Monday, June 24, 2019

Psalm 66:16


Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.

~Psalm 66:16


Karen

Friday, June 21, 2019

It's My Pleasure

So Monday I was at work - making eye contact, smiling at guests, speaking enthusiastically, and making connections. I was moving as quickly as I could while still doing my best to not rush people or make them feel pressured. My recollection is that I was even being successful in order accuracy and efficiency.
From the outside, I imagine everything looked splendid.
But I knew it wasn't.
That is, on the inside of me I didn't feel enthusiastic. The words I spoke came at the expense of a whole lot of effort. The smiles weren't necessarily sincere. And I frequently found myself glancing at the clock to see how much longer I had to work.
I couldn't put my finger on any one thing which was causing me to feel this way. It just seemed like I was in a funk, and I wanted nothing more than to get out of it.
Then something wonderful happened.
A woman came to my register and ordered a salad.
Nothing else. Just a salad.
Which totaled $8.89.
The majority of people pay with credit cards, so I was anticipating she would do the same thing. However, when she pulled out her wallet and reached for a bill I readied myself to accept payment and collect her change. But when I saw her retrieving a $20 bill my heart skipped a beat. The smile on my face became ultra-sincere. I nearly let a tear roll down my cheek. And as I was tending the money a loving voice echoed in my heart, Yes, dear one, I am with you.
Then I looked my guest in the eye, I smiled at her brightly, and I said, "You're change is $11.11."
She got her salad. I got kissed by the King.

Karen

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Being a Cheerful Giver

I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats.

~Psalm 66:15

As I mentioned in the video Monday, according to Leviticus 1, burnt offerings of fat were an aroma pleasing to the LORD. And in Psalm 66:15 we see a man joyfully bringing such offerings to God.
I'm arriving at the conclusion that the psalmist was joyful based on a few things:
*He spent the first half of the psalm giving instruction to praise God (and reasons to do it).
*The big BUT in verse 12.
*His recollection of God's faithfulness in the midst of trouble. (v.14)
*And the understanding from Leviticus 1 that this offering was a delight to God.

The thing I would like to do with you today is spend time examining our own hearts, in light of what scripture says regarding the way we make offerings to God.
And to do that I want to have a look at 2 Corinthians 9:6-9.
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written,
“He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever.”

What is the first thing you notice in verse 6? What correlation?
According to verse 7, what is to be the motivation for the amount sown in verse 6?
Who does verse 8 indicate is the One behind everything we have to sow?
Verse 9 is a quote from Psalm 112 which examines the life and behavior of a righteous person. If you have the time, I would encourage you to read it!
OK. Now that you have a general familiarity with this passage, I want to focus in on verse 7 and ask God to speak to us about our hearts when it comes to the way we make offerings to Him.
First, let's look at the word "purposed." It comes from two Greek words which mean "before" and "choose". And when the two are put together it means "to choose for oneself before another thing."
That is, to purpose something - to decide that you're going to do one particular thing.
Now let's examine "grudgingly". The transliteration from Greek is lupe (Pronounced loo'-pay - as in, You'd have to be crazy to let this be your motivation for giving! *wink*) and it actually means pain of body or mind. It could be used to describe the kind of heart-sorrow that brings a person down.
Next up? "Compulsion". This word in Greek carries with it the idea that an action must be performed. It describes a situation often brought on by pain or distress, and may even imply the use of force to get something done.
And, finally, let's look at "cheerful." As a stark contrast to the previous two words, this one means "joyous". It describes a person who is "cheerfully ready to act" because they have already decided - without outside influence, compulsion, or otherwise - to do a thing. And that - we are told - is the kind of offer-er in which God takes pleasure.
So, my friend, as you consider the joy of the psalmist bringing his offerings to God in verse 15, and in light of what you see in these word studies from 2 Corinthians 9:7 - how are you doing with your giving?
Not only in the financial/material realm, but also with regard to your time and talent, your attitude and intent? What is God saying to your heart?

Karen

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

In the Garden

He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain - first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head."

~Mark 4:26-28

As I walk in my back yard toward my flower garden, this verse comes into my mind. Because every night and day since I have scattered my seeds - whether I have been sleeping or getting up (or laying in be wishing I was sleeping *ahem*) - they have been sprouting and growing.
Except, well, I know how.
That is, because God is faithful and He is a miracle-worker!
And that, right there, is the greater reason I love my flower garden. I mean, the beautiful blooms I am anticipating delight me. But it is the constant and consistent reminder of God's faithfulness and power that makes my spirit soar.
Especially this season, when I wasn't even sure the seeds were "good" or that they would grow, I am wonderfully encouraged to remember that God is in all and over all and working all things out.

Even since last week, my little garden is progressing beautifully.
See? I don't need to draw green lines in order for you to see where the zinnias are sprouting.
(I have even thinned them out, so they will have more room to grow and flourish. And, believe me, pulling sprouts was not easy for me to do because I didn't want to harm those innocent little plants. *gulp*)
Yet another lesson from my Father about pruning and planning and hard times being used for good.

OH, and do you remember the suspicion I had that the alyssum have returned?
Confirmed! Check out the tiny flowers which have already begun blooming!

