Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Ocala Report

OK. I'm home and getting settled...
And I am excited to tell you about my trip to Ocala.

The evening was full of beautiful women who are so loved by God. I was delighted to meet several women who worked hard preparing for everyone who came, and then to be able to stand before them and hold out hope.
Before I began speaking, I did a fun little ice-breaker with the women. Everyone received a balloon and I asked them about the stress they faced that day as they got ready to come for the evening's event. For each stress "item" I blew in my balloon and invited the women to do the same.

We went through "getting out the door," stress with the kids, with Dad, with "to do" lists, and whatever else might be on a woman's mind. It was fun to see the smiles on women's faces as they blew their stress into the balloon. But the best was yet to come...

When I was pretty sure we had covered all the possibilities, I asked the women to hold their balloons up high, and on the count of three, we let them go! I told the ladies in front of me that the evening was a gift to them and I hoped they would truly be able to let go of the stress and receive the gift.

And do you know? I think they really did. I think they received the gift. It was such a delight to me to look out and see women nodding their heads in understanding, to hear them laughing, and to have a very real sense that God was speaking to their hearts.
I cannot thank you enough for your faithful prayers, and words of encouragement to me. God truly was present and moving. At the end of the evening I invited women to come to the altar to pray - for salvation or a touch from their Maker - and several women came forward. I honestly do not know if anyone made a decision for Christ Monday night, but I do know God was reaching their hearts.

And, oh, do I want to do more events like this one. It was a Moms Only program, so there were no interruptions because of children who needed consoling. (I am not against children! It's just that the interruptions really distract from a presentation. And when it's just moms, the women are able to be more "present.") I loved that I was able to give two talks and thereby was able to go deeper with the women - was able to share more of my heart and reach out to them more. And sharing the gospel and having women come forward to pray? I'm telling you, that is just where I want to be! I was truly blessed to be His instrument of grace and hope to this group of women in Ocala, Florida.

But that isn't all.

God also blessed me by allowing me to spend time with my dear friend, Greta, and He allowed me to meet two precious blogging friends.
This is Greta and me.
We have been emailing each other for over two years now, and we met for breakfast in Florida last October. But this time I stayed at her house and had a wonderful time just talking with her, loving her, and being her friend.
And the story of how she "found" my book - and me - is amazing. I may just have to share about it here sometime...

And THIS is Lisa Shaw. Lisa and I have "known" each other in the blogosphere for a few months and she is a total blessing. She was praying for me and Monday night's event. As I was presenting the gospel I looked at her and saw her smiling - knew she was praying for my words, and His Spirit to move - and I was so thankful for her presence.
Not only that, but Lisa completely blessed me at the end of the evening. After we posed for this picture she prayed for me and I was so uplifted by her love. You really should click over and pay her a visit!

Finally, I also got to meet Jessica Nelson. She and I have been blogging buddies for quite some time and I was so pleased when I found out she was going to come Monday night. Jessica is a mother of three little ones and I have enjoyed getting to know her through our blogs and email. She writes novels, and if you have an interest in writing you will LOVE her blog. If you're like me, you'll be overwhelmed with the amount of thought and effort Jessica shares that goes into writing a novel, but she has such a charming personality that it's a delight to visit her. *grin*

Whew! Are you still with me?

I know I don't usually go this long in a post, but I had so much to share today! Hope you'll be back tomorrow for this week's WORD.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ice Cream Anyone? - Again!

And because I'm guessing I won't be in blogging mode by Wednesday morning (I'm getting home late Tuesday.) I found another oldie to re-post. This is from September of '06. Don't think I even had any readers at this point, so it should be new to everyone. *grin* Enjoy!
My small group Bible study has been studying the book of Matthew. Last week we covered chapters five and six, so I spent time reading, "If somenone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:39-41) This passage is a familiar one, but not an easy one. I thought, "Are we really supposed to respond like this?"

I was forced to think of the interactions I'd had with my kids, and wrote this in my journal: "This kind of reminds me of my struggle with the kids. If they rip their homework, what do I do? Sing while I tape it up? If they're rude to me and make demands, do I kiss them as I respond? If they beg mercilessly to go to the Children's Gardens, do I take them to get ice cream, too? Yikes! This seems backwards and chaotic and out of control to me. It doesn't seem like good training. But this very passage of scripture seems backwards. I don't want to raise selfish, bratty children, Lord. Please direct me clearly in how I am to raise them. Specifically to these issues I've raised ~ Lord, I want to get this right and I need Your guidance. I am a desperate and broken woman. I need You, Lord!"

