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23 July 2013

Mementos & Relics

Going through some papers of Doug's, I found an envelope. 



Inside the envelope was a greeting card. 



Inside the card were various pieces of paper. 



As I began to separate the phone numbers and addresses, still thinking this was Doug's collection, I found a "Smilie Jesus" tract. Two, actually. One, missing the cover.



Then, some words on a fold slip of paper caught my eye. My favorite verse. I opened it and recognized it as a hand-out I had made for the guys at The Farm, when I shared my cancer testimony back in 2011.


Next, I opened a paper that looked completely unfamiliar. I didn't understand a thing it said, but there was a name.



Oh! I realized what this was - not Doug's notes, but the relics of a man's time inside. Mementos & relics. 

I read the card. 



Every Christmas Eve we go to The Farm (the Lawrence Correctional Alternative Center). We hold an outreach, and distribute gift bags filled with homemade Christmas cookies, tracts, and a hand-signed Christmas card. 

His card happened to have been signed by Doug, and he'd kept it. Along with the tracts. Those "Smilie Jesus Tracts." It's only one per customer, so he must have picked up a second one that someone had discarded, perhaps after removing the cover. 

Or, maybe he removed the cover himself, to send it to his children. Sounds like something he'd do.

My heart is deeply touched by this Brother's little collection. Not sure how Doug ended up with it, but finding it means more than I can say. 

Bags & Bows

I am of the mind that gifts should be wrapped, no matter how big or cheap or small or expensive. Part of the fun of giving is wrapping, and part of the fun of getting is opening. It doesn't have to be fancy, to be wrapped.

Case in point.

I did not invent this wrapping, but my
nieces said they'd never seen it before,
and suggested I share it on my blog. 


Supplies: paper sack & scrap ribbon.


Add gift, and fold bag over once.


When you do the next step, be sure
you are punching the ribbon hole
through all those layers on the side.


Punch one hole on each side of the
bag, about 1" down from the fold,
and 1" from the edge of the bag.


Feed each edge of the ribbon
from the back of the bag.


Tie a bow, and voila!

Street Smarts in Web City

Tonight I have learned that Prime Minister Cameron of Great Britain has taken some very bold and courageous steps to block the dissemination of pornography in Great Britain.

Cameron to Block Porn

And, we thought the big news today was that a new royal prince was born!

Friends, 
I speak a lot about internet safety on Facebook. Before I even had an internet connection at home - before most people even had a computer a home - I heard someone compare the Word-Wide Web to a large city. Many different place to go, things to see, and people to meet. Lots of good, but also great danger. Most parents would never allow their child to wander the streets of Detroit or Boston or Los Angeles unaccompanied, yet they do not "accompany" their children as they surf the web.

From the time our daughter began to go online, until she became an adult, her usage was monitored. All passwords were known. And, she understood that where she went on the web was being observed. She also understood that we were not doing this because we did not trust her. We were doing this, because we did not trust Web City.

Hannah never gave us any grief about this, and the open relationship we enjoyed when she was 12 continues at 22. However, we still employ an internet filter, because we don't want to be accidentally exposed to anything wicked. 

Since most of my readers do not live in Great Britain, and will not benefit from Prime Minister Cameron's new law, I encourage you to be sure guard the gates, set up a hedge, and bring accountability. There are a lot of options out there to help you do this, for computers and phones. 

The services we use are Mobicip for the iPhone, and Covenant Eyes for the computers. Click on the graphics to go to their website.






19 July 2013

The Devil Made Me

In times of transgression against the word and will of God, the Christian is sometimes quick to cry foul: 

The Devil made me do it!

Well, we don't exactly use those words. We say things that will garner sympathy. If only. I was weak. I was stressed-out. I'm too tired. She was asking for it.

Or, we make an argument that casts the shame of guilt upon another: It's her fault. He made me. 


Let's consider the account of Adam and Eve. It's a perfect example of how we often respond to temptation, and how we should respond when we fall into sin.

You know the story. God creates a perfect garden for Adam and Eve. All the organic fruits and vegetables they can eat! Except one. One tree is off limits, and God makes that very clear. In fact, when Satan first tempts Eve, she repeats God's words to him:

“We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3)
She knew God's will, and she knew God's word. Yet, instead of fleeing to safety, she kept company with the Serpent, and willing walked right into his trap.

