Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Goals for 2015

#TheLoft
One thing I've noticed this past year is my bad habit of wasting time.  Wasting time is so easy to do in the era of social media.  Scroll through Facebook and you will find endless articles, video clips, and conversation to lose yourself in.  Before you know it, it is 2:00 pm and you are still in your night clothes, the kids need to be picked up from school, yesterday's dishes finished before making dinner, and you realize your little home schooler hasn't had lunch! So you rush about trying to catch up and you feel like a "loser mom."  

So, this year I want to utilize my time more wisely.  Spend more time on the things that matter.  Set a specific time aside to read those books I long to finish. I can clean while listening to that sermon or pray.  I really don't need to check Facebook to see if I have any other updates.  Instead of having my social needs met through internet, maybe I should go and sit with others in the nursing home making an eternal impact.  Or actually pick up a phone and talk to a live person, this terrifies me!  We've lost the art of community.  I would love to invite people over for dinner more often.

So this year I'd like to be a better steward of the time that God has given me.  Breaking those addictions are hard but so worth it!  This is a simple post today but I really need to get moving.  I searched for a song to accompany this post and God gave me the PERFECT one!




 


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

RETHINK


#Theloft 

For years I've heard the buzz in Christian circles every January of THE WORD.  Pick a word, a verse, a phrase and focus on it for the entire year.  It's a great idea but I never joined in.  Call it a fear of failure mixed in with a little bit of laziness.  You know, those New Year's resolutions start off strong and by February everyone has forgotten.

This year I am taking a chance, a chance that I might fail.  A chance that I will prove to myself, once again, how undependable my flesh is.  I am risking disappointment.  But that is o.k. because I may fail but GOD NEVER DOES.  He never tires, He is dependable, reliable, steadfast, true, loyal, trustworthy, all knowing, all sufficient, and the Lover of my soul.  So if I fail, all the more reason to exalt Him.

My word is RETHINK.  Every time a negative thought or false truth enters my mind the alarm will sound RETHINK.   It is my warning signal, warning me of my of lack of faith, or a lie that has crept in and altered my thinking.  It doesn't take much but a little step to get you off the path.  NO, it is NOT positive thinking or wearing rose colored glasses, thinking that if I focus enough on the positive all the negative realities will disappear.  That is not walking in the truth!  That is living a life of denial and illusion.  I will not go there.  I strongly prefer to have my feet firmly planted and rooted in the truth.  God never asks us to live in denial or pretend everything is well in the world.

Just like the Hobbits did in the forest of Mirkwood, when they wandered off the path they fell under an oppressive discouragement, they became more disheartened and distrustful of each other.  Their thinking became warped.

That is why it is so important for our thinking to be filtered through God's word.  God's word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, Psalm 119:105.

So when my mind strays off the path in Mirkwood the alarm will sound RETHINK.  What does scripture say, who does God say He is, what is truth here.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"My Favorite Books"


This week's #TheLoft topic is "My Favorite Books."  After reading a sister blogger's post on this topic, I'd better include the Bible, haha, because that should always be number one on our list.  After all, it is full of truth, wisdom, and the source we go to when we want to know God, know truth, walk humbly, and have wisdom.  So, this is my #1.


While I do not agree with every book I read, except the Bible, I love to glean from other brothers and sisters in Christ.  I do not focus on what I disagree with, I may acknowledge it, but it is not my focus. We are all flawed human beings, in the PROCESS of sanctification, not in our glorified bodies.  So there is no reason for me to crucify others but to humbly learn from each and every one of them.  I am not saying to read heretical books, I wouldn't waste my money.  God has taught us different things in our lives and we can learn from one another.  

2.  Behold Your God, by Dr. John Snyder www.beholdyourgod.org

This is a 12 week Bible study that has impacted my life greatly.  It is a continual process of re-thinking God biblically, this will be a lifetime journey of sanctification for me--not a one time deal. Of understanding Him better, of falling deeper in love with our Creator.  To know Him and to allow Him more access into our lives is the goal.    