This "backwards" way of doing things really struck me. It doesn't make sense to a "controller" like me. When my kids speak rudely to me, I don't want to respond. I want to ignore them until they start speaking politely and with respect! But how does that fit in with what Jesus says in this Matthew passage??? And what about the begging to go to the Children's Garden? Well, last week and weekend Joshua was asking over and over, and Sunday I was finally able to say, "Yes." I took my children and our neighbor kids to the Garden. It was almost as though someone had been reading my journal, because after we got to the garden the question came up..."Can we go get ice cream, too?" What could I say?

Ice cream for everyone!!!!!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Forgot - Again.

Since I'm going to be traveling back from Florida today and won't have a chance to post on my blog, I decided to dig up an old favorite. This was originally posted in May of 2007. Enjoy!
Tonight for dinner, I made Pork Chops with Orange Rice. I especially love the orange flavored rice and was looking forward to enjoying this meal with my family.
The recipe for this dish is soooo simple, and the results soooo yummy I actually got it published in my favorite cooking magazine several years ago. Really, all you do is season pork chops with salt and pepper and brown them in cooking oil. Place 1 1/3 cups instant rice in a greased casserole dish, pour one cup of orange juice over the rice and top the rice with the browned pork chops. Then pour a can of chicken with rice soup over it all, cover it and bake it at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes. So simple! Too simple to mess up, right? You'd think so.
As I brought dinner to the table I noticed the rice around the edges looked a little dry. That happens sometimes, and when it does I just don't scoop around the edges. But tonight as I looked at the rice I realized why it was dry. I'd forgotten to put the orange juice over the rice.
Awwww. How could I have done that? This recipe is so simple. It's too simple to mess up. But somehow I managed to do it.
My family was very gracious. Everyone avoided the rice as best as they could, and just smiled politely as they spit out crunchy rice. Fortunately, the pork chops were still good and the bread was yummy. It wasn't a total loss. I still felt stupid for forgetting the orange juice, though. I mean, come on, I've been making this recipe for fourteen years now.

When it was time for the kids to start getting ready for bed, I directed Matthew to get into the shower and I started washing the dishes. Quite often, Matthew needs close supervision in order to complete his tasks. More than once, I have walked into the bathroom to ask if he's almost finished with his shower only to find out he's simply been standing under the running water and hasn't even started washing yet. But tonight he got the job done without much intervention.
I returned to the kitchen after checking in on him and was only barely aware of what he was doing for the next several minutes. Then I realized Matthew was standing in the dining room, still dripping wet. I called out from the kitchen, "Matthew, how about drying off and getting into your pajamas." He perked up and said, "Oh yeah," with the tone of voice that said, So that's what I'm supposed to do after I get out of the shower. I'm supposed to use this towel Mom gave me to dry off. Then since I'm naked, I should put something on my body, and since it's time for bed I may as well put on pajamas. Yeah, this all makes sense now.
I noted his tone of voice and thought to myself, Matthew, you're almost seven years old. Getting ready for bed is not a new thing anymore. You know what to do. Just then, I looked down at the dishes in the sink. Sitting right in front of me was the casserole dish. The one with dried rice stuck to it. I thought about that simple recipe I've been preparing for some fourteen years. The one that is too simple to mess up. I thought about the fact I'd forgotten to put the orange juice in the Pork Chops with Orange Rice. And I thought, Maybe I need to give Matthew a little more grace.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Please Pray

I dug a couple posts out of my archive for your reading pleasure until I am back home and in blogging mode...So come back tomorrow!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

This Week's WORD

Hey, I just came up with an idea!

Yes, having an idea is an exciting event for me. *grin*

As you may know by now, I am in a read-through-the-Bible-in-one-year program right now, and am presently reading through Job. There was a passage this week that stood out to me and I decided I wanted to share it with you today. Then I got my idea...
Each week I am going to watch for a WORD that grabs me and on Friday I'm going to share it with you. And I'm going to call it "This Week's WORD." (Obviously! That's why I titled my post as I did...)
I don't necessarily intend to make this a meme, or a blog carnival, or whatever it would be if you decided to post a weekly WORD. But feel free to join in and share a part of the WORD that God used to touch your heart, too!

