Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Year of Blessing - August11, 2010

Sometimes it is just the little things that can make your day better.

Jake found out that his Auntie Theresa was coming over for a quick lunch time and really, really wanted to do something special for her. I had pulled some wooden beads out of the closet for a craft project later in the day and he insisted on making her a necklace.

Quickly and precisely he put bead after bead on a ribbon, asking me what I thought of the necklace every other bead. He needed 2 more beads to finish when she came thru the door. He asked me to put them on and tie the ribbons for him, and went running to the door with his hands out in front of him. “Wait, wait, wait!!” he yelled. “Just wait!....just wait! Now Mema?” I told him it was all finished. He ran back to me, grabbed the necklace, and ran back to Auntie Theresa with the beads held in front of him. “I made this for YOU!”

Theresa, grinning from ear to ear, thanked him, hugged him, and put the wooden bead necklace over her head. It looked odd with her professional attire, but she promised Jake that she would wear them to work and show all her friends what a great nephew she had.

I don’t know who was blessed more. Jake for being able to give Auntie something special. Theresa for getting something special from such a precious boy. Or me for witnessing how the simple things in life are so very special. Yeah…it was me!

2 Corinthians 8:7 (New International Version)

But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Year of Blessing - August 10, 2010

Things look different thru the eyes of a child. I have been teaching Jake to use my point and shoot camera. We have gone from turning the camera on, to zooming in and out, to shooting close-ups. Some of the photos he's taken are very good! This is one of his great ideas...lying on the floor, he took a picture of himself! Bravo, Jake!

I wonder if God looks at me and cheers me on in my learning? When I learn a new attribute of Him, does He wink at me with a grin on His majestic face? When I show His glory by being kind to someone, does He give a God-sized thumbs up? Does He applaud when I finally understand that His discipline is meant for my good?

Why then do I fight for my will so much, when He is waiting with such great expectancy for me to learn His will? I don't know. But at least I am in good company with Paul, who said basically the same thing in his great "I do the things I don't want to do and don't do the things I want to" writing...or something like that. I always get it wrong :o)

Oh that God never give up on me! I DO want to learn more of His way! I DO want to know Him! I DO want a childlike love of "teach me just one more thing" when it comes to the life He has planned for me!

Thank you, Jake, for the reminder. You are doing great!

Romans 7:4-6; 14-27 (New International Version)

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Year of Blessing - August 9, 2010

When I was Jake's age, I remember I felt on top of the world with a new pair of shoes! (Who's kidding who! I still do!!) Jake got two new pairs for school. He put on his gym tennis shoes and literally flew thru the house! He jumped and twirled, rolled and ran, forward and backward! Finally his dad took them off and I convinced him to let me take a picture of them. He required that I also get the old ones in the photo too and lined them up neatly before sitting with his dad. He was proud, happy and ready to take on his new class with just his new shoes!

Now, fast forward two months, no make that two weeks. Will he still have the same zeal for those shoes? Will he still run crazy with joy every time he puts them on? I never did. By the end of two weeks it was business as usual in the shoe department and I was looking with envy at the kid that had just bought a new pair.

I struggle with contentment. I struggle with simplicity. I desire both but just when I feel I might have a grasp on the idea I complicate my life wanting something I don't currently have. Pete and I are now on a budget and lifestyle change that has given us the tools to live within our means. But just living with the paycheck God has provided doesn't put off the demons of desire. In fact, there are times they raise their ugly heads and whisper their enticing lies all the more because we choose to deny instant gratification for our long term goals.

One weapon I have used against the little imps with great success, has been gratitude for all the little things of life. In fact, the smaller the blessing from God the greater the impact on the demons of discontentment.

For example, I thought of what life would be without toilet paper. Right! My thoughts exactly! Yet when I prayed thanksgiving to God for the toilet paper we had, the voices of the demons were stilled. I am SO blessed! How about fingernail clippers? Clean water? Or a drive thru to buy food? How about a kind word? A hug? A smile?

It seems that the monetary cost of an item doesn't really reflect it's value at all! But it's overall value seems to become much greater when I think to thank the Giver of all good things for it!

A pair of new shoes - great! Thanking God for them - priceless!

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (New Living Translation)

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Year of Blessing - August 8, 2010

I love books. One look at my bookshelves will convince you of that. Some of them are worn from the many times I have read them. Some still have the remains of 'handy' bookmarks stuck in them: a receipt from McDonalds, plane ticket, a grocery list, torn corners of pieces of paper, even a picture of Pete holding my daughter as a baby! Many of them I haven't read. Someday I will crack them open to browse thru their pages. Someday.

