Monday, December 31, 2012

What's on Your Magna Doodle?

It's the last day of 2012 - wow, this year just seemed to fly by! 
Now, we look to 2013 . . . and what do we see?

For Christmas, I bought my granddaughter, Allie, a Magna Doodle . . . a board that you draw on with a stick, and then slide a bar across and it erases everything. She loves to draw, but unfortunately she tends to draw on things and in places where one should not draw - the wall, the carpet, my couch, etc... So I thought this would be a great toy for her; she can draw her picture and then, just simply erase it with one flick of her little wrist.

This morning as I was sitting here thinking about the end of this year and the beginning of a new one, I was reminded of that little Magna Doodle. Each day as we go about our lives doing our best to serve God, put Him first, walk uprightly, the enemy is making a list of every failure, big or small:

words spoken that should have been left unspoken
deeds done that should have been left undone
missed opportunities
failed expectations

he makes this list to remind us of every time we 
"fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). . . 

but for Grace!

Grace swipes the bar across the board and each one of them is erased, 
to be remembered no more. 

"As far as the east is from the west, 
so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103:12

As we come to the end of 2012 and begin anew in 2013,
I have one question for you:

What is on your Magna Doodle?  

If it is filled with a list of all your shortcomings, 
failures and disappointments,
give all those things over to Jesus. 
Ask Him to swipe the bar across the board 
and erase the old list; 
allow Him to create a new one filled with

New dreams
New hopes
New mercy

We serve a God of second chances
a God of new beginnings.

Let Him begin something new in your life today.

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You're Here....

Did you ever wonder what Mary felt? Tradition tells us she was just a young teenage girl, engaged to be married (probably to an older man) and suddenly finds herself pregnant. In a culture that could have found her at best, excommunicated, or at worst stoned, this was quite a predicament in which to find herself.

But she had the assurance from the angel....
                                      He was coming....
                                           the Messiah....
and she had been chosen to carry Him.
(Luke 1:29-33)

Can you imagine the awe?
Can you imagine the wonder?
Can you imagine the amazement?

And what about Joseph? Here was a man who had perhaps looked far and wide to find just the right girl to marry. A young girl who was honorable, pure, respectable; one who would do whatever was needed to make him a highly respected man in the community. And suddenly he finds out she's with child! What does he do now?

"While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: 
'Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. 
God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, 
you, Joseph, will name Him Jesus - because He will save His people from their sins.'"
Matthew 1:20-22 (MSG)

So this chosen couple get married and prepare for the arrival of a baby - the Messiah.

Can you imagine???

We all know the story: Caesar calls for a census that requires all the heads of households to travel to the city of their birth to register, to be counted. This required a long trip on foot, or donkey...and Mary is about to give birth. It couldn't have been an easy trip for her, especially that far along in her pregnancy. But off they went. And as you recall, they could not find anyplace to stay the night; so they ended up in a stable. Actually, it would have been a cave; a dark, damp, dirty, dingy . . . cave. With smelly animals.

After the long trip, Mary goes into labor. Joseph is left on his own to help her deliver this child, this One, this Savior of all the world. We have no idea how long she labored, how difficult or easy this birth may have been, no details are given at all. Except that when all was said and done, she wrapped Him in clothes and put Him in a manger, a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn....

It's an amazing story. A story of love, of grace, of mercy and of hope. And now, over 2000 years later, we can look back on the story and see all of what was promised, what came to be and how it all turned out. But for was just the beginning.

In recent years, a popular Christmas song has been You're Here, written by Francesca Battistelli. It's a beautiful song written from Mary's perspective as she looks into the face of this small baby she has been entrusted to carry, deliver and raise:

Hold on now, I gotta take a deep breath
I don't know what to say when I look in your eyes.
You made the world before I was born
Here I am holding you in my arms tonight
Noel, Noel
Jesus our Emmanuel

You're Here
I'm holding You so near
I'm staring into the face of my Savior
King and Creator
You could've left us on our own
But You're here....

Can you imagine???

If you are a woman who has given birth to a child, think back to that moment when you first held your little baby in your arms. What did you feel?

Do you remember the awe?
Do you remember the wonder?
Do you remember the amazement?

Now imagine that little baby was the Creator of the world, Maker of heaven and earth, God made flesh to become the Savior of the world....

Can  you imagine???

A young teenage girl wraps her arms around God Almighty, stares into His eyes and says...

"You're here....."

