Thursday, December 31, 2009


How did this happen? I'm looking at the calendar and realizing that another year has flown by and we are once again about to embark on a new year. I remember as a kid that time sometimes seemed to go by so slowly. Sometimes a week felt like a year (especially around Christmas or my birthday). I hear it now in my own children. One of them has a birthday and then they're already looking to the next one and wondering how much longer till their special day rolls around one more time.

As an adult, though, I've seen a shift. Rather than time dragging, it oftentimes feels like it's flying. It doesn't seem like I should be coming up on my ten year wedding anniversary. There's no way my oldest should be six and my baby should be three. And there's certainly no reason that I should be finding a few gray hairs here and there. Wasn't I just in college?

The Bible clearly points out the brevity of our time here. Psalm 103:15-16 tells us: As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone. Though as a child our concept of time is different (perhaps because we've lived such a short time--a year probably seems a lot longer when you've only lived five years rather than thirty five years), as an adult we begin to understand the truth in these verses.

Our time here on earth is short. The Bible mentions seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength (Psalm 90:10). Now most of us probably know someone who made it past eighty years, and far too many of us also know someone who died far before it seemed like he should. I take 70 or 80 to be a number representing the average life expectancy, and I bring it up to say this: What are you doing with your 70 or 80 years? If you're like me, what are you going to do with the 40 or so years you may have left?

I know that many people come up with "resolutions" for the new year. That's a good start, but that's not exactly what I'm talking about. What are you (what am I?) going to do to make an impact on this world before you leave it? A hundred years after you've lived, people will probably not be talking about you and what you looked like or how smart you were. But you can leave a legacy. Each one of us has the opportunity to change the world--whether it be for one person or one million people.

Maybe this is the year you really do start serving food at the homeless shelter. Maybe this is the year you actually meet your neighbors and invite them to church. Maybe this is the year you stop seeing your marriage trouble as failure and resolve to get help to make things better. Maybe this is the year you leave your work at the office so that you can fully engage in your family. Maybe this is the year. What is it for you? What is God calling you to in 2010?

We've established that life is short and time goes by quickly, so what are you going to do that might not just change someone else's life but might change yours, too?

Happy New Year--make it count!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Let There Be Peace (and Joy) on Earth

I remember the first time I ever saw real snow in Colorado. Growing up in south Texas, snow was really scarce and not ever enough to totally cover the ground. On the rare occasion when it snowed, our snowmen had dirt and twigs mixed in, from rolling the snowball across the ground just to pick up enough snow to make a humble snowman! But in the Colorado mountains, it was everywhere, as far as the eye could see! breathtaking.

What is it about snow that creates such joy? Maybe it is because where my family lives now, in north Texas, it is an unexpected delight! We don't expect it every winter, and lately, it happens once in February just before spring. It sticks for a couple of days and then melts away to usher in spring. This year, we had snow in November and for the first time since we have lived here, on Christmas Eve. It felt like a special gift! We were so excited and will remember it for years to come, I am sure.

Waking up this Christmas morning, the snow covered-houses, trees, and ground created such a peaceful scene after the blustery snowfall the night before. Breathtaking joy and peace. My thoughts immediately turned to thanking God for such a gift!

I Chronicles 16:27 (NLT) says that joy fills His dwelling. I personally cannot look at creation (and snow!) and not believe in a Creator God. John 14:27 (NLT) says, "I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid." The message of Christmas is that the Prince of Peace has come!

One of my favorite songs is Let There Be Peace on Earth. Many are looking for the same kind of peace the Jews were looking for at the time of Jesus' birth. They were looking for a Messiah to bring peace with human weapons and armies -- a great warrior king who would defeat and destroy the Romans who occupied Palestine.

However, we can have peace and joy NOW, in a chaotic world because Christ has overcome the world and sent His gift of peace and joy through the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him. In Romans 15:13 (NLT) Paul writes, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."

The Christmas snow reminds me of God's gift of joy and peace that He sent when "...he became flesh and made his dwelling among us.." (John 1:14, NIV). "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

Growing up in a liturgical church, I did not fully appreciate the beauty and symbolism found in the Advent traditions. The priest began wearing only purple vestments, the banners on the walls were dark purple as well. Certain parts of the service changed to reflect a time of contemplation, not celebration. The Advent wreath had just one pink candle in the midst of 3 other purple candles.

