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
re-gifted:)

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?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Acquiring the Fire

Typically Fridays I share about a book I've read and loved. Today I want to pass on something so much more important. Yesterday I was caught by a picture circulating Facebook. Maybe you've seen it:

Then today I visited a fellow blogger's site, Melissa Tag, and she'd re-posted an article that stopped me and challenged me much like this picture.

See, we are blessed to live in this country. And many of us are blessed to be able to shop, put food on our table, have shelter and warmth. Some of us are just getting by, others live in abundance. But all of us are blessed. And these blessings are not to make us feel guilty. God loves to bless His children...He LOVES to! But I truly believe the main reason we are blessed is to be a blessing to others. He blesses us not only because He loves us, but because as His children He's taught us what to do with those blessings. He's given us His heart to see that what we have is not ours to keep.

So today, I challenge you to bless one other person. Maybe these children who so need our help. Maybe your neighbor down the street who is looking for a smiling face to share a cup of coffee with. Maybe a local family who won't have presents under the tree or a turkey on their table this year. Look around. Look outside yourself. Share the blessings God has given.

Here's the article that started it all. It's from Inspire a Fire, but I found it on my friend's sites. Bloggers are being challenged to "tithe" their blog for a day and share this article. The same line that struck Melissa and inspired her, inspired me; "What if the task of helping others isn't as overwhelming as we make it?"

Blessings today.

How a Little Can Change a Lot




When my brother traveled to the Sudan he had an encounter that changed his life—and as it ends up, mine too.

He stood in Darfur at an orphanage filled with children leftover from the genocide. There were over 800 children, and during the night wild dogs were dragging them off and killing them.

The day was hot. The sun beat down upon him. His camera had nearly been ruined from all the dust. He'd barely slept. His gear was heavy. Yet his conscience was seared by the numbness he felt, so he turned and confessed to a Sudanese pastor.

"We shall pray right now that your heart will be opened," he was told.

Not long after that prayer three young children approached Joshua and started to follow him. After a bit, his father nature kicked in and he stopped and sang Father Abraham. It didn't take long before the four of them were dancing and going through the motions.

When they finished, he asked the children to tell him how they came to be there.

The oldest, a girl, answered. "The soldiers came and shot my mother and father, so I came here."

The two other children nodded in agreement. "Me, too."

He was grief struck, but it was what transpired next that tore my heart. "Do you have a Mommy?" The little girl asked my brother.

"Yes," he answered.

"And a Daddy?"

Again, his answer was yes.

"Oh," she said, her voice hinting at a strange intermingling of numbness and grief.

Her question stirs me still. For I believe it came from her soul and revealed the thoughts of her heart. She didn't want to know what his country was like, what kind of food he ate, or what he did for a living. She had her own bullet holes leftover from the genocide. Her world consisted of this single question: Who still had parents and who didn't?

In her questions I heard her worry and fear. Imagine being trapped in a war-torn country, a land of famine, drought and disease. Imagine trying to survive it as an orphan with death threatening you every hour. No matter how much she's endured, at the end of the day, she's still just a little girl. And all she really wants is her Mom and Dad.

I imagined my daughter living as an orphan in the Sudan. If I were shot and dying, it would be my hope that my brothers and sisters would care for her. But what if her aunts and uncles were killed too? What was it then, that her parents hoped?

As members of the body of Christ these children are not alone. They have aunts and uncles. Multitudes and multitudes and multitudes of them. Talk about staggering! These kids are our nieces and nephews! Mine. Yours.

So who, I wondered, within the church has the responsibility to step in?

I didn't like the answer that came. Earlier that week I was shocked to learn that globally I was one of the richest people in the world—even though as an American, I'm pretty poor.

Like it or not I was the rich aunt. I had knowledge of the situation. That made me accountable.

I wasn't comfortable with the knowledge then, and I'm not comfortable with the knowledge now. But I am determined to do something. Anything.


That day Joshua had in his possession a picture book that someone had asked him to give to someone in the Sudan. It was a children's book with a story about how we have a Heavenly Father who always loves and cares for us. Joshua read the book and gave it to them.

An American woman took it upon herself to raise the money to build shelter. Every person who donated, even a dollar, helped to create a place where the little girl now sleeps safe from wild dogs.

When Joshua told me he's going to start a branch of Watermelon Ministries called Media Change, a non-profit encouraging Americans to give up a portion of the money spent on entertainment to serve those fighting world hunger and thirst, I wanted to support it.

For seven years he's helped non-profits raise money that serves the "least of these." He's seen the impact a small investment can have. This is a brand new initiative. He's not quite ready to launch, but you can sign up and be kept updated at www.mediachange.org. His first goal is garner the support of 10,000 people who are willing to give $10 a month. I'm number #3.

This is only a blog post, but who knows what one blog post can do.

What if the task of helping others isn't as overwhelming as we make it?

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:)

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Sweetest Thing

I have a problem. And this time of year it’s a bear to bare with: My sweet tooth.

Candy Canes.

Those cute little ribbon things.

Peppermints

Chocolate...well, chocolate anything

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Pecan Pie

Gingerbread

Fudge

Truffles

Banket

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds - warm, you know how they fill the mall with their smell and tug you toward them?

Every where you turn there is something sweet to nibble on. Goodness, they even take things like fruit and cover it with chocolate or caramel, or layers of both! And it seems my sweet tooth is never satisfied. The more I taste, the more I want. This is not helpful if I still want to fit in to my clothes come January 1st.

So imagine my glee when I discovered something sweet I can gorge on day and night. Something that will always satisfy and is not harmful at all—the word of the Lord. “How sweet are your words to my taste…” (Psalm 119:103).

Strange, I know, to say words satisfy, that they are sweet. But spend some time talking with Him. Sit in His presence. Let it flow over you. Wrap you. Embrace you.

And then start writing down the words you feel. I bet sweetness is on that list. See, there is a sweetness in the intimacy, in the abandonment of praising Him, in His all-consuming love.

Is there any better way to describe it?



So today, while you’re baking, shopping, wrapping, running…stop. Just for a moment. And wait on Him. Lift your hands and begin to praise Him.


He truly is the sweetest thing.

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.