"But Mary treasured these things and 
continued to think about them."
Luke 2:19 (NCV)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We Need a Little Christmas....

One of my favorite Christmas songs is actually not even a Christmas song. It comes from the movie "Mame". The family has been through financial devastation due to the Wall Street crash of 1929 and need a bit of cheering up. Auntie Mame, played by Lucille Ball, begins to sing We Need a Little Christmas. It's just one of those songs that perk you up when the things of life begin to weigh you down. 

We need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
"Happy ever after,"
Need a little Christmas now.

 I love Christmas music, the lights, the festive trees, the fun television shows like Charlie Brown, and Frosty, and Rudolph. Even the sappy Hallmark movies; I could sit and watch them for hours! But this year, I just couldn't seem to get interested in any of it. Finances are tight for everyone, cars need repairs, etc, etc, etc... The last few weeks have been difficult for me, losing my sister just before Thanksgiving. I kind of lost the excitement and joy of Christmas.

Then came Friday, December 14, 2012. That horrible, unimaginable day when a young man walked into an elementary school and killed twenty children and six adults. The pain those parents and families are feeling is unfathomable! I looked at my Christmas tree which has no presents under it, and thought about those parents who have presents for their little ones under the tree . . . presents that will never be opened. It absolutely broke my heart - I imagine it broke the world's heart.

The next morning, Saturday, our choir and orchestra had a rehearsal for our Christmas service on Sunday. Before we began to rehearse, we had a prayer time for those families and the people who responded to the scene. Geron and Becky Davis were our guests this Christmas and during our prayer time, Geron, as he so often does, wrote a song on the spot. He reminded us that Christmas is not a holiday, it's a birthday: the birthday of Jesus. I cannot remember all of the words right now, but it spoke of Him taking away our hurt and pain; that in all that we face here in our life on earth... 

we need Jesus, 
we need Christmas.

As I thought about that phrase, and that Christmas wasn't just a holiday, I realized it also wasn't just the day Jesus was born! 

It's the day peace was born
It's the day joy was born
It's the day hope was born
It's the day love was born
It's the day life was born

So, no matter what our checkbook says, 
No matter what the doctor may have told us; 
If there are no presents under the tree 
Or if the packages are piled high; 
Whether it's December or April, 
In the words of Geron Davis...

We need Jesus . . . 
We need Christmas!

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, 
because He will save His people from their sin.
Matthew 1:21 (NIV)

Monday, December 3, 2012

O Holy Night . . .

Point of Grace sings a rendition of O Holy Night that is beautiful; it is one of my favorite arrangements. I think  the soft and gentle way their voices blend lends to the depth of meaning in the words.

I was in Texas just a few weeks ago and stayed with my oldest sister, Debbi. She lives out a ways from town - seriously . . . way out from town. My brother-in-law had picked me up from the airport and we arrived at her house after the sun had set. As I got out of the car, I looked up at the dark sky and was awed! I had forgotten how visible and bright the stars are when you are standing in a Texas field. Not only could I see the big dipper and a few planets, but I could see galaxies behind the galaxies! I just stood there for a moment and stared in amazement.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviors birth

I wonder about the stars that shone on that night in Bethlehem so many years ago. I live in the city, so the lights often dim the intensity of the stars. But 2000 years ago there were no city lights to lessen the vividness of the stars. The Bible talks about one particular star, but can you imagine what the rest of the stars were like on that night with no smog or city lights to diminish their brilliance?

I'm reminded of an elaborate event, perhaps the climatic solo in a fine opera, or the center attraction in an arena. Actually, I picture a Charlie Brown Christmas when all the lights in the room have been darkened except the one solo spot - and out comes Linus to tell him what Christmas is really all about. It's the main event, the star attraction, the one thing the audience has been waiting for all night long.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt it's worth

Jesus arrives - center stage. Just a small baby in a humble stable, lying in a manger filled with hay. But the world knew there was something different about this One. The world had been waiting, hoping, seeking . . . and He appeared and the soul knew this was what it had been waiting for. The stars shone bright on this little child. He was the main attraction . . . With no other lights to dim them, the stars glittered radiantly to illuminate this special event.

The thrill of hope
A weary world rejoices

History tells us there had been four hundred years of silence between the Old Testament prophets and the birth of Jesus. Four hundred years of spiritual darkness. But now there is hope; Messiah has come. Even though so many did not understand His arrival, there was a glimmer of hope - perhaps this is the One. The One they had all been waiting for . . .

And a weary world rejoices . . .

