Monday, December 29, 2014

My New Year's (LIFE) Resolution


John 5:19
So Jesus answered them by saying, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the Son is able to do nothing of Himself (of His own accord); but He is able to do only what He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does is what the Son does in the same way [in His turn].

I've been thinking on this verse for awhile.  Jesus was only able (chose) to do what the Father was doing.  That means he only healed those the Father wanted him to heal.  He only went where the Father wanted him to go.  He only confronted those the Father wanted him to confront.  He only taught what the Father wanted him to teach.  So basically, he had to hear the Father to obey the Father.  And he had to spend time with the Father to hear him.

It's quite remarkable when you think about it.  Jesus was God.  But he chose to limit himself so he could teach us how to do this life.  So everything Jesus did is possible for you and me.  But what most of us are missing is the alone time with the Father to hear him...to even be able to act on what He wants us to do.

This is my New Year's Resolution.  Really, my New LIFE resolution.  I want to get my marching orders every day from the Father.  I want to spend time alone with Him to hear him.  I want to be so intimate with Him that He can tell me to "turn right" during my day and I will hear him say it.  My problem isn't really obedience.  I'm pretty quick to obey...when I hear Him.  But too many things in my life have crowded out the Father's voice.  When confronted with difficult situations or difficult people, I want to be able to ask the Father, "What now?  What do you want me to do?"  And I want to hear His answer.  I want to see how different my life can be when I'm focused on hearing God every single day and every moment of the day.  I also think it will take out some of the frustrations in my life when I'm so focused on what I want...or what I want to do or say.  

I want to be like Jesus and only do what the Father is doing...and in the same way.  ( I want to have His attitude while I obey.)  This will be a game-changer.

"Whoever is of God listens to God. [Those who belong to God hear the words of God.] This is the reason that you do not listen [to those words, to Me]: because you do not belong to God and are not of God or in harmony with Him."   John 8:47

"The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me."  John 10:27


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

HIS Story


This evening, at our candle lighting service, I'm teaching the children the Christmas story.  Andy asked me to do that about a month ago.  And I am excited to do it.  So I've read the story over several times, gotten the C.E.F. flash cards which I'll use from my mom, and chosen which part of the story I'll tell.

Last night, I was preparing some more and it hit me!  I'm telling HIS story!  God's story about JESUS!!  That may not sound particularly incredible to you, but let me tell you why it's so incredible to me...

A week ago, my brother died.  And in this past week, my mind has been flooded with "Bob-stories."  I can't quit thinking on him and everything he did.  About a month before, my good friend, Faye Ybarra, died.  One of the last things Faye told me was this, "Tell my story!"  Tell her story indeed.  And I will.  But I knew I needed time to process everything...and grieve.  Both of their stories are good stories!!  Stories worth telling.

But HIS story makes their stories have perfect endings.  Jesus may have been born and laid in a manger...but He was also the mighty warrior King who victoriously busted his way out of death to redeem mankind to Himself.  Our lives are held in the balance until we decide what to do with HIS story.

Go here if you don't know HIS story....

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reindeer Guts

 

I don't even remember how it started....but if you knew my dad, this won't surprise you!  When my kids were little, Dad started this thing of trying to get my kids to say, "Reindeer Guts!"  He had them convinced that if they said it, Santa wouldn't bring them anything for Christmas.  He'd work and work at it.  He'd ask them leading questions to try and get them to say it.  He was a patient man, so he'd begin weeks before Christmas and just wait for them to get caught saying "Reindeer Guts."  Of course, my two brothers pitched in and helped him!  And then he'd tease them unmercifully if they slipped and said it--saying they were getting nothing from Santa!  Usually, there would be tears because one of my kids would inadvertently say it and be scared to death that Santa wouldn't come see them.  And dad would laugh and laugh.  Of course, it only took a couple of Christmases for my kids to figure out that Santa came regardless if they said "Reindeer Guts" or not.  It became a game to see who would say it first---them or Papa.  Then my kids became the antagonists and tried to get those younger than them to say it.   And...the game continued when my sister had kids...and then when my kids had kids.  Reindeer Guts lives on.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Traditions

tradition
noun
1.

the handing down of statements, beliefs, 
legends, customs,information, etc., from 
generation to generation, especially by 
word of mouth or by practice:

Why is it that when we speak of Christmas traditions that we get all warm and fuzzy?  Christmas traditions speak of continuity, family, warmth, memories, security.  For me, it's remembering my family going to Central Park in Pampa, TX each Christmas Eve and walking through the life-size progressive story of the nativity and listening to the story at each stop.  Then we'd drive around and look at the Christmas lights on the houses.  We'd end up back at our house where we'd read the Christmas story out of Luke 2 and open gifts from one another.  Tradition.  And sweet memories.

But why is it that when we speak of tradition in the church, it's another feeling altogether?  I believe it's because we equate tradition with legalism.  So many of the church's traditions are tied up in legalism and not the Word.  For instance, the Baptist church has the tradition that we don't dance.  Where did that come from?  Certainly not the Bible.  In my research, I found it began in the 40's (or maybe even the Wild West Days) and I'm guessing it was a reaction to the type of dancing and the sensuality of it (or being done in a dance hall).  To ban it was the Baptist's leaders way of keeping people from sin.  But, of course, it didn't.  Legalism only causes people to want to sin.  Tradition does not equal legalism.  Tradition doesn't have to be scriptural (looking at Christmas lights), but it shouldn't be contrary to scripture (don't dance).  And I believe the younger generation needs to realize traditions in the church are good--they bring stability, fun, and make memories.  Likewise, the older generation needs to be willing to change and broaden traditions--and certainly not become so entrenched in tradition that we can't change!!

