Sunday, December 25, 2011

Prince of Peace

The conversation centered on our common struggle with anxiety. 

"It seems as though I'm coming to the end of my tolerance level, and I find myself trying to pray the prayer of surrender these days", my friend said.

"That could be the point of this whole frustrating, painful season, where just normal living becomes so labored and calculated trying to overcome anxiety's gripping tenacles."

"Probably", she responded.

"The bottom line is, do we trust the Prince of Peace, or not?"

"Yes, but it is so hard sometimes."

"I know. I know."

This Prince of Peace who gave up all to come to save us from sin and it's effects, anxiety for example,  is always working to show us His trustworthiness and to coax our hearts to surrender all to him who only has good for us.  Even the difficult distresses of life are ripe opportunities for him to tenderize our affections towards this Lover of our souls.

So this Christmas season may you be encouraged to seek his face, his wisdom, his grace and his gifts of life and love.  Let's make it our goal this new year to know him better. For to know him is to trust and love him more.  You are worth his coming, his death and his ressurection! What a reason to celebrate!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What's In a Name?

I have sisters –in-law who are elementary school teachers. With the start of each new school year, our family is entertained by the unusual or ridiculous names of children in their classrooms. A familiar name gets an update with a unique spelling, or a child is saddled with a long title, or, as the present trend seems to be, children are named for an object. Listed under celebrity baby names I found Apple, Banjo, Ocean and Moon Unit.

I was named after a woman in the Bible, and my name means ‘companion; friend’. I like to think that I’ve become someone who resembles the person I was named for. An endearing nickname secured my sense of belonging among family and close friends. Names do matter.

In today’s Scripture, Isaiah predicts the birth of a child who will come with great mission and purpose. He will be as a light in the darkness, and a deliverer who causes rejoicing. He will govern, and his kingdom will have no end. A single name for this baby is too confining. He will be called…

Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace

Jesus’ birth fulfilled this prophecy and for those of us who have received adoption into his family, we know how well these names fit him. The times I’m confused or in need of guidance, Jesus counsels me through Scripture or through other believers inspired by his words. God is mighty in creation, and in working things out for good in the messiness of my life. To call Jesus, Father, means we are family, and I belong to him. I even have the privilege of using his nickname, Abba. This Father’s care for me is lasting and forever.

When life is uncertain, when insecurity makes me anxious, when conflict brings turmoil, and when worry has seized control of my mind, I run to the Prince of Peace to find refuge and help. In this place of rest, those who struggle to make peace with their given name, will find Jesus calling them Loved and Chosen.

There is a glorious King above heaven and earth who came down into our world so we could be familiar with the one whose name is above all names. I am awed and filled with wonder.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas Greetings!

Greetings!
Did you ever see the Christmas ditto picture?  Check it out here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1233485/DITTO-When-compete-neighbours-Christmas-lights-just-best-thing-.html
As the busyness of the season closes in, maybe I can 'ditto' some of the lovely newsletters we've been receiving from many of you.  But it doesn't work that way.  Our life, like yours is unique and the year of memories behind us has been woven into each of our life's stories.

Here are a few of our memories I'll hold onto:

Magazine Days with the local Grandkids-a.k.a-  day when the grand kids come over and we read the latest issue and do a related craft and snack

Aubrey (7) daughter of Dan & Kristina

 
Auron (4) son of AJ and Amanda; Shawn (4) son of Dan & Kris







Times of skyping with Jodi and family in FL.
The boys are growing so fast! Check out these photos Eman created:
Ian (3)
Dominic (1)

Easter weekend brought the extended Showalter family our way and we enjoyed lots of visiting, games and catching up.  What a great time together!

Our trip to PA. in August, with good friends, Steve and Verna, to attend other good friends' son's wedding. The wedding site was close to my sister Lois and husband, and we enjoyed a few days with them as well.

I'll remember this year in my job as the year of changes.  Positions at the library are shifting, and I will be increasing hours and responsibilities.  I enjoy the college setting.
Kevin's job remains the same at Tri-State Air Compressor Co.

The 3 one-year birthdays we celebrated in April, August and November:

Dominic and his 2 Indiana cousins:







Rebecca (1) daughter of Dan and Kris
                                                 Elika (1) daughter of AJ and Amanda


Josh and family came to visit at Thanksgiving.  Jill and Elle are delightful young ladies and we had a bunch of baking, crafting fun together!


Jill (10)
                                                                         Elle (8)

The jaunts to Valparaiso to see Austin, or the places we've met for dinner between our cities, has kept us connected.  His visits home are always welcomed, laundry and all. :)


We'll treasure gatherings with friends from church, and worshipping Sundays with our church family at Harvest Community Church (formerly Zion Chapel).

Most Sunday nights find us snuggled up for a movie and big bowls of popcorn.  I may not remember every movie we watched, but the time we carved out for this relaxation is a highlight of the week.

Keeping up this blog has been a great outlet for spurring on my writing.  I'm thankful for this and Facebook to keep in touch with so many of you and for the new friends I've made.

Whatever your memories are of 2011, the Master Storyteller is editing them with beauty and grace. May He bless you with Peace, Joy, and the Glad Tidings of a Savior born to give us life and to be our constant Companion.   Cheers to the new year ahead!

Love from our home to yours,
Ruth and Kevin Hochstetler

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ditto!

I love this picture! Because it's funny, but it also says to me that I don't have to compete with the Jones. We have simple candle lights in the windows at our house, but I greatly enjoy the elaborate display across the street from us. I struggle each year at this holiday time to keep it simple. I want to ponder on the wonder of the glorious gift God sent in Jesus Christ and out of that focus, give to others. To find the perfect gift to impress is not worth feeling frazzled after the hectic trek to the overcrowded mall; a trip squeezed in between baking ahead for visiting relatives and decorating the house. So I pray daily for guidance to keep in step with my Guide and to make wise decisions with my time and to stay in His Peace as days fill with plans and pressure tries to mount. The only overwhelming I want to experience is my cup overflowing with Joy that comes from the quietness of His presence and being free to enjoy the beauty of the season. May you also be quieted in Him today.

Monday, December 5, 2011

You Had to Have Been There

As we waited for the Christmas presentation to begin, we tried to converse over the cacophony of dissonance the orchestra instruments were pitching around the auditorium.  As the lights lowered, the conductor took his stand, and all became still.  With a slight motion of the conductor's hand, beautiful music of seasonal melodies began.  My senses were saturated; the effect was breath-taking.

I mused on the contrast of the two musical moments.  One left me disconcerted and the other evoked awe and goose-bumps.  I noticed the eyes of the musicians shifting from page to conductor, following the cues and written notes meticulously.  The violin bows moved in sync and the woodwind keys pumped in perfect timing.

How I want to be the eager follower of my Conductor of Life.  With my eyes on Him and my practice and precision of conduct focused on His Word, I want my life to be in harmony with Him and others. As we all keep our eyes on the Conductor, we will move in corresponding rhythm with each other and our beauty will be seen, felt and heard by all.

