T'was The Day After Christmas..

T'was The Day After Christmas100_9912 T'was the day after Christmas (at least at my house) Our bellies still full of cookies and grouse; The stockings, now empty, were thrown on the floor, With a half-eaten candy cane stuck to the door. Some children, still sleeping, at this stroke of one While others went shopping, hitting sales on the run. Yes, up before 7--it's shopping they went Seeking bargains. YES! Up to fifty percent! There's gift wrap and ribbon, tags and all kinds of doo-dads, The 'not-chosen' gifts that did not make this year's fads. "I'll stock up for next year! Yes, that's what I'll get!" I said as I stacked my cart full at Target. "My shopping will be done, I won't have to scurry Or go to the mall in that mad, insane flurry. Yes! I can be finished! In June if I'm lucky! And all will envy me!" (Won't THAT be just ducky?) But then I paused, my face froze in mid-grin; Had Christmas become just a battle to win? Something to be conquered; a contest? a goal? A competition for biggest and brightest of all? And what about Jesus? What would He say About the way we act around His birthday? Yes, we remember Him before that big day But after--how quickly we all turn away. "Thank goodness it's over!" "We've put on quite a show!" Then we all hunker down and wait for the snow. The rat race continues, empty faces return, Folks with no hope, no Jesus still haven't learned To seek His face daily, yes, each day of the year. Just ask Him in and He will draw near. We need to live it like we believe And not only show it on Christmas Eve.

A Legacy in Ruth Bell Graham

I recently spent some time at The Cove -- The Billy Graham Training Center -- in Asheville NC. While there, I got to deepen my appreciation for the woman behind Billy Graham, Ruth Bell Graham. I wish I had learned more about her before she went home to be with the LORD. Ruth seemed to embody a lot of the qualities I was seeking when my son was growing up. I would have liked to have known more about her, perhaps even written to her at some point. She appeared to have a handle on the day-to-day; I felt very much like I moved from one crisis to the next.

Part of that, I suppose, was the fact that I did not have Christ in my life until I was 28. In fact, my son led me to Christ when I was pregnant. The LORD had impressed upon me that I was indeed carrying a miracle; that He has plans for this child. The LORD's impression was so strong, in fact, that I immediately knew it was God, and He was serious. From that time on, my quest to know as much as I could about God took off like a rocket. My husband did not have any interest in a church--I had only the radio for my information. Late at night, a Christian radio station would come in clear, and I soaked up scripture like a sponge.

I had accepted Jesus (in words only) when I was 19 years old. It was a very matter-of-fact,"Yeah, so, what now?" attitude. I didn't think very much of it. But GOD didn't forget me. He took my decision seriously. (Even if I didn't.)

A divorce and a remarriage later, the LORD gently reminded me of my commitment and His words to me. God grew my husband and I in wisdom so we would be able to answer my son's questions, which came at a fast clip. Not having any godly family to look to for direction, I sought the Holy Spirit and a local church. God did not disappoint.

But I did wonder about the legacy I was leaving. I had those moments when I drove my son to exasperation. Those moments when I uttered hurtful words I can never take back. Sure, I'm better now, 20+years later, yet not near where I'd like to be. But what kind of memories did I create?

What legacy will I be leaving?

What will my son take away from his childhood?

Will he remember my joy in him? My delight in his antics?

I hope he remembers the laughter.

I Still Don't Feel Like It! (But I'm Gonna Be Still)

I confess I started writing this blog post before I left for North Carolina on August 28th. I've had some strange symptoms happening for the last 3 months or so; hence the not-feeling-like-it post. The day I was supposed to leave for my 10+ hour drive, I still wasn't sure if I would physically make it. I literally kicked satan out the door in the Name of Jesus and left, figuring I would drive as far as I was able, before the cramping and icky stuff started. Nine hours later, I arrived in Hillsdale VA. Not one emergency stop was necessary. Stops, yes. Emergency stops, no.