But back to the dictionary's definition of tradition.  When we understand it's the way we pass down our belief system, it becomes something to embrace.  Before the written word, passing down beliefs orally used to be the only way children learned what their parents believed!  It was important to tell the stories.  It still is.  In fact, a friend shared with me that he believes that's why video games are so popular.  They tell a story and you keep working to finish that story.  Kids are innately curious about our stories.  My grandchildren always want to hear stories about when I was a little girl and what happened in my life.  We need to be sharing those stories.

But more importantly, we need to be sharing the stories of the Bible.  I'm concerned that our children (and some adults) are spiritually illiterate.  They haven't heard the stories.  They don't even know the basic stories like David & Goliath.  We need to embrace tradition and hand down our beliefs. Otherwise, we all lose.  

Traditions can be a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Groom Tigers, the Flu, Play-Offs & Spiritual Check-Ups

By our own amazing Groom photographer, Seth Ritter.

You've probably heard us yelling all the way from Groom at our football games!  The Groom Tigers are the Cinderella story.  They already had a great team, but their former coach moved to another school about 2 weeks before football practice started.  As you can imagine, there were no coaches to be found.  The Groom assistant coach, Larry Roskens,  and the girls basketball coach, Tony Dodson, stepped up to coach this team. They are class-act coaches and they've done an amazing job.  These boys are a great group of guys-- humble, full of character, polite, and respectful--and many are involved in the youth activities of our church.  And they play great football---as a TEAM!  It's so fun to watch them play together.  I'd never seen 6-man football until I came here.  It's much faster-paced and a game can be over at half-time if one team outdistances another team by 45 points....which has happened numerous times. This team could have faltered this year--but coaches and parents have encouraged and challenged them.  So instead, they're headed to the State play-offs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.  As you can imagine, the adrenaline is raging and our little town is going CrAzY with excitement!!

And then there's the flu.  Groom has been hit hard the last couple of weeks with the flu--kids and adults alike.  Classrooms have had one-third to half of their kids out sick.  People are being extremely cautious and going to the doctor early to try to kick this stuff.  People are graciously staying home if they feel the least bit sick.  Parents have stayed home as the flu has quickly passed from one child to the other.  We've had to cancel our children's activities this Wednesday night because of it....just too many sick and we want to stop this stuff!  Parents are using essential oils and poking vitamins down their kids hoping it will prevent them from getting sick.  We don't want our team and coaches sick with the flu--we want them playing their hearts out this Saturday!!

As I thought about it this morning, I started thinking about our spiritual welfare.  It's so important to be just as diligent about our life strategy and our spiritual check-ups.  Are we loving God with our heart, soul, mind & strength?  Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves?  Are we imitating Jesus Christ?  Are we being holy as He is holy?  Are we living set-apart lives?  Do people see a difference between us and the world?  Are we giving off the aroma of Christ?  Is our light shining?  Is our relationship with Jesus enticing others to Him?  Are we more focused on Jesus than the world?  Are we listening to God--spending time with Him?  Are we concerned with our testimony?

I'm praying that with both our physical & spiritual check-ups we'll all succeed---in football and in life!  I want to finish well with both.  How exciting would it be if we won State?  And how much more exciting would it be to hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant?"  I don't think we can even imagine what it would be like to have the praise of our Father.   But I'm thinking the Groom Tigers are getting a small, earthly taste of what it's like.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

God IS good...


Isn't this what we mean when we say, "God is good?"  We're talking about our blessings...about the positive outcomes to our prayers.

There have been some amazing answers to prayer recently.  I've celebrated along with everyone else over them.  I may have even posted on Facebook, "God is so good!" to the answer to those prayers.

But God is also good when he says "no" to our prayers.  It started bothering me when God performed a miracle and lots of people responded with, "God is good!"...because I know there were people reading those responses whose loved ones--in a very similar situation--died.  Was God not good to them?  Didn't He care about their loved one?

I don't pretend to understand the ways of God.  I recently prayed, believing, for a miracle for a friend.  You can't imagine how badly I wanted God to heal her.  But instead, she died with cancer.  I have another friend with cancer who has been healed.  The same people cared and prayed for them both.  And I know it wasn't because of a lack of faith.  I don't know why my one friend died.  Was God good in one situation and not the other?  Absolutely not.  My friend who died and I often talked about the goodness of God and the evidences of His love which we saw in her situation.

God is always good--whether we get what we want or not.  His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts.  And He knows from the beginning of time the length of our lives and the part He wants our story to play in His kingdom.  He knows who our lives will impact and when & how to bring it all together.  God gets great glory from healing someone...but He also gets great glory when someone dies and goes to heaven.

My friend went to heaven in great style.  She was a ray of sunshine for months while she suffered.  She prayed for others and encouraged hundreds.  Some even had restored relationships with Christ because of her testimony.

God is always good.  But I don't want to imply that He is good in one person's situation and not another.   So maybe a better response when someone's prayers are answered would be for me to say, "To God be the glory!"  Because He gets glory in life...and in death.  Yes...God IS good.  No matter what.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Re-Gifting


Have you ever re-gifted?  I'm sure most of us have.  Why do we do it?  This is a question I asked the ladies at the Progressive Dinner last night.  I loved their answers.