This is the WORD that blessed me this week:

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
Job. 19:25-27

May the JOY of the LORD fill you up this weekend. See you back here Monday!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh, dear. It's starting!

OK, he's eleven years old. He's at the end of fifth grade. He's getting bigger muscles and growing up and soon his voice will start changing, and the next thing I know - he'll beat me at arm-wrestling. Joshua is not my "little boy" anymore, and I have been anticipating this next step. I just didn't think it would happen. Yet.

Feeling lost or confused? Let me explain.

It has always delighted me that Joshua would give me hugs and kisses to say goodbye to me - even in front of his friends. When I put him on the bus last year, he always hugged me in the presence of all the other kids. And this year when we have walked to school in the morning he would still hug me, even when there were other people around.
The past two days that we walked to school, however, one of Joshua's fifth grade buddies has walked with us. When we got to school Joshua just said, "Bye, Mom!" and went inside. And that was OK with me. Actually, I thought it was kind of cute. I thought to myself, Yes. Joshua is growing up. He doesn't want a hug and kiss from his mom in the presence of his friend. And I'm OK with that.
But Wednesday, Zack didn't walk with us. And when we got to school, Joshua just called out, "Bye, Mom!" and kept going. No Zack. But no hug and kiss, either.
And I thought, Oh, dear. It's starting. Maybe it wasn't Zack. Maybe Joshua is just ready to start separating from me a little more.
But I still remember the day he was born! Can he really be ready to take another step in growing up? Am I ready???

Yikes! One day I wake up to the reality that I'm a mother of a teenager (Did I mention Elizabeth turned 13 recently?) and the next day my first born son is taking another step toward independence.
This is God's design. It's all good. I just pray I will move into our new stage gracefully.

Anyway, he hasn't completely cut me off. He still likes me to sing him a song at bedtime and play with his hair. And he still likes to ride with me on Wednesday nights.
Though I imagine that'll come to an end someday, too. *sigh*

Yes, LORD. It's starting. Joshua is stretching his wings a little more, playing with the idea of taking flight one day. Father, I thank You for the struggles You have brought us through with that boy. Some days I have thought I wouldn't make it. But You have been faithful. Always.
And I trust You for the days and years to come. I trust You to make Joshua into the man You have planned for him to be. I trust You to prepare the way for Joshua, to make his path level, and to shape him for your glory.
Father, please help me to mother him wisely and with grace. Please help me to know when to let go and when to hold on, and please help me to cling to Your love through it all.
I need You, Lord. Can't do this without You!!!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have You Considered My Servant Karen?

I mentioned on Monday that I have begun another round of reading through the Bible in one year. I am doing it chronologically again, and am so excited to be on this journey once more.
After eleven chapters in Genesis, I am now in Job. (Did you know that, chronologically, the entire book of Job goes between chapters 11 and 12 of Genesis?) And do you know what statement in Job is really speaking to my heart today? It is God's question to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. (Job 1:8)
I read those words from the mouth of God and I think, Wow! He really thought highly of Job. Really!
Can you imagine having the Creator of the universe say about you, There is no one on earth like [her]?
Believe me, I do not aspire in any way to go through the trials Job endured. It is not my desire to lose my family and home and everything I possess. I do not wish to have festering sores all over my body. I do not want to go through all the things I'm reading about Job going through right now.
Yet I so want to be like him. Oh, I long to be the kind of woman about whom God could say, Have you considered my servant Karen? There is no one on earth like her; she is blameless and upright, a woman who fears God and shuns evil.
Do you know what I mean? I just want to delight God's heart! I want to honor Him with everything I say and do. Want to join me?
Of course, if we all did this, He wouldn't be able to say, There is no one on earth like her, because we would all be blameless and upright. But that's OK. I'm not so much interested in being the only one. I just want to delight my God.

Who's with me???

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's on Your Mind '09? - Rest for the weary edition

What's on Your Mind '09? is a blog carnival Shane started to challenge writers and encourage conversation. This week, Shane has asked us to talk about how we put Matthew 11:28-30 into practice in our every day lives.
This passage states, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I used to think this passage was about being weary and burdened by daily "stuff" and "to do" lists. But I recently heard a sermon at church that really helped me understand. Rather than re-writing it, today for What's on Your Mind, I want to invite you to have a listen. It's long - but so worth it!