When I was weeding I came across some leaves of which I wasn't sure.
I decided to let them be "just in case" they were alumni from a plant my friend gave me last summer.
And when I compared them to new plants of the same kind she gave me to plant this year, I found my just-in-case actions to be justified. (Do you see the resemblance?)
And, speaking of alumni...
The Everlastings (For which the ladies from my Precept class gave me seeds last year.) are back!
These beauties are on the side of the house and are situated right next to two rows of zinnia sprouts. Looking forward to lots of colorful blooms!

I wish that was all I had to say about my garden and the flora around my house. But the truth is, while I am simply delighted with the plants that are growing I am also quite annoyed with an animal, or two.
Remember my tulips that lost their heads this spring?
Well, I'm thinking this chomping was done by a larger scoundrel.
So, yeah. While some wonderful growth has been happening around my yard, this has occurred, too.
Yet, even as a look at my chewed-on plants (And as I realize the scoundrel animal didn't have it in for me. It was just hungry and was happy to come upon these morsels.) God reminds me that He is the author of life - and new life! I can trust Him to bring these plants back again.

Karen

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

It's in My Genes

Some time ago Brian and I did one of those ancestry test kits, and now I receive occasional emails with exciting information and new reports (Yes, you may read those words with a hint of sarcasm.) which I usually ignore.
However I just got another of those messages, and this time I couldn't ignore it. Because I thought I had caught them in the wrong. That is, the message said:

You have a new Trait report available: Fear of Public Speaking.
And I'm all, Hold on a minute there, Sam! I am NOT afriad of public speaking.
So I clicked on the link to see how they came to the conclusion they had reached.
And this is what I found.

Oh, so that's the report. Not that I have a fear of public speaking.
Turns out, genetically I am less likely to have a fear of public speaking.
And there you have it.
My gift of gab?
It's in my genes!
Can't wait to tell my mom that all those years when she said I was talking too much I was just doing what I was made to do. *wink*

Karen

Monday, June 17, 2019

Psalm 66:15


I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats.

~Psalm 66:15


Karen

Friday, June 14, 2019

It's My Pleasure

Do you know what I really love at Chick-fil-A?
I mean, I love a lot of things at and about Chick-fil-A. But one of my favorite things is when young kids come through and I get to help them place their order.
(Moms and dads, my intent is not to ignore you. But I do love to speak directly to your children to ask them what they want - and let them feel a little "bigger" by placing the order, themselves. The sparkle in their eyes accompanying the "I did it!" satisfaction is priceless.)

So, yeah. I delight in opportunities to help little kids feel a bit "bigger".

More than that scenario, I love, LOVE it when parents let their children place an order AND pay for it. That is, I treasure seeing the kids take pride in doing a grown-up thing. And I think it is so important for kids to learn life skills which will lead them to independence.
(It's a little thing. However, I believe it can make a big difference.)
But even more than that scenario, when a child is paying with cash - and I get a sense from our interaction that I can press them just a little bit - I like to ask if they can figure out how much change I owe them. Sometimes it takes a short minute for them to do the math, but when a kid successfully figures it out and tells me the correct change they should be receiving - oh - the look of accomplishment and delight on their face. I just love it!
Because in a world where children are too often told they're in the way and they need to be quiet (Yes - this happens at Chick-fil-A, too, sometimes.) it's my pleasure to give them special attention and let them know they are seen and loved.
One order at a time.

Karen

Thursday, June 13, 2019

When We're in Trouble

- vows my lips promised, and my mouth spoke
when I was in trouble.

~Psalm 66:14

The first 13 verses in Psalm 66 have certainly given us many examples of trouble.
*Being stuck between the Red Sea and an army of angry Egyptians.
*Being in prison. (Whether that was literal, or figurative...)
*Being laden with burdens.
*Having men ride over ones head. (Again, the literal or figurative question.)
*Going through fire and water.
I know we can add our own troubled circumstances to this list.
And now in verse 14 we see the psalmist making reference to those troubles again - as the springboard for vows he made to God. So today I would like to go a little deeper into how we can respond to God in the midst of the troubles we face.
Because we will face them!

Let's spend some time studying Psalm 27:1-6.
How does the psalmist describe the LORD in verse 1? And what is the psalmist's response to his own description of HIM?
Verses 2-3 speak of situations most people would fear. Based upon what you know from verse 1, why does the psalmist respond with confidence?
According to verse 4, what is the psalmist's greatest desire?
Does verse 5 indicate that the psalmist's life will be free of trouble if his desire in verse 4 is achieved?
What will happen instead?
What does verse 6 say will be the result of God's protection? Both for the psalmist and his enemies, and the psalmist and God?
We see in both Psalm 66:14 and Psalm 27:1-6 that God's help in the midst of trouble elicits a response from those whom He has helped. Maybe it is the fulfillment of vows, or passionate shouts of joy. I shared with you in the video Monday that my own response has been one of surrender - letting go of my attempts to control my circumstance, because I have recognized that God is the only One in whom I can trust.
In light of what we have seen today, how will you respond to God the next time you're in trouble?
May I encourage you to prayerfully read through Psalm 27:1-6 again, asking God to speak to your heart about His power in your troubles, and your response to it all?