I'm from south Louisiana, and purple is one of my favorite colors, but really! It got a little old, and somewhat depressing, to see all that purple everywhere. What happened to the "12 Days of Christmas" and singing happy Christmas songs, and generally enjoying the anticipation of the BIG DAY? I can remember waiting anxiously for that pink candle to be lit, on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, because it represented hope. The color change alone lifted my spirits in church that day.

Fast-forward a couple of decades... Advent is here again. My children don't see the liturgical signs I did, and I doubt they'd be all that interested in them. But I want them to appreciate this time before Christmas, this period of anticipation that has nothing to do with the presents and singing and lights and tree. I want them to focus on the celebration of Christ's coming. So last year, with the help of my step-mother, I instituted a daily tradition. Using a set of mittens, each stuffed with a trinket, that mark days 1-25 in December, we tell the kids the Christmas story. Each night, a bit more of the story is unveiled. From the Annunciation to their flight to Egypt, we give one piece at a time.

By day 17, when I ask "now where were we?" the kids can repeat the story of Jesus' birth in amazing detail. By day 22 (tonight), we've actually finished the story --can't drag it out too much--and they are asking for more about Jesus' life as a grown up. It's been a little heady to observe their focus on and excitement about Jesus, baby Jesus, Jesus who died on the cross... not the presents under the tree.

That's what Advent is about. To make us focus on Jesus' coming. He's coming! He came, and He's coming again!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Homeless Man in Holy Socks, By Jodi Whisenhunt

I drove my usual route to work that gloomy Tuesday morning in January. It was 42 degrees, misty, and foggy in Dallas. I was nearing my office, a mile or so away. I drove under the overpass and approached a red light. Along the sidewalk strode a man about forty, in need of a shave, slender, carrying a small duffel bag. Nothing intimidating about him. He did not appear threatening. He just walked. But it was 42 degrees and he wore only a flannel shirt, jeans, and flip-flops with socks. If you can call them socks. They were more like holes held together with string.

I, a young, petite female, was alone in my car and afraid to offer a ride. I had maybe fifty cents in my wallet. I wondered what I could give him. I considered making a u-turn and running in to the convenience store to purchase something, anything to warm him, but feared he’d be gone before I returned. Just days before, I’d had a packing blanket in the trunk of my car. If only I hadn’t stored it away. All I had to offer was a prayer for his safety and comfort.

When I arrived at my office, I asked if anyone else had seen him. Though most had entered from the same direction at about the same time, they had not. I peered down to the street from my sixth floor window. I could see quite a distance, but the only people around were other workers scurrying in from the cold. Where had he gone? When I went out at lunch, I searched street corners. Surely, a homeless man in holey socks would be panhandling. There were no shelters in the area. He was gone!

A Colin Raye song played in my mind. “What if Jesus came back like that?” the song asks. “Where would He find our hearts are at? Would we let Him in or turn our backs? What if Jesus came back like that?” I had turned my back! The stranger was in need, and I had not assisted him in any way. I was unprepared.

When I returned home that evening, I packed the blanket back in my trunk. Then I took a brand new pair of my husband’s socks from his drawer and tucked them under the front passenger seat of my car. There those socks remained for five years.

I drove that same route to work every day, and each morning I hoped to see the man along the sidewalk. I prayed for him, that his circumstances had improved, and if I saw him again, I’d be prepared to clothe the King (Matthew 25:34-40, NIV).

The man didn’t ask for help. He appeared en route somewhere. He didn’t stop and glare at me and guilt me into rendering aid. I doubt he noticed me pass him by for his glance was directed at his steps. Though he did not physically get into my car, he has journeyed with me through the past ten years. I’ve often thought of the homeless man in holy socks and wondered what became of him, or if he was even real.

This angel appeared to me to remind me, “There will always be poor people in the land,” and to instruct me, “Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11, NIV).

I’ve seen other homeless people on street corners, under bridges. One woman approached me in a parking lot some time after this incident. She held a bird in a cage and wanted bus fare to get home. I’d just come out of a fast-food eatery. I gave her all my change, close to $20. We were beside a liquor store. Who knows if I helped or hindered her. I did my part. I gave when I perceived a need. What she did with it was her responsibility. I just didn’t want her to walk the thread right out of her socks.

