I blew it. I really, really blew it. I can give you a thousand reasons why…I could try and make my defense…but in the end they are just excuses; the facts remain that I was guilty as charged. My sweet little girl had brought me a beautiful turquoise necklace she had made and asked for my approval. My words were harsh, critical…Why hadn’t she asked my permission before using my things?…It would be better if the beads were arranged in a more balanced arrangement…I didn’t even notice her face before rushing on to accomplish the tasks I thought were so important for the day. The day was a demanding one. I gave my full attention to the deadlines that were loudly demanding it, I gave very little to the sweet, sensitive spirit that asked very little of me. As the day drew to a close, the Holy Spirit whispered words that were a slam-dunk conviction: “Those were her beads.” In that instant, my vision was cleared. Yes, my deadlines were important, but nothing was as important as finding my girl and making things right. As we found a quiet corner, her face was full of concern. “Is everything OK, Mommy?” “Did I do something wrong, Mommy?” Her words pricked my heart. How often had I crushed her before this day? I told her how wrong I was, how sorry I was, how I appreciated the artistic gifts God had given her; I praised her for taking the initiative to create something and be creative without anyone telling her to do it. She snuggled in closer to me. “It’s OK, Mommy. I forgive you.” Grace. Priceless words offered to me. As we begin our school year, let this grace be before all others. If we learn math, writing, & science, but miss grace we walk away empty handed. But this day holds another lesson for me. Sin can be forgiven, but it always has a consequence. She may have forgiven me and our relationship was restored, but as I climbed the stairs to attend to the next thing I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she picked up her necklace to work on it again, the way I had told her it should be.
I’m blogging with a purpose here today.
I think most of us are familiar with Salvation Army, Operation Christmas Child and Angel Tree (all of which are wonderful outreaches which I highly recommend), but I am wondering what other opportunities are you aware of to reach out to others at Christmastime? I’m looking for opportunities to look beyond the consumer-driven mindset of buying “stuff” to invest my time and dollars in a way that invests in the lives of others and the Kingdom of God.
Here are a few that I really like that I’ve run across lately, but I am excited to learn what others have found:
1. (LOVE this one) Living Water International Gift Card: your recipient enters the numbers from the gift card on their website, then gets to choose how that donation is spent. He can choose to spend it all on one project or divide it up among several. Also a bonus, LWI offers physical gift cards that they will mail to you or for the last minute shoppers they offer electronic gift cards.
2. Voice of the Martyrs offers a Christmas Care pack for $25 which provides a Christmas Care Pack for a child who lives in an area where Christians are persecuted. They also offer a Village Outreach Pack for $75 which supplies an evangelist with a small library of materials. (I can look over my shoulder at a not-so-small library of materials which ministers to the village that lives inside my house and maybe my circle of friends…every member of my family has his or her own Bible and I am struck with the responsibility of such wealth.)
3. I have recently become acquainted with Gospel for Asia. This year, they are offering Gifts from the Stable, Gifts for the Poor, Gifts of Outreach, and Gifts for Missionaries. You have got to go check them out.
4. Kids Around the World is a local organization which ministers to children all over the world through building playgrounds, training children’s workers, and feeding children. They have a few fun items for sale and each item specifies how many meals are provided with your purchase.
5. For $35, you can provide one person with a lifetime of clean water through Persecution Project Foundation’s 100 Wells Project. In return, you can choose either a T-shirt or a lovely blue bracelet for your gift recipient.
Please leave me a comment and let me know what ways your family has found to look beyond the “stuff” at Christmas. I am excited to learn how we can keep it real this year!
Is there any symphony as stirring as the one God plays for me each morning outside my window? If I visited the great museums of the world, would I be surrounded with any more beauty than I am outside my door? Could I visit any spa or take any vacation which would bring more peace than dwelling in the shadow of His wing? Truly I am blessed beyond all measure and I sing with King David:
From Matthew Ch. 21:
The Triumphal Entry
1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet : 5 “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David ; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD ; Hosanna in the highest !”
The Crowds shout “Hosanna!” and rightly cheer on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; but their eyes are still dim and their hearts are not yet given new life and by Friday these same Crowds who praise Him will scream with blood lust for His crucifixion.
“Hosanna” literally means “save now” and that is what the Crowds wanted. They wanted a little-k-king to ride in on his war horse and deliver them from Roman rule. What they missed was that Jesus was, is, and ever shall be the KING of KINGS who came to deliver them from their sins.
So as we enter this Holy Week 2011, I am pondering how often I make the Palm Sunday mistake and cry out “Hosanna! Save Now!” begging, sometimes demanding, that God save me from my circumstances; when my real need is to be saved from my sins. It is far less pleasant to think about, but far more needful. Have your way in me Lord Jesus!
From Ephesians Ch. 4:
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called
Ah, yes, this is my great desire…to walk in a manner worthy of my calling…but what does that look like? How is that done?
Humility, gentleness, patience, love..all evidences of the Spirit at work, doing His good work in my life; but there is something here which especially catches this farm girl’s eye: Read More…
Getting up and ready for church this morning, I happened to notice the computer was turned off. That usually means one thing, that there had been a power outage of some sort in the night and considering the freezing rain and sleet outside, it seemed likely. Even though John had just cleaned up, he knew what he must do. Power outages on our farm are serious business. When the power goes out, the first thing we are all trained to do (myself included) is to open the doors to the pig buildings to let the fresh air in. Power outages mean no fans in the pig buildings and no fans for an extended period of time leads to suffocation for the pigs on a large scale.