Karen

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Garden Hopes

Do you see what I see???


OK, maybe not.
Lemme help you out a bit with seeing what I'm seeing...
Those little specs above the green lines. Do you know what they are???
They're the beginnings of zinnias in my garden. And I'm so excited!
Not just because they're going to be beautiful flowers later this summer. But because of their history!
I mean, do you remember the flower garden I planted last year?
It was a labor of love.
I really loved it.
And somewhere in those summer months I learned that I could harvest seeds from the flowers in my garden, and use them to plant new flowers this year. So I did some research (That is, I watched videos on Youtube...) and discovered how to get those seeds.
Then I waited as patiently as I could for the petals on the flowers to dry out, and when the day finally came - I got the seeds! And they've been sitting in a little container in my refrigerator all fall, winter, and spring, just waiting for the right time to be planted.
I got the flowerbed ready and planted my seeds a week and a half ago, and waited nervously to see if my little seeds would grow.
Because, honestly, I wasn't sure I had harvested the seeds correctly. That is, I was so eager to get them that I feared I may have not waited long enough for the petals to dry. Thought maybe the seeds hadn't matured enough, or weren't ready for some other reason.
(Have I mentioned before that I am not the best wait-er on the planet?)
So, anyway, since last summer there has been a nagging doubt in the back of my mind, occasionally throwing out questions regarding the viability of those little seeds. And since I put them in the ground eleven days ago, those questions have been coming more frequently.
Until Saturday when I went out to water them, and what I saw delighted my eyes.
Sprouts! Little zinnia sprouts!
Offspring of the beautiful flowers I tended last summer.
And inspiration for years to come. I just think it is so cool to plant seeds and grow flowers from flowers I have already grown.
Oh, and one more thing!
I am not fully certain, but I think the alyssum I planted last year re-seeded itself. Because I've heard that can happen, and these leaves look very familiar to me!

So, I'm looking forward to tending the children of last year's flower garden.
And you can look forward to pictures!

Karen

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

When the Dog Came to Visit

Last week our emptying nest was a little fuller.

That is, when Josh moved into his apartment in January he took Mindy with him.
And, honestly, I didn't realize what a significant part of our family the dog was - until she was gone.
I mean I have had to stop myself from saying, "Bye, Mindy. I'll be back soon!" when I walk out the door.
And sometimes I still expect to be met by her when I walk back in. (As annoying as it can be to have a dog in your face when you're bending over to take your shoes off, I have found I was actually missing her enthusiastic greetings.)
Not the dog hair, though. I have NOT missed the dog hair!

Anyway, Josh went out of the state last week on a fishing trip, and his roomie was also gone. So, Mindy stayed with us! And I'm here to say, things are sure different in her new home.
(Josh says she likes it better now he's in charge.)
For one, in her new home she's allowed on the couch.
We had to blockade our couch with the Swiffer to remind her what the rules are in these parts.
Second, in her new home there are no rooms which are "off limits" to Mindy.
We employed barriers to the basement and dining room to remind Mindy that she was only allowed on the wood floor.
Third, now that she lives on the second floor she gets taken for walks every time she needs to go potty.
The chain in the back yard was all she got during her stay with us.
(I mean, I did take her on a couple of walks. But I know it wasn't as spectacular as the treatment to which she has grown accustomed.)
And, fourth, she gets to sleep in Josh's bed at her new place.
Truth is, she got to sleep with him when she lived here, too. But she didn't get to sleep with US during her visit. And she whined quite a bit in protest.
However, for all her new-found freedom and the fun it is to live in the bachelor pad, I do believe I noticed one thing Mindy misses about living here.
That is, every time I started to make dinner that dog was right by my side. Just like I used to do, I tossed broccoli and cauliflower stems across the room for her to chase and eat when I was making salad. And - not that I dropped bits of food on purpose - but whenever I did drop something, Mindy was right there to clean it up for me. It was almost as if she was watching the clock, because Mindy seemed to know just when I was going to be in the kitchen making food.
And those were sweet moments the two of us shared there.
Yeah. I think Mindy misses my cooking.
Just sayin'.

Karen

Monday, June 10, 2019

Psalm 66:14


- vows my lips promised, and my mouth spoke
when I was in trouble.

