Thursday, April 30, 2009

Missing Winter

I miss winter. I can't believe I said that. I don't like winter. I like Fall. I hate to drive in the snow. I hate that my family has to drive in the snow. I don't like the ice and the cold. This winter was a rough one. It seemed like it started early and lasted late. We had a lot of snow, ice and bitter cold. I couldn't wait for it to be over and rejoiced when it was.

I have felt this way about various trials in my life. Some have been rough. They seemed to start early and last forever. There was a bitterness in the battle and a tension driven journey to the Throne of God. You know those battles where you feel like your knuckles are turning white as you kneel in prayer. You keep your head down and try to stay focused on what you must do to get home safely. You seek God like never before. You find yourself flat on your face knowing that He is your only hope. You grip your bible like a steering wheel on an icy-road. If you let go, you might just slide right into the nearest ditch. You rejoice when you make it safely home. There is a sense of accomplishment.

When I am in the midst of them, I long for the trials and difficult times to end. But it is during those times that I know that I am closest to God. I cling to Him and seek Him with more passion. I run to Him to comfort me. I call out His name with an expectation that He will answer me because He is God and He loves me. I stay focused on Him. And then the victory comes, the icy-testing subsides and there is rejoicing. But with that, I seem to start running ahead of God again. It is easy to forget the things of God that bring me comfort and security when times are good.

I miss my slippers. As spring arrives, I found them slipping under the bed. Seeing them made me miss winter and the comforts that come inside during a winter storm. The smell of fresh baked cookies. The warmth of a blanket and lit candles as you sit on the couch with a good book and a cup of coffee. Snuggling! All the while a fierce storm can be going on outside with winds blowing, bitter cold, ice and lots of snow. You are safe inside. Safe in the shelter of home.

I pray that as spring breaks forth with all the promise of new life both literally and spiritually, that I don't find myself allowing my bible and my time with God to just slip away from me. May God continue to keep his arms around me, lest I forget how far he has brought me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Starbucks Experience

My sweet husband just bought me a double espresso frappuccino from Starbucks. That is some good stuff! I went to pick my empty cup up to throw it away, when I noticed "The Starbucks Experience" book laying on our coffee table. It has the subtitle "5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary." While I know they are talking business principles here, it just made me think that perhaps dating your mate should be in the top 5 "Principles for Turning an Ordinary Marriage Into An Extraordinary Marriage".

Last week we made sundaes - this week double shots of caffeine with sugar! It is all good and I love these moments with my man.

P.S. Note to self: Do not drink a double espresso frappuccino from Starbucks at 8:00 p.m. unless you want to continue to be up all night long gazing at the ceiling.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Almost Food for Thought

I love random blogs that allow us to see into other people's daily lives and homes. I'm weird that way, but it brings them some credibility with me when I know they are just plain, everyday folk seeking after Christ in the midst of life.

I wasn't planning on writing anything tonight because I had things to get done - like preparing for the UR Women's event, making rice krispie treats for lunches this week and hanging a picture up. And then this happened:

The rice krispies multiplied faster than the loaves and fishes and there wasn't enough marshmallow or pan to cover them all. I reread the instructions again and again and I know I measured right. But this stuff was overflowing from the pan and onto the stove. Seemed like blog material somehow.

I was also planning on hanging up a new picture in our bathroom. Picked it up today as I finally used a gift certificate I had received a year and a half ago. Just couldn't make up my mind.

This seemed perfect. I can't get enough prayer in my life and since the bathroom floor seems to be where I meet God the most on my knees, it seemed appropriate. It is also a great reminder of how to start my day. And the frame matches the bathroom curtain:
All my decorating friends would be so proud! Six months of living in this house and I still can't find the right window covering.

But seriously, life can get messy and not go as planned, our lives are better when we spend significant time on our knees in prayer and sometimes appearances don't really matter - it's what's on the inside that counts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sundae Sunday

There is truly not a person on this earth more for me than my man! We have the strangest things that we both love and love about each other. Tonight we revisited an old favorite. When the kids were little we would sometimes put them to bed and then just pig out on the ice cream with bananas, strawberries, hot fudge - you name it. It has been awhile since we have done this, but tonight we pulled out all the stops and made some killer sundaes with the works and then washed them down with some strong Starbucks. There was whip cream too, but I forgot to put it in the picture.