I arrived at The Cove, the Billy Graham Training Center, where the conference was being held. A little shaky, a bit of pain, but intact. The first thing I see is a banner, saying "Be Still and Know That I AM God" Yes. Breathe. Be still.

In case I missed it, there was a bigger sign inside.

The room keys. We are so conditioned to swiping our debit cards, credit cards, ID cards. Not at The Cove. Even here, we are urged to "Be Still..." and touch the key card to the lock.

Get the picture yet?

One more. I went to get ice in the machine in our lobby. I brought water to guard against dehydration and prefer it cool. Following the directions, I put the ice bucket under the dispenser, pressed the button once, and 15 seconds later, a perfect amount of ice is dispensed into my bucket.

Now I have to ask you--if man, in his wicked ways, can take care of these thoughtful details,

How much more will our Heavenly Father attend to your every need?

I know He's taken care of all my needs--especially in this past week.

How about you?

So What's Your Point?

"This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God." Genesis 6:9 (NIV)(bold letters mine)

Noah lived in the midst of a wicked population, yet he "found favor in the eyes of the Lord" Genesis 6:8 (NIV). He didn't find favor for anything he did. It was his heart condition that found favor in God's eyes.

Today's reading in my devotional, My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers, is along this same vein. He writes, "Am I building up the Body of Christ, or am I looking for my own personal development only? The essential thing is my personal relationship to Jesus Christ--'That I may know Him.'...Whenever I want things for myself, the relationship is distorted."

I remember participating in a 3-legged race once. If we didn't walk together, we soon were a laughing heap on the ground.

And so it is with walking with God.

If we didn't walk together, we could not move forward.

Are you walking with Him today? Or are you following your own agenda?

Appearances Can Decieve

Things are not always as they appear.

I was accused recently of not "being a Christian" because I didn't behave the way somebody thought a "Christian" should behave. I was lied to, to my face, more than once.

I decided I will no longer have anything to do with that person. My boundary had been crossed and I would not, and will not pursue a reconciliation.

Un-Christian-like?

I guess it depends on your standard.

Matthew 5:37 (NIV) says it plain to me. "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

Forgive? Difficult, but yes. But that doesn't mean I'm going to put myself in the same situation to be lied to again.

"The test of our spirituality comes when we come up against injustice and meanness and ingratitude and turmoil, all of which have the tendency to make us spiritual sluggards. We want to use prayer and Bible reading for the purpose of retirement. We utilize God for the sake of getting peace and joy, that is, we do not want to realize Jesus Christ, but only our enjoyment of Him. This is the first step in the wrong direction. All these things are effects and we try to make them causes." --Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost For His Highest"

This is today's reading (July 10) from the devotional I am currently using. I expect my Christian walk to be bloody and painful at times because the enemy of my soul will stop at NOTHING to defeat me. The more I do for God, the more I expect opposition.

But I have a strong foundation.

"...God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows who are his..." 2 Timothy 2:19 (NIV)

I'm So Tired of the Crap.

I've been the recipient of an awful lot of crap lately. The last few months have been instance after instance of bad manners, thoughtless gestures, health issues and a general feeling of I-say-what-goes-and-there-isn't a darn-thing-you-can-do-about-it.

You may have gleaned I don't do well in this environment.

I brought my concerns to the Lord. I know He has only good planned for me. (Romans 8:28)

I pleaded for Him to show me His wisdom and comfort through these trials. I got more trials.

I I held onto His promise that He would not forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6,7) Verse 8 says

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." [bold letters mine]

But I was discouraged.

I cried out to the LORD, about the unfairness, the injustice; the crap I've been handed.

He listened.

He forced me to look at my hand in the incidents; I wasn't getting off scot-free.

Some mistakes were mine; I had not had all the facts. But I am not responsible for the actions of others.

As far as it had depended on me, I had done the right things. And it was affirmed to me.