"Praise Him, sun and  moon,
praise Him, all you shining stars."
Psalm 148:3

Friday, November 30, 2012

'Tis the Season . . . Right?

I have a confession to make: I'm not a big fan of the holiday season. I know . . . you are shocked! "How can you possibly feel that way?" you ask.

I grew up in a large family and Thanksgiving and Christmas was huge! We had lots of family around, especially as we four girls got married and began having children. All of us would at one time or another gather at Mom and Dad's house for food and presents. There was a lot of noise, a lot of really good food and the occasional annoyance from one or more people. But that's family, right?

Twenty three years ago, my husband and I left the family fold and moved from Texas to Washington. The holidays became more difficult because our families were in Texas and we were here all alone. But we tried hard to make our own memories with our family as it grew.

Here's another part of the problem . . . I live in the Northwest. Winter is long . . . dark . . . gloomy . . . wet . . . and did I mention long? I get so tired of the dreariness and the rain. Did I mention it is dark? The sun doesn't rise until almost 7:30 am and it is dark by 4:30 pm. I have a childhood friend who lives near Fairbanks, Alaska and I have no idea how she survives! Betty, how do you do it?

This is our twenty-third Christmas season in the Northwest. You would think I would have adjusted by now. However, between the lack of family, the dreary weather, and often limited finances, I have come to dread the holidays. Add to that family members recently lost, and I'm having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.

The other day I was in the car running errands and all of the radio stations are playing Christmas music already. As I listened to the words of a familiar Christmas carol, I realized there is much more I could be focusing on rather than what I do not have; because frankly, I have much more to be grateful for than I have to wish for.

So this is my plan - no, this is my goal: I'm going to spend the month of December focusing on the Scriptures and songs that speak of the promised Messiah and the birth of Jesus. The angels, the wise men, Joseph and Mary . . . what were they thinking, feeling? How did they react to the revelation that Messiah had come?

Perhaps as I focus on the promise it will help me adjust to the loss . . . and I prayerfully hope that it speaks to you as well.

'Tis the season . . . right?


"For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10b, 11

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Heart is Steadfast . . .

"My heart is steadfast, O God, 
my heart is steadfast!"
Psalm 57:7

Debbi, Margie, Annette, 'Lena
c. 1962
If you read my last post, you are aware that my sister, Annette, passed away two weeks ago. I have just returned from Texas where we said our final goodbyes to her, this side of Heaven. My eldest sister, Debbi, shared her thoughts this morning in Another Empty Chair. This time last year we were missing our Mom and Aunt who had died earlier in the year due to a car accident. We were just adjusting to their loss, and here we have another. 

As Debbi said, we would not call her back for anything! She is pain free, healed and whole, dancing in the streets of Heaven. But our hearts are heavy. There are many who miss her.

This morning as I began to get busy with preparing for Thanksgiving at my home, I opened up my computer and began to read all the "thankful" posts on Facebook. It's not that I don't have much to be thankful for, because I do. I do not take for granted my husband, Mark, who I have been married to for almost 30 years, my children and other family members, friends who have been the lifter of my hands when I am to weak to continue, and my God who is faithful beyond measure. But my heart was heavy this morning. And as I read those comments on Facebook, I began to feel ungrateful.

But just moments later, I was reminded of Psalm 57:7. If you read the verses before, the writer is in desperate circumstances. He is being pursued by an enemy, surrounded by ravenous beasts, with traps all around him, waiting for him to fall prey to one of them. But then the writer says, 

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!"

The word steadfast literally means "fixed in place",and indicates undeviating constancy. As I pondered this verse, I realized the Lord Himself is steadfast:

The faithfulness of the Lord, 
the love of the Lord, 
the grace of the Lord, 
the mercy of the Lord, 
the  Lord Himself is . . . 

God is constant 
He is consistent
He never wavers
He never deviates
From who or what He is . . .

I was created in His image; 
His Spirit dwells in me. 
It is up to me to be faithful, 
to show His love to others, 
to extend mercy and grace, 
and to be . . .

So, in the midst of grief, sorrow and loss; 
in the midst of trials and tribulations, 
in the midst of whatever I have to face tomorrow . . .

My heart is steadfast!

The writer of Psalm 57 concludes with:

"For Your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds."
Psalm 57:10 (ESV)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Dance Has Begun...

My prayer had been the same for quite some time. 
I gave Him two options in my request. 
And in my heart, I believed either option to be good.
To be acceptable.
To be a relief...