  • They thought someone else might enjoy it more.
  • They looked at the gift and thought, "This person doesn't even know me!"
  • To save money.
  • Because they really didn't like the gift.
But on the other hand....have you ever given someone a gift and watched the face of the recipient as a look of disinterest came over them and they buried the gift under a pile of torn gift wrappings?  You knew it was a fail.

Well, last night, I gave Jessica a gift.  It was very compact in a small bag.  I had her look in it first without taking it out to see if she liked it.  Her comment was, "It looks like a Christmas gift."  And then she took it out.  She was speechless.  It looked something like this:


She haltingly said, "I guess it could be a makeup bag?"  Of course, everyone was laughing.  Not quite a gift for a grown woman.  But then I explained to her that it was a purse for a little girl.  I had gotten it when I was in China and carried it home and kept it for a special little girl.  Jessica has an adorable little girl named Karoline.  The fish purse was for her.  I thought she'd have fun playing with it.  It took on a whole new meaning after I explained it.

God has given us many gifts.  How many have we tried to re-gift?  How many did we look at in the bag and not even pull out?  Are we like the person who buries the gift under a pile of trash?  And sometimes....like I did with Jessica, it takes an explanation by the gift-giver to understand the gift and its purpose.  And once we do, it becomes something special...even prized!

I hope this Christmas season you'll strive to be a gracious receiver.  Realize each gift you receive was given out of a heart of love.  It may not be your taste, but it's special and meaningful to the one giving it.  But more than that, I hope you'll take those gifts out of the box which God has given you.  Let Him explain the gift, its purpose, its uniqueness just for you.  That's what I've been doing this season.  Looking at the gifts God has given me in a new way and listening to the Giver's explanation.  

God's gifts are priceless because they're uniquely designed for each recipient.  They're too valuable to re-gift.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Turning the World Upside Down


Paul was no shrinking violet.  Acts tells us that he went to the synagogue in each city of his journey and "was completely engrossed in preaching, earnestly arguing, speaking freely, fearlessly and boldly, and testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ."  As a result, he made a lot of people angry.  In fact, there were antagonists who followed him to other cities just to stir up crowds of people against Paul.  And it worked.  Paul was beaten and imprisoned many times because of his message.

Then Paul & Silas came to Thessalonica.  Paul did the usual and went to the synagogue to teach about Jesus, the Messiah.  Some of the devout Greeks believed his message.  But, it says, the unbelieving Jews were aroused to jealousy and got a mob in an uproar and attacked the home where Paul & Silas were staying.  Unable to find Paul & Silas, they brought the home owner, Jason, and some of the brethren before the city authorities and said, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also."  Wow.

If we want to turn our world upside down, it's not through politics, social media, or rioting.  Just share the good news of Jesus!!  God sent His only Son for this lost world--to redeem them to Himself.  Jesus was born of a virgin--creating a scandal from the very start of his life.  Jesus died a contemptible death and in that moment took all of our sins upon himself.  But he didn't stay dead.  Three days later, he broke through the chains of death and was a victor over its powers.  He's now seated at the right hand of God in heaven.  He's our Savior...our Messiah!

And that, my friends, is a message that will turn our world upside down once again.  Share it fearlessly and boldly!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson



I missed the program, but I got the cookbook!  Francine Bryson starred on the American Baking Competition and was quite a hit, according to Jeff Foxworthy.  She's also won three blue ribbons from the National American Pie Competition.  If you've ever wanted a secret recipe for a pie from a blue ribbon winner (few share!), this is it!

The first nine pages are recipes for pie crust alone.  Francine shares recipes passed down from her Great-Granny, Granny, Nana & Mama--and those that are all her own.  You'll enjoy her down-home humor, her South Carolina honesty, and her Southern charm.  She also includes a "Blue Ribbon Tip" after most recipes.  Now this cookbook isn't just about pies, you'll find mouth-watering recipes for every kind of sweet you can think of.  And you'll enjoy the beautiful photos.  I think I need to make the "Slap-Ya-Mama Fudge Cookies" and Francine's own tried-and-true "Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies."  The latter is a recipe she says she got from nowhere--her perfect best ever chocolate chip cookies she developed by trial and error.

I agree with Jeff Foxworthy (who wrote the forward)....this is a great cookbook and Francine is totally delightful!!  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!
I received this book to review by Blogging for Books.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Christmas Tree


I put up our new Christmas tree this week.  When we moved, I tossed our old one, so I knew I'd have to get a new one this year...which was a good thing because I had to find a "slim" tree to fit the space I have in our new home.  After I'd decorated it, I laughed and told Andy I was only able to put half of our ornaments on it because it was so much smaller.  Brenda, at church last night, asked me how I was able to choose which ones to use and I told her I just started putting ornaments on from the top of the box, but then began to dig for my favorites. 

I love Christmas!  I love everything about it.  You will find me lighting the tree every morning just to sit and enjoy it with my cup of coffee.  I'll love it even more when snow is falling outside that big picture window right beside it.  I'll sit in a chair across from it so I can see both at the same time.


As I sat enjoying my tree this morning, I realized my life is just like that Christmas tree.   It's not perfect and it's full of wonderful memories.  Marcy Hallden commented on Facebook, "Honestly, I have gone soft in my old age.  Our tree is only about the kids now--no more magazine trees for us.  I quite like it that way!"  Me too, Marcy.  I tried the magazine tree one year with only one color, lots of ribbon, etc.  But it just felt flat.  My tree is not perfect.  Ornaments don't match.  No ribbon.  But each ornament on that tree evokes a memory and an emotion.  