And, Adam? The man who walked with God in the cool of evening? He did just what his lady told him to do. Forget about God's instructions. She says it's good! Just like that, God's word and will were ignored for a lousy piece of fruit.

MODERN ADAM / MODERN EVE
Sadly, we are still dealing with temptation the same way Adam and Eve did. We ignore the very same words of God. His will is clear, yet, into Satan's trap we go.

And, we still try to blame someone else. Just like Adam and Eve. 
When God came to the Garden and saw what had happened, He questioned Adam first. Head of the household. Priest of the home. 


"The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." (Genesis 3:12)

In other words: She made me. And, You gave her to me, so it's Your fault, too!

Can you imagine the Lord's frustration at that moment? The Bible says He turns to Eve, and asks her: "What have you done?" I can see her now, fluttering her eyelashes.

“The serpent deceived me.” (Genesis 3:13)

In other words? The Devil made me do it---it's his fault!



COMPASSION & ACCOUNTABILITY
What follows in Chapter 3 is God's first demonstration of compassion and accountability. The Lord does not condemn them. He judges them. And, He provides atonement for their sin. Blood is shed, and they receive mercy.

Yes, Eve had been deceived, but she was accountable for her choices. She willingly entertained the Devil's company. 


Yes, Adam was under Eve's influence*, but he willingly took the fruit.

Being tempted is not a sin, but entertaining temptation will almost always lead to sin. That's the part that gets messy for some folks. They don't always recognize they are being tempted. 

Or, they give into a "lesser" sin, not understanding the machinations of Satan. A little lust, a little booze, a few puffs, a touch, a flash. We think we've got everything under control...


                ...I'll just watch for a minute.   
                ...It's just fun & games.
                ...I won't go any further.
                ...I'll just have one.
                ...We're only friends.

It's quite a gamble to count on one's own will power.

SIN HAPPENS

We sin daily. We are vulnerable, subject to temptation. And, each little place of compromise leads us deeper into a chasm that separates us more and more from God's perfect will.

The Lord does not leave us without a defense, though. He has not only given the Holy Spirit, but He promises to always provides a way of escape.


"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (I Corinthians 10:13)

If it's too late to resist, we've all ready taken a bite, then we come into the light like Adam and Eve finally did, confessing what they had done. Repentance is the only way back into God's will.

We only have to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to show us our sin, and be accountable for what we have done. 

I can't help but wonder what would have happened if instead of running away from God, trying to hide their sin and shame from the Lord, Adam and Eve had instead cried out to Him for mercy.

It's never too late to find out.


* This is the topic of another blog post that is presently in the progress. It was an important and powerful lesson the Lord taught during the worst days of my life.

17 July 2013

"I'm Too Busy."

I don't like that expression. 

I especially don't like hearing it come out of my mouth, because I don't think I've ever used it honestly. What I probably should have said was...
                        ...I don't think you're important enough;
                     ...I don't let God order my day;
                  ...I'm not a woman of my word;
               ...I'm extremely disorganized;    
            ...I procrastinate a lot;
         ...I can't say, "No;" or
      ...I'm very lazy!
             
You see, I'm convinced that if I live according to God's will, I will never be too busy. I might be plenty busy, but never too busy, because the only things I will have to do are the things God has given me to do. And, He would never give me more than I can bear.

Confession Time
It's not that easy, though, because living according to God's To Do List for me means giving Him full access to my life. I'm going to have to allow Him to call the shots.

That means there will be things He wants to change. He may have something to say about how I'm living that I don't want to hear.

So, What's a Girl to Do? 
Well, she has to stop acting like a girl for starters, and start walking like a woman of God. 

If we've been setting the agenda, we need to stop now and let back God on the throne of our lives. Being busy isn't a bad thing. Having a full schedule is actually biblical. We just want to be sure we are busy about God's business, because that is where His promise to help us is committed.



A Busy Woman
I would like to introduce you to a woman who knew how to keep a full schedule well. This is a sample of just an ordinary day in her life. 
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. 
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. 
She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. 
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,   rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. 
She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. 
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,  diligent in homemaking.  
She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. 
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. 
She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. 
Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. 
She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. 
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. 
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.
I'm sure you recognize this to be the famous Proverbs 31 Woman. This is Proverbs 31:13-27 from The Message, and I highlighted all the words and phrases that indicate action. If you just read the pink words, you'ld need to stop and catch a breath before you got to the end. Just imagine living that life! She was a busy woman.

Yet, she did manage to do it all. How?