~Psalm 66:14


Karen

Friday, June 07, 2019

It's My Pleasure

And sometimes in the drive-thru you might have a brush with fame.
That is to say, Monday morning I was going through my usual routine. Passing out good food, chatting it up with guests, and doing my best to be sunshine in their day.
Then I encountered a man who had a day ahead of him unlike anyone else to whom I had spoken so far.
When I asked if he had anything fun planned for the day, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, I'm going to be on a 7-hour bus ride to Kentucky. I think I'll just sleep."
The look on my face must have said something like, Oh, wow! Why the long trip? Because he followed up by explaining, "I'm in the 'Hamilton' cast."
(Hamilton, the musical, just finished playing at the Wharton Center in East Lansing on Sunday night.)
I'm sure my face lit up at that point, and I asked, "Oh, really! What role do you play?"
The breakfast-seeker at the drive-thru window smiled humbly and said, "I'm Hamilton."
Then I'm all, "What? You're Hamilton? How cool is that!?" And we proceeded to have a conversation about show business and New York City and how he got started in it all. At one point I admitted to him that when I was in high school I had a dream of "making it" on Broadway, and I told him about traveling to New York with my high school choir and singing in Carnegie Hall. And how the City had so much energy and excitement that I didn't want to come home.
He smiled graciously and told me he understood. (Or maybe he was holding back his laughter at this old lady in the drive-thru who was trying to make a connection with the star in the car.)
Regardless, I thought it was so fun that the lead actor from Hamilton drove through Chick-fil-A Monday morning, before he left town with the rest of the cast on their way to the next gig.
And I got to serve him!

P.S. In case you're wondering, Hamilton drinks Power Aid for breakfast. *grin*

Karen

Thursday, June 06, 2019

What Shall I Offer?

I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to you -

~Psalm 66:13

As I said in the video Monday, thinking about Psalm 66:13 has caused me to really consider what I am offering to God. That is, I know I don't have to bring Him physical offerings like the psalmist did. We don't have a temple building where God's Name dwells as in days of old, where we are instructed to bring sacrifices and offerings. Even so, this verse has been stirring in my spirit and leading me to ponder what I am bringing to God.
So today I would like to spend some time studying Romans 12:1-8, and consider what it looks like for us to make an offering on this side of history. (If you don't have your Bible by your side, feel free to use the link above to access the passage on Biblegateway.)
What, according to verse 1, is to be the motivation for our offering?
Does that kind of motivation seem to be a response, or a duty? How do you tend to think about offerings? As a response of love, or a duty to be fulfilled?
How does verse 1 describe the kind of sacrifice we are to be?
What does verse 2 say will make us that kind of sacrifice?
How can your mind be renewed?
Speaking of our minds, what does verse 3 have to say about the way we think?
And what do verses 4-5 tell us about our role in the body of Christ?
What do you learn about spiritual gifts in verse 6-8?
Sooooo, if we are to offer our bodies to God without thinking too highly of ourselves - rather by recognizing that each of us has a specific part to play in the body of Christ (according to the gift with which He has equipped us), how will you respond to the invitation to come to God's temple and fulfill your vows to Him?
May I encourage you to prayerfully read Romans 12:6-8 again? Then consider the way God has gifted you and ask Him to lead you in how He wants to use you today?
I pray as you respond to God's love, you will find yourself delighted in offering your best to Him!

Karen

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Speaking My Language

So, Matthew went to the store yesterday to buy himself some new shorts.
And when we were both back home later in the day I asked if his trip had been successful.
He smiled, patted a bag sitting beside him, and said, "Yes!"
Then our conversation went something like this:
Matthew: Oh, and you'll like this! I mean, I don't know how you'll feel about this part. That is, I liked the shorts so I decided to get them, but they were $25 and I thought that was kind of a lot for shorts. But I was going to get them anyway. Then when I was paying for them, they were only $13!
Me: That's awesome. Good job!
Matthew: I know! I mean, I looked all over but didn't see a SALE sign, so I didn't expect them to be on sale. But they were. And I decided it was better not to ask questions.
Me: Yep! Never ask questions when something is nearly 50% off.
*fist bump*

Karen

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

An Open Letter to Women's Clothing Manufacturers

Dear Manufacturers of Women's Clothing,

I've had it!
We've all had it!
For a while I thought it was just me - that I was the only woman on planet Earth who could not seem to find a pair of pants which actually fit.
Because, surely, you make pants for SOMEONE. Right?
Oh, how wrong I was!
I recently aired my frustration about pants-that-don't-fit on Facebook and felt my complaints vindicated when many friends - of all shapes and sizes - grumbled about the exact.same.problem.

Let me show you what I mean.

Do you see that huge gap in the back of my waist?
Otherwise, the pants fit quite nicely. Why did you need to make the waist so big?

And how about these pants?

Same problem. I could nearly fit my fist down the back of these pants, even though they fit snugly through the hips and thigh. Um, I don't need to put my fist down the back of my pants!

Next pair, please?


Different manufacturer, same problem.
What is it with you people?
Who do you know that is shaped like these pants? I mean if the legs were super big I could understand the size of the waist you put on the pants. But the legs aren't large. In fact this particular pair of pants were quite snug in the thigh. What person has legs the one size, and also has a waist the other size???

OK, one more.

Here we go again.
This pair was great everywhere - except for that one spot in the back. Where, again, I do not need to have the ability to insert my fist. Yet there it is - a gaping space, with nothing to do but look stupid whether your shirt is tucked or untucked.

So, manufaturers of women's clothing, do you see the problem here?
Because if you are not convinced by my experience I would be happy to put you in touch with the women who shared my woes in Facebook-land.
Still don't believe me? Check out all the tutorials for how to fix this problem!
(And that's just eleven of them. There are many more.)
We aren't shaped like the pants you make.
Therefore, I'm asking you - we're all asking you - to go back to the drawing board and re-think the measurements you've assigned to our waists.