"A Homeless Man in Holy Socks" originally appeared at Godz Anglz and was recently posted at Aim for Perfection Editing. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let's remember to BE Jesus to the world.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Quiz- How Well Do You Know the Christmas Story?

Each Christmas season in our Bible Fellowship Group, Curtis Rippee, our Sunday School Teacher, would give our group a Christmas story quiz. By the end of the quiz we all were yelling out the "NO WAY!" as answers we thought we knew were wrong.

It is amazing how our view of the Christmas Story is formed by misguided Hollywood Christmas shows, inaccurate songs and even stories past down from traditions. I challenge you to a quiz. Good luck and if you have the chance, pass it on at your own Christmas party, Sunday Schools and family gatherings. The answers are at the end....No cheating.
May you and your family have a joyful Christmas!

Instructions: Read and answer each question in the order it appears. Read the choices carefully and select the best one.

___ 1. Joseph was from:
A) Bethlehem
B) Jerusalem
C) Nazareth
D) Madison
E) Minnesota

___ 2. How did Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem?
A) Camel
B) Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
C) Donkey
D) Walked
E) Who knows?

___ 3. Mary and Joseph were married when Mary became pregnant. (T or F)

___ 4. Mary was a virgin when she delivered Jesus. (T or F)

___ 5. What did the innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?
A) “There is no room in the inn.”
B) “I have a stable you can use.”
C) “Come back after the Christmas rush.”
D) None of the above.

___ 6. A “manger” is:
A) A stall
B) Wooden storage bin for hay
C) Feeding trough
D) Barn
E) Unknown

___ 7. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
A) Cows, sheep, goats.
B) Cows, donkeys, sheep.
C) Sheep and goats only.
D) Miscellaneous barnyard animals.
E) Lions, tigers, and bears.
F) None of the above.

___ 8. Who saw the “star in the east”?
A) Shepherds
B) Three kings
C) Both A and B
D) None of the above

___ 9. How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
A) One
B) Three
C) A “multitude”
D) None of the above

___ 10. What “sign” did the angels tell the shepherds to look for?
A) “This way to baby Jesus”
B) A star over Bethlehem
C) A baby that doesn’t cry
D) A house with a Christmas tree
E) A baby in a stable
F) None of the above

___ 11. What did the angels sing?
A) “Joy to the World, the Lord is come.”
B) “Alleluia”
C) “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given”
D) “Glory to God in the highest”
E) “Glory to the Newborn King”
F) “My sweet Lord”

___ 12. What is a “Heavenly Host”?
A) The angel at the gate of heaven
B) The angel who invites people to heaven
C) The angel who serves drinks in heaven
D) An angel choir
E) An angel army
F) None of the above

___ 13. There was snow that first Christmas:
A) Only in Bethlehem
B) All over Israel
C) Nowhere in Israel
D) Somewhere in Israel
E) Mary and Joseph only “dreamed” of a white Christmas
(* This answer is subject to debate...)

___ 14. The baby Jesus cried:
A) When the doctor slapped him on the behind
B) When the little drummer boy started banging on his drum
C) Just like other babies
D) He never cried

___ 15. What is frankincense?
A) A metal
B) A fabric
C) A perfume
D) An eastern man-like monster

___ 16. What is myrrh?
A) An easily shaped metal
B) An oil used for burying people
C) A drink
D) After-shave lotion
E) None of the above

___ 17. How many wise men came to see Jesus? (Write in the correct number)

___ 18. The wise men found Jesus in a:
A) Manger
B) Stable
C) House
D) Holiday Inn

___ 19. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem:
A) To inform Herod about Jesus
B) To find out where Jesus was
C) To ask about the star that they saw
D) For gas
E) To buy presents for Jesus

___ 20. When Joseph and Mary found out that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, what happened?
A) They got married
B) Joseph wanted to break the engagement
C) Mary left town for three months
D) An angel told them to go to Bethlehem
E) Both A and D
F) Both B and C