The Greatest Words Ever Spoken - Rest for the Spiritually Stressed from TrinityWired Productions on Vimeo.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Remember when you were a kid playing a game and things just weren't going well? And you were getting upset and frustrated, but you didn't want to quit? So you pulled together all the courage you could muster and called out, "Re-Do!!!"
And with that one word, you got to start all over. Fresh. It didn't matter what had happened up to that point. With a re-do you got a fresh start and you could face the game again with confidence. And maybe even with a bounce in your step.

Do you remember those experiences?

I loved re-do's.

And even though I am not a kid anymore, I called for a re-do yesterday afternoon.

I was having a rough time with Matthew. Homework was not going well. His ADHD was in overdrive. Need I say more? Uh, I will, anyway.
He was frustrated. I was angry.
He was yelling. I was at a loss for what to do.
He crumpled up his paper and yelled some more. I sent him to his room.
He yelled that he was glad to go to his room because he didn't want to be with me anymore. I stood in the kitchen and cried.

And that's when it occurred to me. I needed to call out a re-do.

I went and knocked on Matthew's door, and he told me to go away. But I opened it and walked in, asking if I could talk to him for a minute.
He was not interested. Can't blame him. I imagine he was expecting a "lecture."
But I started talking anyway.
I talked with Matthew a bit about spiritual attacks. Told him I thought our enemy was trying to attack us because of the Bible reading I'm coordinating for the National Day of Prayer. (This thought occurred to me because as I was in the kitchen crying, I thought to myself, There is too much stress on me right now. I am not going to coordinate this Bible reading thing again next year. Then I realized that is exactly the decision Satan wants me to make. He wants me to think it is too much trouble to have the Word of God proclaimed. Well, guess what? I have victory in JESUS!!!)
So I explained that to Matthew, and he agreed with me. Satan is a jerk! Then we prayed together. I asked God to give us a re-do. Asked Him to give us peace and joy in our hearts. I thanked Him for Matthew, and for Matthew's ability to do his homework. And I thanked Him for the ultimate re-do He has given us through the blood of Jesus.

And can I tell you? Matthew and I emerged out of his bedroom as friends. He sat down at the table and we worked on his homework together. We were not fighting. He was not yelling. I was not angry.
Jesus gave us a re-do, with glad hearts and peaceful minds.

Do you need to call a re-do? God is really good at them!!!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Testament Marathon

I'm guessing you are familiar with the National Day of Prayer, right? It's happening on May 7 this year. All over the country, people will be gathering to pray for our country and its leadership. You can learn more at the National Day of Prayer website.
This year something else special is being planned - at least in Lansing, Michigan - around the National Day of Prayer. There is going to be a New Testament reading marathon from 11:00 Wednesday morning, May 6 until 11:00 Thursday morning, May 7. Ninety-six people will read out of the New Testament for fifteen minute segments, around the clock - in the Capitol Building, in a nearby church (overnight, when the Capitol is closed) and on the Capitol lawn, until the prayer event begins.

And yours truly is the coordinator for this reading marathon.

Yesterday when I was talking to the Michigan State Coordinator on the phone, and she called me the "coordinator" for the reading, I thought briefly, What? How did I get myself into this???
Then I remembered. It was that email I received which was soliciting volunteers. And the last line went something like this, "If you love the Word of God, please consider helping with this event."
Well, yeah!
I love the Word of God. I love the idea of having it read for 24 hours before the National Day of Prayer. And the thing about it going from 11:00 to 11:00 kinda got me, too. (If you aren't aware of my thing with 11-11, you can get some backgound here and here.)
So, here I am. Coordinating a New Testament read-athon.
I am going to be loking for team captains to take different shifts during that 24 hours, and each of us will be looking for individuals to fill those 96 fifteen-minute reading slots. This is going to be a big job, but I know my God is big enough to handle it, and I am simply delighted to be a part of it!

BTW, if you live near Lansing, or you're going to be near Lansing, or you've even just heard of Lansing and you'd like to come for a visit(!) let me know. I need readers!!! Really. You can stay at my house!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm Expecting!!!

And I am wondering how many of you thought my title was an announcement regarding the expansion of my family...

It isn't.

