Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cinnamon Street Swing

Facebook is so much fun - keeping up with the lives of those I love. I have discovered some interesting things about people through the pages of their profiles. One such discovery is that I have some amazingly talented friends! Heather Amer has a beautiful eye for photography - - Mackenzie Lee has a gift with the written word and Josh Burgbacher is creative with Photoshop (at least I think that's the program he uses for his pics).

One picture that is in a photo album of Josh's inspired me to write a short little story. I've been thinking about it for weeks and this morning after I encouraged Chloe to watch some cartoons before I had to get out of bed, The Cinnamon Street Swing simply came together. It is based on the verses from John 14 about God sending us the Holy Spirit as our comforter.

I usually equate the Holy Spirit with conviction, keeping me in line. But His purpose, as stated from the lips of Jesus, is peace. He is with me so I won't feel abandoned or distraught. I have the Holy Spirit living in me and as I learn to live out the character of Him, I will bear His fruit.

God is so gracious and wise. He knew we would need a Savior and He knew we would need a friend. Thank you my Heavenly Father for providing ALL I need.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"You're Right!"

Being right is not something that I generally am. I don’t have the greatest memory in the world and I remember more about people than I do other things. So in talking with friends intellectually about politics or history I tend to get quiet because I invariably say something incorrect. I end up looking blonder than I pay to be!

I have a friend that has a mind like a steel trap. She knows everything and remembers everything she learns and hears. In a conversation with her, I always defer to her if we disagree on a topic.

A couple of days ago I was recognized as being right – twice! One time felt really great and the other felt terrible. It made me think that I’d rather not be right at all. I would rather be a part of finding solutions and collaborating new ideas and fresh insights with others.

I was in a conversation with a friend who enjoys discussing politics. We are not going to be voting for the same candidate in November and as usually the case, I question why he has made his particular choice. It typically boils down to the word, “change” which leads me to the argument that we will never truly enjoy change in our country until our government as is becomes scrapped and we start over. As long as senators get paid more than the president and enjoy long-term power and financial reward from lobbyists, politics will remain the same – no matter who is in office. My friend agreed with my summation and acknowledged, “You are exactly right.”

Wow! Who knew? It felt so nice to hear and to end our daily discussion on this note. I loved it!

On my way home from work that same day, I was talking to Kelly on the phone – as is our custom – and he shared that he started reading a book I recommended. (In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson – It is a great read!!) It led him to remember a decision that he felt was thrust upon us five years ago but know appears to have been chosen by him. He said that instead of the path we had taken, we should have not moved at all. He asked what I thought and I hesitated before answering. Because five years ago, I suggested that maybe the choice is to stay.

This time being right, without hearing anyone acknowledge it, was horrible. I wanted my opinion to be considered five years ago. Now I just want to be a part of the decision making to tomorrow.

Everyone wants to matter. Everyone wants to be respected and valued. Everyone wants to have a voice. Everyone wants to have someone listen to their voice. Let’s listen with our ears and our hearts. God is speaking. I want to hear!!

Speak to ME, Lord! I want to hear Your voice today!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Do You Need Help

Yesterday I read a note on a friends facebook entitled "Top Five Phrases I Hate to Hear." My friends use of the English language was pure genius and the note was right on. Phrases such as, "I like you, but...", "Fine" ("It is a lazy, thoughtless response to an, albeit over-asked, question,")and I believe "We can still be friends," was included. One thing he discussed was when we ask "What's up?" and the reply is "Not much." He states "The idea that such a negligible amount of action is taking place at any given time is as exceedingly preposterous as it is lethargic."

I thoroughly enjoyed reading his note - laughed my way through it, posted it on my facebook and forwarded it to a friend who I know would enjoy the thought process behind the writing. However, I experienced a situation last night where an "albeit over-asked question" was asked of me and I know the answer I gave, which was not "Fine." was not the one the asker was hoping for.

