Friday, December 23, 2011

Bookshelf Friday - The Story

I was blessed last week to help out when this production came to our church. Before that night, I hadn't read the book or listened to the soundtrack. While working, I didn't get to see each song, but the ones I did see completely blew me away. What an amazing show!

If you're unfamiliar with The Story, here's what you'll find when you open the pages:

‘The greatest story ever told’ is more than just a cliche. God goes to great lengths to rescue lost and hurting people. That is what The Story is all about: the story of the Bible, God's great love affair with humanity. Condensed into 31 accessible chapters, The Story sweeps you into the unfolding progression of Bible characters and events from Genesis to Revelation. Using the clear, accessible text of the NIV Bible, it allows the stories, poems, and teachings of the Bible to read like a novel. And like any good story, The Story is filled with intrigue, drama, conflict, romance, and redemption; and this story's true! From the foreword by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee: 'This book tells the grandest, most compelling story of all time: the story of a true God who loves his children, who established for them a way of salvation and provided a route to eternity. Each story in these 31 chapters reveals the God of grace---the God who speaks; the God who acts; the God who listens; the God whose love for his people culminated in his sacrifice of Jesus, his only Son, to atone for the sins of humanity.'

If you haven't seen, read, or heard The Story, you'll want to pick this up in some version.

Have a very Merry Christmas! I'm taking a break to have some cookies, drink some egg nog, play with the family and celebrate the best Gift I've ever received. See you after New Years! Blessings to you all:)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Praise

Luke 2:15-20

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Re-gift: Breath of Heaven

Yep. I admit it. I have been known to re-gift. Today I'm doing it right here on my blog. I posted this last Christmas, but it keeps rolling through my mind. Hope it touches you today, too:)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary. Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary, a young girl who found favor with God. Mary, a girl who gave her all to serve her Lord. I’ve been wondering if we could be like her.

She had to be living an ordinary life. At home with her parents. Betrothed, ready to begin married life. Friends she laughed with. Her own dreams and goals in front of her. All centered around her love for God. And then the angel came. The angel telling her that she would be with child by the Holy Spirit. She would carry Jesus. Her only question came from her confusion. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Once the angel explained God’s plan, her response was one of total submission. “I am the Lord’s servant.”

In that one answer, Mary gave up everything…

Her relationships: How many friends left her? What was her parents’ response? We know Joseph’s immediate response; he wanted to divorce her. Mary had no promise that God would explain things to her betrothed.

Her reputation: What must she have been treated like? She couldn’t hide her situation for long. I’m sure the people in town must have talked. Is this one of the reasons she ran to Elizabeth and Zechariah?

Her body: Morning sickness. Fatigue. Uncontrollable emotions. Her growing belly. Giving birth. Even physically she gave her all.

Her heart: Her firstborn, yet not her own. She carried him for nine months. She was given the gift of being his earthly mother. She cradled him the moment he was born. She raised him as her own. Yet he was not hers. He had a purpose; to die for our sins. He came for all. What must her love for him have been like? Her son. Her Savior.

Why? Why did Mary give everything up so willingly? Did she count all the costs first? Or did she simply say ‘yes’ because she wanted to follow God and his plan for her. Did she truly know what would come? Did she ever doubt her decision?

I look to her words in Luke. Words spoken while she was at Elizabeth’s house. She glorifies God. She sings of all he’s done for those who serve him. It’s almost as if she’s reminding herself that God is in control. She’s focusing on God and his attributes. She’s drawing near to him and his promises, his goodness. She’s speaking his truths to her heart and meditating on them. It could not have been an easy path, this path that God chose for her, and to walk it her eyes stay focused on him; not the world around her.

I love the Christmas song, “Breath of Heaven”. It’s sung from Mary’s point of view. She’s asking for God’s spirit, the ‘Breath of Heaven’ to hold her. To be near her. She questions if she should have been the one chosen for this job. Yet, even in her doubts, she offers all she is and cries out for the very Breath of God to touch her. What an intimate picture. To feel someone’s breath, that gentlest of physical touches, you must be intimately close with them. This is what Mary longs for as she walks this path. It is what she seeks. She doesn’t back away when it is hard, she draws only nearer to her Lord.

What path has God chosen for you? Are you the only one saved in your family? Is your spouse not walking with God? Maybe you're going through an illness that is taking all you have. Have you been called into the mission field? Into the ministry? Perhaps you’re the only one at your work who’s a Christian, or you’re one of the only people at your school who follows God. Whatever it is, God so desperately wants to be seen through you. Are you struggling with walking the path your on? Are you asking if you even want to? Or why?

Yes, ‘why’? (It’s a normal question). Why did Mary give up everything to follow God’s path for her? Why should we? It’s so very hard sometimes. We open ourselves to ridicule. We pray, and –at times - it feels like nothing changes. We love those around us, yet they hurt us. At times we have to give up our comfort zone. Our homes. Our relationships. Our bodies. Why?

Because, just like Mary, we want to bring Jesus to a hurting world. Messiah. Savior. We carry him with us. If we say no to God’s plan, if we count the cost to ourselves as too high, then who will bring him? In light of eternity, can we give too much?