3.  Pastor Abusers: When Sheep Attack Their Shepherd, by Kent Crockett

This is a great book for everyone in leadership AND every layperson sitting in the pew.  It is a heartbreaking, wisdom-filled book.  It is an abuse that occurs in every church, to every Pastor and his family.  It will help you to watch what you say and do so that you are not one of the sheep attacking your shepherd.  It will also help you to discern when others around you are attacking your leaders. "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."  Hebrews 13:17  God takes this seriously, heed warning.  My advice to the body of Christ; do not jump to conclusions, do NOT listen to gossip and slander about your leaders, ask questions directly to your leaders with humility and grace, pray for your leaders, and be an encouragement.  Sometimes they make decisions based on facts that you are not aware of, do not go directly to judgement but give the benefit of the doubt.  Most Pastors work well beyond forty hours a week, are under constant attack by their sheep, but continue on with humility and serve.  Sadly, some leave the ministry all together because of the damage that is done to them and their families.  It is similar to the persecuted church.  Don't be a persecutor.  Write an encouraging note, a phone call, or give a complement in person.  Offer your help, ask, "what can I do for our church?"  October is Pastor Appreciation month.



4.  Trust Without Borders by Arabah Joy.  Loving these short story daily devotions.  
5.   Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild
6.   Lessons I Learned in the Dark by Jennifer Rothschild 
7.   Cracks In The Crescent by Hussein Hajji Wario
8.   Rescue the Captors by Russell Stendal--God is doing AMAZING things through this missionary
9.   Sometimes He Whispers, Sometimes He roars by Marilynn Chadwick
10. Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala
11. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
12. Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan
13. Well-Intentioned Dragons by Marshall Shelley
14. Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan & Angela Yuan 
15. The Valley of Vision; A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions compiled by Arthur Bennett
16. One Thousand Gifts by Ann VosKamp
17. In the Backyard of Jesus by Steven Khoury 
18. Passport Through Darkness by Kimberly Smith
19. Secret Believers by Brother Andrew
20. Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"My Kind of Town"

                                                               #TheLoft

I LOVE my city, was born here, raised here, and we're raising our kids here.  So many people around the country make fun of Midwesterners, they say we never go anywhere or move.  Reasons why? Not sure, maybe it is because the Midwest has so much to offer.

Sure, I love to visit out west, go east, and travel down south.  But there's no place like home!  For many years, my husband and I would dream about moving rural, have fresh air to breathe, beautiful scenery, and fields for the kids to run.  It was a dream for a long time.  We prayed much about it.  We looked.  We prayed and looked again.  Something in both of us said, "no, it's not time."  So we stayed.

At times that longing would come back, but we both knew we needed to follow God's leading, so here we are and here we stay.

                                         
                             I love my city of Chicago, it is my kind of town.

Where else can you buy the best hot dog or Chicago pizza?  You can find every people group from around the world!  Ever visit The Moody Church?  Lots of Christians say being in the service is like a taste of heaven because every nation is represented, I have to agree!  Ethnic restaurants? We have them.  Museums, beautiful parks, Orchestra Hall, Auditorium Theater, Lyric Opera House, Navy Pier, Children's Museum and so on. Lincoln Park Zoo with Polar bears swimming?  Here you go!


We have a lake that looks like an ocean.  If you want the Indiana Dunes, 45 min. away, it's like being on an island, ah.  On a clear day you can look 25 miles across and see Downtown Chicago.


O.K., we do get A LOT of snow and I am still recovering from last winter. 


But we'll get through it, we have LOTS of firewood stacked.  And if it didn't snow like this, where else would my husband and boys camp?  Yes, they like to camp in a tent, in the winter with NO heat.  It's a survival man thing.  Us girls stay home where it is warm.  This is only 1.5 hours away.  


And when you get sick of that, there is always summer's return.


Feeling so blessed that this is my town!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Through the Valley

.......Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death



How many times have we heard that?  We can almost quote it verse by verse.  

But when we are in the valley, do we fear?  Do we dread?

Once again I find myself in the valley as my heart is brought low.  Not another one dear Lord, not again.  Over and over again, one by one, they go.  Some knowing the Lord, some who may have not.  