"Father, either heal her,
Or take her home to be with You."

Sunday, He answered my prayer.

I'm not sure what I expected...
It wasn't the relief I thought I would feel.
The air was sucked out of me.
And left a big hole in my heart.

I wouldn't bring her back for anything.
I could never be that selfish.
But, we didn't get to finish our conversation.
I still had more to say...

She is free of pain
She is free of tears
She is free of the limitations of this world.
"Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance!!"

And Jesus said, "May I have this dance?"

And the dance has begun . . .

Annette Brown Simmons
January 11, 1955 ~~ November 11, 2012 
I love you, sis!

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death 
or mourning 
or crying 
or pain, 
for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:4

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

But For Grace...

"Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, 
just as in Christ 
God forgave you."
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

I was brought to my knees this week...The enemy loves to bring up things from our past to cause us to doubt ourselves; he desires to waylay us from our calling and our purpose. The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me due to many family situations and personal issues which the Lord has brought to light. I have walked with the Lord for my entire life, and yet there are still things that He shows me every day. Just this past week I was plagued again by memories of deep hurts received from people I love. I had walked with the Lord through forgiveness, but this week, the pain and resentment reared its ugly head and I found myself in that old place of hurt.
 I almost gave up; 
I almost walked away; 
I almost gave in.
But for grace...
The Lord gently reminded me of the grace He extends to me daily; grace I do not deserve. How could I do anything less than extend that same grace to those who hurt me? Once more, I lay the hurts and old feelings of resentment at the foot of the cross and a heavy load was lifted from my spirit. We find a freedom which only comes from God when we let go of offenses.

It was a strong reminder to me of the importance of surrendering all the pain, the hurts, the offenses we carry, to Jesus. Only when we completely let go of them can He break the chains that bind us and set us free. But, it also reminded me that the enemy is cunning and conniving; he will occasionally remind us of those wounds in an attempt to entangle us and return us to bondage. 
The key is to keep my eyes on Jesus, surrender to His leading, and to listen carefully for His voice. It is that gentle, quiet voice that reminds me His grace is sufficient for me.
Grace is a gift. How can we not extend the gift of grace to others, after He has given us so precious a gift?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Before the Words Are Spoken....

  "For your Father knows what you need
before you ask Him."
Matthew 6:8
This week I have begun a new class in my college education experience: Spiritual Formation. My first paper was to write about my Relationship with Christ; I completed it late Sunday evening. Today was a difficult day for me. There were some concerns I had that I didn't feel God was addressing and I am battling with some confusion as to where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing. I spent a few minutes down at the waterfront on my way home from the post office and told the Lord I really needed some direction.
When I returned home, I had an email from the professor stating he had graded my paper and he gave me an "A" on it. So, as I always do, I pulled the paper back up to remind myself of what I had written. This is my paper:
I was raised in a Christian home by parents who were second-generation Christians. We attended an Assembly of God church in Fairfax, Virginia. My earliest memories are of sitting beside my mother on a hard wooden bench while Brother Keller preached long sermons. We often joked that no matter what time he started his message, he was going to preach for an hour. We had children’s church on Sunday mornings led by a grandmotherly type woman named Sister Long. I loved this woman dearly; she was the first one who encouraged me to sing and always had a hug and a quick smile for the children.
My grandmother lived with us and her bedroom was right off of mine. I remember her nightly ritual was to let down her long hair, which she wore in a bun, and then get down on her knees beside her bed and pray for each one of her children, some which were not living for the Lord. Her deep love of God and faith and trust in Him made a huge impression on this little girl.
I do not remember the exact date or instance when I accepted Jesus as my Savior; probably one of those Sundays in Sister Long’s class. But I do recall the night I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. We had moved to Houston, Texas by then and I was about twelve years old. We had an evangelist come and speak at our church; I was there with my older sister. At the end of the service, they called for anyone who wanted to be baptized to come to the altar. Many people left the service, but I felt this tugging at my heart. I went to my sister and told her I thought I was to go down to the altar and she encouraged me to do so. But something was holding me back. Finally, she took me by the hand and went with me. It was a night I will not forget; His love washed over me and the Holy Spirit filled me with such peace and strength and a beautiful prayer language. I would not be honest if I said I totally understood what was happening at the time, but I knew that I had received something very special from the Lord.
The years have flown by and now I am almost 52 years old with children and grandchildren of my own. So many times I have been tempted to walk away from it all. But I am reminded that it is by His strength and because of His love that I am where I am today. God has rescued me over and over again; He has provided for me, healed me, and forgiven me time and time again. And still I am amazed and overwhelmed by His love. That He would call me to be of service to Him, that He would equip me to that work and that He would pick me up when I falter is beyond anything I could imagine.
Many years ago when my children were small and we were going through some really difficult times, I was just certain that God had forgotten about us and we were on our own. But He reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11-13, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" (NIV). He not only had not forgotten me, but He has plans for me and my family. then came the gentle reminder to call to Him and seek Him with all my heart. That was the key: He had not gone anywhere, I had; and it was time to return to Him. 
My life verse for now is Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God." I do not have to do it on my own; He is God and He has it all under control.
By the time I had finished reading my paper, I was in tears. God had reminded me with my own words of all He had done for me in my life and of all that I had to be thankful for. He then reminded me that He has the plans, and my job is to seek Him. He's got it all under control.
My God is so amazing!!!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday, Monday....