I was in my van - unairconditioned - with 3 tired, dirty and hungry children, heading home for dinner and a movie. We were almost there, around a corner and up a little hill, when the van started sputtering and there was absolutely ZERO power. I pressed the gas - nothing. When I released, the van would move forward a little. Inching forward with a sputtering engine was frustrating to say the least. Finally, my van gave up and went still. I turned off the engine, and turned on the hazards. I picked up my phone and called Kelly to tell him the van was dead on the side of the road. I could see our house through the trees and we were heading that way.

Before I could get out all my words a truck pulls up beside me and asked the question that we have all asked, hoping for the "Fine" answer. "Are you okay? Do you need any help?" However, I wasn't going to let my friend down and respond "I'm fine. Someone's coming." No way. I said, "Yes. Could you help me get my van to my driveway?" We could see it, however, a little hill stood right in front of us. They groaned, chuckled and groaned some more. But being from East Texas, they got out of their cool, comfortable truck and pushed me home.

All of this reminded me of a verse from my favorite book, which says, "Ask and you shall receive." We must use real words, with real emotion and be willing to express our real needs. There are people in our lives and along our paths that care. When we ask how you are, we truly want to know. When we ask if we can help, we sincerely want to extend a helping hand.

So, how are you today? How may I help you?

Friday, July 11, 2008

God Speaks

I love quotes. I usually watch movies with pen and paper in hand so that I won't miss the one line that makes a movie unforgettable. Tonight God spoke to me about the things I've been convicted about and for these couple of weeks through a quote from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego...

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)

My God will save me from the blazing furnace, but even if He does not, I will serve no other god!

Trust His Heart

I have a close friend who has spent the last year anticipating the ministry her and husband would begin together. As the original plan fell apart, God presented a new ministry that quickly became complicated and hurtful. We have spent much time on our knees crying out to God and I love that He records each tear in His ledger (“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights,each tear entered in Your ledger, each ache written in Your book.” Psalm 56:9 (The Message) ). I love that He loves me and cares when I hurt.

Sharing my friend's pain led me to remember the song sung by Babbie Mason, "Trust His Heart." The lyrics, I have included here...

Trust His Heart
Written by: Babbie Mason and Eddie Carswell

All things work for our good though sometimes we can’t see how they could.
Struggles that break our hearts in two sometimes blind us to the truth.
Our Father knows what’s best for us; His ways are not our own.
So, when your pathway grows dim, and you just can’t see Him,
Remember He’s still on the throne.

God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand,when you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.
He sees the Master plan. He holds the future in His hands.
So don’t live as those who have no hope. All our hope is found in Him.
We walk in present knowledge, but He sees the first and the last.
And like a tapestry, He’s weaving you and me to someday be just like Him.
God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand, when you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.

Singing as much of this song as I could remember last night, made me wonder what I know of God's heart. What is it that I can truly trust? Following is a small sample of all that God's heart truly is.

Deut. 31:6, 7, 23 & Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18; 10:25 & I Chron. 22:13; 28:20 & II Chron. 32:7 He is my strength and courage.

Jeremiah 29:11 He is my future and hope.

John 14:27 He is my comfort.

I John 4:8 He is my love.

Psalm 118:29 He is good!

I can trust in His courage! I can trust in His strength! I can trust in His future and hope! I can trust in His comfort! I can trust in His love! I can trust in His goodness!

So can you!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pushing It To The Limit

This weekend our family spent a day (I mean the entire day...didn't leave until the park was closed) with another family at Six Flags! It was so much fun! The moms took the little ones to Looney Tune Land and the calmer rides, the dads took the older ones straight to the heart-stopping roller coasters! Everyone had a blast! We rode Batman, Superman, Aquaman - you get the point.

Six Flags has a new ride this year called Tony Hawk, The Big Spin. It is a roller coaster where the car spins round and round as it goes up and down the track. The signs around its perimeter are Got2B hair product signs, featuring Tony Hawk, with the tagline that reads "pushing it to the limit." I walked by these signs several times that day and each time was challenged by that phrase.