Well, I think the answer is in verse 30:
"The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God."

A person who does not live in the fear of God is a person who isn't putting the Lord first in her life. She isn't consulting the Word of God. She is setting her own priorities.

Repent, Submit, Obey. Repeat.
In order for our priorities to be in order, we have to start at the feet of Jesus.
1) Repent. Repent of holding the controls, of any behaviors that have lead you away from the Lord.
2) Submit. Submit to the will of the Lord and to the godly authority He has been given you (spouses, parents, pastors, teachers, etc).
3) Obey. Obey the Word of God as it has been written (logos), and revealed by the Holy Spirit (rhema).
OK. So, it's not really that easy, but the Lord knows your heart, and He will help you. He really will! He doesn't want you running around like a chicken with your head cut off, or feeling anxious and stressed and worried.

See, here's the thing. What's going to happen is that you're going to begin to see that when your will is submitted to the Lord's will, He becomes the Superintendent of your life. That means His grace pours over everything that concerns you, and it works out. He picks up the slack, and He gives you the strength, and He helps you do it all.

He really does! 


When I'm tempted to say, "I'm too busy" or "I have too much to do," there is always a catch in my spirit.  

Always. 

I know it means I need to get right with the Lord. I need to put Him back in charge. And, follow His lead, because I don't want to miss out on anything He has for me to do.

16 July 2013

Acceptable Pornography

If you walked into a room and found an unclothed couple whose "delicate" parts were obscured by their arms and legs, would you continue to walk into that room, or turn away? 

Would you think you had just violated their privacy and cover your eyes, or continue on with business as usual? "Hello, friends. How are you today?"



Well, I think without hearing your actual reply, I can guess that most of us would be embarrassed (or horrifed!), cover our eyes, turn away, and make a quick exit.

What if the images were on a movie screen, TV, or computer? 

Some will say, "That's different." I don't think so. A dramatized scene of human intimacy is still a scene of human intimacy. Does the actual relationship of those involved matter? Of course not.


Yet, so many of us have gazed upon a scene just like the one above - and, sometimes, those delicate parts are not obscured. 

So, what do you do? Are you indifferent? Do you grit your teeth and wait for the scene to pass? Cover your eyes, fast-forward, or stand up and leave?

I am afraid that too many of us aren't doing anything to object to this intrusion. We just accept it. "It's not like we're watching pornography, you know. We aren't one of those people."

You know what's worse than porn? That stuff we think isn't porn. Those images we take into our soul and spirit without recognizing their danger. Like second-hand smoke, or GMO corn. We see look at the rating on the outside of the DVD box, or on the screen. It's not X-rated, so it must be safe. 

Pornographic images have become so commonplace, we don't recognize them anymore. We've created a category of indecency that is really porn, but it's acceptable porn. Christians accept it, and engage in it regularly, without the slightest concern. They aren't weighing the costs, because they don't even think it's wrong. 

And, that's the real tragedy. Not counting the cost of those few minutes. 


A few minutes that can lead to death.






That was Satan's deception in the Garden. God said, "Don't consume this. It leads to death." No, not a drop-dead-in-your-tracks kind of death, but a spiritual death. A death of innocence, purity, and righteousness. A death of spiritual authority.

Instead of listening to the God who loves us, who sent His Son to give us life eternal, we bow to the lies of Satan. The very same lies he used to deceive Adam and Eve. Instead of turning away, or fleeing for our life, we are complacent, and gullible. We have become numb to the Holy Spirit. 

And, the perversion of our soul increases. 


My friends, this matters. What we consume with our eyes matters as much as the apple Adam & Eve consumed in the Garden. We cannot take these compromises lightly. They poison our spirit, and imprint themselves on our mind. They are seeds of destruction that lead to death.


Friends, we must be on guard. That particular show or movie or game or song or image may seems tame or mundane, but it is a gateway to the deepest depths of sin and depravity.

Be careful, little eyes, what you see.

15 July 2013

Blog More; Edit Less

I tried out a new layout for my blog, and lost my old one. I went too far, and couldn't get back. So, I am not pleased with the look of this, but it will have to do for now. 

You know, I think about blogging all the time. I think about writing with such longing. Yet, I talk myself out of it again and again. Almost as soon as the thought pop is into my head. 

Today (or was it yesterday?) I was listening to this thing with Sara Groves, the singer-songwriter. She said that she has her husband produce her songs, because she over-edits herself. She examines things too much. 