Matthew 5:37 (NIV) states it plain--

" Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No', 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

There will be friendships lost; those seasons are over. Feelings may be hurt.

That's too bad.

I want God's approval, not the world's or the enemy's.

And His grace is sufficient for me.

Plausible Deniability

Plausible Deniability. I first heard this phrase in one of my favorite movies, "Max Keeble's Big Move". Max, a picked-on seventh grader, planned some 'pay-backs' for the bullies of the school to coincide with the last week Max was there before moving away. He asks his real friends, a boy nicknamed Robe and a girl named Meagan to help him set up the pranks--explaining all the blame will fall on him, (after he's moved away) not them. They didn't know what they were jumping into, but they trusted Max. As they won't know all the details of his plans, they have 'plausible deniability'.

Without going into much detail, Max arranges things so the bullies who were taking advantage of the more helpless ones get put into place. Those who were bullied finally have a say.

The ones who were laughed at, robbed of their lunch money, made to feel inferior; all the different ones; were finally united by the actions of one individual.

Justice was served. (I love a good 'underdog' movie).

I couldn't help but think of how God gives us plausible deniability. God works things to happen in our lives for our good. ("And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him..." Romans 8:28 [NIV]). We don't know all the details, or how elaborate His methods are to accomplish what He wants for us. We don't even know who else is involved; how intertwined our lives are with others. We go along with what He asks; not knowing what He has planned next--but trusting Him all the same.

And I couldn't help but think of Jesus.

How the actions of one person could change the whole attitude, one person at a time.

Plausible deniability.

We will not be held accountable for what we have done in this life if we have accepted Jesus as our personal Saviour. (1John 1:9 [NIV])

He will take the blame.

His blood washes us clean; white as snow. (Romans 10:9 [NIV])

Are you jumping into what He has planned for you?

Friday...Finally!

It's been one of those weeks. I was flying high on the heels of a great long weekend of dynamic church services--and then the enemy struck. He was throwing disappointment and bad attitude around like it was candy at a Christmas parade. I almost succumbed to it, a few different times, until I remembered..

I remembered my anointing.

He has called me to make art, to write, for His Glory. He has blessed the work of my hands.

"I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in Him." 1 John 2:26-27 (NIV) (bold letters mine)

Get thee behind me satan. I'm not for sale.

Memphis - Part 2

If you want to find the best places to eat, ask the locals. The ones who live right in the city (and I do mean downtown)--these people will tell you where the 'locals' go to eat. When we asked 4 people and got the same name 4 times out of 7 suggestions, we were pretty sure this was going to be the place.

The Blue Plate Cafe, at 113 Court Square South in Downtown Memphis is one of those places. Their menu, (which we were encouraged to take home) is printed on newsprint and has 2 pages of newsy facts and quotes; perfect 'while yer waitin' fodder.

Breakfast is served anytime and prices are extremely reasonable. The only things we found on the menu over $10 were the 'Country Ham with 2 eggs--$10.99' (But know that the slab of ham COVERED the whole plate) and the dinner special, served Monday--Saturday nights of "ALL YOU CAN EAT CATFISH--$11.95".

Need I mention the biscuits and gravy? Or the REAL Southern grits? Oh. My. Goodness.

The line was out the door when we arrived, but we only had a 10-20 minute wait. We ate there twice in our 5 days in Memphis, but as good as our meals were (and they were EXCELLENT!) our waitress, KATRINA, was the best. (We waited for one of her tables when we went back and she remembered us.) All the staff are very hardworking, attentive servers; polite to all customers--greeting the regulars by name--like a hometown eating establishment should be. Katrina was no exception; she went out of her way to be sure we had whatever we needed. And could that lady MOVE! I would not get in her way when she's on a mission! She made sure our visit stood out and did Memphis proud.

I want to go back! And I'm waiting for one of Katrina's tables!

Got Baggage?