___ 21. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
A) An angel
B) Mary’s mother
C) Herod
D) Caesar Augustus

___ 22. Joseph took the baby Jesus to Egypt:
A) To show him the pyramids
B) To teach him the wisdom of the Pharaohs
C) To put him in a basket in the reeds by the river
D) Because he dreamed about it
E) To be taxed
F) Joseph did not take Jesus to Egypt
G) None of the above

___ 23. Where do we find the answers to all these ridiculous questions?
A) Matthew
B) Mark
C) Luke
D) John
E) A and B only
F) A and C only

1.C 2.E 3.F 4.T 5.D 6.C 7.F 8.D 9.A 10.F 11.D 12.E 13. D 14.C 15.C 16.B 17.2 18.C
19.B and C 20.F 21.D 22.D 23.F

Source of Quiz: (23 questions)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Loving Friend

For Your love is ever before me and I walk continually in Your truth."

Psalm 26:3

Well, it is here again, the time of year that causes my heart to ache and stirs memories within me that are so painful I can barely recount them in full. I can only remember the memories in part, in certain pieces, at certain times. And I am only a removed part of the story. I am not a central figure, not a main character, not a family member, not even the closest friend. I am one of many friends who loved, and still love, a family who lost a wife and daughter . . . this day . . . seven years ago.

I am blessed to be part of a wonderful group of girls who get together once a month. Sometimes one of us might miss due to a husband having a meeting, a sick kid, ballgames, you get the idea. But, we have had the group going for close to 9 years. We add to our group, girls move, but the corp remains. Seven years ago we had our Christmas get together at my girlfriend's house. We had maybe the best night ever. One of our friends was about to have her second child. We were all excited about having Christmas with our young kids. We laughed about how silly the show the "Bachelor" was (it was a relatively new show back then!) and how blessed we were to have our husbands. Life was pretty great. In fact, it felt like it could not get any better this side of heaven, at least for me it did.

That following Saturday, my girlfriend who hosted the Christmas party, called me rather late. In this phone call she told me that one of our members, our sweet precious friend, had been killed along with her daughter. Her husband was also in the car and was in serious condition and in the hospital. Their son was not in the accident. Scott and I could not believe it. She told us it was true, we said we loved each other and hung up. Scott ran out the door to get a paper. The husband/dad is his good friend. He had to find some proof of the accident, he just could not believe it. He found none. But, we did call the hospital. The next morning we were there at 8:00 am to meet and pray with a man who had just lost almost everything. Yet this amazing man had his faith, and his boy.

We were all shaken, horrified, broken-hearted. They had been killed by a drunk driver. This is a sweet, loving, Christian family. They help others, serve the community, love each other. Drunk driving. Drunk driving. Drunk driving. Only by GOD's grace did a family and community move on.

I miss my friend. She was so funny! She loved so much. She left notes. She was very talented. She left notes about her faith. She loved her husband. She was thankful. She loved her kids. She made an impact on my life. I am thankful for her.

My friend taught me much. She didn't seem to ever hold back. What a lesson for us to learn as we head into the holidays. I want to love like this. Christ loves like this- with abandon. I love my girlfriends. I love you, girls! I love my kids! You are my wonderful gifts! I love my husband! My best friend and so much more- you make my life so great!!!

I want to celebrate this year and every year knowing my kids have the knowledge that their mom lives her life to the fullest- not just that she wants them to live their life to the fullest. Do they see me laugh, joke, run, sing? Do they hear me talk to GOD? Do they see me read my Bible? Am I leading them closer to their Savior each day? Do they see me loving their Daddy? Am I soaking it up?

"Guide me in Your truth and teach me,

for You are GOD my Savior,

and my hope is in You all day long."


I wish you all peace and safety this holiday. For those of you grieving the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a relationship, or a job, I wish you the peace and comfort that only the Holy Spirit can bring. In honor of my sweet friend and her precious daughter, I wish you the fearlessness to love with abandon in the power of the Almighty!

Love and Merry Christmas, friends!