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the season and may your days be filled with harmony as you stay focused on the Conductor.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving,  A Time for Giving ...

T- taking time for turkey, tempting treats and trimmings around the table with teens, tots and old-timers
H-hilarious happiness while detecting deceptive definitions during a Dictionary game
A-awestruck awareness of  our amazing glorious God who gives these gifts to
N-'njoy!
K-kute grandKids kreating khaos, kalling or krafting or kooking with kousins
S-super sweetness to savor and share with smiles

Three pounds of butter later and after numerous ounces of coffee consumed , the weekend comes to an end with my body in need of sleep and my laundry room full of dirty sheets.  I'm thankful for the family and friends who share my life and all the blessings we embrace everyday.

I offer you praise and gratitude, Father for every good and perfect gift.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Come Away, My Beloved!

A master-piece photograph from my son-in-law!  My daughter is in the foreground with Ian and Dominic, my grandsons watching the photo- shooting action.  The title sets the MOOD. 

Moms need a break from the action.
A time to pull aside and drink deeply.
A time to inhale stability and exhale stress.

Coffee breaks are refreshing~caffeine kicks in to energize~ morning head- fog clears~ flavor soothes a soul-longing~sharing the moment with a friend deepens the delight~sipping prolongs the pleasure! What are you waiting for~ GO, make a cup!

How realistic is the prospect that my daughter can really pull this off, dress clothes and all? If she could escape for even a minute, Dominic cries for her in the background and commitments call.

Yet, so real is our Constant Companion, Jesus Christ.  He is


refreshing our thoughts~Philippians 4:8
energizing our strength~Isaiah 40:31
clarifying our confusion~Philippians 3:15
soothing our longings for goodness~Psalm 34:8
delighting us through words with friends~Proverbs 27:9
lingering in us with sweetness~Psalm 119:103

Need a moment of escape, a quiet place to refocus, a back to lay your burden on, or a word you desperately need to whisper to someone who hears? He's always available for that quick break away, even if you can't stop the action around you.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 

Especially during this holiday season, may you find those much-needed-breaks, my friend.

Thanksgiving be to God for you and for Spiritual Sundays!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leadership Follow-up

God is so good! I'm still searching for more of his heart in leadership issues, (see the previous post)  but I am thankful for a few scriptures he brought to mind as I was in prayer this week.


I Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Father, teach us what it means to love like this.
The kind of love that  is patient and  kind.
Does not envy, does not boast,  is not proud.
Does not dishonor others,  is not self-seeking,  is not easily angered,  keeps no record of wrongs.
The kind of Love that does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.(I Cor. 13:4-7)

I John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Father, I know that in your Light we see Light. Help us to live there, to camp there. Your light keeps the darkness away. The dark of criticism, slander, unforgiveness, pride and self ambition. We need Fellowship with you but also with one another. Thank you, Jesus for making it possible through your death and resurrection.

Scripture from the New International Version

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Leadership God's Way

Leadership in the local church has been a theme in my life lately, and I'm on a quest to understand better how God intended it to work. Our pastor began a sermon series last Sunday on how he believes Scriptural leadership is ordained by God and what it should look like.  This Sunday an overseer of our church was visiting and also spoke on this subject. 

God has called our church to focus on the harvest and we've recently changed our name to reflect this call and are close to starting to build a new addition onto our building.  Whether the enemy is working extra hard right now to thwart that call, or God is highlighting a pattern of weakness in how we handle offences so he can change us, or both, we have experienced a number of people leaving because of offences against the leadership. 

There is no question church leadership is needed. The overseer gave an example of watching a flock of sheep get frightend and start stampeding. Whichever sheep happened to be in front and what ever direction he was headed the rest followed.  If another sheep gained the lead position and jagged a different way the whole herd changed course and followed the new leader.  From a distance it was quite humorous to observe their zigzaggedy flight.

It is no compliment to us to be compared to sheep. But God knows how needy and vulnerable we are and he created leadership to direct, nuture and care for us. Leaders have an awesome responsibility before God and will someday stand and give an account to him for how they shepherded the sheep under their care.  But we too, as followers have a responsibility to honor, trust and respect those caring for us.  Will we allow someone's accusation against leadership to raise suspicions in us, or is our first response to give the benefit of the doubt to the leaders?  When there are wrong things done in leadership God has graciously provided a way to work things out (Matt. 18) and a proper method to follow. It's not a blind trust, but neither is the church a place for everyone to do as he pleases and according to what seems right in his own eyes.

While there is less respect for authority in the world today and popular thought says individual rights should be demanded and accessed at all costs, the church can show a different form of response to government. I haven't always gotten this right and my attitudes have not always lined up with God's desires in this area.  I'm asking him to help me learn his ways and to walk in obedience, and I'm asking him to keep helping my local church to get this right.

I'm thankful that God has established the church to be his vehicle for bringing his kingdom here to earth. He called some to be leaders, and gave them as gifts to his people. They prepare us for service, build us up, help us become mature, and teach us the truth so we aren't tossed around by false teaching and deceit.  The ultimate goal is  for all of us to grow up into Christ who is the head, our Lord.  (Eph. 4:11-15) I'm thankful I have Godly leaders in my life, who love the church and are men of integrity and honor.

What about you?  Are you experiencing healthy church leadership and healthy sheep response?  Or what has God taught you in this area that you can share with me?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011



In the book, The Grace of God, by Andy Stanley, God's grace is portrayed in story form fashion and Andy creates a fresh angle on a popular subject. To those who find the Old Testament God lacking in grace, Andy argues that the divine intent from the beginning was to show mankind huge grace with little requirement.

After Adam and Eve sinned grace brought discipline rather than destruction and provided redemption through the promise of Jesus who would crush the serpent's head.  The story continues with each chapter highlighting a Biblical character whose life showcases God's grace.

Abraham was chosen to begin a nation through which God would fulfill His plan to send Christ. Through Moses, God initiated relationship with a nation of Egyptian slaves and then gave them His law to confirm His care for them.  The  law is intended not to make us good, but to keep us free from the natural consequences of sin. When the law is broken, God's grace included instructions for how to make amends.

Other Biblical stories in the book include God sparing Rahab's life in the Jericho account, grace that was bigger than David's notorious sin with Bathsheba, and a grace that complicated Jonah's life by calling him to administer grace to an enemy nation. Grace is God's response to the thirsty soul as evidenced in Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman.
 
Lastly, the author challenges the church to neither add to or take away from this Grace, or it will not longer be Grace.  Let the church not make it difficult for the new believer to be embraced and accepted.