“Because of the Lord’s great love [mercy] 
we are not consumed,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22,23 (NIV)

As I awoke this morning, while still lying in bed, I thought to myself, “Another Monday has come….”

Most people dread Monday. The weekend is over and they head back to work or school. Back to the same old routine they followed the week before. That monotonous schedule can sometimes be the catalyst for many of us to fall into “ruts” we call life.

But as I lay there I realized that is much to look forward to on Mondays.

It is a day of new beginnings.

It is a day to take the message we heard in church on Sunday 
...and live it out in flesh.

It is the day to reflect on things that perhaps did not work well last week,
... and determine that this week we will make changes.

It is the day to set aside those things we call “failures”
... and start fresh.

It is a day to take that first step of faith 
...and do what He has called you to do.

God's mercy is new and fresh every morning. But as you start your week today, consider that this Monday morning will be the beginning of something new and fresh God has for you.

~Begin it with hope and expectation. 
~Walk through it with determination and intentionality. 
~Finish it with thanksgiving and praise.

TGIM.... Thank God it's Monday! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Hardest Thing...

"Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord."
Psalm 34:11

The hardest thing I have ever had to do in my whole life is..... trust. 

I am a "fixer". I have always been a rather independent person and convinced that I can fix any problem or situation that arises. But invariably I myself in a situation that is beyond me and I have to let go of it and let God handle it. I do not know why I cannot just allow Him to take care of things from the start; but time and time again I run off  on my own determined to solve the problem. And there He is, waiting for me to surrender it to Him.

The very definition of the word trust means to "rely on or place confidence in someone." When it comes to the things most important to me, like family, that is very hard for me to do.

Life is changing. My children are growing up and some are beginning families of their own. When we moved here to Washington there were just four of us, in our own little corner of the world. Now,  twenty three years later, there are ten of us and we are beginning to spread out.They are making decisions on their own now and following the direction in their lives that they feel God is calling them. They are facing crises of their own and as much as I still want to be their Mommy and fix the things in their lives that they struggle with.... it's time to surrender them. 

And I don't want to let go....

I have done my best to "teach them the fear of the Lord. It is time to let them go and trust God to handle their crises as they come.  For I know that as much as I love them, He loves them  more. Their names are engraved on His hands and are ever before Him (Isaiah 49:16). He has not forgotten them; He knows them by name. 

Father, You have never failed me or forsaken me. Every time I fully surrender and place my trust in You, miracles happen. So today I am choosing to trust my children and their lives and families to you. Guard them, protect them, provide for them, lead them in the paths of righteousness for Your Name's sake. Give them wisdom to make right choices and surround them with Your love. For they were Yours before they were mine. I trust You....

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, 
in quietness and trust is your strength." 
Isaiah 30:15

Friday, August 3, 2012

Purpose & Joy...

"Make my joy complete . . . 
being in one spirit and purpose."
Philippians 2:2 (AMP)

My sister writes a blog entitled Purpose & Joy. While I do not want to steal her subject, my day today had a Purpose and it brought me Joy. So... maybe I could be a guest writer for her blog... what’cha think, Sis?

Today began as any other day... I had some errands to run, clothes to return and/or exchange, groceries to buy - nothing special. But I had a friend of mine on my heart. She had sent me a text yesterday asking me for prayer covering for a meeting she had to go to. While that was all her message said, I knew in my spirit this was no ordinary meeting. I messaged her back and told her I was praying for wisdom, favor and peace. And I encouraged her to speak only the words the Holy Spirit told her to say. 