Very sincerely, on behalf of the rest of the girls,

Karen

Monday, June 03, 2019

Psalm 66:13



I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to you -

~Psalm 66:13

Karen

Friday, May 31, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I love my job. I do!
From joking with guests to giving kids special attention to the adrenaline rush of getting through long lines of cars, it's really a great gig.

To be honest, though, not everyone I encounter at work is enjoyable.
Not every person laughs with me, or speaks with kindness, or even smiles back.
And, to be honest-er, with those individuals it's a challenge to maintain an It's My Pleasure! attitude. Because, really, the amount of negativity that some people give off? Whew! It threatens to steal my joy. (And I was up to my neck in it yesterday.)

Thanks be to God, however, that in the midst of the antagonism HE reminded me:

My joy doesn't come from my circumstance, or the people in it.

The relationship I have with God through Jesus is my ultimate source of joy. And nothing - not a rude comment, or a thoughtless action, or an uncaring remark - can take that joy away from me.
Indeed, it is the joy of the LORD living in me which enables me to extend kindness to one who has not been kind, and to speak life to one who has uttered words of contempt. And I am so thankful! 
Because if it was up to me? 
Well, let's just say, "It's my pleasure" might not be the words coming out of my mouth. *ahem*

Ahhhh, but it isn't up to me.
God is my joy, and He is my help. At Chick-fil-A, at home, and everywhere I go. I am trusting Him to equip me for the work He has created me to do, and I am trying to be faithful to Him in each situation where He places me.
How about you? In what ways are you discovering that God is your help?

Karen

Thursday, May 30, 2019

BUT

You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.

~Psalm 66:13

But.
BUT.
It's such a beautiful word, isn't it?
I'm hurting, BUT the pain won't last forever.
This circumstance stinks, BUT better days are coming.
You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, BUT you brought us to a place of abundance.

What would your sentence say???

I think it is interesting to look at the rest of the story we began last week with the Israelites in Egypt.
They were in a prison of sorts, certainly knowing what it was like to have burdens on their backs - when God revealed the BUT.
Take a look at this:
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

~Exodus 3:7-10
What has the LORD seen and heard?
What does He say He is going to do?
How does He describe the land into which He is going to take the Israelites?
Perhaps you know the rest of the story. There is a lot of wandering ahead of God's people. They're going to participate in an abundant amount of complaining, their trust will falter frequently, and sometimes they'll even become so forgetful that they'll long for Egypt again.
At one point, they'll actually go through water. (Just like we were reminded in Psalm 66:6.)
BUT - eventually - after they've gone through trials and suffering, after they've doubted God and had their faith tested, after they have been refined and learned to fear the LORD and trust in His power, then they enter the promised land. A good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey.
Can you see how the story of the Israelites is echoed in Psalm 66:13?

And what about your story, my friend?
How does your circumstance parallel the Truth we see in this verse? In this psalm?
Although refining is never a fun process, though burdens hurt, and fire and water can be frightening, and - if we're honest - we'd really rather just skip it all, I pray you will find hope and comfort in the knowledge that there is a place of abundance ahead.
May God's BUT give you the courage to hold on in faith.

Karen

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Responding to His Nudge

So, Friday I mentioned 11:11 and the joy I have in knowing God's faithfulness. Particularly when He makes that number show up at moments when I need encouragement from Him. And it truly is a delight to my heart when HE provides that comfort.
But the whole 11:11 thing started off as a prayer cue between Brian and me when we were college students - and it remains a prompting God uses to have me pray for my husband.
It is also a story I have shared many times. And as I have told others about God's nudge to have me pray for Brian whenever I see 11:11, I have heard tales about how He has made specific numbers significant in their lives.
So, I began praying for these friends at their "appointed" time, as well.
3:33 for one.
And 4:44 for another.
Well, Sunday afternoon I "happened" to look at the clock at 4:44 and as I prayed for Jody I smiled at the thought of God's amazing love and care for His children. Because I've been seeing 4:44 quite frequently in recent weeks - even in the middle of the night sometimes - and it just makes me so happy to know that HE is thinking of her, and calling me to pray. So I grabbed my phone and sent her a quick text. I figured - if God is nudging me to pray for her so often, perhaps she could use the encouragement to know about it.
What I wasn't expecting was the encouragement I would get in return.
That is, she texted back right away to let me know that she had seen 11:11 and 1:11 on her clock the day before and took it as God's nudge for her to pray for me. She recogninzed that God had us on each other's hearts, and wanted to share the encouragement.
Ahhhh, what a blessing.
To be called on by God to lift up another, and to find that He is calling others to lift you up, too!
God's faithfulness and care will delight me all of my days.

Karen

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Train Up a Child

Saturday I was in the back yard pulling weeds (Getting my flowerbed ready for seeds. The very seeds I harvested from my zinnias last summer. I am so excited to watch them grow!) when I heard deep voices wafting through the air.
I was pretty sure Matthew was the only other person home, so I was a little confused.
And curious enough to get off my knees and search out the source of that other voice.

The scene I discovered delighted my heart.