Without complicated theological arguments or definitions, the Grace of God is a comfortable read.  There were sections where I believe the author takes a fair amount of liberty in assigning motive or conclusion to a Biblical account.  Nicodemus probably became a believer after his late night clandestine visit with Jesus.  He is openly involved in removing Jesus' body from the cross. However, Stanley covers almost 5 pages explaining how Nicodemus reasoned his way to faith and then makes this statement, referring to the crucifixion of Christ.
"Nicodemus stood in the crowd and watched as Jesus was lifted up.  Perhaps he was the only one who understood the significance and sacredness of that moment.  And as he watched the Messiah die, he believed.  He was born from above.  For the first time in his righteous life, he had assurance of a righteous standing with God." (p. 160)

Another section that bothered me was, again, within the Nicodemus story.  To Nicodemus, Jesus compares his death to how Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Stanley claimed the Israelites had wandered into an area that had poisonous snakes.  As many people where dying, God instructs Moses to create the snake to set on a pole.  (Num. 21:9).  "It was an object lesson meant to to teach the nation to look to God for their protection and provision." (p. 155)  I think Stanley misses the redemptive message in the Numbers account. Verse 7 clearly implies the snakes were sent by God because the people had sinned and spoken against the Lord.  The snake was raised so that anyone who looked upon it could live. Without that truth in the story there is no redemption and a comparison to Jesus' death would infer that his reason for death was less than a willing sacrifice for our salvation.

Even with these flaws, I gained a perspective on divine grace that increased my awe of a good God who loved humankind from the beginning and has always been working for reconciliation and provides a way for them to be eternally with him through sending his only son to die for their sins. This message is clearly presented in a prayer for salvation the author includes in chapter 10.

There are great quotes throughout the book that could easily be extracted for gracing a refrigerator door. I'll leave you with just a few to ponder.

"Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don't deserve."

"Christ's death and resurrection signaled to the world that the kingdom of God is not reserved for good people.  It is reserved for forgiven people."

"In God's story, you are the focus of a celebration.  Not what you've done. You."

I received this book free of charge from the Booksneeze.com program in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Proof is in the Pudding (Black Bean Brownies)

This week I had an encounter with the 'proof is in the pudding'.  I'll tell you more in a minute, but I want to set the background for this makes-no-sense proverb.  I mean really, what can be proved by looking in pudding? Or does it mean whiskey was added to the pudding?

Actually the phrase is a shortened version of 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating', meaning in order to fully test something you need to experience it for yourself.  According to  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/proof-of-the-pudding.html   the earliest printed example of the proverb they could find is in William Camden's Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine, 1605: "All the proof of a pudding is in the eating."

Now for my story.  Every Thursday my work place has a sit down coffee break where staff can enjoy refreshments and bat around any topic that comes up. It's one of the highlights of our week.  Each of us takes turns bringing snacks. One of my co-workers is on a gluten-free diet and we try to accomodate her needs by bringing something she can eat, too.  Being one to try new things and wanting to break out of the usual monster cookie or no-bake cookie selection, I decided to try a recipe I had read about online.  I gathered the ingredients from the Sav-a-Lot grocers on my way home from work and whipped up a batch of brownies, following the recipe carefully.  Gluten-free means no flour and this recipe replaced the standard wheat staple with of all things, BLACK BEANS!  The batter looked great, but the predominant smell wasn't chocolate as I poured it into the baking pan.  I kept hoping the Tex-Mex bean smell wafting from the oven would somehow dissipate and the final product would taste like a normal brownie. 

As soon as the finished brownies were cool enough to sample I cut out a small chunk, hoping the still pungent bean smell was just my imagination.  The first bite wasn't awful but definitely not the chocolate fix I was looking for.  The texture was perfect, just like the real thing.  Of course, I had to try another bite trying to persuade my mouth to taste brownie only.  Maybe if I wait until morning and it cools completely, I'll have a good enough counterfeit to share for coffee break.

I set the alarm early just in case I'd be making the back-up pumpkin custard recipe.  After one more hopeful nibble,  I pronounced the experiment unsuccessful and tossed the beautiful looking, perfectly bodied batch of brownies into the trash.  I did keep a few squares to take along to play a guess-the-secret-ingredient game.

Later at break, my brave co-workers humored me by 'prooving' the mystery brownies.  As the guesses came in for the hidden ingredient, --cumin?, chili powder?, garlic?--it slowly dawned on me that the beans I had used had probably been canned with some spices and seasoning.  Kind and adventuresome, some of the group actually asked for the recipe.  At home that night, a quick check of the empty bean can confirmed the suspicions, the beans had been spiked!

So there you have it. The proof of the brownies was in the eating. I'm including the black bean recipe at the end of this post, and now that we all know what not to do, we may actually be onto something good. :)

That whole experience makes me think of how we can mix worldly thoughts or things into our lives and hope their presence doesn't show or that no one will notice. We can even look good on the outside and display the right form or structure, but we can't quite mask the bad 'smell' that will show up sooner or later.  Because our hearts can so easily deceive us, the mixing may be a subtle thing we're not even aware of until His Spirit gently exposes the truth. 

2Corithians 2: 14-16 says, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?" 

Father, I want to be this fragrance. So that others see Jesus in me, no mixed messages, but the truth without compromise. Keep me coming back to you, humbly confessing sin and allowing you to cleanse me, so I'm the real deal inside and out.

Back to the medieval pudding refered to in the proverb, it was most likely not a creamy sweet desert style pudding , but rather some form of  meat. Quoting from the site mentioned earlier, the pudding was described as "'the stomach or one of the entrails of a pig, sheep, or other animal, stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, suet, oatmeal, seasoning, etc., and boiled...Mediaeval peasants, faced with a boiled up farmyard massacre, might have thought a taste test to have been a wise choice."

Be a sweet Fragrance this week and take in the sweet scents of fall-a pile of leaves, pumpkin spices, bon fires, apple desserts, hot apple cider...


And now the BLACK BEAN BROWNIES!

Ingredients

  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish.
  2. Combine the black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, and instant coffee in a blender; blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You are Enough for Me

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." -John Piper

Ever notice how the right time, the right conversation and the right people can bring an unidentified feeling or mood to the surface and you find yourself naming something that you knew was there but couldn't quite put your finger on? I found myself confessing to a friend recently that I was dissatisfied and discontent.  Saying it out loud felt good, but at the same time I now had to face what my emotions had been storing up inside.

Could I blame it all on a job that doesn't seem very fulfilling?  Was I guilty of comparing my life with  friends on Facebook? At church?  The kind of comparing that leads to wishful thinking and seeing greener pastures on the other side of the fence.  If I went to that church, my ministry might be noticed and needed more.  I wonder what it would be like to have a husband who...No, I didn't think so, although I know I'm very capable of comparing myself to others.

After further scrutiny I believe the disscontent was fueled by a longing to see my life counting in ways I think are worthy and what think fruit should look like.  I had raised a heartfelt cry to be about the business of the Kingdom in ways that would yield more tangible results.  Results of the kind that end up in a ministry newsletter or get broadcasted through a testimony at church.  What was happening through my life that I could even write home about?