This paper snowflake was created by my great-niece, Hannah.  It evokes a powerful emotion in me.  She made it the year her mother almost died from an anuerysm after giving birth to her baby sister. Oh my!  How we battled in prayer for Emily's life.  Our family was connected moment-by-moment for weeks.  Hannah's teacher stopped by Borger to pick up some things I was sending to the family and she dropped off a card from Hannah and three paper snowflakes.  I carefully put those snowflakes in the box each year when I take my tree down.  I treasure them because they were a promise that new life was coming to Hannah's family like fresh-fallen snow.  

The candlestick ornament above it is one of a set Andy & I made our first Christmas.  It's all we could afford--to make and paint our own ornaments.  What a memory!


This is my all-time favorite ornament...simply made out of red yarn and foil.  I believe Zach was in kindergarten when he made it.  He was so proud of it and wanted to hang it himself each Christmas.  And then when my granddaughter, Caitlin, was almost three, she saw it hanging on my tree and asked, "Gran, why is there trash hanging on your tree?"  We all died laughing!!  It became even more special after that.  In fact, Zach has helped each niece and nephew make one just like it.  

The ornament above that is a bread dough ornament we got one year when we went to Red River for our anniversary.  It has the names of our immediate family on it.  We got one just like it for the grandparents with all of their grandkids' names.  I'm immediately taken back to Red River when I look at it.

My tree has taken 39 years to evolve.  It began with those first Christmas ornaments that Andy & I made and painted after we were first married.  There are ornaments our children made.  There are ornaments given to us by friends--like the "Merry Christmas Y'all" ornament below Zach's.  As I hang my ornaments, I think of all of those things--time, places, loved ones, emotions.  Do my silver beads hang straight?  No.  But neither do the events in my life.  Is it magazine worthy?  No.  But it brings delight to me.  

My life is very much like this Christmas tree.  I think God looks on in delight in the same way at our lives.  Each event in our lives may appear to be a tattered or ordinary ornament--but yet the whole completed picture of the tree of our life becomes a sparkling and beautiful reflection of His grace.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Christmas Gift


I hope you've already read Andy's book, Kidnapped in Budapest.  And I hope you'll consider giving it to others for Christmas.  You won't find a better price than this!  Just go to Andy's website to order, he'll sign a book and ship it out ASAP!  Only $7.00!

I'm so proud of Andy for writing this book.  It's his story of being kidnapped while on his way home from a mission trip.  It will make a great gift for yourself, family, friends, church members, and business acquaintances.  You'll even get to read excerpts from my journal of what was going on at home while he was being held for ransom.

God has used this book already and I believe He wants to use it even more.  I hope you'll consider being a part of putting it in the hands of those who need encouragement to know God is a big God and wants to do big things in our lives.  He wants us desperate to know Him more.

ORDER HERE!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Silent Night. Holy Night.



Silent Night. Holy Night. 

It's 2:00 AM in Groom, Tx and except for the grain elevator I hear humming in the distance, these words ring true. 

I have to remind myself of these words--or ones like them--tonight. 2014 has been my "baptism by fire" year. Hard. A very hard year. I'm not a cryer, but tears overwhelm me at inopportune moments these days. 

Silent Night. Holy Night. Any night can be when God is at the center of it. I'm determined to have more of them. I hope for a year of mercy in 2015. But even if it's not, I'm choosing to put Christ at the center, being still, and focusing on Him. He brings order out of my chaos. He fills my tired heart with peace. He renews my mind and completes me. 

Silent Night. Holy Night. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Peter's Denial


The cock crowed.  Peter had just denied Jesus three times.  Gathered around the fire that cold night while Jesus was being interrogated, three different people asked Peter if he had been with Jesus.  "No!"....three times.

And then that morning, after Jesus had been resurrected, and he met the disciples at the sea where they'd been fishing.  And Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?"  Oh...how painful.  Peter was confronted with his failure of denying Him.  But in that confrontation, Jesus was wrapping his arms around Peter, loving him, and restoring him.

Have you ever failed so completely that you were ashamed?  Ashamed to come to Jesus?  Ashamed to talk with him about that failure?  He will do the same with you...wrap his arms around you, love you and completely restore you.

Look at Peter after that restoration.  He had been filled with the Holy Spirit and preached.  Three thousand people were saved.  The next moment we see him, he reaches out and heals a lame man.  The people who saw it happen are amazed and Peter begins preaching again.  About 2000 are saved. He's arrested and brought before the high priest.  (And this is where it gets good!)  It says Peter opened his mouth to speak because he was filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit--and speaks with authority about their denial of Jesus.

I'd say Peter could probably speak with good authority about denying Jesus.  Instead of allowing his failure of denying Jesus to paralyze him, he healed a paralyzed man and confronted others about their own denial of Jesus.

And then it says this...."those in authority saw Peter's boldness and unfettered eloquence and knew he was an unlearned man with no educational advantages and they marveled; and they recognized that he had been with Jesus."

Before the cock crowed, Peter hadn't wanted anyone to know he'd been with Jesus.  But after experiencing the power and freedom of complete forgiveness and restoration and being filled with the Spirit of God, it was obvious...he'd been with Jesus. It showed.  And Peter was willing to touch those same places in other people's lives so they could experience the same thing...complete forgiveness and restoration.

