Monday, November 30, 2009

Kicking Off Christmas With Time Well Spent

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and now my family can stop telling me that I cant listen to my Christmas music every day because the holidays are officially here!

I love Christmas, it is my all time favorite time of the year. There is not much I dont love about the season (except paying the holiday bills of course!), but even that comes with the joy of giving.

This weekend my husband took me and the kids on a fabulous weekend in the mountains to pick out our Christmas tree. We enjoyed the ride up the steep, curvy mountain roads and oohed and awed over the scenery. We stayed at a great resort with a picturesque view from our balcony, gobbled up some pizza at a local restaurant, and cozied up by the fire while we watched The Polar Express. The next day we ate a yummy breakfast at a little country store, and spent the rest of the day picking out the perfect Christmas tree from the side of the mountain. Then we tied it on top of the car and drove home a couple hours and spent the evening listening to Christmas music, making spagetti, and decorating the tree. And this morning - we were all exhausted! But a joyful kind of exhausted.

As I think back over the weekend, one thing comes to mind. It was not about where we went or what we did. It was not about where we stayed or what we ate. It was not even about which tree we picked out.

It was about time. We had a weekend of time. Uninterrupted, unscripted, unscheduled -time. And trust me, it was much needed time, since our family has been stretched thin over the past few months running from one sports or school activity to the next, all being like passing ships in the night at times. Even though we enjoy devoting our time to all the things that fill up our life, sometimes it is important to make time, just for us.

If you ask me, that is what Christmas is all about. Its about spending time with loved ones, and taking time to focus on the One who made time possible.

It is so easy to get so caught up with life, or with the holiday season, and forget to take time to spend with the ones, and the One, who matter most. I am the first to admit that, as a professed Christmas-aholic, I can pack my schedule with all sorts of important and fun to-dos this time of year, like shopping, cooking, singing, decorating, visiting, socializing, etc. So I have to make a commitment to myself, to not let my time with God slip to the back burner.

This morning as I spent some time in prayer, I already found myself apologizing to Jesus for not talking to Him in a few days. I was too busy, being busy! What a wonderful blessing that His mercies are renewed for us each day. He still loves us, even when we are too busy for Him! And even when we are enjoying the blessings that He gave us, including time! Now that is love for you, if you ask me.

All this month, I plan to devote my posts to spending time with Jesus. To help us do that, I want to focus on four priceless gifts that we are given at Christmastime. No, not gifts from a store. And I dont just mean the manger scene, the angels, the joy of the Christmas season. But the most valuable of all gifts - gifts that all of us are given, but so many never unwrap and enjoy.

For today - I want to encourage you to kick off your holidays with a focus on time for Jesus, and with Jesus. You see, time seems infinite, but it can never be gotten back. Time is something we take for granted, but precious nonetheless.

So lets kick off our holiday season by thanking God for the time that we are given, and consider how we are spending that gift every day.

In fact, today might be a good day to spend some of your time in a little state of personal reflection, to get your heart ready for this most important time of the year. Think about where are you spending most of your time, and if your time is being well spent? Are you devoting time to family, loved ones, friends, and Jesus.... or is your time being saturated with things that pull you away from those things?

Have you taken time yet to thank God for this season?

I am looking forward to unwrapping some gifts with you in the coming weeks! So come back soon!

(If you want to see some more pictures of our special family time weekend, just visit me on Facebook!)

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beyond Counting Your Blessings

So, 'tis the season to be thankful. Everywhere you look, people are acting thankful. People are talking about being thankful. People are expressing thankfulness.

But you know what, being thankful, does not automatically mean we are being thank-ful. Being thankful for the good things is really just being glad that we are benefiting from those good things. But being truly thank-ful, is looking beyond our blessings, to the One who blesses. Being full of love for Christ, regardless of our blessings, not just full of thanks for what we have.

If someone were to ask me today to spontaneously list the things that I am thankful for, my list would probably be very similar to yours --- money, food, a home, clothes, family, jobs, furniture, car, shoes, friends, health, etc.