Baggage. We are on day 5 of a 15 day vacation and I'm pretty well fed up with my baggage. In my haste to remember everything, I find myself needing to search through various nooks and crannies of each suitcase to find the needed item. Thank you technology--but so many WIRES! So much STUFF! I missed worshiping with my home church, but I went on the website and was able to catch last week's sermon--(I had been leading God-Tham City kids, our kid's church so I was pleased to find the sermon I missed.) If you would like to view the sermon, please visit KLFC.org .

The visiting Pastor, Dr. Bez, spoke on the fourth chapter of Jonah--"Jonah and the...(I won't give it away)", but my mind wandered a bit back to a day I had a "Jonah" experience--back in 1997. My mom was suffering with cancer and was about to start on the grueling chemo/radiation regimen that may or not save her life.

Now, please understand, I was an unruly teenager once upon a time (yes, I know it's hard to believe--but maybe not for some of you). The daughter my mother remembered was not a very nice person, but given mom's health concerns, this was the only possible alternative.

I, on the other hand, also remembered the rocky times--the difference was I had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior since then and knew taking care of my mom was the right thing to do.

BUT--in remembering our past and our 'baggage', I copped a Jonah attitude. Why should I show her my Jesus? After the way she treated me? I'm the first to admit, I really didn't want to. I was a lot like Jonah with the Ninevites, deciding myself that they (mom) didn't deserve salvation...well, maybe they (she) did, but it wasn't gonna come from me!

God's pruning/growth spurts HURT!

Knowing the caretaker role I was embarking on, God started to show me my mother through His eyes, not the woman I remember, but a lost soul who needed saving, carrying her own baggage. I was suddenly able to see clearer and do for her as if I were doing all for Jesus, despite my own baggage (which I noticed was getting a little lighter each day.)

Like Jonah, I had to learn the tough lesson by being willing to accept and trust God for the outcome..

My willingness, plus seeing the relationship between my husband and I, helped to show Jesus to my mother. Four months before cancer took her life, she did accept Jesus Christ as her Savior. We still had our moments, and some unpacked luggage, but we both knew that peace that passes all understanding.....the kind that can only come from Jesus.

Things Are Not as They Seem

As we were cleaning up my yard last Spring, my landscaper asked where I wanted these lawn ornaments to go; did I want them here or somewhere else in the yard. I chuckled, knowing I hadn't put them there--they had grown there happily, under the protection of the overgrown holly. This got me thinking about circumstances that had occurred over the past few weeks.

I started to get miffed about things I normally let slide-- I started to question everything; my purpose in life, my daily routine--to the point of breaking down into inactivity.

I forgot (not totally) that God was in full control of my life, and did not need my help.

As a matter of confession, I started to believe some of the lies the enemy had been feeding me.

Things came to a head when I realized I was acting, or not-reacting, to anything.

I was at the point I felt powerless to do anything about it. I recognized this, but felt helpless to do any thing about it.

It was then I timidly opened my Bible. "Seek Me first..." drifted through my mind... God brought me to a place in 2 Timothy...snippets from chapters 3 and 4...(NIV--bold print and italics mine)

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive...ungrateful, unholy...unforgiving...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. (3:1-5)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it. (3:14)

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (4:3)

Looking back over these last weeks, in the light of these Scriptures, this makes more sense to me.

Jesus said to "Watch and pray". Beware the tactics of the enemy... because things are NOT always as they seem. Stick with what you know to be true.

Deception has Reared Its Ugly Head...or Has It?

I've been deceived.I should have recognized it; the signs were there but I missed them.

How could I have gone from 'helpful' to 'prideful' in one seemingly fell swoop?

Ah...the whispers of the enemy. He specializes in this very tactic.

I started writing this post yesterday, on the 24th. I could not continue. The enemy of my soul had stopped me again...or had he?