That's what being with Jesus does.  And that's how the power of the Holy Spirit changes you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Her Kitchen by Gabriele Galimberti


When I saw this cookbook and read the book description, I knew I wanted to review it!  Gabriele grew up in Arezzo, Italy and never ventured very far from home.  But after going to photography school, he appealed to an Italian magazine to let him travel to 50 different countries around the world and use his stories and photography in their magazine.  They took him up on it!  And then he only had two weeks to get ready to leave on his adventure.

He used those two weeks to get ready and to tell his close-knit family goodbye.  A week before he left, he was sitting at his grandmother's kitchen eating her comforting ravioli which she often prepared for her grandson.  He told her what he was about to do.  He would be traveling to 50 different countries around the world and would be gone for two years.  He began trying to reassure her that he wouldn't be in danger and that he had researched homes where he would stay.  Her only question was, "But what will you eat?"  He laughed and told her that other grandmothers would feed him their famous dishes and he would write their stories and get their recipes and bring them home to her.  That's how this cookbook came into being.

You'll love seeing the photos of grandmothers around the world, their kitchens, the ingredients they use in their dishes and their signature dishes.  I don't know that I'll ever cook an iguana or caterpillars, but some of these dishes sound amazing!  Since I have a granddaughter from Ethiopia, I was interested in seeing the injera bread and curry sauce--with the recipe!  The first featured recipe in the book is his own grandmother's ravioli.  An amazing book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
I received this book to review from Blogging for Books.

Darby Street to Crawford Street



I learned about life changes when I was 12-years-old.  That was when we moved from Darby Street to Crawford Street.  This is the house I grew up in on Darby Street.  It was brand new when we moved into it.  It boasted 3 small bedrooms and about 1000 square feet.  You can see the train tracks behind it and there is a large field to the west of it.  I had an idyllic childhood on Darby Street.  Our block was full of boys and I was the only girl for many years.  I had all of those boys trained to obey me and I would play army with them and then make them play house with me.  At least it worked that way for awhile.  My best friend, Peggy, moved in up the street when I was in second grade.  She was a redhead, too.  We played for hours every day.  She had a two-seated bicycle and we rode the wheels off of that thing!  People would ask us if we were sisters...we almost thought we were.  In fact, Peggy was my best friend until I was married...we even roomed together in college.  The parents on Darby Street all decided not to put fences around their yards so the whole neighborhood of kids could play from one yard to the next.  My brothers had neighborhood football games the length of the block in our back yards.  In the evening, our parents would sit in lawn chairs in the front yard while we kids would play hide-and-seek all over the neighborhood or catch lightening bugs and put them in coke bottles or catch tadpoles out of the drainage ditch.  Our neighbors all enjoyed one another.  It was perfect.

While we lived on Darby Street, our next-door neighbor's dog had puppies.  My brother and I begged our parents for one of the puppies.  They relented and we picked out a male puppy and named him Lucky.  I think it was because we felt pretty lucky to get a dog.  He was a Dachshund/German Shepherd mix and looked a lot like this as a puppy:


He actually became my older brother's dog.  Lucky would follow him when he'd throw his paper route and Bob actually slept in the garage with him after he'd been hit by a car and had broken his leg.  For some reason, my dad decided to raise rabbits one year.  We had lots of baby rabbits.  Occasionally, we'd let the rabbits out of the cage and would be cautioned to watch them--knowing they'd hop in every different direction.  But the funniest thing happened:  Lucky began herding the baby rabbits.  He would gather them into a tight circle and nose them back into position if they tried to get out of their space.  He was a very smart dog.  And loyal.

Some of our good friends, the Lewis', were moving.  And apparently, they offered to sell their house to mom and dad.  It would mean moving 4 kids from a tiny three-bedroom house to a large 5-bedroom house with about twice the amount of space.  So my parents bought the house on Crawford Street.  I was in sixth grade and almost 12-years-old.  The move was so much fun!  And I immediately found new friends on our new street--Debbie and David.  My aunt and her kids were living with us at the time, so they made the move with us.  It was an adjustment moving to a new school and adjusting to new people and a new class.  It was hard.  After the new (and fun) wore off, I became very homesick for my old school, Peggy, and my old home.  I remember coming home from my new school one day and began crying my heart out.  I told my mom I wanted to go home!  My mom (also crying) told me I was home.  My aunt began crying and telling me she didn't even have a home!  We were a mess.  It was also about that time that our old neighbors began calling us each day to tell us that Lucky had walked 2.5 miles across town to come back to Darby Street.  We'd go and get him and put him in the new back yard.  We began watching him and he'd climb up on a pile of logs, jump the fence and head "home."  Every.single.day. for weeks, Lucky walked from Crawford Street to Darby Street.  And every day, we'd get a call from one of our old neighbors that Lucky was back on Darby Street.  Lucky & I commiserated with one another.  

When I was 12-years-old, Lucky & I learned that change was hard.  


Friday, November 7, 2014

A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson


Earthy.  That would be my one-word description of this cookbook.  It's exactly what you'd expect from a farmhouse in France.  The stories are sweet, the photography is incredible, and the recipes are enticing.

Mimi grew up in Hong Kong with a Chinese father and a French mother.  She spent her holidays in France with her grandmother and aunt who were fabulous cooks.  Her father also took her to the many food stalls in Hong Kong where they experimented by eating different foods.  From these, her love of food and cooking grew.  But it wasn't until she was married with a growing family that she dove headfirst into cooking.  She and her husband moved from Paris to a farmhouse in Medoc--a remote part of France.  There she shops for, gardens, and cooks with organic and beautiful vegetables.