"Father GOD, let me love in Your way. Let me lead those you have given me. Let me follow those you have set over me. Teach me to love without fear. I love You."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I will pray

Last night I watched a group of pre-k and kindergartners sing for a Cancer Support Group's Christmas party. The kids sang their hearts out, and they were so cute doing it. They sang a few Christmas songs and then they ended with a song that goes like this:

I will Jesus' name
And believe...things will change
I will Jesus' name
And believe...things will change
And I know God will hear me when I pray
So I won't worry or be afraid
I will Jesus' name
And believe...things will change
I will pray...I will pray...I will pray
When I heard those words last night, they served as a great reminder. When I pray, do I believe things will change? Or do I pray with doubt, thinking 'maybe God's just not up for this one...'? Do I worry? Am I afraid?
I also thought about who they were singing to: a cancer support group, people who have very likely had moments that might cause one to be afraid. I think of how I sang that same song this summer with some children who had very little, and yet they were willing to sing it wholeheartedly and trust the Truth.
You see, it is true. We don't have to worry or be afraid. Over and over in Scripture the Lord proclaims (through visions, angels, His people, Himself...), "Do not be afraid." God knows us completely, and He knew we'd be tempted to fear, so He was kind enough to remind us again and again that there is no reason for us to fear.
And if Him telling us repeatedly not to be afraid isn't enough, we can also take comfort in knowing that there's truth again in the words telling us God hears us when we pray. Psalm 66: 19 says, "But God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer." He does not always give us the answer we're asking for, but He hears us. We will very likely have moments in life that are unpleasant, possiby quite painful, but that does not mean God hasn't heard us. He is right there hurting with us knowing that in the end the things on this earth are only light and momentary troubles that achieve for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Things will change, whether the outcome is different than what we expected or not. I am thankful tonight to be reminded of a Mighty King who is in charge of it all. And so I will pray and believe things will change, and I will choose not to worry or be afraid. The Lord is good, far beyond what we can comprehend. Let's trust in His goodness.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Peace on Earth

I wish I could bottle the feeling of our church's "Deck the Halls" service yesterday. For the years that my family has lived in McKinney, our church's annual service that ushers in the Christmas season has been a definite favorite of mine.

I am usually far from being in the "Christmas spirit" when I go to the service. And sometimes feeling far from peaceful. On the contrary, I am usually feeling a little stress because I love Thanksgiving so much, and that particular holiday is so often pushed to the side in the mad dash to Christmas.

My favorite part of this annual service is the live Nativity scene acted out by very young children in the church. From Mary looking down at the baby Jesus in her arms, to all the tiny bare toes peeking out from under the costumes, it is pure joy to watch.

It makes me remember that the true Christmas is not the Christmas we can see around us, most often. It is found in our hearts, not at the local mall.

Last year, I found myself in a similar state of mind as Thanksgiving rolled around. I discovered a new favorite Christmas cd, though, in Casting Crowns' release of "Peace on Earth". Largely due to a new arrangement of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", this disc quickly became a mainstay in my car last December.

Lead singer Mark Hall describes how he wrote the arrangement based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous carol (originally a poem, "Christmas Bells"). Instead of using actual bells in the song, he immediately thought of children singing. Those pure, clear voices take us to a place of innocence, a time of redemption.. they remind us to hope, though we may be in deepest despair.

You see, when Longfellow penned those words on Christmas Day, 1864, America was still caught in the throes of the Civil War. America was still months away from Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9th 1865. His poem reflected the prior years of the war's despair, while ending with a confident hope of triumphant peace. Longfellow had also tragically lost his wife Fanny a few years prior, and his son Charles had just been badly injured in the war. He was feeling far from peaceful that lonely Christmas Day himself. Yet through the clear sound of the Christmas bells, his heart found hope.

As our pastor reminded us yesterday, the service is not just about readying the worship center with greenery and decorations in preparation of the season... the true preparations are in readying our hearts to usher in this blessed holy Season. The celebrations should all point the way to God's most precious Gift to mankind... his one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

May you be blessed with God's Peace this Christmas season.

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does He sleep!
The wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail
With Peace on Earth, Good-will to men...

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving! I hope today finds you feeling blessed and thankful as you spend this special time with family and friends! During an extended time away with family the past week, I had the chance to visit the Calvary Chapel Murrieta. I love being able to experience other venues for worship just to be reminded how diverse and creative and big our God is and that He is everywhere and relevant to wherever His people are. It's the "same kind of different as me" experience when we seek to see the world and each other the way God does. Sometimes we don't even realize when we get comfortable where we are, that we are seeing things through a narrow lens, unless we take the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and experience life outside that safety net. Even though we don't have to leave home to do that, I am thankful for the fresh perspective I have had this week away from home. I hope your break this week from regular routines gives you renewed energy and joy as we have a day to regroup and reflect on the things we are most thankful for.