Never One to let an opportunity pass , the Father began to direct my moping into prayers from my heart that yearned for His presence even more than evidence of His work within and through me. As if He had pivoted the control wand to open my heart's window blind, I began to see slat -sized amounts of His light shining through.

Like what happened later in the week at a work luncheon I attended. I was seated at a table with people I didn't know.  The conversation flitted through various trivial topics and landed on recent tragedies our community had suffered.  I added a small detail no one else knew about a seeming coincident that had happened which prevented even further grief and I tagged the information as a God-thing.  Immediately, someone began to tell us about a God-sized thing that had happened in her life. We were now engaged in sharing God -sightings.  Could it be a small off-hand comment had been breathed on by His Spirit?

The next day at work I listened to a radio program.  The host of the show was interviewing, Mitch Kruse, one of my favorite Godly authors, whose wisdom  has inspired me often. He said that as he gets older he realizes how great his need for God is, not just to save him, but to be his Enough. Only Christ can satisfy our desires, and yet we have a tendency to say I need Christ plus... or I need Christ minus...Mitch prays, "Holy Spirit, you are Enough for me."  We have been made to find our ultimate joy, when we are fully satisfied in Him.   That was it! The prayer my heart was needing to express. That's where I want to be. When I get that, I will be involved in what Mitch called my 'ultimate value' of bringing His joy to others. Could it be that the Father was speaking very specifically into my situation just when I needed it?!

The next morning as I climbed into the car to leave for work, I realized my umbrella had been lifted off the floor of the garage where I had left it sprawled out to dry the night before, folded neatly and laid within reach on the passenger's seat, ready to serve me in the rainy day that lay ahead.  Could it be that the Father was showing His kindness to me through a thoughtful, tender husband?  Kindness on a day I needed to not only know He loved me in this place of neediness, but to feel it and see it through a simple act of love.

Since the blind was opened, I sense a new expectancy.  The Father is working in and around me and I know there will be more reasons to rejoice as I discover how Enough He is.  I am looking for the reasons and praying my heart continues to search for His heart even more than His hand at work.

In keeping with the eternal theme He seems to bring me back to, I anticipate a future day coming when He'll grasp the cord of the blind and lift it completely, showing me the full Glory of God in the face of Christ. What a day that will be!

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I will see,
When I look upon His face,
The one who saved me by his grace.
When he takes me by the hand
and leads me to the promised land.
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Until then may we all find our satisfaction in Him.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In-spite-of Grace

I pull the tan, brocaded shawl tighter around my face.  The feelings of fear and shame are constant companions.  I remember how it used to be. I draw in a sharp breath as the memories resurface. Even after all this time, I still feel the sting of all I have lost.

Our friendly bantering at the well, as women friends. 
The intimacies we shared.  Leah had recounted her troubles with Eli.  We all thought he would divorce her.  But Jesse says they seem happy now.  Her boy Aaron has sure made a great playmate for my  Jesse.  Oh, for the naiveté and carefreeness of childhood!  If only I could have my 'playmates' back.

I lift the jar off my shoulder and struggle with the pot’s clumsiness as I ease it down into position.  I make this daily journey alone now.  It’s best to come after the others are gone.  Safer.   The scornful looks, the rejection.  I never had the chance to explain.  After my two husbands, Noah and John each died,  I had sympathy from the other women and was nursed to healing with their generous gifts and expressions of love.  When did these same companions decide to cast me into a role I couldn’t break out of?  Was it after I married Oman?  He had divorced at least two other wives before me, but with my 5 children I needed his support, to survive.  Surely, it was a reasonable answer to my condition, by anyone’s standard.  Yet, I knew then that some of them were beginning to shut me out. 

I lean over the edge of the well to view my draw of the day as the jar rises to the surface.

Maybe Oman divorced me because I was older than he.  There had been no concrete charges.  He just informed me of the annulment drawn up with the city elders, as he was removing his belongings from our home. I was glad he had left me the house, but my life unraveled after he walked away. 

Then came the quick marriage with Dan, just so he could make Deborah jealous.  Why didn’t I possess the sense to see through his schemes; in spite of how badly I needed him to take care of us?

I realize my thoughts are spiraling downward again.  It doesn’t  matter anymore.  I can share my bed with whomever now.  There is no chance for absolution. In fact, the one who lives with me now, will be there when I get home.  He needs me.  He too, bears the mark of shame.  I can tell, even if he hasn’t shared his secrets with me yet.  I hoist the filled jar onto my left shoulder.

“Just a moment”, I hear a man’s voice say behind me.  I hesitate.  No honorable man would be here at this time of day.  I should hurry away.  But, there’s something in his voice and tone that beckons me to turn.  I look. He seems clean, no evidence of drunkenness.

“May I have a drink?” he says.  His eyes are sincere as they gaze at my face.  He makes no inappropriate glances at my womanliness.  I comply. He helps me lift the heavy jar down off my torso, then fills and tilts the small cup floating on the surface of the water to his lips.

He begins a conversation with me.  How odd, I muse. 
He’s one of Them. Most of Them disdain even coming into our region. 
And men never speak to my gender.  I’m torn between feeling distrustful of his motives and curiosity as to why he is disregarding custom. So I ask him why he would do this.  He talks of some kind of water that he has that quenches thirst, so a person never gets thirsty again. 

Odd answer. I try and categorize the stranger.  Is his mind the simple kind, or is he maybe deluded?  I decide to play along with him and ask more about this miracle drink.  Then I’m completely caught off guard as he changes the subject.  Immediately, I feel the familiar panic inside as he asks me to bring my husband to him.  My heart beats faster.  I say I have no husband.  He opens my fear wider as he states that I’ve had five husbands and now have a live-in. I want to feel anger at his brashness, but I’m stunned that this stranger knows me. He keeps his eyes on me,tenderly, and suddenly there is no place to hide. Caught in the unfamiliar position of being exposed yet not condemned, I grasp for some subject to divert the focus from me. I have to regain composure.

Sure that my visitor is at least a prophet, I boldly ask some religious controversial question about where to worship.  He graciously allows my diversion and even though I had planned to stall for time to sort my feelings, I am aware that his answer is satisfying my longing for acceptance and validation. God, he says, wants worshippers who worship in spirit and in truth. 

I have just owned up to some ugly truth and my heart is beginning to believe I can worship again.  My cold interior is beginning to thaw.  I am in awe and wonder aloud if the Promised Messiah, the Wonderful Counselor I’ve been taught would come someday will be something like him, only I say  ‘something like you’, because I am sharing the thought with him.  He says quietly and simply, “I am He”.

I need little convincing; who else could know me so well and love me like I had only imagined was possible before, and in spite of who I had been.  This reality begins to possess me and I feel about to burst with exuberance.  Just then companions of his approach us, hesitantly, probably all questioning the unlikelihood of a woman sitting beside him.

