Saturday, January 30, 2010

Braggin' Rights

Okay...just a litle bragging for today.  My kids are just way too cool!  This was homecoming week at school and the prizes are awarded for the best dressed each day.  Cameron has always wanted to win, but has yet to achieve that goal.  This was definitely his year...sorry to say I did not take pictures.  Don't know what I was thinking...oh yeah, I am just trying to get out of the house on time!  ;)

Anyway, Cameron won for Geek Day and Favorite Color Day.  On Geek Day he had a shirt buttoned up to his neck with a pocket full of pens, jeans pulled up to his armpits, mismatched knee socks, dress shoes and the greasiest slicked over hair that wouldn't budge even when we tried to wash it out.  SOOO wish I had a picture!

For Favorite Color Day, he was in Jayhawk colors (of course!).  He wore blue Jayhawk shorts and shirt, painted his arms and legs blue and his head and hair red.  AWESOME!!  So much fun!

Chloe won for Maroon Mania Day!  She wore her cheerleader uniform, homecoming mum, high ponytail with a maroon mesh bow that stood high on her head and had her face painted maroon and white!  It was awesome!

My fifth grade class won the door decorating contest and the Founder's Award for class cheer at the pep rally.  We won simply because we were the only class to create a cheer based on the theme of the week...Superheros!  Ice Cream Parties await us!

Jackson and Cameron both had to miss the pep rallies because they had won the school spelling bee for their grades and the regional bee was yesterday afternoon.  Cameron finished 7th place and Jackson finished 3rd!!  I am so proud of them! 

Monday was the school speech meet.  Cameron won for his recitation of "The Honest Woodman" and Jackson won for his original speech "Our Nation:  Freedom or Chains."  The regional speech meet is in February.  I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

I truly love my children and am so blessed to be their mom!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

God's Important Nothings

I wrote the following for a ladies ministry website a few years ago and the Lord brought it to my mind recently.  I will always be encouraged by the fact that the King of Kings loves me so intimately and cares for me so deeply that He will not allow a single one of my tears to escape His attention.  And that is saying something because He created very active tear ducts in this girl!  I love Him so much and am moved that He loves me more!  He loves you more too!

"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)

When I was in high school I wanted to be just like my youth minister’s wife. She was beautiful, smart, married (which is always a dream for a teenage girl) and in an obvious love relationship with Jesus. I began to watch her closely and emulate what I saw. One thing I learned from her that I still enjoy to this day is journaling.

My mom bought my first journal and I began taking notes in church. I had the amazing privilege of sitting under the preaching of Paige Patterson and my first exposure to a little Greek. This ignited a spark of desire to learn on my own and my journal grew from simply church notes to devotional thoughts and prayers of response.

Through this relationship that was budding in the pages of my journal, I began talking with Jesus all day and my journal became an integral part of my days. I jotted down thoughts and prayers and all my important nothings. My journal is simply full of letters to Jesus; letters from my heart.

I have looked back through my journals and my important nothings in high school were all about boys. I prayed about which ones to date, which ones to set my friends up with and which one I would marry. In college, my letters to Jesus remained on boys but also showed my first true hurt in life as my mom died. The pages written during those days truly display the pain and confusion I felt as I lost my best friend.

My journals from the early years of marriage show my excitement and faith in the life God had chosen for my new husband and me. The way He provided for us during seminary and our first place of ministry is recorded in my journals. The struggle between wanting to become parents and not becoming pregnant brought questions but not always answers. And yet, my love and trust in Jesus remains evident in my journal, especially at the birth of my first and shortly after, second sons. I returned to the days of journaling about boys.

Besides the grief of losing my mom, my journals are happy and content memories of how God directs and uses us to build His kingdom. They are full of verses that God used to speak to me specifically about situations. These journals are my life story.

A few years ago my life story became one of seeming failure. My husband and I stepped out in faith and came back broken and in pain. The pages in my journal are now tear-stained with words that cannot be read. Many nights I fall asleep on a wet pillow and wake up with a headache from the tossing and turning which keeps true rest far away. I wonder when the joy of ministry will find me again and my life story return to joy.

Until that time, it is comforting to know that God is also journaling. His important nothings are all about me. He keeps track of each toss and turn that keeps me awake and counts each tear that falls down my cheek and those that get wiped away. He knows about my sleepless nights and each ache that lives in my heart. God journals about me and includes His very own words to cover my life. The Bible says that Jesus lives to make intercession for me and that intercession is evident in His ledger, His journal.