I love this cookbook because it is full of French recipes...in English.  She's an author/chef who has  lived in France for many years and understands French cooking because of her own history with her French grandmother and yet can relate to American cooks and kitchens.

This is a fabulous, beautiful cookbook.  Mimi features her own family, her own home, and herself in the photography.  The cookbook is even divided into different foods for different seasons. You'll find yourself lost in the pages.

I'd give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Please Pray for Sandra


My sister, Sandra, and her husband, Mark, are leaving this evening for Dallas.  They'll be spending the day tomorrow doing all of the pre-op for Sandra's thyroid surgery.  Her surgery is Wednesday morning at 8:00.  I'd love for the doctor to get in there and find absolutely no cancer!  (They've already said it is cancer.)  My mom and I will be going tomorrow and be there for the surgery.  I'd really appreciate you lifting Sandra up in prayer.  I know God hears.  We trust Him.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

God Is Committed to Change...and Yet Never Changes


Don't you love how God never changes?  He's our anchor, our compass as we continually change.  And He's committed to our change.  He's told us to work out our own salvation (of our soul--mind, will & emotions).  Philippians 2:12.  He's told us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Romans 12:2.  We are to become more and more like Christ.

I'm so glad God is committed to changing me.  God has proven once again that I don't even know my own heart.  Jeremiah 17:9.  He's a surgeon who is a perfectionist.  He comes offering surgery...and yet I have to agree to allow him to lay bare my heart.  But once I do, He gently folds back the layers of my heart to show me what is in there.  Even though it's ugly and repulsive, it's such a relief to see. Because I know it's not only going to be uncovered and revealed, but it's about to be taken out of there!  Knowing the truth sets me free.  And another layer of the "onion peel" is taken off of me.  I'm becoming more and more free.

What did God remove?  A resisting.  Actually, kicking and screaming against Him.  I didn't even know I was.  How could I not know that?  Because it was so hidden and covered up by years and years of junk.

This morning, Andy preached on Jeremiah 33:3--how we can call on God and He will show us great and mighty things we don't even know.  Sometimes those great and mighty things are the deep, hidden recesses of our own heart.  But in the revealing of those things, comes something even greater.  He shows His power.  He discloses His love.  He exposes His great mercy, forgiveness, healing and hope.

I believe as God continues to change me, I will know Him more deeply.  My trust in Him only grows.  I love Him like never before.  I know He loves me.   And sometimes...yes, sometimes...I even come asking for that surgery.  After you taste that kind of freedom, you begin to crave it.  Change in me is good.  I'm so glad He's changeless...I need a compass.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The River by Beverly Lewis


The River is another book based on Amish life by Beverly Lewis, the veteran authority on the subject--having grown up near Lancaster County.

In this book, Tilly & Ruth, two sisters who grew up in the Amish community, have departed from their Plain upbringing.  But their father's illness and their brother's phone call has brought them home for two weeks...which turns into more as they stay to help their parents move.  Of course, the trip reveals not only what happened at the river so many years ago, but the family conflict which caused Tilly and then Ruth to leave their home.  Tilly returns to Lancaster County with her husband's blessing and his hopes that Tilly will finally deal with her past.  Tilly's twins, Tavani and Jenya, have never met their Amish grandparents....which is just as well since Tilly doesn't feel loved by her own father.

Ruth has a former boyfriend and potential husband to deal with when she returns to Lancaster County.  Who is a better fit for her?  The new man in her new church who is showing interest in her...or a former Amish boyfriend who showed more interest in some wayward friends than her years ago?  Ruth will only return home and face her past if her sister, Tilly, returns with her.

Follow Tilly & Ruth as they return home, experience Amish life again, and deal with their past which involves a dark river.

I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka



Gina Homolka was one of those who could eat anything she wanted and not gain an ounce...until she had babies.  After gaining weight with pregnancies, she went to Weight Watchers to initiate a lifestyle of eating sensibly and losing weight.  The only problem she faced was tasteless foods.  Most of the light or healthy foods had no flavor and didn't entice her...at all.  So she started a journey (and a blog) dedicated to taking her favorite foods and turning them into healthy meals.

Her cookbook, The Skinnytaste, is full of not only wonderful looking recipes, but she's included reasons why you should follow in her footsteps.  She gives guides for shopping, remaking your kitchen into a healthy place, and all of the necessary numbers you're going to want from a recipe (fat content, calories, carbs, etc.).  You'll love the photos and stories in this cookbook.

These are not your typical "healthy, light recipes."  These are fabulous meals from breakfast to dessert which just may win you over to the light side.  In fact, as I perused the cookbook, I recognized several photos of foods I'd seen on Pinterest or Facebook.  Her recipes are highly shared in both forums.  Because her recipe list grew, and because she was a graphic design artist, she started the blog, Skinnytaste.com to house her recipes.  Her readership grew and began sending in their reports of how the recipes had helped their own weight-loss journey.

I encourage you to get this cookbook!  I'd give it a 5 out of 5 stars.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wildly Waving Palm Branches



Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey while palm branches are wildly waved, reminds me of when David returned from battle and the people exclaimed, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands!!"  David was a "type" of Christ.

Not only did it rouse fear and jealousy in Saul, it roused jealousy in the Pharisees.  They wanted to silence...and then kill Jesus.  They were jealous for how many were leaving their traditional ways and teachings to follow this miracle worker.  He was life...they were death.