I see my chance for escape and quickly get up, leaving the water jar, leaving a life I was in just minutes ago, and running towards town.  No shame ran with me, no need to hide anymore.  I begin to tell the story to anyone who will listen. As I look back now, part of the miracle of this whole encounter was the fact that many, most in fact, listened to me and were clamoring for me to take them to him. 

He stayed there, in our region, among us for two days.  He worked his magnificent forgiveness and love in all of us.  We are different now. The Messiah has come. 

I'm almost finished with a book by Andy Stanley, The Grace of God.  Chapter 11 is about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman. Andy says:
"Like the woman from Sychar, we have all developed ways of coping with our past and ways of coping with our current circumstances.  We all have approaches for coping with the uncertainties of tomorrow.  Sustaining grace becomes a reality only after we have put away our inappropriate, self-serving  coping mechanisms.  I think this is why Jesus dug around in the woman's past.  To resurface what had been there all along: thirst. Thirst for forgiveness.  But beyond that, he resurfaced thrist for the ability to face her past and cope with the present. For Jesus to quench her thirst, she needed to feel it.  So in his own way he exposed and then pushed aside her coping mechnisms.  He wanted to bring grace to the point of her greatest thirst.  But to do that, she needed to be thirsty.

The same is true for us. We can't receive God's forgiving grace while continuing to prop ourselves up through denial and self-effort.  To experience God's in-spite-of grace we must allow ourselves to feel the thirst created by our past.  The past must be embraced before it can be overcome...Culture teaches us to hide our weaknesses. Culture encourages us to compensate for our weaknesses.  Jesus encourages us to acknowledge our weaknesses and then cling to him for the grace to function in spite of them."

Andy says that just as the apostle Paul asked for God to remove a hinderance in his life and God's answer was that His strength is made perfect in weakness, so when we admit we are weak, God can be strong in and through us. That's how we realize his sufficient grace.

Lord Jesus, help me not to try and hide or cover up my weaknesses.  I want to  rely totally on your grace, believing you will sustain me in-spite-of what my past holds or what is happening around me now.

This childhood song comes to mind:

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I've proved him 'ore and 'ore.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus,
Oh, for grace to trust him more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Worth-ship

A Bible Study on Revelation asked us to relate work and worship.  A commentary gave the definition of worship as worth-ship.  Who/what are we assigning worth to? How are we worshiping while we are working?

It's in the fruit of our lips,
The silent prayer,
To do good and share.

The smile of welcome,
The song in our heart.
To listen, His art.

The helping hand,
Loud praise in the car,
Refusing to spar.

Extending forgiveness,
Gossiping none,
Focused on One.

Love shown to all,
Joy filled to the brim,
Mirroring Him.

To worship is heavenly as Revelation so vividly depicts.  Everything I do, done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to the Father through him is my heart showing worth-ship.  To know Him is to love Him.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Sweetness of Belonging

The weekend events are now history and the car is traveling towards home.  Dusk is approaching and I'm  filtering through memories of conversations, observations made and emotions felt during the recent family gatherings. I'm filing these snippets into my memory, like slipping papers into manilla folders for storage in the filing cabinet.

Stepping into the pizza parlor party Friday night will fall under the Grand Parenting tab. What celebrity feels more popular than a Nana greeted by four preschoolers squealing their delighted greetings? In the midst of the hugs, I pat a shoulder blade at my waist, stretch to tousle a head at my knee and try to make contact with as many limbs as I can touch. The oldest grand daughter arranges our seating so she can sit by me.
I greet the adults next and we all sit down for good food and pleasant conversation.  How grateful I am.  This is belonging.  This is the love of family.

Two hundred miles later.  Another family.  Another gathering.
No grand kids here but nieces and nephews and 'great' ones, too.  Yes, I'm that old.  I watch uncles play croquet with brothers-in-law and cousins wrestle with fathers.  Mothers change grand kid's diapers and grandpas tell stories to lapfuls of children.  Sisters-in-law share intimacies while a nephew withdraws to quieter places with a newly announced fiance.  We smile at the rookie walker swaying on unsteady feet and laugh at the silly antics of a 3 year old.  Filed now in Family I'd Like to See More Often. 

Again, Belonging is touching hearts with her warmth and generous gifts of contentment and security.

Than you, Father of all, for the gift of family.  I often take it for granted.  I don't know what it would be like to not be loved by a family or to be abandoned by those I'm genetically related to. Be near to those today, who are experiencing rejection and left-outness.  Cuddle them on your lap.  Dandle them on your knee and whisper your love to their hearts.  Use me to bless and include others into your wide, wide family of believers. For you are the Creator of Home and you've made us to live with You. You are Father to the fatherless and defender of widows and children.  In you, we will always belong.  Filed under Forever Loved.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day #21!!

Day #21
This is the final day of our prayer challenge. 
My prayer today is for _________to always have a pure heart towards you.  Protect him from evil and preserve him for yourself in this sexually charged immoral society.  Give him a healthy understanding of his sexuality and your plan for sexual expression in marriage.  

I entrust all my grandsons to you today, Father.  Watch over them and  draw them to yourself.  I trust you now and for the future.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day #20

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

Day#20-“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~Isaiah 41:10 

McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Locations 1320-1323). Kindle Edition.

Lord Jesus, free _________'s heart of any fear.  Help him to know you as his strength and helper. 

Tomorrow is the last day of this challenge.  There may not be noticeable changes of behavior in my grandson since the start of this project, but I believe our Father heard every prayer and they are being answered!  Thank you, for loving your children enough to continue the transformation to become like your Son.

Day #19

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

Days #19-The weekend was busy with a trip to a family gathering on another side of the family.  I admit I did not pick a new verse to pray for my grandson.

I believe my prayers can be continuous and retroactive.  Gracious Father, thank you for guarding my grandson and loving him passionately, even when I miss a day of specific prayer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Days 17 & 18

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

Day#17
Even thought I didn't pray specifically for this grandson today, he was included in the prayer I pray for my family almost every day...Lord, give us all the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may know you better. (Eph. 1:17)


Day#18
Lord, save__________to the uttermost as he draws near to God through Christ (Hebrews 7:25)

McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Location 1187). Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Days #15 & 16

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)


Day #15
Lord, may _________ always have at least one good friend who will sharpen him as iron and spur him on towards you.

Day #16
May ________pursue righteousness and love so he will find life, prosperity and honor.  Prov. 21:21

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Get Your Head in the Clouds

You know that saying-- some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good?  After listening to our pastor's sermon on Sunday, I'm wondering if we may have adopted that as an excuse to keep from deliberately thinking of heaven.
Pastor Steve asked what we are anticipating.  Is it tomorrow's tasks? What we will do or see in the next week? Getting married?  Having grandkids?  Some of these are necessary things and others bring us joy or relaxation.  None of them wrong or evil, but I think the point is, do we ever even think about the eternal perspective?  The Bible says we have a new heaven and a new earth to look forward to where there is no sorrow, crying or pain.  The Holy Spirit- inspired- authors -of -Scripture make many references to this expected future of looking ahead to the return of the Lord,  the resurrection of the Godly, working while it is still day, and running the race to win the prize. Many of Jesus' parables illustrated what will happen when we move from this life to the next.  We say we want to hear his words of "well done, good and faithful servant!" when we come to the end of our life here on earth.  But are we living with daily awareness and hourly consciousness that our choices now matter then?