Then what?  How do we walk through that?

Sometimes it comes after horrific suffering and death brings relief, other times it is sudden. 

The phone rings at work, I answer, "your father was found dead this morning."  I am in a dream, he is only 51 yrs. old, I wonder how...why...I am stunned.  I make my way to the bus from downtown, I live all alone.  And I have to walk through this alone, or so it feels.  I go to the store, still stunned, to buy funeral clothes. Funeral arrangements are made, the priest comes drunk, how appropriate.  The funeral home was dark and depressing, worn down, hope it was given at a discount.  Years later, one of my husband's closest friends gets a bad diagnosis.  He was the healthiest person we knew, very athletic, finally married and had a son....lives a little more than a year.  How do we make it through his funeral service?  The coffin leaves the church and I sob.  A good friend from high school gets diagnosed with cancer, we had our first two babies together.  How can this be?  She is still raising those boys.  In the midst of her battle my brother gets his terminal diagnosis, nine weeks later he dies of cancer at the age of 46.  It doesn't matter that he has three kids who need him, death comes when it comes.  Then my high school friend passes away eight months later, I have no tears left.  I go to the wake and feel numb.  I have no more grief in me.  A few years later the phone rings, one of those middle of the night calls. My father-in-law died, my husband gasps.  Oh, how I hate those calls.  A year and a few months later my mother-in-law dies, three months after her cancer diagnosis. Grief upon grief, when will it end?

Once again I am walking those halls, those corridors which I hate.  The same familiar smells, the same people in the retirement place, same doctors and nurses---I am all too familiar with.  I notice some of the same patients still there, same procedures, that awful carpeting and outdated walls.  They are all waiting for death...some don't have a clue where they are at, some do, but patiently wait.  Waste and wait,  three meals a day and sit. Sit for what?  Wait with hope that someone will come and visit, someone will talk to them.  I walk in with my young daughter, they light up like Christmas trees as life enters their faces once more.  Why do babies and small children make them smile so much?  They are hope, hope for a future, a hope they no longer have.  It is a reminder of what once was, long flowing blonde hair on a child, a smile, a bouncy walk full of energy and a bright future.  It was once like that for them.  Their world was good, no sickness or pain, they played and did not think of tomorrow, did not know lonely.  

.......I will fear no evil

Why will I fear no evil?  Why, and not only why, but HOW? 

.......because YOU are with me.  

Especially in this valley He brings comfort. As I walk through this dark valley again.....His spirit is with me.  His spirit even prays for me!  My mind cannot comprehend--He prays for ME!  Yes, and for you too.....if you have placed your trust in His sacrifice on the cross and not in your good works...HE PRAYS FOR YOU!  You are His when you enter into salvation.  He knows what you need and what to pray.  Do you think that God does not answer the prayers of His very own spirit?  

.......your rod and your staff, they comfort me

Even in the dark, even in the suffering, even when my heart is on the floor, they bring comfort.  It is hard enough going through this valley, but to go through it with enemies is pain upon pain. But there is still hope!  Because David concludes the 23rd Psalm with this:   

.......You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely, Your goodness and mecy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  

When our enemies surround us we are to take our eyes off the enemy and onto the table He has prepared.  He prepares a table IN THE PRESENCE of my enemies.  So they are there, but they are not the focus, His anointing of our head and our cup overflowing should be our focus. Goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives!  His grace is the focus in the midst of our suffering.  The enemy may rage, but the table is there---focus on the table.  

And that is enough, He is enough.....despite the valley, despite the suffering, despite the enemies.  He is enough and we are His treasure, rejoice and give thanks!  




Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Walking Path

There is no better way to start the day than on the walking path.  The day has just begun, fresh and new.  Being late October now, the fresh, cool, autumn air enlivens my senses and gives fresh energy.  August was so hot and humid, so oppressive...we slugged through our time together.

The walking path serves many purposes for us.  For one, it gets our blood pumping, my sluggish low blood pressure up, clears the fog out of my brain, changes my perspective,  joyous fellowship with my six year old daughter and my God, a time of thankfulness, a time of quiet, an avenue to enjoy all He has created.  On the highway of life, we often don't stop to pray, to contemplate, to rest, to adore, or to listen.  