But I lost one.

Being restricted on the amount of weight I can carry reached places I would never have study Bible. Carrying it for any length of time is hard. So I started reading it while I was laying down. Flat of my back, holding it above my head, making notes or underlining verses while it is precariously wobbling over me...yes, more than once it hit me in the head or chest because my arms gave out while holding it up! (Warning: Wielding the double-edged sword above your head can be dangerous!)

Which bring me back to the lost one. I had a thin NIV Bible that was way more practical and I began to carry it instead of my study Bible. It has disappeared. Gone. Lost. Vanished. Missing. No where to be found!! I have looked everywhere! And I began my precarious study habit again in desperation!

My knight in shining armor saved me once again with the gift of all gifts! A new thin line Bible with LARGE print! Does he know me or what!?!?!! I love it! The smell! Opening it and finding pages still stuck together from the printers and not from my latest coffee spill! All the clean room along the sides for notes and thoughts!

A new beginning of sorts. But there was one other thing lost.

Over the past year of struggles, my assurance of His Spirit living in me has been challenged and taken some direct hits by satan. God has gently led me to recommit my life with a conscience choice and declaration of faith in Him, His Son and His kingdom thru baptism. My new birthday is today! A day of assurance of a life lived in Christ, for Christ and thru Christ!

The BEST new beginning ever!

1 Peter 3:21-22

..and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A Year of Blessing - August 7, 2010

Ever feel like someone is watching you? Not in the creepy way that Luke is right now (pretty cool pictures, though, eh?), but in a loving, caring kind of way. I love the 'stolen' glances from Pete. The ones when I look up and he's looking at me with a smile on his face and he mouths "I love you". It sends and thrill of love and adoration thru me!

I have found that God does that. I glance up and see a beautiful sky, and God mouths "I love you". I hear a song on the radio that encourages me to lift my eyes to Him and He mouths "I love you". I feel the comfort of a soft blanket when I'm cold and He mouths "I love you". But more recently, I feel the knife hot pain that shoots thru my leg and He mouths "I love you".

Stay with me now...that last one was a really hard lesson for me. But God provided an example in Pete. When the pain comes, he is quick to react with loving arms, words of love, and prayers of intercession for me. How can I not believe that the God who watched His Son die would not be watching me? Or my savior who felt not only the physical pain of the cross, but the sins of all people, not be watching? Or the Comforter within me not interceding?

All thru the New Testament there is a thread of grace woven in the suffering of Christ's followers:

Luke 24:25-27 (New International Version)
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Acts 3:18
But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.

Romans 8:17-18
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

2 Corinthians 1:5-7
For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Hebrews 5:7-9
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him...

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Suffering is not an option to check on the list of what you want out of life, it is a required standard. Any person alive will suffer. Christian or not. The difference followers of Christ have, is in the option to glorify God thru the pain and learn obedience and perseverance in Christ. Pain and suffering, coupled with joy and strength in God, creates a powerful weapon to destroy the fear and doubt satan throws our way. It is a slow process. One that is learned one day at a time, one hour at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time. But each time we include Christ in our suffering and catch the quiet voice of God saying "I love you" in the midst of it, the pain is transform into praise, the prince of darkness is obliterated by the light of glory, and we endure with Christ for the victory He proclaimed at His resurrection.

I don't like the pain. And more than once I have 'offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears'. But in hope I accept the comfort of my Christ, and thrill at the 'I love you' the Father sends me.

Friday, August 06, 2010

A Year of Blessing - August 6, 2010

Or-ga-nize! Or-ga-nize! Or-ga-nize! This was my mantra today.

Taking breaks to walk around every 20 minutes or so to keep my angry sciatic nerve happy, I organized my way thru 3 months worth of photos. Wait, that should be 'I organized my way through most of May with 2 more months left to do'.

You see, I have 3 different cameras I work with on photos. Yeah, I know, it could be considered obsessive, but I always have one handy for cool, sweet, or funny pictures and I prefer to think of it as 'prepared' not 'obsessive'. So, with 3 cameras to upload, lots of files that I had already uploaded, and a few odd and end pictures, let's just say I have a bit more work to do on the organizing. In the meantime, I want to get the ball rolling again with the blessings I experienced today.

If you look in my closets you will find most of them really quite neat and in order. I love to have a place for everything and everything labeled in it's place. But it took me awhile to transfer this idea to my computer. Then I discovered...right click---new---folder---rename...and wha-lah! there's an instant 'shoebox' for pictures! And I didn't even have to go to Wal Mart to get it! (Or pay money. Dave Ramsey would be proud!)