Friend, God also cares about you. He cares about your joys and your tears. He knows what keeps you awake at night. So even when physical rest eludes you, know that you can find true spiritual rest in the arms of our Father.

Gay Anne Bates

Friday, January 22, 2010

Victory Dance

When Jackson first started school we were living in Missouri and he attended New Covenant Academy in Springfield.  It was such a blessing from God for our family as it was also where I worked.  I became friends with his teacher and she shared with me how one of the other moms encouraged her.  Every Friday this mom would include a handwritten letter in the daily folder being returned to class.  Each time I had the privilege to read the letter, I was inspired and touched by the beauty of the words that centered on Scripture.

Jackson is now in the 5th grade in Texas, but I am sure that mom is still writing her Friday letters in Missouri.  As a matter of fact, I have been the recipient of some this week.  Now, I realize I shouldn't call them "Friday letters" since I have received them on Wednesday and Thursday but I just can't shake the connection of my memory. 

This friend has read my blog posts and twitter/facebook updates and messaged me about my struggles with our home building process.  And though our situation is real and we are following through with our legal rights, she helped me focus on the truth of God's word which says, "In this world you may [will] have trouble, take heart!  I have overcome the world!"  Jn 16:33

Those words are written in red...the words of Jesus...the blood of Jesus which overcame the world and His word I can confidently stand on.  I won't be sitting back and watching things happen, I will be up doing a victory dance knowing that my Savior has taken care of my troubles and He will be sure to get the glory.  I will not stand in His way!  I will dance alongside Him...waltzing with the Spirit!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

He Hears Me When I Call

"Patience is the internal calm to the external storm."

This quote was part of our Love Dare calendar last weekend and I absolutely love it....probably because I am truly in a storm.  I don't know how things are going to work for God's good.  I don't see how He will receive glory in this situation.  And, I have no idea how I am supposed to have patience which will produce a peaceful calm!

I do know that God's words are faithful and true...HE is faithful and true.  I do know that He will never let me down or leave me stranded.  And, I am confident that He will take care of His glory.  I will not stand in His way when His glory is at stake.

Even in my knowledge and experience of God's constant care and unwavering provisions, I still want to cry over what is happening to us.  My heart is broken and I just don't understand.
"God listened....
God remembered....
God saw....
God understood." 
Exodus 2:24-25 (msg)
He hears my cries and He is listening for them.  He hears my frustration and is listening for it.  He hears my heart that trusts Him and He is listening for it.

He remembers His promises.  He knows the words He has spoken to me and He remembers them on my behalf.

God sees what is happening to my family.  He sees how we are being mistreated.  His eyes are not shielded to the fact that we are being robbed.  Praise to Him, He also sees how His children are coming to our aid and defense.  He sees generosity and sacrifice offered to ease the pain and remove the isolation of loneliness.  (as if we are the only ones to ever be treated so)

He understands our hurt and our humility.  He understands our weaknesses and how difficult it is to ask for and accept the help we so desperately need.
"I've taken a good, long look....
I've heard their cries....
I know all about their pain....
I have come to help them..."
Exodus 3:7 (msg)
Even now as I write these words, His eyes are on me.  He sees my situation.  His ears are attuned to my unspoken fears and silent cries.  God knows my pain.  He has a first-hand knowledge of the feeling caused by betrayal.  And, He is here to help me.

Thank you Father!  I need You...every hour...every minute.  Heal my heart and be sure to receive the glory as You come to help me.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Mommy, Watch me!"

Today begins Cameron's basketball season...well, besides the practice schedule.  I love these two months of the year.  I love watching him play a sport that I love so much...and play so well.  And, he loves being watched...and cheered! 

Don't we all?

 Jackson decided during his basketball season last year that team sports were not for him.  He, like me, is a rule follower and he struggles when teammates and coaches don't enforce the rules during practice.  He likes things done "decently and in order."  After one practice, he came out in tears and told me that perhaps he needed to try golf because then it was only him.  I told him we would sign him up as soon as basketball ended.  And, that is just what we did!  Perfect choice.