So, this morning as I ran around, I was thinking of her and wondering how she was doing. One of my spiritual gifts is giving. I love to give little things to people I love just for no reason. While I was at the store, I picked up a little bag of  chocolates and a card, wrote a little note in it with the intent of dropping it off at her office. I felt I had a purpose and it was giving me a lot of joy. I was smiling on the inside and out because I could imagine my friend’s laugh (she has a GREAT laugh) when she opened it.

That's when the enemy tried to steal my joy...

My car key is a fob that electronically locks the doors. I always lock my doors with the fob so that I know I haven't left them in the car. Today as I got to my friends office, I jumped out of the car, slammed the door and went to "click" the key only, it wasn't in my hand. I turned around and there it sat in the car seat . . . behind the locked door. 

Are you kidding me?

I have never... I repeat NEVER in thirty-six years of driving, locked my keys in my car! 

My husband drives a transit bus and was on the road;
The spare key was at the house;
My children left at home are too young to drive, and besides...
I have the car!

I ran inside the office and asked for my friend, determined to achieve the purpose I set out to do and not lose the joy it was giving me and, I hoped, that it would give her. While I waited for her, I called my oldest son and asked him if he would mind going to my house and get the spare key and bring it to me. He graciously said yes. 

My friend only had time to come out and get the gift and a hug me before she ran back to work. I went back out to my car and waited for my son. As I stood there waiting, I thought about what my reaction to this inconvenience could have been. 

There are so many times in our lives when we let these little "hiccups" in the road ruin a perfectly good day. The Bible refers to them as "little foxes that ruin the vineyards" (Song of Solomon 2:15). It really is the enemy's way of trying to steal our joy; and the sad thing is that many times we allow him to do so.

I know, some of you are saying, "You're blaming the devil for locking your keys in the car?" Well, yes... I guess I am. You see, if the steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord (Psalm 37:23) then I believe anything that would prevent me from doing what He has asked me to do is from the devil. I refused to let the devil ruin my joy in fulfilling my purpose of giving my friend a gift of encouragement.

But here's my point . . .  if God has called you to out reach and love on someone, be it for encouragement, comfort, support, whatever the reason, then that is your purpose. And in fulfilling that purpose, He not only gives you joy, but it brings joy to those you are serving.

So . . . what is your purpose for today? Who do you know that needs a little joy dropped into their life today? Maybe it's you! No matter what the enemy throws your way, do not let it prevent you from fulfilling your Purpose & Joy!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Friends are Friends Forever...revisited

"The two of us have vowed friendship in God's name, saying, 
'God will be the bond between me and you..." 
1 Samuel 20:42 (msg)

My oldest friend, Lori, went to be with Jesus one year ago today. This was the post I wrote just days after she passed away. In her honor I would like to re-post it today.

Love you and miss you, Lori!

I was born in Arlington, VA where my dad was stationed in the Navy. I was little when he left the Navy and began to work for the government. But when I was seven years old, we left Virginia and moved to California, where we lived for two years. At the age of nine, we moved again to Houston, Texas. I have vague memories of little girls I played with in Virginia and California, but because I was so young, many of those friendship were forgotten. When we moved to Houston, one of the little girls I met was our pastors youngest daughter, Lori. She was a year younger than I, but we became fast friends. 

Oh, the slumber parties; the church camps; the Missionette classes; the birthday parties. We spent lots of weekends at each others homes. And when we weren't together, we were on the phone. Many were the nights I remember sitting in the hallway of my house talking on the phone with her (our phone was in my parents bedroom, so I stretched the cord out into the hallway). We would talk for HOURS and then it became a "you hang up first", "No, you hang up first"....until finally she would say, "I really have to go now" at which point I would begin singing
Sleep tight, 
And pleasant dreams to you.
Here's a wish
And a prayer
That all your dreams come true
And now til we meet again
Adios, Au revoir, Auf Wiedersehen.....
(Anyone remember Lawrence Welk?)

This sequence would be repeated often before one of our mothers would make us get off the phone. We grew to become teenagers, and I graduated from High School the year before she did. She gave me a beautiful figurine of a young woman in a long dress holding a bonnet....I still have that figurine on my shelf. A reminder of the young girls we were and the memories we shared. She had an after school job as a bank teller at a bank near my home. She worked the drive-thru, and I opened an account there so I could go and visit her. There was a guy that worked with her, and she set me up on my first blind date with him. I think his name was Randy and we went on two dates....he was kind of an odd cookie. We laughed about that experience for a long time.