Believe me, though, I have been sitting here pondering how I could have begun this post to drag out the illusion a little longer. I'm such a bad girl! *grin*

But, I digress.
Wait. Can you digress if you haven't even started, uh, gressing? What is the opposite of digress, anyway?

Right. Make a point. That's what I was going to do.

And the point is, I am expecting. I am a woman waiting in expectation of what God is going to do. And I am expecting God to glorify Himself as He demonstrates His amazing love.
I have told you about the trip I am taking to Florida on the 27th of this month. (See my sidebar for more information...I'd LOVE to see you there!) I have been looking forward to this event for quite some time and as the day is drawing near, my heart is growing in expectation. Greta and I have been emailing each other and as she shares more with me about the women who are going to attend, I just can't wait to go and participate in this ministry of God's Spirit.
This event is going to be unlike my typical speaking engagements. It will be a moms-only evening, so there will be no child-care workers coming in while I'm speaking, asking a mom to come out and soothe her crying child. I am going to be speaking twice - giving both of the talks which correspond to my books, so I will have ample opportunity to point to God as the Source of my hope and joy in the midst of the struggle.
Because of these two things - no interruptions, and longer time to speak - I will be able to go deeper with this group of women than I am normally able to go. I am going to include a gospel presentation at the end of my second talk and there will be a time of prayer at the altar for any woman who needs it.
God knows each woman who will be in attendance. He knows the heart, and hurts, and needs of each one. And I am praying, I am expecting Him to show up BIG TIME. Oh, how I long to be God's instrument of love and grace to each woman He brings to Christ the King Anglican Church on April 27.

I covet your prayers for this event!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

He Will Roll the Stone Away

Very early on the first day of the week, just before sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
Mark 16:2-4

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Friday, April 10, 2009

One More Encounter

We saw Jesus encounter Mary. Just hearing Him say her name let Mary know her Savior lived.
We saw Jesus encounter Thomas. Jesus answered Thomas' need to believe by letting him see and touch His wounds.
We saw Jesus encounter two of His other followers on the road to Emmaus. He gently revealed Himself to them through the breaking of bread.

And today I want to talk about Jesus' encounter with Shirley.

Who's Shirley, you ask? Yeah, I know. It's a little confusing. My Bible has her name spelled wrong. My Bible spells it s-u-r-e-l-y. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
But once I got past the spelling error, I understood. Shirley is me. (That's why I sometimes replace Shirley's name with mine when I read that passage, And, Karen, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.)
And Shirley is you. Go ahead and substitute her name with yours. Say it aloud. It's wonderful to hear!

And ___________ I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Do you get it? Jesus is with you right now, and He always will be! Today is Good Friday and we are remembering His death on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins we each have committed. Jesus was buried in the tomb, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day.

Jesus lives!

And God took Jesus back up to heaven to reign with His Father, but He did not leave us alone. He sent His Holy Spirit to earth and He now lives in every person who has received Him.
If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior - if you have confessed your sin and asked Jesus to forgive you, to come into your life as your Savior - then I'm calling you Shirley, and I am rejoicing with you because we have encountered Him and He promised to be with us to the very end of the age.

It's Friday. But hang on. Sunday's coming!!!

See you back here Monday.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Encounter on the way to Emmaus

This journey with Jesus during Holy Week has been a tremendous blessing to me, and I pray it has been for you, too. Today I want to look at another one of the encounters Jesus had with a couple of His followers after His resurrection.
According to Luke, (Lk. 24:13-35) two of Jesus' followers were leaving Jerusalem and walking to Emmaus. And as they walked they were talking about everything which had just transpired over the past three days.
They were confused about Jesus. They thought He was supposed to be the Messiah, but then why did He die? And what of these reports from the women and even some of the Disciples that Jesus had risen? They just didn't understand. They didn't believe.
But then came Jesus.
He approached the men and asked what they were discussing. (Of course, He knew!) The men looked at Jesus, talked with Him, and walked with Him, but they didn't know it WAS Him. They shared their confusion and questions with Jesus, and He opened the Scriptures up to them and explained everything, but they still did not recognize Him.

They did not recognize Jesus until...and this is the part I love the most...they ate together. Luke 24:30-31 says, When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he disappeared from their sight.