Each of those things are huge blessings, and tremendous reasons to be thankful, all of which I am very grateful for.

But is that really all there is to be thankful for? If we dig a little deeper, do you think we can we find any other reasons to be thankful, than just the ones we can lay our hands on?

And, what about those of us who may not feel like we have anything to be thankful for this year? Can we truly be thankful with our hearts, not just our mouths?

What about the millions who have lost jobs over the past year, had cars reposessed, had houses foreclosed upon, had children stray from the Lord, had marriages split up, received chronic or even terminal health diagnoses, had loved ones receive negative health news, who had to face the death of someone they loved, who still have not overcome fertility issues, who still have not have found that one special person to spend the rest of their life with, who have too much work to do in too little time, whose loved ones are overseas in the military, or who feels life is just overwhelming.

Maybe you can relate to one or more those situations,and if so, has the thought crossed your mind that maybe this is not the year to be truly thankful? Have you wondered if true thankfulness can really be a reality this year?

From our human minds, our candid and honest answer might be no. After all, who could feel thankful when everything seems to have gone wrong all year? Who could be thankful, when life seems to be turned upside down? Who could feel thankful when the negatives seem to be outweighing the positives?

This has been a really hard year for so many people, which is even more reason to be extra thank-ful this year. You see, if we can put a different focus on why we are thankful, our hearts will be transformed into one of true gratitude for what Christ means in our life, and this Thanksgiving, and all future Thanksgiving celebrations, could take on a whole new meaning.

Thanksgiving Day originally started with the pilgrims, who in the midst of extreme hardship, loss of loved ones, and minimal food and supplies, still believed that they were blessed. They chose to celebrate God's blessings, even though they were few, by sharing a meal with Native Americans who had helped them survive.

Are we carrying that same pilgrim-like gratitude in our hearts this year? Thankful for what we do have, as opposed to worrying about what we do not have?

It is so possible for us to lose our thankful spirit, when things dont go our way, even on Thanksgiving Day! Have you ever lost the enthusiasm on a thanksgiving day in the past because the weather was bad, the turkey was dry, the bread got burned, or the kids were fighting? I know I have been down that road!

But that is a prime example of how we are spoiled by the abundance of blessings that we take for granted every day, and have forgotten why we are really celebrating.

The best thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, is not the blessings, but the One who provided those blessings. I know, it is really hard to be thankful for difficult life circumstasnces, but we can still be thankful for the One who gives, and the One who takes away. Thankful for the One who has a plan and a purpose for our lives, even when we dont understand His ways. Thankful for the blessings of His grace, mercy and comfort, that pull us through good and bad times. Thankful for Him.

Psalm 100 is one of the great songs of thanksgiving in the Bible. It calls us to realize that we belong to God our Maker, and to praise Him for His goodness, mercy, and truth. If we cant find anything else to be thankful for this year, these are most certainly some blessings to be thankful for.

In Luke 17:11-19, we read a story of when Jesus had compassion, mercy and grace for ten lepers on the road side, and healed each one of them. But after He healed them, only one returned to say “thank you.” Only One recognized that He had not only healed his body, but healed his soul. Only one was compelled by so much gratitude, that He took the time to say thank you.

And only one heard the words from the mouth of Jesus, when He said, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Now those are words that I would love to hear one day, straight from the One whom I am most thankful for.

Still need a few extra reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving? Check out this list of 100 Reasons To Be Thankful, posted on the Proverbs 31 site this week.


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Monday, November 16, 2009

She Reads Giveaway Today!

Happy Monday!

Today I want to encourage you to hope over to the newest of the Proverbs 31 blogs, She Reads. This is a site that promotes excellent Christian fiction books for women who are looking for a great read. She Reads exists to honor Christ by connecting readers with novels that inspire through excellent writing, explore deep issues of faith, and initiate change in the reader’s life.

Each quarter, the She Reads book club will offer three current titles as featured selections. Since we all have vast differences in taste and the types of books that interest us, She Reads offers diverse genres and authors each time, for a total of twelve books per year. Fun!