It makes me think of the quandary of the church today.  The younger generation is willing to follow Jesus into the unknown.  They don't care about tradition.  They care about LIFE!  "Is it true?  I'm following Jesus!"  And the response of the traditional church?  FEAR.  Which leads to jealousy and punching holes in the arguments of that generation.  Death.  Division.  Disunity.

The reality is Jesus said, "Come.  Follow Me."  And that may look a 1000 different ways.  He will get us out of our comfort zone.  If. we. let. go...He will take us to unimaginable places.  We will see Him glorified.  We'll want to wave palm branches wildly before Him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Great Sermon Recovery

Jesus had gotten up early that morning and gone to the Mount of Olives where we can only assume he met his Father in prayer.  That was where he normally went to pray.  And oh...how much he needed to hear his Father that day.  A trap had been set for him.

Imagine going to the temple to hear Jesus that morning...the rabbi everyone was talking about.  I'm sure many had their children in tow.  I'm just as sure most mamas pulled their children out of the crowd and took them home when those angry men threw the adulterous woman into the center of the temple and created their own "court."  And actually, that's where they were...in the temple court.  Jesus had been teaching and his sermon was interrupted by this fiasco.

We know the scribes & Pharisees weren't really concerned about the law.  That's what they used, "the law says we should stone her to death.  What do you say?"  Because if they were concerned about the law, they would have brought the man also.  I have to wonder about that trap.  How was it set up?  Were they snickering, drawing straws?  Who was watching?  Was the man in their midst even as they accused the woman?  Were they all guilty?

We know what happened.  Jesus knelt on the ground and wrote in the dirt.  And the men left conscience-stricken from the oldest to the youngest.  And he told the woman he didn't condemn her...but to go and sin no more.  Grace.  Forgiveness.  Instruction in righteousness.

And Jesus used this sermon interruption for one of the greatest sermon recoveries ever.  In fact, he moved to the treasury of the temple to teach it.  I think it was because he was teaching true treasures.  Imagine how powerful this sermon became after what the people had just seen!  He told the people these things:

  • I am the Light of the world.  If you follow me, you won't walk in darkness--you'll have Light.
  • I didn't come to judge.  But I could if I wanted to because my judgment is right.  
  • My Father is God.  Your father is the devil--directed to scribes & Pharisees.
  • I am the Truth who sets you free.
  • I do only those things the Father tells me to do.
  • Whoever is of God listens to God.
  • My honor comes from God, not man.
The scribes and Pharisees came to stone the message.  But after Jesus taught these powerful truths, they turned to stone the Messenger.   

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Stand Firm


"Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]."  Ephesians 6:13

Cognitive Dissonance.  I'd never heard of it until last week.  It's a psychological term which is an assumption that an individual is seeking consistency between their reality and their expectations and they're confronted with information which is inconsistent with their beliefs.  Imagine a person moving and building a house right by a dam.  When they build it, they know that there's a chance of the dam breaking, but they don't believe it ever will.  Now imagine a warning going out that the dam is about to burst.  I'm told that people who live three miles away will be panicked.  People two miles away will be freaked out.  But people who live closest to the dam will not be concerned.  That's cognitive dissonance.  They can't line up their reality with what they've expected.

Paul was in prison.  But from prison, he told us to get in the battle.  It's not a battle against one another.  Any general will tell you that the first thing you need to be able to identify in any battle is your enemy.  Our battle is against the enemy of God...Satan and his demons.   Ephesians tells us that we are to stand against the deceit and strategies of the enemy.  That takes an awareness, an alertness and a willingness to get in the battle.  Paul urges his friends to pray that he'll have boldness and courage from prison to preach the gospel!  That's not a picture of someone experiencing cognitive dissonance.  He's engaged and alert.



You've probably seen this on Facebook, but I thought it was appropriate to share here.  We're told to gird up our loins for the battle.  It's getting fully ready for action.  It's the act of a warrior.  We're to put on the whole armor of God (please take the time to read about each piece!) and take up our sword and shield.  We're to engage the enemy!  We're not to get so overwhelmed with the crisis that we become frozen in place.  It's easy to get to the place in a crisis where you think, "What can I do?  I can't change anything!"  The battle can be intense and wearing.  But it says when we've done all we can do...stand firm.  Stand your ground!  Don't give the enemy territory which belongs to you.  Pray at all times, keep alert, and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, Paul says.

I can tell you from the battles I've been engaged in recently, that it's so easy to lose perspective.  I think that's why people who live closest to the dam become unconcerned.  They don't have others giving them a broader perspective or warning them.  I don't know how I would have walked through some of the battles I've faced recently without friends who were praying, encouraging, and shouting when they saw the enemy coming towards me!  They were engaged in the battle with me.  When you read about the armor in Ephesians, there's nothing to cover the back.  That's because it's expected that you'll have fellow warriors who will "have your back."  We need one another.  Which reminds me of this verse:

"Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching."  Hebrews 10:25

The day is approaching.  Gear up!  Put your armor on and be prepared to engage in the battle.  If there's no battle in your life, cover a friends' back.  Use the sword of the Spirit!  Pray fervently for one another.  Meet together and encourage and warn one another.  I can tell you that we're going to face many battles...but God is going to win the war!