So on that note, I want to share a devotion received from the Calvary Chapel Murrieta Women's Ministry titled Time to Count Your Blessings by "Kelly".

I love when November rolls around. Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. I love the fact that everywhere we turn, we are encouraged to count our blessings and have a thankful heart. Being thankful is definitely a Biblical principle. Psalm 95:2-3 tells us to "Come before His presence with thanksgiving: let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods." Over and over we are exhorted to be thankful. Thanksgiving is a great reminder of what our hearts shold be doing 24/7.

It's easy to take for granted the things that God does every day. He gives us breath, food, clothing, and homes. He allows us to have relationships with families and friends. He gives us the sun to light the day and the moon to light the night. He gives us the wind to blow through our hair and the mountains to climb. He gives us the sea to enjoy and the flowers to smell. Our list could go on and on.

Today, I am most thankful for His power. We studied Psalm 46 this week in our Bible study. It's a psalm that was written by the sons of Korah to exalt and praise God for His power over nature, His power over the nations, and His power to be our refuge. Basically, the psalmist says that no matter what is happening in our world, we don't have to fear, because God, the Lord of Hosts, is in control. Even if the whole world is falling apart, we don't have to.

A few weeks ago, our world experienced a typhoon, an earthquake, and a raging storm, all in two days. Fear paralyzed many. God's Word says, even in times like that, we don't have to be afraid. God is never shaken off the throne. He was, is, and always will be, King of Kings and Lord over all. And somehow, knowing that, we can "be still and know He is God" (Psalm 46:10).

Knowing that God is in control of every, yes, every situation, can bring a calmness to our soul that is unexplainable. It doesn't mean we're in denial when we trust God and decide not to worry. It means we believe that even when bad things happen to us or in our world, God is still sovereign. He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all-present), and omnipotent (all-powerful). He is in all, over all, and through all (Colossians 1:15-18). He's our Father of Lights (James 1:17) and our Lord of Hosts (Psalm 46:7). He is the First and the Last. He is my Lord. I pray He's yours. Take time every day to offer up thanks and praise to the God who will NEVER leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Defend Their Cause

Some nights when I was a little girl, I would sneak in my parents' bed after they'd tucked me in for the night. There was something reassuring and safe about being in that king size brass bed that was so popular in the 80's. Many times, I would still be awake when my parents discovered me. Even at eight years old, I remember making myself go as limp as possible to feign deep sleep when my Dad carried me to my bed. I'm sure my Dad caught on as I was too young to fake my breathing pattern, but he indulged me anyway. I suspect he knew that the whole ritual - being snug in their bed and then being gently carried back - made me feel safe and cared for.

Fast forward 21 years. I am a Mom now and I had a very sick little boy. My son could get very little relief between bouts of vomiting. As we laid on the floor, me massaging his weak, fever -racked body and praying over him, I had a distinct feeling of deep sadness wash over me. There was a sudden realization that, though Noah was sicker than a dog, he at least had someone to watch over him. I thought of all the children around the world who have no one to rub their back, hold a cool wash towel to their forehead or whisper words of comfort and love over them.

November is Adoption Awareness Month. There are an estimated 143 million orphans around the planet. Some estimates go above 200 million. That's 140+ million children who may never know what it feels like to be carried by a loving Daddy. That's 140+ million kiddos who will catch a bug, some from lack of access to clean water, and they won't have a Mommy to rub their back and console them. There are that many children who will never know the taste of a Thanksgiving turkey or know what it's like to sit around a dinner table and give thanks with a family. Their family.

"Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." I love that quote by Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision.

So, what stirs the heart of God? Isaiah said, "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." No wonder God made him a prophet. He spoke some rich stuff.

For a God who spoke so much into the Scriptures about defending the cause of the fatherless, it seems we believers ought to open our hearts and pay attention. Lest we develop a religion that is holey, gaps conveniently left where it would be too inconvenient to act, instead of a faith that is holy.