I find I do that, too. Kinda like what happened to my blog layout. I went go too far. 




So, for the sake of not having a blog that is just sitting and gathering dust, I am really going to try to blog more, and edit less. Or, just close up shop. We'll see what happens!

Draft Dodger

Looking through my list of post, I noticed I have a lot of drafts. Almost half of the posts I've written for this blog are unfinished, or unpublished. 

Well, I am going through them and posting or deleting them. It's kinda silly to have them just sit there, right? Below are a few I wrote a while back, but also one from today (Day Off). 

Holy Prejudice, Batman!

I have noticed a growing prejudice amongst Christians. I think it's been going on for a long time, but I didn't really start noticing it until recently. 

I'm talking about spiritual prejudice.  


There are always going to be doctrinal differences between us, even between people in the same church, but we aren't supposed to hold those difference against each other. 


Yet, that is what I see happening, especially when it comes to matters where the Bible isn't exactly clear. We seem to be forgetting we're all just humans. Some of us have more understanding than others, but 1 Corinthians 13:12 still applies to us all, no matter how many degrees we've earned, or how many spiritual experiences we have had.





Now, does that mean doctrine doesn't matter? Of course not! We should know what we believe, and be able to defend it. We just need to remember that none of know it all. On those points where we really think we're right, let's maintain a little humility. 


You see, I really believe there is a consequence for this prejudice: the division amongst Believers, and the lost not being reached with the truth, dying, and going to Hell. Eternal Hell. Christians are spending so much time debating their doctrine, they are neglecting their call. 

Jesus is The Way. Follow Him. And, if He leads you to walk beside a brother of another doctrinal mother, say, "AMEN!" Can't we all work together to a point? Shouldn't we be able to serve our mutual Father as one Body?


We are all in this together, friends. We need each other. Let's remember that. We have a work to do for the King, and a limited time to do it. Debating theological differences is a cop-out, and a poor excuse for not answering the Great Commission.



Mother's Day

This post was written before Mother's Day, and I just saw that I never posted this. Too sad, I guess.

I only listed 20 qualities of my Mother's, but the list could go on so much longer. Her virtues were endless. 

-------------------------- 

The past several weeks have been difficult. Sad. My first birthday without Mother. My first Mother's Day. I think I will begin to feel better now that these two events are past. I hope so. It has been hard to do anything feeling so sad. I've actually been depressed. I don't get depressed often. I also don't stay depressed long. I know that kind of self-indulgence is destructive and not of God. I mean, really, how can I be sad? I have been so blessed. My Mother was such a good Mother. And, I did have her in my life so long. I must count my blessings, not cry over my loss. Self-pity is unbecoming the Believer. 

So, today I will give thanks for my Mother, and count the blessings she brought into my life.

  1. She modeled unconditional love.
  2. She encouraged my pursuits and interests.
  3. She modeled forgiveness.
  4. Even in the worst of times, she always trusted God.
  5. Her desire to know the Lord only grew.
  6. She valued any effort that spread the gospel.
  7. Leading people to Christ was the most important thing she thought anyone could do, and the only thing she wanted to do.
  8. She loved God's Word.
  9. She loved the presence of the Lord.
  10. She prayed with authority, never doubting the Lord.
  11. She didn't suffer fools.
  12. She was a good judge of character.
  13. She treated people better than they deserved.
  14. She was generosity personified.
  15. She elevated motherhood to the highest privilege of her life.
  16. She served her husband and family selflessly.
  17. She supported her husband like a boss. 
  18. She treasured learning.
  19. She loved plants, and brought life to every plant she touched.
  20. She loved people, and brought life to each life she touched.

Day Off

Today (yesterday) was my first day off in a long, long time. And, by day off I mean really off. No work whatsoever. No business. No emails. No phone calls. No accounting. No worries. No nothing.

It felt pretty great. 


Doug and I will get partial days off during the week, but a full day? I can't recall the last time, because no matter how hard we try, there is always work to do. Or, we end up talking about work even during our down time. And, by work I do mean ministry, but ministry is our work. We love our work, which makes it easy to talk about, but it's good to have time off.


Of course, Doug did not have the day off, as he is in Arizona visiting his mother, and preached two services at a church there that supports the ministry. However, Hannah and I were here, and we had a day off. In a few hours, it's back to work, and it's gonna be a doozie of a day, but at least I had today. 


Thanks, Hannah, for making it such a good one! :)