I know I pray that I will be led by the Spirit though out my day and be open to divine appointments, but would there be a different level of expectancy if I would pray and realize what I do counts for eternity? How can I be obedient to the verses in Col 3:1-3 where I'm instructed to set my mind on things above and not on the things of this earth?

Lord, help me.  I am so entrenched in what I plan to do and the future I expect on this earth.  Teach me to store treasures in Heaven--I want my heart to be there!  The imminent return of the Lord Jesus defined the way early church leaders thought and acted.  There is work to be done in the harvest.  The time is short!

My silver-toned Honda blended into the grayscaleness of a thick fog on my commute to work today.  In the eerie density no school buses stalled my progress.  No object in the mirrors appeared ...period.  Thinking on things above had me speculating with the Father on what a brilliant grand entrance the Son would make, returning on an a.m. like this!

Lift up my eyes. Above the complacency that comfort brings. 
Teach me how to think and feel like you do, Jesus.  
I am yours; here to serve and not to be served. 
May I be trustworthy of the assignments you've prepared for me today.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Days #12-14

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

Day # 12
I must confess I forgot to pray specifically for my grandson today.  I know the Father's face continues to shine on you, little one, and his angels are never shirking their duty.

Day #13
May _________hide your word in his heart.  As he is in Sunday School and church today, may your word penetrate his heart and mind.

Day #14
Help _______ to learn obedience to his parents.  May he also learn from the consequences of his wrong behaviors.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Days #10 & 11

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)


Day #10
Lord, give __________ the desire of his heart and make his plans succeed.  When he has your desires, he will be pursuing plans that you have led him into and he will be successful.  Even at his young age, drop desires into his heart that will steer him towards you.  

Day #11
May__________be wise in doing right and stay innocent of any wrong (Romans 16:19).
McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Locations 1066-1067). Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day #9

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

I'm using that familiar blessing for my grandsons today.

May the Lord bless__________and keep him.  May the Lord make His face shine upon him and be gracious to him; the Lord turn his face toward him and give him peace (Numbers 6:23-26).

McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Locations 930-932). Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day #8

Day #8 
Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)


May__________be patient, for the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit (Ecclesiastes 7:8).
McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Location 897). Kindle Edition.

Work patience in my grandson's heart today.  May he be able to wait quietly for his needs to be met, for the attention he would like and to be persevering when things don't go well on the first try.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Days #5-7

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

Day #5-  May _______ be called a "son of encouragement", just as Barnabas was known for.   Acts 4:35-37
Lord, I pray that all my grand kids would learn what it means to care for others and think beyond their own needs to give someone else encouragement.  (synonyms for encouragement - praise, support, boost, lift)
I want to grow in that, also.  Open my eyes to see the needs of people in my life today and show me how I can lift them up with my words and a warm reception.


Day #6 -Please teach_________how to share with the other children he interacts with at home and at school.


Day # 7- As the Lord’s servant, may__________not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Locations 698-699). Kindle Edition. 

The list of character qualities in this verse are ones to be coveted and how special to turn them into a prayer for my grandsons.  What child doesn't need to be reprimanded for being quarrelsome?   Or be taught kindness?!  I remember the emphatic statements of my kiddos years ago--"it's mine!!" or the seesaw arguments of 'yes!' 'no!' punctuated with 'MOM!'  Training for kindness and gentleness begins here in nursery camp.  It's not just putting up with conflict with a fake smile, or a forced apology, but learning when an offense that can easily be forgotten can be overlooked and when it's important to gently correct an opponent in order to preserve the relationship.
If they learn these lessons well, they will be qualified to teach others, being patient with students bent on evil and able to speak gentle words that turn away wrath.  How we need a future generation of leaders who can do this well!  Men who are able to control their own spirits that naturally want to retaliate or that have been conditioned to stand up for their rights.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day #4- To Be Content in Any Circumstance

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

Like Paul, may__________learn to be content in any situation (Philippians 4:11).
McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Locations 486-487). Kindle Edition. 

How are you learning the discipline of contentment?
Because it is a discipline.
Its choosing to turn a heart from complaining and not listen to the voices that say, "But it's not fair!", or "I've never had to go through this before!"  It's letting God, gently but firmly, take my little chin in his big hand and tilt my face upwards towards his eyes that are sparkling with love for me. He has said he is E-N-O-U-G-H; now I have a chance to prove it.

Will I give all the disgruntled feelings to him and ask him to show me what his intentions are in setting me up like this?  Or in allowing it to happen?  And then to expectantly watch for what he is going to do around me and in me?

If I say yes, slowly, my emotions change from the anger of demanding my rights (you said you are my shepherd I will not be in want, no evil with come near me, is this the way you reward me for trying to be good?) to quietness and rest. I am thankful for what I have and confident of his goodness and faithfulness. Anticipating what good might come out of it all,  just may find me with a bit of giddiness, too, akin to waiting for Christmas morning or some good surprise.

It usually takes a process to get there, but by his constant tweaking and adjustments and my repentance and submission, I will eventually find myself living in Satisfaction- Ease- of -Mind in the state of Contentment.

So when I pray for my grandsons to learn contentment-- they will not always be given everything they ask for, when they want it, or in a way that is most pleasing to them.  What they have that they don't want will not always be returned for or replaced by something they think is better.  Anybody know of another way to learn contentment?

I pray for my grandsons' parents, too.  May God give you grace for the temper tantrums, a stick-to-your-principles kind of consistency and huge doses of patient love that lets them know they are valued and special even in the middle of the discipline.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day #3-To Become a Man of Integrity

Continuing the 21-day prayer challenge from mobsociety.com (see post for Sept. 7)

Till he dies, may__________never put away his integrity (Job 27:5).

McGlothlin, Brooke (2011-05-02). Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most (Kindle Location 471). Kindle Edition.

Definition of integrity:
"adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty" from dictionary.com

or


doing the right thing even when no one else is watching 


Also thanking God for my grandson(s)' parents who are living examples of integrity.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's a M.O.B. prayer challenge!

My step-daughter challenged me to  21 days of prayer for my grandson, Auron, an almost- 4- year- old fireball of vim and vigor, all boy, rambunctious, rowdy and loud.  In his short 47 months of life Auron has managed to short out the home microwave and subscribe for a  $50 gaming service online [no parental guidance needed, thank you very much!]. Auron can also be sweet and tender, like when he stops in the middle of play with Grandpa to say, "You are my best friend, Grandpa", or states an out-of-the-blue "I love you". There you have it, a brief introduction to my prayer target.