As we sat there enjoying every last bite, we wondered "why don't we do this more often?" I think it should be a Sunday thing. - Get it? Sorry, it must be the sugar and the caffeine kicking in. But seriously, it is good to have some things in your marriage that are just yours and are just plain fun.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Truth or Consequences

I had a conversation this week with a young lady who is seeking after the things of God and still fully living in the things of this world. I commend her honesty. You know who she is and where she stands. I don't know that she is proud of the things she does, but she doesn't try to pretend that she is someone she isn't. After she told me a lot about what was going on in her world, I just asked "what is it that you want?" Her response: "The truth". She wants to know the truth. Perhaps in part of her quest in living in the world, but seeking Jesus and spending time with those who profess His name, she wants to know "which side is real" and that will be the side she ultimately follows.

All week her words have been ringing in my head and taking up residence in my heart. "The truth". Okay, the church girl in me knows that Jesus Christ is the Truth, but what does that really mean. I know the verse "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." I firmly believe the truth sets people free no matter how much satan wants to tell us otherwise. But how can I explain 'the truth' to her and how well do I live it out. What exactly is the truth?

The Complete Word Study Dictionary defines 'truth' as stated in John 8:32 as "divine truth or the faith and practice of the true gospel is called 'truth' either as being true in itself and derived from the true God, or as declaring the existence and will of the one true God, in opposition to the worship of false idols. Hence divine truth, gospel truth, as opposed to heathen and Jewish fables".

Whoa - as a follower and professor of Christ as my Savior, am I living out a life that clearly says "I know what is true and I know my God is true" or a life that goes after false idols? As the saying goes "do I practice what I preach?". I can tell you all the right things about believing, taking your thoughts captive, having faith, and trusting in the word, but all the words don't matter if I don't live it out in my own life. No excuses. That does not mean living a perfect life, but it does mean acknowledging my need for forgiveness and grace. It does mean living in such a way that reflects my heart, passion and belief in the One True God, while being authentic at the same time. I can't say I trust God and then look to the world for all the answers.

I believe more than ever that an entire generation is looking for the truth. They aren't opposed to Christianity, but as Christians we aren't doing a very good job of living out the truth. Hypocritical actions and judgmental attitudes speak a whole lot louder than words. People aren't looking for lip service. They want real, authentic human beings to convey the love, message and truth of Jesus Christ. We need to offer them something more than the same false idols the world offers. We need to live out what is true. When they don't see us living out the truth of Christ, just what are the consequences?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Registration Required

How seriously do we take the return of Christ? Do we truly believe that there will always be a tomorrow? Why do we think that "tomorrow" we can get our life right with Christ or maybe even "tomorrow" we will accept Him as our Savior? The "tomorrows" here on earth are limited.

Last week we had a conference at work. Flyers, emails, magazine ads and various other notices were sent out months in advance of the conference. Admission was free. A registration deadline was clearly placed on all the ads. Pre-registration required. As the day of the conference approached, the registrations had completely filled up and we had to turn people away. Many people called after the deadline still expecting to sign-up. I kept hearing people say things like "well I got the information months ago, I just didn't get around to it" or "I shouldn't have waited so long". The morning of the conference we had people just show up expecting to get in, but it was full and we couldn't accept anyone else. Some stood against the wall waiting to see if there were no-shows.

I couldn't help but get a very real burden for how it will be upon Christ's return. The notices have gone out - repeatedly and well in advance of the expected date. The invitations have been extended. Admission is free. And all have been told that "preregistration" is required to enter the gates of heaven. But how many will say "I shouldn't have waited so long"? How many will stand outside the gates to see if they can still get in even though they never accepted the invitation? How many will stand in line only to find that their name isn't on the registration list?

Just like the people at the conference, the day will come when it will be too late to sign-up for eternity with Christ. The open invitation to accept Christ as Savior will have expired. But if you are reading this, there is still hope. It's not too late. All are invited and admission is free.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Who is in Control?

I have control issues. There I said it. And I hate it. For the first time today, I looked up the word "control" in Webster's dictionary. I don't like it. It is an ugly word when misused. I hate feeling out of control. I don't like it when things are out of order in my life. Sadly, when I feel out-of-control in most situations, especially with my family, I tend to use words as my defense. Never good! Words hurt. Words are not easily forgotten. I absolutely hate it when I let my tongue take control. An entire section in the book of James is devoted to the taming of the tongue. Clearly an important matter!

It never ceases to amaze me how one sentence or word said in anger or hurt can erase a thousand words of love and affirmation. After I have said something that I desperately wish I hadn't, my heart just aches. I want to take it back. I want to make it right. Just like the story about the tube of toothpaste - once the toothpaste is out of the tube - there is no getting it back in. It is messy when you try.

Why do we tend to hurt the ones we love the most with our words? Some of the things I have said to my husband or children over the years, I would never have thought of saying to a stranger. There are no excuses. Reading James 3 makes me just want to cry. The same mouth that I sing praises to my Lord with and kiss my husband with, is the same one I have used to hurt the people I love the most.