On our path there are many walkers.  In a short time, we recognized all of them.  Coming from all paths of life, varying ages, many are immigrants which makes it interesting along the path.  I love diversity.  I love hearing people's stories, the hard times and the good.  I love to guess what country someone is from by listening to their accent, I love to hear about their lives, how they came here, and what life was like in their homeland. 
Alejandro, using a pseudo name here, is one on the walking path of life.  He is my mom's age and he walks four hours everyday, which I find amazing!  I thought I was doing well with our 40 minute daily walk.   Alejandro grew up in Puerto Rico and was raised by his grandparents.  His grandma birthed 21 children and she lived to a ripe, old age!  His grandparents raised him and his many aunts and uncles on hundreds of acres of their own land.  They grew everything, had farm animals, and barely shopped at the market.  No wonder his grandmother lived so long, she was always working and caring for others-she had purpose.  How delicious it must have tasted to eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily, to breathe in clean air, to run free through the countryside, and to grow up in such a large family.  Alejandro's grandfather was killed in a freak accident by a bicycle, so sad and tragic, and what a loss to his grandmother.  But still, she plugged away in life because many needed her. 

Others that come along the path are also interesting.  Many Muslim women dressed from head to toe, jogging or walking along the path.  I wondered how they did it in that hot, humid weather of August.  Or the older Polish couple that limps along with their dog.  Her husband is very quiet but she always stops to say hello and ask my daughter how her learning is coming along.  Then there is the man from Mexico, ten years older than me and he jogs that path for two hours straight, never stopping, always greeting me with a smile and laughs...saying the same thing everyday, "your daughter looks exactly like you, mini you."   Another walker is a man from Poland with his Chihuahua....I talk his ear off as we pet his dog....he nods and smiles but I don't think he has any idea of what I am saying.  But nodding and smiling is universal, he is kind to listen.  
We have formed a bond in a way, we look for each other and greet as the day is just waking up.  Always smiles, always hellos.  A bond is formed, we are in this together.  All different, but all enjoying the beauty and quietness of the walking path.  Reminds me of the sitcom that used to play,  "Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.  Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.  Wouldn't you like to get away?  Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.  You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name."

God didn't create us to live in isolation, He created us for community, for fellowship, and for serving one another, and most important---being connected to Him.  He created us to enjoy peace, tranquility, holiness and wholeness, and to live with gratitude for all He has done.  There are the ones along the path that are hard to serve, but they are still on the path.  The two women complaining all morning as they walk, I often cannot wait for them to pass since I am on the path to enjoy the quiet of the morning.  Or the three women walking and talking with such hostility, not sure what they are saying since I don't understand their language, but I wonder "why do they start the day like that?"  Or the couple that starts their day with a cup of coffee and a very brisk walk...they always seem rushed and stressed, planning the many tasks of the day, I don't think they notice all the beauty around them.  I have to fight off hectic myself, life is so busy carrying many demands!  This world is in desperate need for focus, focus on what is important, focus on relationship with their Maker.  We need to pray, to focus, to fight for it, to seek Him, and to listen. I enjoy my mornings, do you?  I hope you find time in your day to be in close fellowship and communion with Him on your walking path of life.



Jesus tells us: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you: For everyone that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grace Like Rain

Grace Like Rain falls down on me, continually in abundance. Whether we acknowledge it or not, that is reality.  It is a choice, a choice to let the rain fall down and absorb into our being, or to deflect and ignore it.  Years ago I started this journey to absorb more of Him, the journey to freshen my faith, to seek Him with all my being.  It has been an amazing journey to find MORE of the grace of God, to find MORE God in this grace.  Recently, I prayed for music where I could worship Him in deeper ways.  A couple of weeks ago God answered my prayer.  A ministry posted the song, "Sovereign Over Us," sang by Aaron Keyes.  I fell in love with his worship music.  His song, "Grace Like Rain," in the above video says it all about the Christian life, it is our foundation.  Grace Like Rain falls down on me---Hallelujah---that is all we need!