He has played in a couple of tournaments and won 2nd place in a 4-man scramble.  The day of that tournament was a crazy one for me and I was unable to walk the course with him.  He was sad, but understood.  As the tournament was ending and I was heading back to pick him up, my daddy called asking where I was.  He was there!  He had walked the entire 18 holes watching Jackson play...and Jackson loved it!  He was sooooo happy.  I am confident having someone there watching him improved his game.

Chloe is the same way.  At gymnastics, she keeps her eye on me making sure I am looking at her and not using those precious minutes to grade papers.  During the summers at the pool there is a constant chatter of "Mommy, Watch me!  Look at me!"  And, at the Christmas play during her solo she looked straight at me and smiled the whole time waiting for her cue to begin.

We all want to be noticed and cheered.  We all want the approval of those we love.  What a wondrous knowledge that God notices us!  A great cloud of witnesses is in Heaven cheering for us.  Live your life with the goal of seeing that smile on God's face and hearing the words, "Well done."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Game Changer

For those of you that don't know, I am a HUGE Kansas Jayhawks fan!  And my favorite player is fellow Christ-follower, Tyrel Reed.  I first decided he was my favorite when Cameron was at KU basketball camp two summers ago.  KU players will come through the gyms, talk with the kids and shoot around.  Most of them wear Jayhawk attire, but not Tyrel.  The first time he came in Cameron's gym, he sat with the kids chatting away while wearing a shirt with many different names of Jesus.  On the back it said, "Everything He is, He is for you."  Here is a picture of the moment I am talking about.  (Cameron is in the #25 jersey.)

Love it!  Just as I respect and admire Tim Tebow for such awesome use of eye black, Tyrel Reed took advantage of a simple moment of influence to share his faith with impressionable boys.  I told Tyrel's father about this last season after the KU/Baylor game and he chuckled and reminded me that Tyrel is just like the rest of us...making mistakes and all.  I told Coach Reed that I am sure Tyrel is, but that is why Jesus came and I respect him for telling my son about Him.

Well, tonight KU - - #1 in the polls, undefeated! - - was losing to Cornell...unranked Cornell.  It was not a pretty picture.  Tyrel hadn't scored all game, and then he was open in the corner, shot a three and...nothing but net!  (If I remember correctly.  And if I didn't, it still went in and counted!) 

The game changed.  The crowd changed.  The players changed.  You could see it in their faces...determination now mixed with confidence.  They were not going to lose, and they didn't.  The Jayhawks are still the #1 team...undefeated!  It was such an exciting victory to watch and I love that Tyrel was a game changer!

Perfect example of what Jesus did for us!  Sin has us down...on our own we are defeated, but Jesus came.  He couldn't stay away!  He was crucified.  He was buried.  but PRAISE GOD!!!  He was resurrected!!!  Talk about a game changer!  And, He lives so that I can live.

I don't wear eye black...I am not on national television...My name does not bring up millions of results when googled.  However, I am in contact with people everyday.  My circle of influence may be smaller than Tim Tebow's and Tyrel Reed's, but God has still entrusted me with souls that are precious to Him.  He has entrusted you with a circle of influence as well.  Let's be sure we are faithful to share the exciting news about the ultimate game changer!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Cord of Three

While taking down all the Christmas trees at church, I got to talking with one of our middle school students. He is reading the Harry Potter books for AR tests at school and we began discussing our favorite characters. He mentioned that he likes Luna because she is so weird, especially when she was out with the "strange horses" (they are called thestrals).

That is one of my favorite scenes in that particular movie because of what Luna tells Harry. He feels alone, like noone understands the situation he finds himself in. Noone shares information with him during the summer months away from school. His trusted professor isn't talking to him. He feels isolated and weak.

Luna tells him that is exactly the way Voldemort (the enemy) wants him to feel because if he is all alone he isn't much of a threat.

Now I realize that Harry Potter is not a Christian movie and many Christians believe we shouldn't read the books or watch the movie. I believe that we should use whatever the world dishes out and use it to point people to Christ. The Harry Potter books make this task fairly simple, and this quote from Luna is one shining example.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (msg) "By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped."

Our enemy, Satan, wants us to feel alone and isolated in this world. He wants us unprotected so he can snap us in two. However, when we surround ourselves with fellow Christians - someone to challenge us to think right, do right and grow spiritually - we can face the worst. We will not be defeated.
Who are you surrounded with? Have you chosen friends that are growing in Christ? Have you chosen friends who are in the Word, listening for God's voice? Have you chosen friends that make wise choices in places to go and people to listen to?