I believe it was that same year that her parents went to Switzerland on a long trip; several weeks, I think. Her brother and sister were already out of the house, so I came to stay with her while parents were gone. We had so much fun... pretending to be all grown up and on our own....Just Lori, me and "Little Bit", her pet poodle. Her mom brought me a beautiful crystal bell from Switzerland with my initials etched in it. 

We became young women...Lori got married before I did and moved away; Dallas, I think. I believe John was still in college. When they came back, they moved to Pasadena and began attending a different church closer to their home. We saw each other a few times when she would come to visit her parents church. But soon I was married and Mark and I had moved away....we lost touch. But I never forget my childhood friend.

As the age of Facebook came around and I began to reconnect with old friends from High School and church, I began looking for her. You would be surprised how many Lori Moon's there are! One day I found Donna Banning (her sister-in-law) and sent her a message that I was looking for Lori, would she please give my contact information to her. About a week later, I received a Facebook friend request from Lori! I was SO excited! I had found my oldest friend! We talked on the phone, sent emails and facebook chats to catch up on the nearly 30 years we had been separated. It was as if we had never been apart....the years melted away. She had the same sweet voice, the same quirky sense of humor, and the same love and compassion for others that I remembered from all those years ago. 

As we shared with each other how our lives had grown and changed, she rather casually mentioned she had been fighting breast cancer. She was so upbeat and positive. She had so much faith... she knew her Heavenly Father was her source, her strength, her Savior and her healer. She was a valiant warrior....and I was encouraged by her strength. Every time we spoke, I would ask, "Lori, how are you doing?" and she would always respond, "Oh, I'm good." I never spoke to her when she was down or discouraged. 

Sharon, Lori, Lena
"Friends are Friends Forever"
Last June, my husband and I made a trip back to Houston. I had not been back to Houston in almost 22 years! And I told Mark that if we went to Houston, I was going to see Lori. It was a trip full of disasters and at one point we almost decided to stay home. But we made it to town, and on June 8th I spent three amazing hours with Lori and one of our other childhood friends, Sharon Messersmith. We had so much fun, laughing over old memories; crying over losses we had each experienced; rejoicing in victories we had won. It was a most precious time. When we parted, we prayed together and it was truly a holy moment. The Lord was in that room with us and we all knew it. It was an absolute gift from our Father.....

Last Friday, on July 15th, Lori went to be with Jesus. My first response was sadness - my friend was gone. My second response was gratefulness - the Lord had given me a most precious gift in allowing me to visit with her and love on her before He took her home. And finally, my response is to rejoice with her....for she is in that place that we all long to be....

the arms of the Father
the throne room of God. 
No more pain, 
no more fear...
and she's probably telling Jesus her really corny jokes! 

My heart aches from the loss. I will miss our phone calls and emails. I will miss her encouragement and confidence. But I will remember her faith in God, her absolute love of Jesus and her valiant courage. 

In the words of Michael W Smith, "Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them...". Our friendship did not end because we were separated for so many years. And it will not end just because she left this earthly dwelling.  I will see her again.....and I can't wait for her to show me around the streets of gold!

Lori Banning were a true friend, and a valiant warrior! I miss you, dear friend.... "and now til we meet again...."  I love you!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Failure. . . Redemption . . . Restoration

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and 
pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
James 5:16 (AMP)

There is a fine line between admitting your failures and being a failure. I am trying hard not to cross that line. No, this is not an invitation to a pity party . . . it is a confession.

The fact is that I have failed. I have failed my children, I have failed my husband, I have failed my friends, I have failed myself, and . . . I have failed my God. And if we all were to be truthful, everyone would make that same confession. The bottom line is - I am tired of failing.

I sat at the beach this morning having a heart to heart chat with God, confessing my failures, grief-stricken that my failures have had affected others, and admitting that I just cannot do anything without Him. 

I was reminded of His grace;
that grace that is sufficient for all of my inadequacies,

I was reminded of His mercy:
new every morning,

and then . . .

I was reminded of His redeeming love;
that love that covers a multitude of sins and yes, even failures.

And I wondered, does His redeeming love cover the affect that my failures have had on others? Will He repair the damage I have done to others through my own inadequacies as a wife, mother, friend, etc.? I have to believe that it does. My prayer this morning was not just for myself, that I would be more  faithful and disciplined in everything that I do and to everyone I have contact with; but also that His redemption would cover and repair the results of those failures.