Today Bonnie Grove is the writer of the Proverbs 31 Devotion, called Being The Stillness. Bonnie is a gifted writer, and is excited about her new book coming out, called Talking To The Dead (remember, its fiction!).

To motivate you to check it out, winners will be chosen from those who visit the She Reads blog and leave a comment. The grand prize winner will receive a copy of Bonnie Grove’s debut novel, Talking to the Dead as well as an iPod Nano, pre-loaded with the songs Bonnie listened to while writing. Wow! Then, four additional winners will each receive a copy of her novel. All you have to do enter is leave a comment on todays post or sign up for the She Reads monthly newsletter. Winners will be chosen on Wednesday, November 18th.

So here is the link if you are interested: She Reads. Good luck!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Stinkin Thinkin Day

Yesterday started out great. Even though it was pouring down rain in sheets and buckets, I was glad that the kids were out of school. Number one, I didnt have to drive to school in that messy weather, and number two, we could all just hang out and eat breakfast, and then spend the day.

Kaitlyn was scheduled for a doctors checkup around mid-morning, and despite my reminding everyone what time we had to leave, of course, nobody was ready on time, making us nearly late for the appointment. I fussed and complained about why nobody can ever be ready on time (with two teenager girls in the house, I recognize that I probably need to lower my expectations for timeliness), but finally we made it out the door, into the freezing rain.

The doctors office, to my surprise, was not crowded at all, in fact we were the only ones in the lobby. Despite that, an hour later, I still found myself sitting in that doctors office. So, I began to fuss and complain once again.

One hour and fifteen minutes after our arrival, we finally left the doctors office, and headed to a local mall to enjoy some pre-holiday shopping together. As always, immediately upon stepping inside the mall entrance, three little faces announced that they were starving, as if they have not eaten for days. I explained to them that I did not want to spend $30 or $40 on lunch in the food court, so we would all plan to get something from the dollar menu of a fast food restaurant, and share a couple big drinks, since most of the drinks we buy end up getting thrown away anyway.

But unfortunately there was no dollar menu to be found, and after ten minutes of being beaten down with begging and pleading from starving little faces who all wanted something different, I finally caved, spending over $30.

Then, that stinkin thinkin flew all over me! So I fussed and complained some more, and also threw in a few lectures about how much money we have spent lately on this and that and such and such.

As a result, my holiday shopping spirit got flung out the window, and my stinkin thinkin had taken up residence in my heart, which I had also now infected my kids with.

So we left and went home shortly after.

I love the verse in Romans 7:15b-16 (approximately, from The Message), where it says "What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary."

I certainly did not plan on getting frustrated and short tempered yesterday. I had no intention of arguing about lunch. I did not plan on scolding my kids for a variety of things.

But that is exactly what I did. And all the way driving home, I felt bad about it. God convicted my heart, and helped me to see that I had allowed stinkin thinkin to creep in, and replace my happy spirit, with a frustrated spirit. A few obstacles were thrown into my path during the day, and instead of facing them with the love and patience that would please Christ, I failed miserably.

There had been kinks in my day that were unplanned and annoying - but I chose to respond with stinkin thinkin rather than patience and kindness. So that verse in Romans above is perfect for me! You see, I get so mad at myself when I get mad at little things!

I hate when I do that, I know that I will regret it, but sometimes, I am tempted to sin, so I do it anyway - which is exactly why I so need God every minute of every day.

I need Him to show me the error of my ways when they happen by convicting my spirit.

I need His mercy every time I fall short of living out each day in a way that pleases Him.

And I most definitely need His strength and guidance, even in the littlest bits of my every day routines, so that I can learn to react and respond in ways that portray the values that He sets forth for us in His Word.

If you have taken this little challenge over the past week or so to try to tame your stinkin thinkin, I imagine that you too, have fallen short. I imagine that you too, have been tempted to engage in thoughts and behaviors that are poisoned by stinkin thinkin, and I imagine you too wish you hadnt.

Lets face it.....controlling our thoughts, our minds, our attitudes and our hearts is a daunting task! Thank goodness we have God to help us with that. What a losing battle we would face if we were going at it alone.