Don't let Satan win this battle. Don't try to defeat Him on your own...find a Christian friend who will stand against him with you and trust the Holy Spirit to be your third. He is the strand that cannot be broken!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

He Knows My Thoughts

In Genesis 18, God appeared to Abraham and Abraham recognized Him! He saw three men approaching and he ran to greet them. He showed honor to God through his hospitality of food, drink and rest. Abraham was reminded of the covenant which God had established with him to make him a great nation. Sarah was hiding behind a tree listening and laughed to herself. Quietly...a secret rolling of the eyes...a "Yeah, right! Like that's gonna happen!" moment to herself.

Then God spoke up and asked Abraham why Sarah laughed. At that moment Sarah chose to lie to God. God Himself...face to face. She said, "I didn't laugh." But God said, "Yes, you did. You laughed."

Can you imagine?!! Lying to God and being busted for it! Lying probably came naturally to Sarah because Abraham has modeled it for her when he told her to say she was his sister. Instead of relying on the provision of the Almighty God, Abraham took matters into his own hands and lied. The truth came it always does, and Abraham was sent away.

God knew Sarah's heart. He knew that she did not believe that He was powerful enough to cause her to become pregnant at her age. She knew that having a child was past and that God would have to fulfill His covenant some other way. Before God even appeared and spoke with Abraham, He knew that Sarah would laugh. But it didn't stop Him from giving her a chance at risking something great by believing in the sovereignty of the Almighty.

As Abrahams' guests prepare to leave, God lets Abraham in on His plans to destroy Sodom. God knows that Abraham's nephew, Lot, is there and He knows that Abraham feels responsible for him. Lot's father, Haran, had died and Abraham looked after him. So, even though they were living in different cities, Abraham's heart was for Lot.

"Abraham stood in God's path, blocking His way." Genesis 18:22 (msg)

WOW! Abraham blocked God. He stood in God's way. Not only does Abraham stand there, he begins bargaining with God for the city of Sodom. He asks for it to be spared for 50 righteous lives. When God agrees, Abraham goes for 45...40...30...20 and finally, knowing he is exasperating God, he asks for 10. God agrees.

Nowhere in this passage do we find God getting angry or impatient with Abraham. He converses with him and agrees on his numbers each time. At the conclusion, God headed on to Sodom and Abraham goes home.

I'm sure Abraham goes home sad because the reputation of a city precedes it. He knew what Sodom was like and I'm sure he had tried to protect Lot in the past. Abraham also knows that God will not allow His children to live in continual sin and will probably not find 10 righteous men. He probably spent the evening mourning his nephew Lot.

First thing the next morning, Abraham went to the place where he had met with God and looked out over Sodom. All there was to see was smoke coming up like from a furnace. He did not yet know that "When God destroyed the Cities of the Plain, he was mindful of Abraham and got Lot our of there before He blasted those cities off the face of the Earth." (Genesis 19:29 msg)

God knew Sarah's thoughts even when she lied to His face. God knew Abraham's thoughts even when he didn't ask for the very thing that he wanted. Not only did He know, but He cared. In spite of her unbelief, God gave Isaac to Sarah and in spite of Abraham's embarrassment of acknowledging that a family member was living in sin, God spared Lot's life.

Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit
and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going
out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is
on my tongue, you know it completely O Lord. Psalm 139:1-4 (niv)

He knows my thoughts. He knows my heart. He knows my dreams and desires. He knows what I want to say and what I am ashamed to say. And, the best part of it all...He cares!

It matters to Him what I think. It matters to Him what I can't bring myself to say. It matters to Him that I find it hard to believe. It matters to Him that I so desperately want to please Him and am so afraid that I will fail Him. It matters to Him!

I matter to Him!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jehovah Nissi - The Lord is my Banner

While in college I went through T. W. Hunt's study, Prayerlife. What an intense time of spiritual growth that was for me. One of the many lessons that have stayed with me is the names of God.

Names have always been important to me...perhaps because of my name, Gay. My parents gave me a beautiful name meaning "happy" and the world has distorted the meaning. In youth culture today my name simply means "stupid." As an adult, I can handle this. I am proud of who I am and noone can change who I am in God's eyes. I have learned that only what God says about me truly matters. However, it has taken me 40 years to be able to say this.