As I came around the house I found Matthew and Phil in the driveway, with Phil's car.
And a jack.
And the two of them deep in discussion.
I remembered something about a phone call to Brian the previous day regarding car problems, and deduced that Phil had come over to do some investigating with him. However, Brian wasn't home. So apparently Matthew decided to step in and see if he could help figure out the problem.
At first my thought was, Wait a minute. How can he know what to do?
But then I remembered Matthew isn't a little boy anymore. Although sometimes reluctantly, he has gone over car repair procedures with Brian. He has learned how to change tires and brakes, and has even done some repair work on his own. And it would seem that amount of background gave him enough confidence to problem-solve with Phil.
So I looked upon these two young men who were attempting to diagnose an unsettling noise, and I smiled with great joy.
Because I remember when each of our kids complained about various life-lessons Brian or I would try to teach. Specifically - the groaning the boys did when Brian insisted they learn how to do this or that bit of maintenance on their cars. The memories are still fresh of times when I thought it would be easier to just let them have a pass on attaining skills, when it would have been nice to circumvent the whining and - instead - get the "cool parent" award for letting them off the hook.
But Saturday afternoon I was witnessing the fruit of choosing well, rather than choosing easy.
And the scene delighted my heart!

Full disclosure: Many of the life-lessons we have attempted to pass on to our children were painful at the time. Beyond the complaints and whining, I often got discouraged by comments about us being too strict - or feeling like we were asking too much.
(My inner child sometimes agreed with my external children!)
But I'm telling you now, it was worth it. Every last bit of it! To see my children today, adulting and appreciating the lessons we taught - ahhhh! It is such a delight.
So, for those of you who find yourself in the midst of training now - for the times when you question the value of it all - please accept my encouragement to keep going. You'll be so glad you did.
And so will your kids!!!


Karen

Monday, May 27, 2019

Psalm 66:12


You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.

~Psalm 66:13

Karen

Friday, May 24, 2019

It's My Pleasure

Oh, the stories I could tell about the faithfulness of GOD.

*peaceful, grateful, delighted sigh*

See, the thing is, I had a rough day at work earlier this week.
OK. Maybe I'm being too extreme when I say it was "rough".
The truth is, it just wasn't "great" like they usually are.
For starters, it was cold and rainy, and being in the drive-thru window was a little miserable. (PSA: When you're at the window of a drive-thru and it's raining, go ahead and turn off your wipers. Otherwise they *might* repeatedly flick water on the drive-thru attendant and even splash his/her glasses. Just sayin'.) At one point, I handed the wrong drink to a guest and realized my mistake too late.
I felt terrible, she was not happy, and my apology seemed to be meaningless to her.
As the day went on - try as I might - it was just difficult to feel sincere in my enthusiasm. Ya know?
So the next morning as I drove to work I was praying. Asking my Father to help me do things correctly. Recognizing my inability to do anything apart from His grace. Believing HE could keep me from re-entering the funk I was in the previous day.
Amen.
And then, can I just tell you what HE did???
All day long (My shift was 6:30-3:00.) my Father was slipping me love-notes in the form of four little numbers.

1111

I mean, I only saw it on the clock once. But there was an unusual number of people that day whose bill or change due was $11.11. And each time I saw those numbers I smiled as I just knew God was reminding me of His presence. HE was assurring me that HE had heard my prayers in the morning, and HE was helping me. In the midst of taking orders, and handing out drinks, and offering smiles and kind words - God was showing me His faithfulness and HE made sure I knew it was Him.
And each time 1111 popped up in front of me - and I smiled and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving - I could swear I heard Him whisper back to my heart, It's My pleasure.

P.S. If you aren't familiar with the way God uses eleven-eleven to show Himself in my circumstances, click on the 1111 link in the Labels below and you'll be able to read the background and lots of stories.
It's a beautiful thing!


Karen

Thursday, May 23, 2019

HE Did What?

You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.

~Psalm 66:11

Greetings, friend!
Have you been thinking about prison and burdens since Monday?
Are you ready to consider more?
Please take a minute and read from Exodus 1 below:
8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

~Exodus 1:8-14

Are you familiar with the events which got the Israelites to this point in Exodus?
There had been a famine in the land of Canaan, but the sons of Jacob heard there was food in Egypt so they went there to buy some. And ended up being brought to Egypt by their estranged brother (By God, actually!) to live.
(It is a fabulous story. If you aren't familiar with the details, I would highly, HIGHLY recommend reading Genesis 37 and 39-47. It will take a while. But it is soooooo good!)
So, anyway, God brought the Israelites to Egypt.
Then Exodus 1 happened.
Do you suppose when God had the idea to lead Jacob's sons to Egypt, He knew what was going to happen when the new king came to power?
Yet He still did it???
Although the Israelites were being saved from the famine when they left Canaan, I guess some would say God had brought them into prison. And laid burdens on their backs.
Now, take a look at Exodus 3:7 when the LORD was speaking to Moses:
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
According to this verse, what was the response of the Israelites to their circumstance ?
What about you? Do you find yourself today feeling like you are in a prison, with burdens on your back? And what is your response to circumstances which feel that way?
Do you believe God can be trusted in the midst of them?
Even if He knew about them ahead of time and still allowed them to happen???
My friend, I believe HE can be trusted. Even if.
And I encouage you today to ask your Father to speak to your heart about His good purposes for the prisons and burdens that may be presently impacting you.
May HE grow your ability to trust, even in the midst of the struggle.