When Amanda, his mom, told me she has been hanging out with other mothers at a site called The Mob Society, I had visions of Amanda  finally losing it and succumbing to the influence of some anarchist coterie plotting assault on offspring.  What I actually discovered was a group of Mothers of Boys with this mission: Reaching the hearts of boys for the Gospel and preparing a generation of men to love the Lord.  http://www.themobsociety.com/  Pretty cool, eh?

September 6-26 has been declared a 21-day opportunity to prayer for the little men in our lives.  I hope to take you along on the journey by listing the prayers I'm praying these days for Auron.  Most of them are taken from an ebook the MOBs are promoting called Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most by Brooke L. McGlothlin.  (Actually, I'm going to sneak all my grandsons into the prayers and you can add any boys you want to include).

Day #1
May__________be like the wise man, whose heart inclines him to the right (Ecclesiastes 10:2).
(Kindle Location 280).  Kindle Edition.

Day #2
May __________ obey his leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over his soul, as those who will have to give an account. Let __________ do this with joy and not with groaning (Hebrews 13:17).  
(Kindle Locations 357-359). Kindle Edition.

Friday, September 2, 2011

For Every Stupid Thing I've Done

My floor exercises. Check. The early morning walk. Check. Make-up on and clothed. Check.  In the kitchen, I begin to gather items for my lunch bag, start the coffee pot, and spoon out the non-fat, plain yogurt into the white corelle bowl. I layer on the usual embellishments.- walnuts, rolled oats, cinnamon...and I squish out a few blueberries from a bag in the freezer to complete this habitual breakfast.  Roaming through the house between yogurt bites I finish this morning's wrap-up before leaving for work-- stamping a piece of mail, shutting a bedroom window, wiping the counter...  The yogurt mouthfuls register a unique taste, but I'm preoccupied and don't stop to decipher the unfamiliar savoriness.  After swallowing thoughtlessly, more times than I care to admit, I finally paid attention to the signals on my taste buds. Like a slap to the forehead in a could-have-had-a-V-8 moment, and recalling the frozen bags in the freezer, I realize I am tasting black olives in my yogurt!

I laugh off my silly mistake and slip it into the 'Stupid Things I've Done' file. Amazing how quickly this brings up other bloopers I've committed  in days gone by. Like last February 14 when I sent my daughter's  Valentine's Day package to my son's address several states away. Or the more recent day when I set my cell phone in my purse, slung the purse over my shoulder and prepared to leave the house only to have the home phone ring. I briefly glanced at the cordless' caller ID and recognized the number as familiar, though not certain who it was, and answered it. Only silence on the other end. I hung up. I won't tell you how long it took me to figure out that -you guessed it- I had accidentally knocked the speed dial button for 'home' on my cell, and I was the mysterious caller to my own home phone.  It doesn't get much bloopier than that.

It's harder though, to excuse myself for those blunders that have me worried that I've ruined a friendship, or permamently scarred my kids, or tarnished my reputation.  Those nights when sleep competes with relentless thoughts of fear of rejection and reruns of the embarassing episode never quit. And they play in slow motion, so I can examine the details again, searching for a merciful conclusion.

The deep, relaxing breathing recommended for times like these, doesn't soothe me. I don't like the step of holding my breath before releasing it slowly.  Somehow, the amplified sound of my heart freaking out isn't music to my ears.  And the muscle squeezing exercise doesn't do much for me either. It reminds me of a book I used to read to my kids about two racoons, Gus and Buster. Older brother Gus isn't too pleased with Buster's tossing and turning in the bunk above him and tells him to try harder to go to sleep. So Buster tries harder.

"Go to sleep, toes, he [Buster] whispers. Go to sleep, legs.
But by the time he got to his knees his toes were wide awake again."

So what's a frazzled, zooming mind to do to get some peace and rest?

Is God's word true?  Does his peace pass understanding? Does he answer a desperate plea for release of vain imaginings and for an anxious mind to be pacified?  I can say with confidence, yes he does! But it may not come quickly, and it takes a deliberate resolve to refocus and set my mind on the Prince of Peace.  Comforting words from Bible verses I've memorized as a child can be summoned to the moment.

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I will not be in want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides still waters, he restores my soul."  Or "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of trouble."  Help! is the operative word here.

Dwelling on names that describe God, in alphabetical order, brings his awesomeness into clearer focus: Almighty, Beautiful One, Creator, Deliverer, etc.  (If you come up with a good one for N, let me know!)  I'm amazed how many songs I've memorized, just by singing them in church or listening to them on the radio.  I find sweet comfort in reciting in my mind, words of hymns:

Open the wells of grace and salvation,
Pour the rich streams deep into my heart.
Cleanse and refine my thought and affection,
Seal me and make me pure as thou art.

or

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I've proved him 'ore and 'ore.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus,
Oh, for grace to trust him more.

As I've proved his care and faithfulness to come to me in my distress, my faith has grown. Could this be part of what it means for his strength to be made perfect in weakness?  For every stupid thing I've done, he gives grace enough to cover it? Even turns it into something good? What a God is this!

Oh, back to that dreadful morning of spitting out black olives from my yogurt. Would you believe I also set the toaster on fire trying to warm one of my favorite Panera Bread bagels? It's the cinnamon crunchy one with all the sweet, sugary, crumbly, crackly bumps on top.  Did you know? Blackened bagels aren't edible.
I lamented my loss of delectable carbs all the way to work. At least the house is still standing, and when I got home later that day there was no second-hand smoke to give away my pyromania.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Smack-Dab in the Middle of God's Love-A Book Review

Smack-Dab in the Middle of God's Love by Brenan Manning and John Blaze will have you smack-dab in the middle of a delightful interpretation of what it means to be centered in Abba God’s love, “love big enough to hold us all”.  The words, though not in rhyme, ripple across the page in poetic cadence.  Lively words like tousled, smushed, dollop and twinkled draw the reader into a story you’ll want to visit again and again.

Children will enjoy the vibrant, close-up illustrations, created by Nicole Tadgell, that flow across the center of every page spread.  The artwork nicely defines the setting of a place where sopapillas, burros and abuelas fit comfortably and abundantly.  Willie Juan and Ana, the two main characters, are sketched just-right  as the man and wife who aren’t “old and crotchety” nor “young and giggly” either. 

This childless Mexican couple take grandparent roles with the neighborhood children as they bake together, take time to notice nature with them and engage the children by asking and answering questions.  Most of the story is centered around a conversation about God’s love that all starts with Willie Juan’s question, “…someday when you are in heaven, what do you think Abba [his name for God] will ask you?”