At one point of the day, I felt as though I was living the phrase as I rode "Mr Freeze." I went with a 9 and 10 year old and they were giving me little tips, such as "Expect the Unexpected" and "Keep your head back." So, I took my hair clip out, leaned my head against the head rest and expected the unexpected. And, that is what I got. The engineers that designed that ride truly pushed it to the limit!! The train shoots out (feels like 0-60 in 1 second) and...I can't even remember the first thing. All I know is that I was suspended in air - straight up - and thought I would fall out of the car. The upside down loop is more like the eye of a needle in shape and the train rides the track frontwards and backwards. W. O. W.

The ride is incredibly short but amazingly intense! We arrived back with wind-blown, tangled hair and hearts racing 100 mph!! So thankful they are still beating!

Earlier in the day, Cameron was turned away from the ride because he was just a little too short. Some rides will fudge and let him ride anyway, but I am SO glad that the workers of Mr. Freeze didn't fudge. That extra inch could have been fatal - at least it feels that way!

After riding I kept thinking about that phrase, "Pushing it to the limit." And I wonder, do I push my relationship with Christ and my service to Him to the limit? Do I offer Him every last bit of time, energy and resource that I possess - that He allows me to possess? What do I do when my alarm goes off in the morning? Hit the snooze or use that nine precious minutes in communion with Him? When I find that quarter on the ground, does it find its way in my change purse to eventually get lost in a candy machine or do I offer it to Him to mulitply like the loaves and fish?

Dr. Falwell once preached an entire sermon on the phrase from Scripture, "And He went a little farther..." Jesus, Himself, pushed it to the limit in everyway imaginable. He prayed and then prayed some more. He gave and then gave some more. He healed and then healed some more.

How will I push it to the limit today? How will I go a little farther with My Savior?

How will you?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Idiots and...

Last night was the best 4th of July I have had in a long time, maybe ever! We slept in, ate yummy cinnamon rolls, juicy fruit salad and watched some cartoons. We watched a movie and then went to buy some fireworks (money may not grow on trees, but it definitely goes up in smoke! :) Then we headed over to some friend's house to cookout, swim and shoot off our fireworks. The best of the night was called "Sky Candy." What a beautiful display right above our heads.

The kids had "crackling balls" that we would light and they would throw up in the air. Well, they are supposed to throw them in the air, obviously away from one another. However, as the night wore on the "crackling balls" seemed to be from the five loaves and two fish (never ending) and the kids became a little lax in their aim.

Each kid shot off roman candles and twirled sparklers. The little ones loved throwing the snappers to the ground and hearing them pop! We were all having a good time and were ready for the big guns. The men moved to the end of the yard and setup the bigger fireworks. We were all watching the sky, enjoying the beautiful colors when all of a sudden it shot straight across the street and exploded! The next one went skyward again and we continued with our fun.

Later as we were all back by the pool, swimming in the dark and eating watermelon, it dawned on me how gracious God had been. The firework that went astray could have just as easily come toward the house where we were all watching on the porch as it went straight across the street. And then, I look at all the children jumping and swimming in the darkened pool (the pool lights wouldn't come on) and knew in my soul that God was continuing to pour His protection out on my family as we remained safe and injury free.

I commented on this to my friend and she said, "Haven't you heard, God provides extra grace to children and idiots." Hate being in this category, but thank you Jesus for giving us an incredible holiday!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

No Other Gods

This summer, I joined the Living Proof Ministries summer Bible study called "No Other Gods." I enjoy getting involved in Bible study and the writer of this particular study (Kelly Minter) will be at my church in August and I had just read a rather hilarious, yet serious, article that she had written. So I was hooked - doesn't take much, huh?