Karen

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

When Letting Go is the Best Decision

Did you see "To Joey, With Love"?
If you didn't, you should remedy that situation as soon as possible.
And if you did, then you know the beautiful story of Joey and Rory Feek.
Well, one of my Facebook friends posted this video and I couldn't help but watch it. Because I love their story. And now I am really feeling all the feels.
I mean, Rory had no idea that just a few short years after he and Joey made their video - he would be living it. Without her.

Do you realize how very fleeting our lives are?

Sorry. I am not trying to be a downer in the middle of your week, but these thoughts are just flooding my heart right now.
Perhaps because of a conversation I had with a friend yesterday.
She has spent the past 30+ years in a nearly non-existent relationship with her siblings, and yesterday we were talking about it - wondering if there will ever be reconciliation. Thirty plus years! It breaks my heart to consider a life-time of love and family and memories missed because of wrong understandings, stubborn minds, and misguided perspectives.
My friend's heart is broken, too.
Then came this video from Joey and Rory, and the harsh reality that time is shorter than we know.
And the whole package has me wanting to beg the world to forgive and be reconciled to one another.
Because on our last day - or the day after somebody else's last day - I think we're really going to wish we had let go of the burdens, the anger, the pain, even the bitterness onto which we'd been holding.
I believe we will be wishing we had let go of it long, long ago.
In fact, if we're honest, I suspect many of us would like to be free of the load today.
So I have to ask, do you need to seek forgiveness from someone?
Or do you need to extend that grace to another? Even though they don't deserve it???
Oh, would you humble yourself and enter into reconciliation?
Because life is too precious to let resentment rule.

Karen

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

HE is with You

In Sunday school this past weekend, we were playing a game to continue our lesson from large group.
The "game" involved rolling a dice to determine how far each person was to move their playing piece on the board, then answering a question from the pile of cards in the middle of the board.
One of the questions chosen was this: What is one thing you would like to tell your friends about God? And the sweet young girl sitting next to me answered, "HE is with you."
She went on to remind us that the Bible says, "HE will never leave you nor forsake you," and told us that means God is always with us.

I was delighted by this young girl's words and the faith she was expressing, but it wasn't until yesterday that the Truth of what she spoke really settled in my heart. It was in the moments, actually, before I sat down to write this post.
I was feeling unsettled about things and circumstances, unsure of what I even wanted to write.
So I came before my Father to talk about it all.
(I was cold, and I had wrapped up in my favorite blanket. As I sat there sung and warm, I imagined myself sitting right on God's lap, with His loving arms gently enfolding me. Ahhhh.)
I just began pouring out my heart - the thoughts and feelings which had been running around and over and through me.
And as I prayed for the frazzled young mother who I had seen earlier in the grocery store I thought, HE sees you, dear one. HE knows your struggle, and HE is with you.
I prayed for a friend who is facing divorce and I realized, HE sees you, my friend. HE has the power to heal, and HE is with you.
Then I began praying for a young man I know who is lost and trying to find his way in this world, and I was comforted to know God sees him, too. Though this young man doesn't yet acknowledge that God is real - God sees him and loves him and is with him, too.
And the prayers kept flowing. For the one who is struggling with depression. For the one who is stepping out into independence in a big world. For the one whose self-confidence is blinding him to his need for a Savior. For the one who knows she desperately needs a Savior, but is struggling to believe HE could possibly love her. I thought of the promise that my Sunday school buddy had espoused just the day before, and I delighted in knowing my Father's faithfulness to be with us.
And then I sighed, as peacefulness enveloped me, with the realization that just as HE is faithful to be with all of these for whom I was praying - so HE is faithful to be with me.
Little ol' me.
In the midst of my own questions and uncertainties and wonderings about what lies ahead of me.
HE is with me. And that's all I really need to know.

How about you, my friend? Do you know with confidence that GOD is with you in the face of whatever comes your way today?

Karen

Monday, May 20, 2019

Psalm 66:11

You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.

~Psalm 66:11


Karen

Friday, May 17, 2019

It's My Pleasure

Wednesday was an interesting day for me.

That is to say, my heart was feeling heavy because of a couple of interactions I had with not-very-happy people.

The first individual was a woman who came through the drive-thru at work. From the get-go I could tell she was upset about something, because she barely responded to me when I greeted her. She held her lips tightly, she made very little eye contact, and said even less. Everything in me wanted to reach out with grace and encouragement, but her non-verbal communication made it clear that she was not willing to receive any such input from me. So I just took care of her order, and tried to express as much kindness as possible in a situation where communication was all but non-existent.
The second individual was someone I encountered on my way home from work. Actually, we didn't even have a legitimate interaction. It really was just him expressing his feelings to me. That is, I was driving in front of him and - apparently - I did something terribly wrong. Not sure if it was the fact that I had been driving the speed limit, or if I somehow took too long turning into my neighborhood. Either way, when he passed me he cussed me out significantly and thoroughly blasted his car horn.
And since I had been thinking about the first individual while I was driving, my heart felt doubly sad by the anger expressed by individual number 2. Not that I was taking anything personally, mind you.
On a personal level, his actions didn't bother me at all.
Rather, the sadness came from the thought that two people (Likely more than two...) were wandering around town full of so much angst and irritation.
I wondered what burdens they must be carrying which caused them to react so harshly.
What trouble was overwhelming their day?
I deeply wished I could have done something to lighten each of their loads.
But that was not an option.