I knew the direction I was heading when I started writing...I was going to spout about the rotten chain of events that had been weighing me down lately. Those enemy tactics that seemed to be working. But I could not continue to dwell in that noxious stew. This starting and stopping had never happened to me before.

This unfinished post became just another thing on my 'to-do list' I had no interest in doing.

But today...

In reading through my 242 e-mails (I had let those pile up too), I came across 2 separate instances from 2 completely different directions; both referring to John 10:10

My NIV states, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." My Living Bible says "(red letters)...My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." (bold letters mine)

Why am I allowing the enemy of my soul to get me down?

I know I acted in a way that was most pleasing to God.

I know I did what had to be done.

I know without a doubt, because I prayed through every decision I made.

Crappy stuff fell on my head; I had momentarily forgotten to wipe it off before I became crushed and paralyzed by it.

Thank You LORD, for letting me stew in my stuff long enough to smell its stench, but not long enough to be crippled by it. Amen.

New Growth From Dead Wood

This lilac shrub suffered a major setback from a surprise snowstorm last year. I was afraid it was done for; the damage seemed too drastic for it to survive. It sure looked like a goner.

I thought for sure I had a dead tree on my hands. I had no choice to wait it out and see what developed in the Spring. The pieces of trunk looked like they would be dead wood, no longer of any use to the tree.

I couldn't help but see the correlation with the disciples after Jesus died.

How could there be life after the crucifixion?

I know in my heart I believe it...but...do I really know it? In the same way I can meet someone and know immediately whether or not they can be trusted with my prayer requests? That kind of 'knowing"?

It's been a few months now, the lilac is starting to bloom. I would peek at it through the window, daily, wondering if I needed to have it removed.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) to see, not only new growth, but strong new shoots preparing to carry the needed nutrients to the flowers yet to come!

There will be new life coming out of the 'dead wood' in our lives, as we seek to live in the fullness of God.

Earlier this week I determined to terminate a toxic friendship I knew was not bringing Glory and Honor to God. Why would I want to continue this friendship? Out of habit? Out of feeling obligated to her and her husband?

Is this really how He wants me to plan my day? To carefully arrange my mask so that I wear the perfect facade while harboring resentment and dishonoring behavior inside of me?

1Peter 2:9 calls us "...a chosen people, royal priesthood, a Holy nation..."

Knowing who we are in Christ is about as real as we can be.

I'm not giving in to the enemy's lies--not even for a moment. Rid yourself of all that keeps you from giving all you can to JESUS!

If He can see to the health of a green plant after a storm, how much more will he do for you, His Beloved?

Good Friday Has Passed

Back in late October 2011, we had a surprise snow storm. The snow was thick and heavy, causing some breakage of tree limbs. The lilac bush in my yard bore the brunt of the damage. (You can read about this in my Nov 8-2011 post) Two of the older thick branches were broken off by the weight of the snow. When I first saw the damage, I was heartbroken, thinking too much damage had been done and the bush wouldn't survive. All my gardening magazines stated lilacs shouldn't be trimmed more than a third of their wood; it would cause too much shock to the plant and it would die. It was too late to do anything about it. What's done is done.

The Good Friday service I attended reminded me of this lilac bush. While I'm thinking the lilac bush is as good as dead, the onlookers in Jesus' day must have thought that about Him. Jesus hung on that cross, cruelly beaten, bleeding life's precious blood from His hands, His feet and His side.

How could He survive that?

He couldn't.

But He said He would be back:

"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death...mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." Mark 10:33-34 (NIV)(bold letters mine)

So life would appear from what would seem dead. But, we have to wait until the proper time.

I noticed the same thing about the lilac bush the other day.

Storm Damage- Conclusion

What happens to those who are so firmly wedged into the lies of this world; who choose to ignore the small, still voice of God? What if we don't realize the error of our ways? What if we've fit ourselves so comfortably in the world's views and opinions that our behavior no longer seems like sin to us?

It will be too late.

"...Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."(1 Peter 5:8 NIV)