So today, if you feel you have failed at keeping your stinkin thinkin at bay, then just ask God to forgive you, and then forgive yourself. Ask for His mercy, and then give yourself a little mercy. And remember that Romans 7 proves that we are not alone in our struggle to be like Christ.

Lets start out tomorrow with a fresh attitude and an open mind. Through prayer and time with God, we can be more prepared for the hurdles that the devil will throw our way to try to cause us to stumble, and be more equipped to stand on the strength of Christ to get a little closer to our goal every day.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Infected with Life

Last night, I watched the movie The Green Mile, again. For some reason, every time I see that movie on television, I cant help but watch it.

But as I watched the very end of the movie, one line grabbed my attention this time. This one line seemed to jump out of the television straight to my heart, and I am still thinking about it this morning.

In this movie, John, the wrongly accused prisoner, had a supernatural gift from God, which allowed him to be able to "see" the past and the truth of what happened to people. He could see into the hearts of people to understand their true colors. And he could physically feel the hurt that others experienced.

In the last scene, Paul, the former prison guard who was in his old age now, was telling a friend about when he was younger and worked at the prison when John was an inmate on deathrow. He talked about John and the miraculous powers and insight from God that he had. Then he tells his friend how on one particular day, John gripped his hand tightly, and he was given a taste of this supernatural vision and insight. Paul was able to see what John could see in his heart and mind, and able to feel the pain and heartbreak and horror of what John had been feeling all those years.

It was almost more than Paul could endure, and it left him weak, crying and in awe of what had just happened. But what Paul says at the end of the movie as he explains this occurrence to his friend, is what struck me. He said as a result of that experience, that John had "infected him with life".

In the movie, this term meant that Pauls aging process was slowed down,and he was living much longer than humans normally do. He was 108 years old when the movie ended, and still in great health.

His interpretation of being "infected with life" was more a curse than a gift, for he had to constantly watch loved ones dies,as he outlived them.

But the term "infected with life" really stuck in my mind. "Infected with life". Hmmmm, I began to think how God would view that term, as it applies to us.

I thought about how "infecting us with life" is exactly what God does when we accept Him as our Savior. He infects us, with life. He penetrates every cell of our body with life - not just the physical aspect of being alive, but the spiritual aspect of being truly alive.

Being infected with life from Jesus, simply means the impartation of new life in our hearts and souls. A new life that runs rampant in our veins. A life filled with joy, peace and hope, even when life itself seems joyless, peaceless, and hopeless.

The trouble is, that normal life can infect us as well. Life in todays world can infect our minds, infiltrating our thoughts with things that are not of God, and replacing the infection of Gods life, with the infections of the enemy.

That stinkin thinkin we have been talking about, really begins with the world infecting us with its ways.

There are lots of opportunities for us to get infected with the world, such as -

viewing pornography.... sitcoms that portray the average American family as broken with a lack of values.... TV shows that destroy the sacredness of purity and saving sex for marriage...... teen movies that promote sex, drugs, selfishness, cruelty and deceit.....horror movies that make murder and torture seem entertaining and accepted.... romance movies that make infidelity appear enticing and exciting.... romance books that portray true love in such a way that leaves husbands never being able to meet false expectations......bars that lure people in with scantily clad waitresses..... vanity commercials that make us feel inferior and in need of personal change....filthy language... racism..... jealousy... hatred... dishonesty..... revenge.... lack of compassion.... complacency.

These are worldy things that can infect us inside and out. We see them with our eyes, we process it in our minds, then it infects hearts, and ultimately infects souls. A gradual acceptance and tolerance of things that are not pleasing to God, but accepted in the world, is a sure sign that infection has begun. A gradual justification of wrong doings, because the world seems to condone it, is a sure sign that infection has begun.

So many things infect our eyes every day, and make their way to our hearts. If only we could see through the eyes of God, like Paul was able to do through John in the movie. If only we could see the power in the truth. The depth of love. The reason for righteousness. The joy that God offer. If we could, I am sure that we would be left weak, crying and in awe as well.