As different children respond, you get a glimpse into what they each think is important to  God.  Willie Juan responds kindly, using the opportunity to expand their appreciation for how much God loves them. Willie shares that because of Abba’s love for them, God wants them to enjoy his gifts; gifts like hummingbirds and late summer evenings and good friends. The book ends in an endearing group embrace with laughs and belly laugh tears.

During the question and answering session one of the children talks and everyone seems surprised.  The authors don’t explain why it was unusual for this boy to speak. Did he have a handicap? Was he shy?  It adds a bit of mystery to the narrative, but I found it a tad distracting and wondered if I had missed something I should have picked up on.

Published in hardback with a dust jacket, this book is written at a preschool level, but children much older will delight in the warmth of the characters and will find a sense of belonging as they realize the message of being smack-dab in the middle of God’s love.

I received this book free of charge from the Booksneeze.com program in exchange for my honest review.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh, Joy!

It's one of those seasons when Joy doesn't come easy.  At least the feeling of deep contentment and "all's right with the world" isn't my default mode right now.  I know it's only a temporary state and there aren't any big reasons why I'm seeming a little Eyorish. So what do you do while you wait for the Joy to return?

I speak to my insides some Davidese like Psalm 42: 5. (msg)
"Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
  Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God--
  soon I'll be praising again."
            
       or

I'll cry a prayer for wisdom and understanding
surrendering any areas that worry has eroded
and admitting my need for help

      or

I listen to those songs that keep coming to mind,
deposits in my psyche from listening to the radio
or Sunday worship last week
or from hymns stored in my long time memory,
my waking-up-mind hearing the musical words,
like a heavenly jukebox dropping the perfect song
just for  me.

    or

I remind myself that God has restored my soul before,
and he will again.

   or

I deliberately choose to think on good things,
I build a list in my mind of things to be thankful for,
and wear a smile anyway, not to deny my cheerlessness,
but to cast hope into grace pools, and defiantly reel the empty line in,
confident one of the next casts will pull up the Joy.
Like this quote another blogger posted last week.
"Joy in this world," says John Ortburg, "is almost always a joy
in spite of something.  It's a defiant joy." 

So I borrow comfort from others and expect much from the Joy-Giver.
And I trust again, today.  And quietly wait, again. And say, "I love you,
anyway, Lord."



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Random Encouragement

Sometimes it's refreshing to read familiar verses of Scripture in a different translation or paraphrase. Here's where I was meditating one day this week.
Eph. 3:14-20:  (Msg)
...I ask him[the Father] to strengthen you by his Spirit-not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength-that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love.  Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know--far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

I've prayed some wild requests and thought, God can do even more than this, more than I'm capable of thinking right now. He never lets us down and he isn't limited to what we ask him for.  I'm so glad.

Another day this week I listened to a radio podcast on The Smart Stepdad.  If you've searched for good material or support for stepparenting, Ron Deal has some practical and encouraging advice.  I'll let you listen for yourself:   http://www.wbcl.org/media-manager-week.aspx     Scroll down to Thurs. Aug. 11 on the web page.  (If you check this out at some later time, you may have to find this date in the program's archives)      My husband and I have combined two families and have gleaned from Ron's expertise.  Our kids are gone from the house, but we are still learning how relationships work in this setting. We put together a curriculum from Ron's materials for a small group study.  Ron's organization now has a DVD and study series available, also.  For any local people, we are open to going through the study with anyone who would like to learn more about building a successful step family. God's grace is awesome and his gifts are given generously!
~~ruthshow1@gmail.com~~

Generously!  Consider just a few ways of how our Father gives:
The Magi brought gifts to Baby Jesus that if sold, probably sustained Mary and Joseph during the ensuing years of their flight to Eygpt.

Water turned to wine was a generous wedding gift, considering the miracle happened near the end of the celebration.  Perhaps the leftover wine was sold and the money used for the young couple's start-up costs.

Not only were 5,000 some people fed with a few loaves of bread and fishes, but there was more food than they all could eat.  I'll bet the overage went for some further need the Father wanted to provide for.

When taxes needed to be paid, Jesus took a withdrawl from one of his vaults-- the mouth of a fish! Mt. 17:27

He imparted healings whether asked for with loud cries or just a timid touch to his garment. He offered living water to one who others would have labeled less than worthy. 

Be encouraged! We have a God who gives beyond what we can ask or think. Watch for his generosity to you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wisdom for a Creative Mind

Recently, I received a revelation about pursuing new projects or plans I want to do.  My mind thinks very creatively, and I love to dream about how I could do this, or remake that, or repurpose something. Some of the schemes come to be, others are discarded, and some are tried with frustration being the result.  What if I prayed that God would lead me to pursue the ideas that He wanted me to accomplish and just let go of the others? And to do this early on in the thinking process, before I had wasted sleep time or money to gather the equipment to do the project?
I believe He will show me, and I will be more effective in what I put my hand to.

Post Trip Thoughts

After traveling 1400 miles with good friends last weekend, my husband and I can say the friendship remains intact and we now share some wonderful new common memories.  Like visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  Not visiting the Liberty Bell, at least not indoors with our appropriate awe of the historic artifact.  (A brief study of the Bell through a window seemed better than standing in hot humidity, in the midday sun, behind a line that snaked to an unseen door). Like spotting a motorcyclist in a dress (yes, a female) with flimsy flipflops, but wearing a helmet. Like watching a fist fight in the parking lot of a hotel, a hotel that happened to be ours.

Our purpose for the trip was a wedding.  And the wedding was beautiful and God-honoring and we were happy for our mutual friends whose son was getting hitched.  But why does this generation think loud music, loud as in not being able to hold a conversation across the table, and being heard by the shoulder-touching person besides you only if you use an outside voice, is cool?  A group of us took our visiting elsewhere and discovered some of the beauty of Swarthmore College where the reception was held.

The wedding site was adjacent to my growing up stomping grounds. We were able to visit my sister who resides in the area and she and my brother-in-law taxied us further north to visit more relatives.  I am grateful for these family affairs, more so as age brings new time perspective.  Who knows which visit will be the last one with the elderly aunts and uncles?  Even though we visit infrequently, I feel that bond of belonging that only comes in family gatherings.

I wonder when it started to change for me?  Reunions used to be boring.  Most relatives had eccentricities too glaring to overlook.  And my youthful activities easily trumped spending time with kin.  But it did change and someday it will change for my kids.  I had to remember that when I later,  excitedly shared with my son how cousin Luke made us homemade french fries and Uncle Ray is still amazing as he gets around with three of his limbs gone, only to hear my 30- something son indicate that he didn't  know these people and that I had lost his attention.  Because my kids have not had much contact with this out-of-state clan, it is harder for them to feel a connection.  But someday...it may be important to know these roots...if not in person...by story or photographs.  I can hope.

We're home again, laden with gifts from my sister and the landscapes of our hearts painted with new strokes of colorful memories.  The luggage is packed away and the laundry finished.  Thank you, Father for your protection and provision for this pleasant excursion.