I have 'boxes' and 'boxes' of these folders. So much that my computer started becoming very, very slow. I carefully packed my 'boxes' into color-coordinated cd's with matching plastic cases...all labeled of course. (Ok, this DID require a trip to Wal Mart. But I budgeted the money keeping Dave happy!)

All of that to say I am working on organizing my photos and carefully and lovingly putting them into their correct 'shoebox'. I will then begin the fun journey of Blast to the Past Blessings and see what God does with it. Until then, I will focus on the present, and the blessing of modern computerized organization!

Isaiah 14:24-27 (The Message)

God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaks:
"Exactly as I planned,
it will happen.
Following my blueprints,
it will take shape.
I will shatter the Assyrian who trespasses my land
and stomp him into the dirt on my mountains.
I will ban his taking and making of slaves
and lift the weight of oppression from all shoulders."
This is the plan,
planned for the whole earth,
And this is the hand that will do it,
reaching into every nation.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies has planned it.
Who could ever cancel such plans?
His is the hand that's reached out.
Who could brush it aside?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A Year of Blessing - Repented and Revised

I started this year out with a promise: To photograph one blessing each and every day. I then added an accountability of blogging that blessing. I then discovered that people were actually reading what I wrote! And, I am ashamed to say, it frightened me. I took it as a great responsibility and found myself like the man with one talent...afraid of failing. So, when I was faced with a fairly serious heart problem (ventricular tachycardia) and a recurrence of my back problem in the form of two very angry sciatic nerves, instead of taking those blessings (and yes, they are blessings!) and writing THROUGH them, I hid them. Waiting until I was 'better'. Waiting until I didn't have to take so much pain medication. Waiting until I wasn't so frightened of what I would write or who would read it.

God showed me the truth with two events: One, the sudden death of an online friend close to my age, with the same back problems I have. And two, the beginning of another study on Max Lucado's book Fearless.

My friend and I had only met a few months ago through, (and don't laugh!) Facebook's Farmville! (you laughed!) Shellye used to work in one of the Texas school systems with the DARE program. She was one tough cookie who took one too many falls. One of them required back surgery. And this on top of a minor heart surgery earlier. She lived in constant stress taking care of her bed bound mother, and shackled with the guilt of past sins...big and small. Living through so much of the same recent events allowed us to talk about feelings others really didn't understand. We both loved Beth Moore studies and chatted about what we were learning. She was finding God to be merciful and loving, and praying through the pain as a way to give Him glory. It made us both feel a bit more sane and started a friendship that I didn't know could exist: one made up of typed words only...never meeting, never speaking, only 'chatting' and emailing. When I last 'spoke' to Shellye she was concerned with a change the doctors had made to her medication. She didn't elaborate much. Just said he had 'upped her dose a lot'. She had been dead 40 hours before her mother found someone to check on her. Me, in my ignorance, had sent her messages of encouragement and hope that her pain was less. God, in His mercy, knew she pain free and more importantly, free of the loneliness that drove her to constantly review her faults before Him.

I wept for a woman I'd never met, yet loved as if she were a close friend.

Then our small Sunday night group met to discuss what to study this fall. There was a re-occurring word from them: afraid. I'm afraid of ...what the doctor will say, ...committing to a relationship, ...what will happen to my kids and grandkids, ...what to do with my house, health getting worse, ...government,,! Since Pete and I had taught the class on Fearless earlier in the year, it dovetailed into this small group nicely. The first night we discussed emotions and how they were...emotions! But they were NOT necessarily true. And they certainly should not get a vote on how we make decisions or even react to any given situation. God should be our 'filter' and our ultimate guide to truth. Then we wrote down the fears we currently have. Now I have taught this class. I have read the book. I have believed God's word. And I STILL have fear!

I was afraid of failure.

Which brings me back to my first paragraph. I have been afraid to blog about what I was going through because I didn't know where God would lead me. But with Shellye's death still fresh in my mind, I fear not having the chance to do something I truly love and want to do: write about God's blessings! I am choosing, now, to continue the journey. I have all the pictures. That much I DID continue. And I will be posting them in groups of 5 or so with their explanation abbreviated. I will be praying over each post that God give me the courage in His truth to continue and ask you to pray for me too. This step of faith, in spite of my fear, is made with great humility knowing I could fail again miserably. I am trusting my Maker. And investing my talent in His truth.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.