I don't think these two characters were part of the Twelve Disciples, so they didn't see Jesus break the bread at the Last Supper. But I wonder if they may have been present at the feeding of the 5,000, or the 4,000. I wonder how many times they had seen Jesus give thanks and break bread.
Regardless of how many times they'd seen it before, it was in seeing it now that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. And it is this act of Jesus revealing Himself that draws me to Him even more. His love, His grace, His patience and forgiveness make me love Him even more.
Can you see how gentle He was with these men? They were followers of His, yet they didn't understand, didn't believe, didn't get it. Wouldn't it be reasonable for Jesus to throw His holy hands up in the air and declare, I give up! I was with you for so long. I told you exactly what I was going to endure. I died on that cross for you and here I am in front of you - even explaining the Scriptures to you again - and you STILL don't believe? What else can I do???

But that isn't Jesus' way.

He knew what they needed to believe. He knew what they needed to see. So He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them. And when the men recognized Jesus, He disappeared from their sight. Jesus didn't stay around to condemn them, Finally you believe. It's about time! He knew the men had what they needed, so He left.
And at once, the men returned to Jerusalem so they, too, could declare that Jesus is risen!

I don't know why God is laying it on my heart to do these posts about people who struggled to believe, but I trust Him. If you are struggling to believe - for salvation, or for anything else - I pray you are finding encouragement here. I pray you are seeing Jesus. I pray you know He loves you and does not condemn you for doubting. God knows your heart and He knows what you need.
Go ahead and simply ask Him to open your eyes, that you may see.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Stop Doubting and Believe

I hope you are having a good week, and that you are drawing near to Jesus - preparing to celebrate His resurrection this weekend. Yesterday we looked at Jesus' encounter with Mary, and I hope you were encouraged as you considered the fact that He knows your name. He knows YOU.
Today I want to look at Jesus' encounter with another of His followers. As you read, pay careful attention to Thomas' "objections" and how Jesus answers them a week later.

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:24-31

Did you see it???

Thomas said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands..."
Jesus said, "See my hands."

Thomas said, "...and put my finger where the nails were..."
Jesus said, "Put your finger here."

Thomas said, "...and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
Jesus said, "Reach out your hand and put in into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

When I read this passage I was stunned and delighted at Jesus' perfect knowledge of Thomas' need to see and believe. He didn't condemn Thomas for doubting. Jesus didn't belittle him because he didn't believe the other disciples had truly seen Him. Rather, Jesus directly answered each one of Thomas' objections and He called Thomas to believe.

Jesus had just suffered and died for this man who stood before Him doubting. Surely, He could have been angry or upset with Thomas. After Jesus had endured so much, who was Thomas to doubt His power? Everyone else believed. What was Thomas' problem?
But that isn't Jesus' way. Instead of being angry that Thomas was doubting, Jesus lovingly met his need to see - in order to believe.

Have you ever doubted Jesus?

I have.

But now I have seen Him with my heart, and I believe!

And John has given us something to see, too: But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31

Jesus came that we may have life. Eternal life. If today you still find yourself doubting, ask Jesus to show Himself to you. And be watchful. He loves you so much, and I know He will let you see if you want to believe.
If today you are sure about Jesus, thank Him for revealing Himself to you and pray for those who do not yet know Him. Ask Jesus to open the eyes of their hearts.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

He Knows My Name

At this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!"

John 20:14-16

OK, go back and read that again. Slowly.

Does anything in particular stand out to you?

When I read this passage, I was struck by what happened when Jesus spoke Mary's name.
At first she didn't recognize Him. She was distraught, thinking Jesus' body had been stolen. And though she saw Him, she thought He was only a gardener. Then Jesus said, "Mary."
That's all.
Not, "Don't be afraid. I'm right here!"
Not, "I haven't carried Him away. I am Him!"
Just, "Mary."
And with that one word, upon hearing Him say her name, Mary knew He was Jesus.

I sat and pondered awhile what it must have been like for Mary to hear Jesus say her name again. What memories did that sound bring to her? How many other times had she heard that strong, gentle voice utter her name? Had she thought she would never hear it again?
But there it was, "Mary."
And she knew her Jesus was alive.
Because He knew her name, and no one else spoke it the way He did.

Then I sat awhile longer and imagined what it would be like to hear Jesus say my name. Think about that one for a minute. Wouldn't it be amazing???
There is something so personal and intimate about your name, and to think of Jesus saying it, ahhhh. *peaceful, dreamy grin*

Jesus knows your name, and if you have received Him into your heart, one day you'll hear Him say your name, too. What a wonderful sound that will be!