Now, the title of the series didn't inspire me too much as I have always viewed idols, or other gods, as people or things. However, Kelly describes false gods/idols as a functional god. What is it that motivates us, masters or rules us or what holds power over us? What is the controlling force in our lives?

2Kings 17:7 says, "All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods."

Kelly asked us to consider our "pharoah" and what his power looks like in our life. WOW! The last five years have definitely been a struggle for me. My life definitely isn't what I expected or even hoped for. I felt called to be a stay-at-home (except for coaching cheerleading and writing/speaking), youth minister's wife, mom. And that is exactly what the Lord blessed me with until 2003 when our world caved in.

We spent that year dealing with the hurt, confusion and disbelief. Actually, my husband spent that year with those things, I was ready to jump back into whatever God had next. I tried to volunteer at the church we were attending and was told there wasn't a need. My husband did some supply preaching while we sent out resumes and asked the Lord to place us in full-time ministry again. We are still waiting on that and slowly anger has crept into my soul a little at a time.

I am angry with my husband. Angry that he is angry. Angry that he is still selling cars. Angry that the house we were living in became inhabited by ants. Angry that our current living space is so small. Angry when I am late to work or church. It seems I am angry at everything, everyone, everytime.

Even this morning as I was getting ready for work I couldn't find my gold butterfly necklace. I crept back into my room to search in my jewelry box. As I was rummaging, my husband, who was still asleep in bed, raised his head, rolled over and went back to sleep. My anger swelled up raising thoughts of, "How dare you be mad at me! You are still asleep in bed and I am about to leave for work. I'll make as much noise as I want." Thankfully, the Holy Spirit convicted me quickly that I had another god. I prayed for forgiveness right away and felt the Spirit melt over me. (My poor husband. He did nothing except reposition in bed and I was about to spend my entire day mad at him.)

The Word says, "God is not a god of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind." God is also not a god of anger, but of forgiveness, peace and a sound mind. Those are the things I desire to have power over me and controlling my thoughts. No other God will do!

By the way, Kelly, if you are reading this...I am sorry from the depth of my soul. I love you and promise to not give in to my anger any longer! The blood of Christ has covered me and there is great power in the blood!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Comfort Food

Last weekend we went out to my aunt's house for a visit and came home with a bounty of fresh vegetables: eggplant, yellow squash, cucumbers, green peppers, banana peppers, jalepenos, tomatoes and white squash. YUMMY! I was so excited to bring home my bounty to share and, of course, eat!

My kids eyed the white squash, unsure what to think of it, and watched as I sliced it, peppered it, coated it in cornmeal and drop it in the fryer! The sound made my mouth water - simply thinking of it this morning makes me hungry. (That and the fact that I haven't eaten breakfast! :) ) My dad came in the kitchen to check out the delicious aromas and asked if I had sliced enough, so out came one more squash!

When they were nice and golden, I took them out of the oil and the moment I felt I could handle the heat, I took a bite! WOW! Not only was it delicious, but it instantly took me back to the days when I was a little girl and my cousins and I would visit grandma's in the summer and we would eat fried chicken, mashed potatoes and fried squash! Can't forget the buttermilk cornbread, you know the kind that is baked in a cast iron skillet that has been preheated with some oil, so that when you pour the batter in, it sizzles!! Man, I love that sound!!!

My kids ( well, Cameron and Chloe!) tried the squash and didn't have the same glorious smile cross their face. Theirs was more of a frown; an "Are you kidding me?" look of disgust. Jackson surmised that when they are older, perhaps they would enjoy eating squash and other varieties of vegetables, but today they would stick with the cucumbers - drenched in ranch dressing! - and good ol mac and cheese!

I think that perhaps not. Perhaps it is because my wonderful grandma introduced me to the delights of fried squash at her kitchen table with my sister and cousins around. I believe that comfort in the memory of being part of a happy, strong family makes me love fried squash so much. Even the ones I made last night, which were short on salt, were still perfect to me.