Stand firm, fellow warrior!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The True Fast

Isaiah 58   
Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?
[Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house—when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?
Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity], and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am. If you take away from your midst yokes of oppression [wherever you find them], the finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and every form of false, harsh, unjust, and wicked speaking,
10 And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.
11 And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; and you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
I was reminded of this passage this morning in prayer time with my prayer partners.  It's not enough to go through the motions of a fast.  If you're just doing it as an exercise, it does nothing.  You can wear sackcloth and ashes like they did in the O.T., but it means nothing if you're heart's not in it and you're just doing it for show.
A true fast comes as we acknowledge our sin (he even names some in vs. 9) and sorrowfully repent.  True repentance will lead to meeting the needs of others.  As we do those things, the bands (which hold the neck) will be broken!  Do you have something in your life you'd like broken off of you?  I do.  And as I come to God in repentance, that happens.  Don't you love verses 8-12 and the results of a true fast?  HE SETS US FREE!  God wants to break those enslaving yokes off of our lives!  Jesus wants to yoke up with us and He'll carry the heavy burdens and we get the light burdens.
A true fast brings freedom from things which enslave us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fasting & Praying



I was about 35-years-old the first time I decided to fast and pray.  I fasted about our finances.  I just remember our needs were great and there seemed to be no way out financially.  So I decided to fast and pray about it.  I didn't choose an easy fast...I chose to fast from food for seven days.  So for seven days, I only drank water and devoted my time to praying.  Of course, I wasn't on my knees 24-hours a day for seven days.  I had four kids to take care of and laundry didn't stop for me.  But the purpose of those seven days was ever before me.  The first day wasn't so hard.  I missed those three meals and prayed my heart out.  My grumbling tummy was only a reminder to turn to God in prayer.  The second day was a little harder.  It was hard cooking meals for my family and not eating that day.  And by the end of that day, I had a bad headache.  The third day was the worst.  I've since learned that toxins begin leaving your body on that day and I had a migraine.  Honestly, it was hard to think, let alone pray.  And...I was hungry!  But everything began to change on that fourth day.  The headache was gone and everything seemed to be more focused.  My praying was even more fine-tuned.  I found myself less preoccupied about my finances and more centered on God and coming in agreement with Him.  I had mixed emotions by the end of the seventh day.  I was ready to eat again...but I had so enjoyed a time with God which brought me closer to Him.

I'd been told about fasting and praying since I was a little girl.  I'd heard the story of Esther and when she and her people--the Jews--were about to be annihilated, she called her people to fast and pray as she went before the king to petition for their lives.  In my mind, fasting was for life-threatening situations.  Not finances.  And it was from stories in the Bible.  I didn't know anyone in my life who had fasted.  Of course, Matthew 6 tells us to not make a big deal about it when we fast and pray--with a motive to impress men.  So people around me may have fasted, but I just didn't know about it.

Interestingly, a week of fasting and praying didn't immediately change my finances or my circumstances.  It changed me.  Peace parked itself in my heart.  I knew it had done an obvious work when a man commented to his wife that a change had come over me.  He didn't know what had happened, but I seemed more at peace.

I know fasting is powerful.  If you have something challenging your life, I encourage you to fast and pray.  I know some people can't fast from food because of health issues, but you can fast from things like television or the internet...or something else important to you.  It's coming to God and saying, "I'm overwhelmed! And this is so important to me, I want to make this sacrifice so you know exactly how weighty this thing is to me."  Kings in the Old Testament declared fasts to save their countries from the enemy.  They also called their people to a fast to repent from their sin.   Fasting may not immediately change your circumstances, but I can promise you that you will be changed.  But then again...it may change your circumstances!

I've fasted since then.  I was called by God to fast for a young woman who'd had several miscarriages and was pregnant again.  I fasted one day a week throughout her pregnancy--and she delivered a healthy baby boy.  I've fasted for friends and family who were sick.  I've fasted for a prodigal son...and God brought him home.  I am telling you...it is POWERFUL!  No wonder God tells us that some demons can't be cast out except by fasting and praying.  (Matthew 17:14-21)  I encourage you to try it.  Take your overwhelming needs to God.  You might want to start by fasting one meal and spending that time praying.  Build up to fasting and praying one day...two days...or seven days or more.  Try it and let me know what God does.

*Breakfast took on a whole new meaning to me at the end of those seven days.  I'd never known til then that breakfast was actually a word to signify the end of a fast.  Break-fast.  We break our fast by eating...breakfast.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

God or Government?




"Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment. Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them]."  Romans 13:1-2

When we read these verses, we are reminded just WHO ordained and sanctioned our governing authorities.  God did.  We are to obey our government officials.  If we resist them, we are resisting God--and bringing judgment on ourselves!  Remember this was written when the disciples were under Roman rule.  The Romans...who killed Christians for sport.  God has appointed our government leaders today, too.  He's not wringing His hands over those in authority all over our world.  He's put them there...for His purposes.

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."  II Timothy 2:1-2
It's easy to get frustrated with leaders.  But God has given us the way to make a difference...and I'm afraid we make it our last resort.  PRAY for all in authority!  Do we spend as much time praying for our leaders as we do complaining about them?  That might make a difference!  It would make an even bigger difference if we did no complaining and prayed fervently.  Proverbs 21:1 says God can turn the heart of a king wherever He wants.  

"So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name (Jesus); yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.  Then Peter and the apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men."  Acts 5:27-29

The important factor we have to keep in mind is that God is over our government.  Not just ours, but each government in the world!  He is the highest and ultimate authority.  He's told us to obey our government, but there does come a time when we must obey God rather than men...or government officials.  There are people all over the world living under godless governments who have to make the same decision Peter and the apostles did.  When told they could not talk about Jesus, they had to obey God.  God trumps government.  
So, do we obey God...or government?  Both.  Until our government tells us to disobey God.  But then we need to know how to obey God.