I hope you have four minutes to "spare" so you can listen to this song. It's one of my favorites and when I was looking for a rendition of it on YouTube I chose this one because of the love that flows through this guy as he sings.
Listen - and let God love you through him.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Getting Ready for Easter

OK, I've got 14 people coming over Sunday, plus my family - that makes 19 people for Easter dinner. Need to get the ham(s!), find enough chairs, buy a few more drinking glasses, oh - paper plates for the kids, decide on a vegetable recipe...

How about you? Are you making plans to celebrate Easter?

More important than getting ready for Sunday afternoon festivities, however, is our need to prepare our hearts. Let's talk about that today!

Angela is hosting a week-long event for Easter posts. If you would like to see what other's are saying about Easter, please pay her a visit. (And maybe you can join in, too!)

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Friday, April 03, 2009

New Deal Update

Two weeks ago I told you about the New Deal I have instituted in my house. It is my attempt to maintain a tidier, more peaceful environment. And now that the New Deal has been in place for a while, I thought it would be fun to give you an update.
At the present moment, this is the score: Joshua and Matthew have five check marks, and Elizabeth has one. That means Joshua and Matthew each owe me 25 minutes of work and Elizabeth five.

Can I tell you how amazed I am by the wonderful job my kids have done of putting their things away properly???

Elizabeth got her check mark last week, and I think it scared her. When I was taking her to church Wednesday evening she wanted to leave her book in the van so she could read on the way home. But first she asked me, "Will I get a check mark if I leave this here?"
She also wanted to know when I was going to redeem the five minutes she owes me. It was this question of hers which led to my next decision regarding the New Deal. I will "bank" the check marks until a child has accumulated 30 minutes. Then I will come up with a good task and put them to work.
As the kids and I were discussing this redemption plan, it didn't take long for them to figure out that if they never go past five check marks, they'll never have to do the work I'm threatening. Oh, do they ever think they have it good! What they don't realize is, that is exactly what I'm going for.
I didn't come up with this New Deal because I want to get them to do extra work. I did it because I want them to be responsible for their stuff and contribute to keeping our home cleaned up. And if they never go past five check marks, that means my mission has been accomplished!
So, they think they're "winning" by not having to work off those check marks. But I think I'm winning more, because this place is going to be free of messes.
Yes, this is the kind of win-win situation I like!

May the joy of the Lord fill your soul this weekend. And may your children clean up all their messes. *grin*

*****Edited to add: Since the writing of this post, the kids have each earned another check mark. It was one infraction that any of them could have cleaned up and I asked all of them to do. Since no one did (Uh, that "no one" would be ME!) they each got a mark. That puts Joshua and Matthew at 30 minutes, and I have some redeeming to do. Hmmm, I have yark work that needs to be done. Guess who's going to be helping me!!!

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pranks and Cake

For the past week or so, Elizabeth has been teasing me by letting me know she had an April Fool's trick to play on me. I knew Brian was in on it, because he had to get something for her and they were only too happy to talk about it in front of me.
Tuesday night Elizabeth asked me if I was going into Fitness Together to work out Wednesday morning, and when I said, "Yes," she wanted to know when I would be home. I thought she was timing her scheme for sometime in the morning, but Elizabeth said she was just asking because she had a paper I needed to sign before she went to school. Yeah, sure, I thought.
So Wednesday morning when I walked into the house after my workout, I half expected a bucket of water to fall on my head. But nothing fell. And Elizabeth approached me with that paper she needed to have signed. Just like she said. No prank. Hmmmmm.
After school, Elizabeth was just as nice as could be. Nothing unusual about her behavior. We talked for a while and then I left to get the boys. Part of me wondered if the trick was to get me thinking there was going to be a trick, and then to not pull anything on me. You know how I enjoy mind games...It wouldn't surprise me if Elizabeth was playing one with me.
So anyway, I got the boys and we walked home.
This time when I entered the house, Elizabeth was sitting on the couch reading and she asked me if I would cut an orange for her. I said, "You mean you want me to peel it for you?" (This is not an unusual request from my daughter. Though it is one I prefer to shrug off. Honey, you can get your own orange.) But she said, "No. You don't need to peel it. Will you just cut it into quarters for me?"
*Insert begging puppy-dog look.*
What could I do? It was not a big request, so I walked over to the refrigerator and got out an orange for my dear daughter. But when I cut into it, this is what I saw:I have never seen purple mold, and the outside of the orange had looked fine, but I was sure there was something seriously wrong with this piece of fruit, and I squealed, EEEEEWWWWWW!
That's when Elizabeth started laughing, and I knew the joke was on me. She came over to me then and told me this was a Blood Orange and assured me it was fine to eat. We finished cutting it up and ate it together while Elizabeth told me all about the work she put into setting up this little prank.
She's such a doll.