We have a choice each day of what will run through our veins, by what we allow to infect our hearts and minds. Of whether we choose life from God, or get caught up in what the world calls life; Gods ways, or the enemys ways. Gods thoughts, or the enemys thoughts.

Stinkin thinkin may grow in the mind, but it starts with what our eyes and ears see and hear, and ends up infecting our heart and soul in the process. Stinkin thinkin can be one of those infections, that spreads rapidly within us.

A little challenge for us all today, myself included, is to think about the things that we are "seeing" on a daily basis. Maybe today, we can do a little self examination, and look deeper into our lives, and the habits or routines that we do on any given week.

And then, consider the type of infections that we may be getting from those things. Are the normal things that fill our daily lives filling our heart and mind with the rinciples, values and actions that God would approve of, or are they filling our heart and mind with an infection that if left unnoticed, could eventually pull us away from Christ?

You know, infections are easiest to cure, if caught at an early stage, before it gets out of hand and has spread.

Be infected today, with life, from Christ.

Romans 5:18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. (NLT)

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 15:22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. (NLT)

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The D Word

I bet you are going through a bunch of ugly words in your head right now, trying to figure out what the D word is? Am I right? Hee Hee. :)

The ugliest of all D words is devil. Okay, so we knew that. But have you ever noticed how many negative words start with the letter D?

- dead - disgusting - dumb
- death - dishonor - dark
- debt - divorced - dirty
- defeated - drunk - destroyed
- demonic - defiled - disgusting
- denial - discouraged - doomed
- depressed - devious - dreadful
- damaged - deceitful - desperate

....just to name a few.....

Now Im not trying to give the letter D a bad wrap - I know there are some D words that have positive meanings -but for todays purpose, lets give credit where its due. The D words that are negative, are the ones that the ultimate D word uses against us.

John 10:10 says, The thief( aka, devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

That ol devil seriously does come to steal,kill and destroy - and our attitudes and the state of our heart are the first targets.

Have you had any of the above words floating around in your head lately? Have you been beating yourself up inside for mistakes made, things not done, failures, sins committed? Have you been talking to your own psyche, trying to convince yourself that are a pretty pitiful excuse for a Christian, woman, mother, wife, or person?

Its not you. Its that D word again. He is ready and willing to pounce into your mind, convincing you that all those ugly D words above, apply to you. He is probably working hard at inviting you and engaging you in a game of stinkin thinkin. Are you playing along?

If you are, stop it right now! (Sorry, my mommy voice slipped out.) When your mother told you not to get involved in things or with people that would bring you down, did you ever notice that she was usually right?

Well in this case, our Father is telling us not to play the game, and I think we should listen.

I often find myself playing this game with D, before I even realize that he has pulled me in. That is how D operates - sneaky, conniving, with an intentional focus on destroying our spirit.

The good news, literally, is that we have the power within us to say no to this game. To listen to the voice of God, instead of the tricks of D. To focus on who God says we are, and not who we think we see in the mirror. To remember that we are wonderfully and uniquely made, not just the shell of a person who has been wronged, hurt, sinned, and ashamed.

That is just D talking. God would never say such things. God does not play the game of stinkin thinkin, in fact, He does not play games at all.

So many people, especially women, engage in the game of self condemnation every day. We compare ourselves to others, and feel inferior. We compare ourselves to who we think we should be, and feel inferior. We compare ourselves to who we wish we were, and feel inferior.

Inferiority is nothing more, than stinkin thinkin. Self condemnation is stinkin thinkin. And D is the king of stinkin thinkin. Lets make a pact to not be friends with him anymore. Pooh on him.

Galatians 2:20 says "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Whatever we have done, whoever we are or have been, whatever has been done to us - does not matter. The only thing that matters is that we are made new - made whole - made clean - made beautiful - made amazing - by Gods grace. Beautiful, inside and out.

His grace remains with us, His love sustains us, and His mercy maintains us. Thanks to His love, we have no reason to entertain any words that start with D - unless they are delightful daughter of the most high King -

Focus today on who you in Christ.

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