And, then?
Then I got home and found a message in my email which reminded me that God's love "should motivate us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."
It said, "This is the clothing culture He wants us to adopt and wear every single day. And the most important article of clothing? Love." (Colossians 3:12-14)
With those words God's Spirit reminded me that although I may not always be able to say the words or do the things which will alleviate a person's pain, I can always - always! - treat them with love as I wear Him. He reminded me that when I respond with grace, others may get a glimpse of Him - and that matters so much more than anything I can say or do.

Yes, Lord. Please make me more like YOU so my little corner of the world may experience the goodness of your love.

Karen

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Refine Me, LORD

For you, O God, tested us,
You refined us like silver.

~Psalm 66:10
As I mentioned in my video Monday, I am well aware that virtually NOBODY likes to be tested.
Myself, included!
However, sometime back in 2004/2005 God used Psalm 66:10 to convince me that being tested by Him is, in fact, a very good thing. HE used this verse - and the image of a silversmith refining silver over a fire - to set me on a course of trusting Him, even when times are hard. God spoke to my spirit through Psalm 66:10, and brought hope to a woman who - most of the time - felt utterly hopeless.
And today I would like to spend time with you studying two other passages from scripture which speak to the hope we can have in the midst of hard times.

First, let's look at Romans 5.
3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.

~Romans 5:3-4
These two verses are short, but there is so much good stuff packed into them! And I love this passage because it has me going from, What??? to, Ohhh! to, Ahhhh.
I mean, that first statement. What does Paul suggest we should do?
Does it strike you as strange that we would rejoice in our sufferings?
It is that concept which first had me asking, What???
But a bit of digging led me to better understanding. I think we all know what "hope" means - expectation of what is certain. But do you know what Paul was talking about when he mentioned "character"? Strong's Concordance defines the Greek word for "character" in this verse this way: the process or result of trial, proving, approval. A commentary I read years ago explained "character" as referring to "the quality of a person who has been tested - and has passed the test!"
And I - in the midst of intense mothering struggles - thought, Ohhhh! How I would like to have that quality! But, according to the text, from where does character come?
And what produces that perseverance?
Sooooo, if we're going to have the quality of being one who has passed the test, what is going to be necessary in our lives?
Thus we can say, Ahhhh. Yes. I will rejoice in suffering. Because in the end I will have proven character. I will have passed the test!

So, that's Paul.
James says a similar thing.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

~James 1:2-4
This passage, like the Romans verses, begins with a bit of a difficult statement. Because, do we really consider our trials with joy? Especially pure joy???
But, also like the Romans passage, we learn about perseverance.
What do these verses tell us about perseverance? What is its result?
You might be interested to know that "mature" as it is used in this verse refers to the completeness of Christian character. It is the end-goal of a spiritual journey.
And, "complete"? Get this!
It is "divinely-allotted wholeness".
It's like God saying, Yes! This is just the way I wanted it (her!) to be.

Do you see the hope in these verses?
Can you understand why the psalmist was rejoicing in the testing through which God took him?
Think about the allure of silver. The truth is, Christ-like character - God's desire for each of us - is infinitely more beautiful than silver. And that beauty is what God's testing aims to produce in us.
So I say, Yes! Refine me, LORD.
How about you?

Karen

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I am a Blessed Mom

A lot has changed in our home since Mother's Day 2018.
That is to say, 2/3 of our children no longer call our house "home".
And the difference in the life circumstances of my children led me to have very low expectations for Mother's Day.
I don't say that to communicate that I had bitter feelings about how I anticipated the day would go.
I truly wasn't concerned about it.
In fact, I had found a new recipe which I was looking forward to trying for dinner.
In previous years, when all the kids were home, I *might* have been known to leave Sunday "blank" on the menu during the second week in May. Just so they knew I wasn't planning on cooking for Mother's Day. But this year I was aware that life has taken new directions, and I was ready to bend with it.

My kids, however, had different plans.

They connected with each other and made plans to converge on our house Sunday evening to prepare a wonderful dinner and dessert. (Keto-approved, nonetheless!)
And this is what happened when their plans came to fruition:






After a delicious dinner we sat around the table and talked. (One of my favorite things to do!)
And then, we played several rounds of Spicy Uno. (Another one of my favorite things!)

So, for Mother's Day 2019: I didn't have to make dinner, all my kids were home, and we had a blast enjoying one another's company.
It was a great day!

Karen

Monday, May 13, 2019

Psalm 66:10



For you, O God, tested us,
You refined us like silver.

~Psalm 66:10


Karen