The Amplified version of James 5:16 puts it this way: 
"Confess to one another your faults . . . and pray for one another, 
that you may be healed and restored." 

So this is my confession: I have failed. 

But this is my hope: I have a Redeemer! 

I choose to believe that His redeeming love covers not only my imperfections, but will bring healing and restoration to those around me. Exodus 6:6 says, "I will redeem you with an outstretched arm" and Isaiah 59:1 says, "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save." 

Your thoughts are always appreciated!


Friday, July 6, 2012

This is my Hope...

"Most blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, 
and whose hope and confidence the Lord is."
Jeremiah 17:7 (AMP)
As I mentioned before, I am taking a philosophy class on worldviews. The last week has been filled with so much information regarding the seven basic worldviews: Monotheism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Pantheism, Existentialism and New Age. I find myself feeling a good deal of pain for all of those who are seeking “enlightenment” when what they really need is Jesus. And what I really do not understand is why people are so determined to make life and believing in God more difficult than it has to be. As I read through all of these philosophies and what they believe, so many of them have no purpose for being. Existentialism – we just exist. Nihilism – there’s nothing to believe in so no purpose for being. Naturalism has no absolutes; Pantheism says you won’t find purpose now, so reincarnation will bring you back again and again. Even Deism, which believes in God, says that He just created the universe and man, but then walked away and left us on our own.There is nothing to look forward to – no hope or future. It is purposeless!!
            This week, the James study I am doing by Beth Moore seemed to parallel what we are studying. We read James 1:2 “consider it all joy”; but then we turned to John 16:20 where Jesus says, “Your grief will turn to joy”. The word for grief there is actually anguish (Greek thlipsis) and “conveys the picture of something being crushed, pressed, or squeezed from a great weight. It is used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental and spiritual distress” (Moore, 2011, p. 68). Beth Moore made the comment in her video lesson, “We can live with pain better than we can live with purposelessness.”  And my mind immediately went to all of these philosophies we had gone over in class. They are filled with purposelessness.
            God gives me purpose; a reason to get up in the morning. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and fine me when you seek me with all your heart.’”
            That is my “mantra” for lack of a better word. He has plans for me, he listens to me, and when I seek Him, I will find Him. This is my hope… my hope is in the Lord.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Who Am I?

When I look up at your skies,
 at what Your fingers made - 
the moon and the stars 
that You set firmly in place - 
what are human beings that 
You think about them;
what are human beings that 
You pay attention to them?
You've made them only slightly
less than divine,
crowning them with glory and grandeur.

You've let them rule over Your handiwork,
putting everything under their feet -
all sheep and all cattle,
the wild animals too,
the birds in the sky,
the fish of the ocean,
everything that travels 
the pathways of the sea.
Lord, our Lord, 
how majestic is Your name 
throughout the earth!
                                                                                                 Psalm 8:3-9 (CEV)

David wrote this Psalm. He went from a young, humble shepherd-boy, to a mighty warrior, to the King of Israel. He had times when he was hunted, times when he failed and times when he was victorious.

 I'm now taking a Philosophy class on Worldviews. We were assigned to read this Psalm and describe how David's view changed. As I read through Psalm 8, I realized that David's view began as mine often does: in awe and wonder at the world God has created. Even without all the scientific knowledge that we have today on the universe and its vastness, David knew that it was greater than what he could even begin to imagine. That wonder at the world, the heavens and all the intricacies of the species and inhabitants of earth would make anyone wonder how God could begin to take notice of one as small and finite as man.

But I believe he makes a turn when he realizes that in all of what God did create, the vastness of creation that makes us feel so minute, God created man just a little lower than the angels.

 “You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, 
crowning them with glory and grandeur.
 (Psalm 8:5 CEV). 

God created us in His image to rule and reign over all else that He created. We were not created as just another species, but as children of God . . . almost, but not quite, divine. We are hand crafted from the dust, but it was the breath of God that gave us life.

“Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground 
and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life . . . “
(Genesis 2:7 AMP).

In the middle of this short Psalm, David went from asking "Who am I? I'm just a speck in the universe!" to "Who am I? Why, I am the one God created and put in charge to rule and reign over the earth! I am a child of the King! And I am who I am because God made me this way and put me in this place." 

Who are you? Lift your eyes and look at all that God has created. And as you get lost in the wonder of it all, remember that you are a child of the King! And you are who you are because God made you that way and put you in this place!