As for dinner, we enjoyed our meatloaf cake. See?When I was finished, I said, "Excuse me. I need to go fix the salads." Joshua said he was too full. I smiled at him and said, "That's OK, honey. You don't need to eat any salad. Just finish your cake." And everyone laughed.

Now I'm wondering what the kids are going to think when I make strawberry shortcake for dinner one night this summer. Really. I heard of some one's grandma doing that and thought it sounded so fun. It can't hurt to do it once! So the next time I make cake for dinner, it will be for real.

Go ahead. Call me crazy.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Better than Alone Time

It's Wednesday.
That means Elizabeth has Impact tonight. Impact is the junior high youth ministry at our church and every Wednesday night the kids all gather for their weekly meeting.

It used to be that Wednesday afternoons were a bit crazy as I tried to get ready to take Elizabeth to church for Impact. I would get the boys home from school, let them have a snack and then get right to work with them doing homework. As soon as that was completed, or maybe while my little ADHD buddy was still trying to focus, I would get started on dinner preparation. A few minutes before dinner was ready, I started calling for the kids to get the table set. And after numerous reminders to leave the dog alone and get their work done we would be ready to sit down to eat.
By this time, I was usually quite frazzled, but if I looked at the clock and saw that is was only 5:30 I could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing we were in good shape to get to church on time.
So I would take Elizabeth to Impact and come home to do the dishes, get Matthew to put the finishing touches on any homework which was yet undone, and tie up any other loose ends from the day. Sometimes there were problems to solve, fights to end, or bargains to make. Other times we may have a project to work on, or one of the boys might have a list of questions and concerns to go over with me. Whatever it was, it seemed that Wednesday nights were always hectic.

But I had a secret thing to which I always looked forward.

Even though it only takes 11 or 12 minutes to get to church from our house, and even though Elizabeth is rarely ever ready to leave right at 8:30 - when Impact officially ends - I would leave the house at 8:15 to pick her up. I would listen to some of my favorite music while I drove to church and then I would sit in the parking lot for a few minutes - soaking in the quiet - until it was time to go in and get her. And in those few minutes of solitude, the stress from the previous four and a half hours would mysteriously melt away. Ahhhhh...

Yeah, that's how it used to be.

For the past couple of months, though, Joshua has been riding along with me to pick Elizabeth up on Wednesday nights.

The first time he wanted to go, I knew he was just curious to see what was going on at Impact. (He'll be in sixth grade next year.) So I didn't mind the intrusion company.
The second time, I wasn't as supportive of his need to ride along but I managed to get over it.
The third time, I really felt Joshua should give me a good reason for eradicating my alone time riding along again, but he just said he wanted to come. There was no further explanation to be given. So I let him come.

Thus, we began a new Wednesday night habit.

And then God did a work in my heart to let me see that these few minutes with Joshua in the van are even better than the alone time I'm missing.
Often times we ride in silence, though there have been some interesting conversations which have come out of nowhere.
Even in the silence, though, I have found a certain joy just being with Joshua. We aren't at odds with each other. He isn't upset with me over putting limits on his computer or TV time. I am not frustrated with the sarcastic tone of voice he's using with me. We're just sitting next to each other, peacefully.
And it's nice.
I still don't know why Joshua wants to ride along on Wednesday nights. He never offered a good reason, and I have stopped asking. He wants to come, and that's good enough for me.

I'm told the day will come when Joshua won't want to spend more time with me than is absolutely necessary. I suppose I'll have all the "alone time" I can stand at that point in my life. So for now, by the grace of God, I am going to enjoy Joshua's presence on Wednesday nights, realizing it is a gift far better than alone time.

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