Mary did not think so. And look, look at how God walked with her. He defended her to Joseph, giving her a husband to walk along beside her on this path. He protected her. Her gave her a friend in Elizabeth, a woman who could walk through the pregnancy with her and all the unknown changes she was experiencing. And, as she gave birth in that stable, he gave her a picture of heaven. The star, the angels and the shepherds; heaven and earth, praising her son – Savior to a lost world; our greatest gift. It was a glimpse of what God had used her to do and Mary took it, treasuring and pondering it in her heart. After all she gave, God gave this back to her, and he had to be smiling when he did it.

God has a plan for you. A path already mapped out. It will take drawing near to God, his very Breath, to accomplish. There will be moments that are hard. But there will also be moments to treasure. Moments where God smiles down on you.

Are you ready to give your all and follow? To bring Jesus into a lost world who so desperately needs him? His gift may have been birthed by a virgin on Christmas two thousand years ago, but it was meant for all, for every day. Will you carry that gift? Will you give it? Will you be like Mary? Let her song, “Breath of Heaven”, become your song. Because the gift she birthed, the gift God gave, it was meant to be

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bookshelf Friday - Mississippi Nights

Today I'm jumping up and down. This book is by Miss D.M. Webb, one of my critique partners, and it's her debut novel! I'm doing a little Snoopy dance with her! I have read this book from cover to cover before there even was a cover:) And isn't that cover uh-MAZ-ing?! Now I get a front row seat to watching her dream realized ~ how awesome is that? So here's the blurb on Mississippi Nights:

Two brothers, one death--the bond of brotherhood faces its greatest challenge against resentment and guilt.

Can the love between two brothers eventually win against pain and guilt?

When Firefighter David Boyette’s fiancĂ©e perishes in a car fire, he blames his brother, Sgt. Jeremy Boyette, for her death.

Three years later, David returns home with a dark and devastating secret. With the help of family, a woman’s love, and a small child’s devotion, can David overcome insurmountable odds as he and Jeremy face the bitterness that enslaves him?

Together the brothers must decide if the bond of brotherhood is stronger than resentment and hate.

D.M.'s characters are very real in this book, and she deals with the tough subject of alcoholism without shying away from it. Maggie was one of my favorite characters. Her penchant for all things pink, and her sweet nature balanced with a tough backbone was the perfect fit for David. I also loved the healing journey this book took you on, and the story of forgiveness for not only those around you, but yourself and ultimately God.

You can currently pre-order Mississippi Nights through D.M.'s website, just click on the link and it will take you there:) All pre-ordered books will be signed and sent out in the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Praise

Luke 2:8-14

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


Glory to God indeed! Our greatest gift.

This is my favoritest Christmas song. And this is my favoritest performance. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Holy:)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wheels Off

That picture pretty much describes how I’ve been feeling lately. Yep…ever been there?
I want to say that everything is going wrong, however, I know enough to realize ‘everything’ is all too encompassing of a word. Besides, I’d rather focus on my blessings.
But can I be honest? (please tell me you’re nodding) Sometimes focusing on those blessings is really, really hard! Especially when it feels like everything is going wrong. Can’t a girl catch a break?
Umm...nope. Leastwise not in the immediate future.

So I guess this is where the rubber meets the road. I can either go with how I feel, or go with what I know—and let my feelings follow. I choose going with what I know.
And can I keep being honest? That’s hard to do, too.
I mean, why is it so easy to focus on what is wrong? On unfulfilled promises. Even when we know God fills them in His time. Even when we know so much more is going right than going wrong. Why is it so hard to keep rolling along? Sometimes you just need a little push.

I love what Hebrews encourages us with. Hebrews 10:23 tells us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promises is faithful.” Later in that chapter we are admonished to “not throw away our confidence; it will be richly rewarded” for “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (vs.35 & 39) But my favorite is the beginning of chapter 11, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

See, I can sit here with my feelings all day long, and wrap myself into a pretzel with them. But bottom line is—I’m a Christ follower. And I know my God. I may have never seen Him, but I know “He is faithful in all He does” (Psalms 33:4) and that His “unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” (Psalms 33:5). I know that I can do “all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). That includes holding to my faith when things around me try to shake it.
No, it’s not easy. But good things rarely are.

So though I’ve yet to see an answer to what I’ve prayed for, and the wheels have spun away from my cart, I need to keep on keeping on. Guess it’s time to pull a Fred Flintstone, pick this baby up, take a little more advice from Hebrews and “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and…run with perseverance the race marked out before me…with my eyes focused on Him”—not all my problems.
No swerving. No shrinking back.
Care to race with me?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Praise

Luke 2: 1-7

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.


One of my favorite Christmas songs off one of my favorite Christmas CD's. What must Mary have been thinking as she held her son? This little boy who would save the world?

May this song bless you today:)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bookshelf Friday - Advent Storybook

Have I mentioned that I love this time of year? :)

The Advent Storybook is a wonderful tradition in our home. Each year it gets pulled out after Thanksgiving, and my kids eagerly await the evening of December 1st when we break it open to read together. Reading one page a night from December 1st through Christmas Eve, we travel with Little Bear on his journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. Along the way, Little Bear meets other travelers and learns lessons about God's character and how much He loves us.

If there are any little children in your life this is a great addition to their Christmas traditions. One big lesson wrapped in one small story each night on the way to Christmas where we get the best present of all~that little baby in a manger.