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows.

While sipping on chocolaty warmth and listening to the sounds of snow being quickly dispatched from our driveway, the Lord began to speak to me about spiritual things I could learn from the day. He’s funny that way.

As children of the living God, we are called to cast off the things in our life that get in the way of our relationship with Him. Anything that we are which thinks, speaks, feels, or behaves in a manner that is offensive to God, needs to be cut out of our lives and thrown away.

We don’t always agree with God about what those things are, but His word is pretty clear that we need to figure out what things He calls unholy and then do something about it – for our own sakes!

(WARNING: I am so growing to appreciate the bluntness of The MESSAGE version of the Bible! It cuts right to the root of the problem and leaves no sin unexposed. Unless otherwise indicated, that is the version I will be using today.)

Jesus used a very extreme and vivid analogy to stress the importance of casting off unholy things from our lives.

Matthew 18:8-9 "If your hand or your foot gets in the way of God, chop it off and throw it away. You're better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owners of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You're better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.”

I’m pretty sure God was not telling us to literally cast off our eyes, hands, and feet because it is not the body parts that do the sinning! It is the mind and heart that lead these body parts to see, do, and go into sin. Jesus is talking about casting off the thoughts and intentions that motivate us to sin, which will, in turn, allow us to repent of – turn away from; separate ourselves completely from - that which keeps us unholy.

Romans 12:2 (NIV - italics mine) “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Or… from The Message: “Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

What God was showing me through the snowbanks is that sin left unaddressed will continue to pile up and overwhelm you. Sin is a problem that compounds itself – it adds one thing on top of another. One definition I found for 'compound' is this: to make something more extreme or intense by adding something to it. (Note 1)

If you get away with one lie, you’ll lie again. And again. Soon you may become what is called a compulsive liar – you’ll be driven by an irresistible inner force to do it. It will become a habit that comes naturally to you.

If you don’t think one drink hurts you, you’ll drink more. And more. Soon you may become what is called an alcoholic - you will be addicted to alcohol and unable to control the urge to drink.

If you reject a portion of scripture because it doesn’t “feel” right to you, you will reject more scriptures. And more. Soon you may believe the entire Word of God to be a book of lies and you may become what is called an atheist – someone who does not believe in God. You will have cut yourself off from the promise of eternal salvation and condemned yourself to eternal death.

Sin does not stop with just one act. Sin wants to consume and overtake your life - to dump on you until you are buried. The question is, will you let it?

My son and I worked very hard trying to shovel the snow out of the driveway. We saw the problem and knew it had to go. We got rid of a lot of it, but found our efforts to be weak compared to the sheer amount of snow to be removed. God showed me a rather gory image related to our efforts. I saw myself tossing shovelful after shovelful of body parts toward the snowbank. But I was so tired, they weren’t being tossed far enough and they kept rolling down the slope and landing at my feet again!

That’s what happens when sin has built up in our life so much that we are overwhelmed by it. We struggle with temptations so great that we find it difficult to cast off unholy things from our lives even if we want to. Until we look at unholy things as gory body parts piling up around our feet, we'll never see a need to be rid of them.

If you recall, our solution with the snow removal was… to work harder! We devised new ways to cast that snow away from the driveway. You may also recall that it still wasn’t good enough.

Our salvation only came by one who had the power to cut through the snow on our behalf and be done with it once and for all. Jesus Christ offers this salvation to everyone for each and every unholy thing in our lives that overwhelms us and is offensive to God! He has the power to cut through to the root of the sin, remove it, and we will be done with it once and for all.

Jesus said we have not because we ask not and that when we ask we must believe. Are you asking? When you ask, are you really ready for the thing to be cast off? Would you believe today in the power of Jesus to meet your need?

Ephesians 4:22-24 “Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything - and I do mean everything - connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life - a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”

Jesus, rescue me from my sins! I have been powerless to cast them off by my own strength and by my own methods. I give You each unholy thing by name and will do what You ask me to do so that those sins will no longer overwhelm me, holding me in bondage to them. I agree that these things are offensive to God and that they must go – every last one of them. I choose to take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life – as I allow You to renew me completely from the inside out. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.

Note 1: Encarta World Enlish Dictionary as used in Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac, Version 11.3.8

Friday, February 22, 2008

Random is as Random Does

I'm not sure what you'll find on my blog at any given moment. Right now I seem to be spending a lot of time at other people's blogs, but I'll be around. My life is pretty random, so I expect my blog will be too! Thanks for reading. :0)