Praise the Lord there were no problems from whatever power outage there was in the night, but when John got out there he discovered that someone had left a gate open yesterday and that there were several nursery pigs that had fallen into the pit and needed rescuing. It is a difficult, unpleasant job and no matter how many times he washes, it will be difficult to get the odor out of his skin. We probably won’t make it to worship service this morning. Hopefully, he will be done in time for us to make it to Sunday School. It has put me in mind of the following verses:
I waited patiently1 for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.2 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,3 out of the mud4 and mire;5 he set my feet6 on a rock7 and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song8 in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3)
For any who may read this who are not familiar with agriculture, pig buildings are built with slotted floors, so that the waste falls through into a deep pit below the building. This waste is periodically pumped out and disposed of through a precise waste management plan so that the fumes do not overwhelm the pigs or the people who care for them. Pig poo is serious business.
And so this morning, I have a new appreciation for this picture from the psalms. I was trapped in the pit of my self-sufficiency. It was cold and slimy and most definately smelled bad. I had no power to save myself. Only the loving Shepherd (and aren’t shepherds a type of farmer?) could rescue me, taking on my slime so that I could put on His righteousness. And were this not enough, he lovingly gave me a firm place to stand and gave me a song of praise to sing.
Thank you Jesus, I love You and sing my praises to You this morning.
I was running late for my hair appointment today. I had everything planned to work out just fine, but my execution was off due to two girls who decided to play with friends without checking in with me, so when it was time to leave homeschool coop today, I had to go looking for them, and I was running late.
I blew into the salon, sat down at the sprayer sink, and started chattering away with a pent up fury of a woman who has gone way too long without getting away by herself and feeling just a bit stressy.
When I paused to catch my breath, the sweet woman who has cut my hair for the past several years began to speak. She spoke with pent up anguish which needed release.
Her best friend had been recently diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and would be starting treatments soon. She had been asked to shave her friend’s head and didn’t know how she would be able to bring herself to do it. She was struggling with pain and fear and guilt for feeling these things.
My “problems” suddenly seemed really small. Sure, we live with uncertainty, and a constant level of
chaos, I mean madness, I mean stress; but it is not life and death. It is not.
She attacked my hair with all the pent up pain and fear and guilt and anger at cancer that she had been carrying. When she finished, my hair was a little bit shorter than I was planning on and a little bit more layered than I like, but I do not have cancer. My hair is not going to fall out. It will grow back and life will go on. I asked her if I could pray with her and so there, in the salon, as her next customer came in, we prayed. I was able to share my experiences with the cancer center she was working with and how much respect I had for them. It is the same center, the same doctor who took care of Edmund.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)
Because we walked the cancer road with John’s father, I had some idea of how the chemotherapy would affect her friend and we talked about some practical things her daughters could shop for to make a care basket. (Boost, peppermints, fiber-con, books/dvds,etc.)
People are hurting everywhere. Oh Father, please open my eyes and take them off of myself. I cannot be an instrument of Your healing if all I am concerned with is my own comfort. I cannot be an instrument of Your healing if I talk more than I listen. Thank You for putting Your hand over my mouth and giving me a brief window into someone else’s life today.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, John and I have found great comfort and hope in God’s Word. There is a list of verses that I keep in my Bible and add to them as more are sent to us by friends or from our very great Friend.
Psalm 121: 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job 19:25-27 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
Job 23:10 10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
Is 43:1-3a 1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Jer 32:17,27 ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you…”Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
Jer 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Matt 6:25-34 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble
Psalm 20:1,5-7 May the LORDanswer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!…5 May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions! 6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
James 1:2-4, 12 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing… 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
John 6:68-69 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
My first goal in writing here has always been to make a record of things I want to remember; a record my children can read someday when I am gone. I thought for awhile this morning about making these past two posts private, but it is my hope that if there is someone who reads this who is facing their own time of uncertainty that they would find hope in the One who holds our past, present, and future in His hands.
Driving home from Dixon yesterday, I had some time to think. This past year has been filled with so many major changes and trials. I am aware of how major life changes can affect a person and how susceptable I can be to depression so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to think and take assessment.
There IS a pain in my soul…there is a weariness with life that will not go away, no matter how much I sleep…if someone were to offer me the choice between life and death I know that the only thing that would make me choose life is knowing how much pain it would cause my husband and children (and other loved ones) if I were to choose death…BUT this is NOT depression. I KNOW depression. I acutely remember depression and this is not it.
When I went through my time of depression, I could not function. I could not tolerate having my children around me and being separated from them brought great anxiety. I felt completely dead. This is quite different. I am filled with joy and great hope for the future so I want to be clear this is NOT depression.
The only way I can describe it is that it is a tearing away…much like the hooks of velcro tear away from the loops…the velcro of my heart is tearing away from this world in order to reattach itself to something better. It is not entirely comfortable. The tendrils of my heart are firmly entwined around the weeds of this world, but it is my hope that through this, God is retraining them to entwine around HIM.
I didn’t know that there was more to the story when I wrote yesterday, but God is so loving, so faithful, gives such good gifts to His children…
Last night, I was finally able to listen to the replay of session 2 of the Passion conference with Beth Moore as the speaker. She spoke these words…
“Whatever (God’s) called you to do, it’s more than you CAN do.”
She was speaking of the necessity of us to fully rely on the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill our calling in Him.
I cannot tell you what joy these words brought to my heart. I cannot tell you how many times I have cried out to God recently “I can’t do this! I am too small! Did I miss you?”
And last night He whispered back to me, through a woman who would not recognize me if we passed on the street and yet in Christ, we are one…
“No, my darling, you did not miss Me. I have you right where I want you.”
My Lord and my God, I would rather walk hard paths with You than easy ones apart from Your hand!