Living within the boundaries that God has laid out for us is where I want to spend the rest of my life. I don't do well when I try to be in control. I want to live a life submitted to what God wants and to the order that God has called for in my home and marriage. When I bow my knee, my tongue is less likely to say things it shouldn't. When I relinquish control of my life to God, things will be much better than when I try to hold on to all the pieces and put them in place the way I think they should be. Self-control is biblical. Self-control allows God to be in control. I need to spend more time working on self-control than on controlling everything around me!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It is Finished

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

Some recent events have caused me to really take a look at my life. Where I've been, what I've done and where God would have me to go from here are like a movie reel that just keeps replaying in mind. But there are moments when the camera cuts away and the scene is left for me to wonder what the Director is going to do next. I find myself arguing at times with the Creator when he gives me direction. I want to remind him "don't you remember - I did this or that?" and so I'm probably not the one most qualified to play that part. He just looks at me and pulls out the Ancient Manuscript and shows me that others who have gone before me were forgiven for similar sins and he still used them for his purposes. As we banter back and forth, His reassuring me that ALL my sins are forgiven and washed away and me reminding him of my perceived shortcomings, He sits me down and allows a timeless classic to play before my eyes.

I see my Savior with his outstretched hands and the forgiveness and love he extends to me and others. Amazing things are taking place. As time passes, with horror I watch as they take my Jesus and crucify him. It is my sins that He carried to Calvary. It is for my sins that he died. He has done nothing wrong, but he is taking my place. I was the one to die on that cross. But He loved me enough to take ALL my sin. I treasure the resurrection and all that Easter represents, but it is the words of Christ "It is finished" that grab my heart. Because on that day it was finished. There would be nothing for me to do to complete what Christ had done. There would be no waiting and wondering if His grace was enough. I would not have to wait to find out if He had forgiven me. He delivered me on that day as he hung on the cross.

IT IS FINISHED! The enemy defeated. And the day is coming when the Hero of the story will ride in on His horse and return for His Bride. Revelation 19:11-16

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:



Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Seismic Shift

On Friday night a seismic shift took place. The visible preparation for this shift started taking place about 6 years ago. But on Friday night when my husband stood before a group of other couples and professed the most amazing words of love to me, the shift occurred. It was a shifting that allowed 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 to be a reality in our lives. The clanging of the chains of bondage falling off and the demolition of the walls of strongholds created long ago could be heard in the heavens. I felt the earthquake-like tremors in the depths of my soul and I knew that God's work in our marriage had just made a tremendous leap.

For two people madly in love with each other, marriage should have somehow been easier. But two people madly in love without Jesus as the center - are well just two people prone to a whole lot of worldly mistakes and hurt. We are evidence of God's grace, protection, provision, forgiveness and strength.

I know in my heart that God has been working on us and for us our entire marriage. It became apparent when we started attending church several years ago. Many sins, bondages and lifestyles choices came to a fairly sudden stop. Some took a little longer to work through. We have more to go. But when you have spent 23 years together not everything changes overnight, no matter how much you long for it to. Years of marriage without God at the center allowed for years of all kinds of other junk to fill both of our lives.

The last several months have been difficult for many reasons. You see, I believe, that when God is about to make a major shift in your marriage or your life, there is a LOT of housecleaning that needs to be done. God has been digging around us, through us, and scrubbing us down, because He was about to turn the tables in our marriage and restore all that the enemy has tried to steal, kill and destroy over time.

For a wife to be truly submissive to her husband, she has to be vulnerable. She has to trust him completely and more importantly she has to trust that God will watch over the whole thing. This isn't easy, but it feels amazing as the spiritual shift takes place. God's word is never wrong. The word submission has gotten a really bad rap - as though being submissive means being a slave to your spouse. That isn't it at all. By submitting to my husband in the biblical sense, I concede to allowing him to be the man that God created him and designed him to be. The submission is part of my respecting him as the head of our household and our marriage. It is more of a heart condition and an attitude change. I can still be a strong, independent woman and acknowledge that God placed Kenny over me and that God has my best interest at heart.

I also believe that for a man to step up to be the head of the household and the marriage also requires vulnerability on the husband's part. He has to trust when he steps up to the task, his wife will follow. A husband can't just bully his way to the head. It takes prayer, godliness, determination and commitment to your marriage. It takes courage. Being a godly man is not for wimps and sissies.

All these years God has been tenderly and compassionately getting us lined up for what He wanted to do with us. Somewhere during that night, it was as if God said "Hold on!" and with that He grabbed us, moved us, transformed us and a seismic shift took the broken places in our lives and reset them they way He designed them to be. The tables were turned, the enemy defeated and the victory won.