I started a new school in 6th grade and got teased mercilessly for my name. I hated it. I hated the way it made me feel, never knowing who was going to say something or when they would say it. Or how many people would be around to laugh at me.
For my 7th grade year I decided to go by my middle name, Anne. As a 12 year old, I didn't think through this very well. All my new teachers and the new students called me Anne, yet to everyone else my name was Gay. So confusing.

At the end of the year awards assembly I was to receive the award in math and I remember begging my teacher to call my name as Gay Anne Weatherall. She had such a baffled expression on her face. I tried to explain the situation and offered to write it down for her. Thankfully, she remembered. You see, I hadn't told my dad about my name problems and I knew he would be heartbroken or just plain mad if he knew I was going by Anne. Or trying to go by Anne.

So, when I learned the names of God I truly had a personal attachment to the lesson. I wanted to use His name correctly. The one that captured my imagination is Jehovah Nissi. The Lord is My Banner. He goes before me proclaiming that I am His. I am protected by His blood. I am redeemed. I am His friend.

Proverbs 2:11 (msg) states, "Good Sense will scout ahead for danger, Insight will keep an eye on you." Good sense, discretion goes ahead of me as I choose to search for wisdom and knowledge. My overactive imagination pictured Good Sense and Insight as the boy scouts carrying the banner that goes before me in the parade route. You know, the ones in the Rose Parade that declare the float winners. Or the dressed up soldier type guy that announces guests at presidential or royal events.

That's me. If you are a Christ follower, that's you. Christ is announcing you. He is preparing the way for you. He is sending out His army keeping danger at bay and protecting you as you travel the path He has prepared. The path specifically chosen for you.

As I decide that 2010 is the year I truly put forth sustained, genuine effort in writing Voice Lessons, I need the knowledge that God is Jehovah Nissi. He is my banner. Tears fill my eyes as I imagine Him speaking to and preparing the hearts of those I am going to contact for permission to tell their stories. He is getting me ready to work as I research for this project.

He is my Banner. He is making the path straight and secure. Praise You, Father for going before me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Rainbows to Remember

Rainbows are gloriously mysterious. Light hitting water and placing on exhibit the wonder that is God's creation. Everyone loves to see rainbows, especially double rainbows. They are beautiful sights indeed and we stretch our necks to see if we can discover the end.

We can only imagine the perfection of that first rainbow that God placed in the sky for Noah and his family as they had endured eleven long months aboard an ark caring for every living creature from the earth. WOW! We can hardly make it with our extended family in one house for the Christmas holiday. Imagine 11 months with them coupled with all the noises and smells that Noah's floating zoo contained.

When they all came off the ark, the animals scattered and I'm sure the ladies started looking for a place to "nest," somewhere to cook and sleep and take care of the family. However, Noah's first thought was to build an altar to God. He wanted to share the gratefulness that he felt for the care and provision that God had made for his family. The sweet fragrance of that sacrifice had an effect on God and He came and spoke to Noah. (I just want to say that again.)

The sweet fragrance of Noah's sacrifice had an effect on God and He came and spoke with Noah.

Think on that. Noah's actions affected God's behavior. What if Noah hadn't honored God for delivering his family safely through the flood with an altar of honor and praise? Where would we be now? Would we know a rainbow? Our actions bring consequences to everyone around us. What we say and do effects others and even God, Himself.

Noah did make a sacrifice and God did come to speak with Him. God told Noah that He was setting up a covenent with him and everything living thing around him that He would never again destroy the Earth with flood waters. This covenant, a promise that cannot be broken, brought with it a sign of remembrance. God not only wanted Noah to have a mental knowledge of His covenant with him; He wanted Noah to have a visual image to associate with that covenant.

In Genesis 9:8-17 (msg), the word covenant is used seven times. Of those seven times, five of them are connected with the words sign or remember. God knows our limitations and He makes accommodations for them. He knows that our head knowledge becomes dim and gave us a visual reminder of the binding agreement that He made with Noah.

The day my family broke ground on our new home there was a rainbow overhead. I took a picture of it and thanked the Lord for His visual reminder of His covenant with me. Not only to keep the Earth from being destroyed by flood, but also to be my strength when I am weak. He promises to never leave me or forsake me. He promises to give His angels charge over me. He promises to one day come back for me, His bride.

I trust Him to keep His word and look forward to the visual remembrances He places before me.

"Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"