We have so many options - supporting an orphan or child with one parent through World Vision or Compassion International. All for the cost of eating out once a month. One meal at a nice restaurant or providing food, safety and an education for a child.

Then there are children in need of a foster home. There are refugee children escaping volatile situations in their countries who arrive in the U.S. in need of a home and a family. You can pray about becoming involved with the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program either as a foster parent or a mentor. There are refugee children in the area in need of a mentor as I type this.

And, most obvious, is actually adopting. To bring home a child that needs a Daddy to carry her. One that will know the tenderness of a Mom's hands and care. To show a child what it feels like to laugh around a table and eat turkey with a family. Their family.

As our church often discusses core and non-core, it is evident that caring for orphans is one significant calling of and command to all believers. Am I saying you're a rotten Christian if you don't adopt? No. Am I saying all believers need to take up the cause of orphans and it comes in many forms?


All believers.

So, I'm asking, what can and WILL you and your family do to show the love of Jesus to a fatherless and motherless child?

Disobedience vs. Obedience. Holey vs. Holy

Choose Obedience. Choose Holy.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James...God spoke good things through him, too!

What's Cooking???

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already here, where did this year go?

All the ladies at our ladies event a few weeks ago were given a collection of recipes from ladies on either the Women's Ministry and/or the Fall Event team.  We thought it might be fun to share the recipes with all of you this week as you are getting geared up for the holidays!

We would love for you to leave a comment and tell us what some of your favorite recipes are this time of the year and if you would like, you can share your recipe with us to.

Peppermint Bark
From the 2009 Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

Coarsely crush 24 round peppermint candies.
 Melt 24 oz. white chocolate.
 Add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract and the crushed candy
(reserving 3 Tablespoons) to themelted chocolate.
 Quickly pour mixture into a 9” x 15” pan (or the
equivalent) lined with parchment paper.
 Sprinkle with the reserved crushed candy.  Pressing with fingers.
 Let cool for at least an hour.  Break into pieces.
Submitted by:  Janice B.

Killer Candy
3 lbs. white almond bark
3 c. salted peanuts
2-1/2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
2-1/2 c. Peanut Butter Capt'n Crunch cereal
2 c. mini marshmallows 
Melt almond bark in microwave about 2 minutes.
 Mix all other ingredients in large mixing bowl.
 Pour almond bark over mixture and mix well.
 Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Let harden.
 Makes 8 dozen 
Submitted by:  Lynette M. 
Hot Spinach Dip
2 c Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
8 oz cream Cheese
1/4 cup purple onion, chopped
2T chopped jalapenos (optional)
1/3 c Parmesan Cheese
1 can Rotel
1 small package chopped spinach,well drained!!
Melt Monterey Jack Cheese and Cream Cheese in a double boiler.
 Remove from heat.
 Add remaining ingredients.
 Serve with bread cubes, crackers, or chips.
Submitted by:  Gwen W. 

Christmas Gelatin Salad 

1 (6 oz) package of lime gelatin mix (prepare as directed on box)
 1 (8 0z) package of cream cheese OR 6oz cottage cheese
1 (20 oz) can of crushed pineapple with juice (drain but save the juice)
 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1. Add 1/2 cup pineapple juice to prepared gelatin. Place it in the
refrigerator to partially gel. It is important that the gelatin is only partially gelled.
 2. Meanwhile, cook the pineapple in a small saucepan until it boils.
Let it cook about 5 minutes. Cool it to room temperature. 
 3. When the gelatin is partially gelled, blend the softened cream
cheese (or cottage cheese) into it until it is creamy. Mix in the
cooled, cooked pineapple. 
4. Then, fold the nuts into the gelatin mixture. Finally,
place it in the refrigerator to completely gel. 
Submitted by:  Joanne B. 

Crunchy Carrot Salad
1 lb carrots, peeled
3/4 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1. Grate the carrots on the coarse side of a box grater ( a food
processor extracts a lot of liquid and will make the carrots too
soft for this salad).
2. In a large bowl, gently toss together the carrots, peanuts, parsley,
and mint.
3. In a small bowl thoroughly stir together the olive oil, lemon juice
and sugar, and salt, then pour the dressing onto the salad and
toss again until the carrots are evenly coated.
4. Let the salad stand for 20 minutes before serving, or refrigerate
it and serve within 2 days.  Serves 6.
Submitted by:  Kerensa B.

Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs
A Swedish Christmas Eve tradition usually part of a large smorgasbord.
1 lb ground chuck
1/4 lb ground pork
1-1/2 c bread crumbs
1 c milk
2 eggs
1 med onion finely chopped
1/8t pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup 
1/2t salt
3/4t dillweed
1/4t allspice
1/8t nutmeg
1/8t cardamom
3T butter
1 10 oz can beef broth
Mix meat, soak bread crumbs in milk 5 min.  Add ground meats, eggs,
onion, 1/4t salt, 1/4t dill weed, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Mix
well and refrigerate covered for 1 hour.
 Shape into 1" meatballs and brown in hot butter or margarine.   Put
meatballs in crock pot.  Mix together beef broth, cream of mushroom
soup, pan drippings, 1/4t salt, 1/2t dill weed.  Pour over meatballs and
cook on low 4-6 hours.
Can use frozen meatballs and put all the spices for meat
mixture in the broth as well as soup and beef broth.  It
will flavor the meatballs.
Submitted by:  Lynn Q.

Bacon-Wrapped Cornish Hens
From Williams-Sonoma Complete Grilling Cookbook 

8 slices bacon, about 1/2 lb total
4 Cornish hens, about 1-1/4 lb each
Salt and freshly ground pepper totaste 
4-8 fresh parsley sprigs
4-8 fresh thyme sprigs
Prepare a fire for indirect-heat cooking in a covered grill.  Fill a large
saucepan two-thirds full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add the bacon and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain, then rinse the bacon
with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
 Pat the hens dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle them inside and out with
salt and pepper to taste.  Tuck a sprig or two of parsley and thyme into
each body cavity.  Crisscross 2 slices of bacon across the breast of
each hen.  Using kitchen string, tie the bacon securely to the birds.
 Place the hens, breast side up, on the center of the grill rack.  Cover
and open the vents halfway.  Cook for 30 minutes, then turn breast side
down.  Continue cooking, covered, until the birds are well browned,
opaque throughout and the  juices run clear, 20-25 minutes longer.
 Transfer the birds to a warmed platter or individual
plates.  Snip the strings and arrange the bacon alongside.
Submitted by:  Steph T.  

Cornbread Dressing
1 Skillet Cornbread
1 Stalk Celery
2 Bell Peppers
1 Onion
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 package Saltine Crackers
6 eggs
1 Stick Butter 
Small Can Evaporated Milk
Sage to taste
Cook celery, bell peppers and onions in chicken broth until ten-
der.  Crumble cornbread and crackers until real fine into a large
pan.  Add all of the other ingredients being sure to sage, salt and pep-
per to personal taste.  Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 2 1/2 - 3
hours.  Check intermittently to make sure it is not drying out.  Add
chicken broth as needed to prevent dressing from being too dry.
If your family does not like the pieces of the celery, peppers and onions
you can run them through your food processor and then just mix in
with the broth.  You will still get the taste and even your pickiest eaters might try it.  
Submitted by:  Amanda D. 

Green Bean Casserole
My mother-in-law’s recipe and a family favorite

4 Cans Green Beans - Drained
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
 1 Roll Garlic Cheese 
Ritz Crackers
3/4 Stick Butter
Place 1/2 green beans in baking dish
 Place soup and cheese in boiler on low heat until cheese is melted
Pour 1/2 cheese mixture over green beans
 Use the remaining green beans and top with the remaining cheese mixture
 Crush crackers and mix with 3/4 stick of melted butter
 Pour over casserole and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly
(approx 30-40 min)
Submitted by:  Amanda D.

Mashed Potato Cheese Bake
 3/4 c seasoned dry bread crumbs
3 c mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1/2 c parmesan cheese
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
2T butter, softened
Sprinkle 1/4 cup bread crumbs in greased baking dish.  Set aside.
 Mix mashed potatoes, eggs, and Parmesan together.
 Spread half of the mixture in baking dish and top with Mozzarella.
 Spread remaining potatoes over cheese.
 Mix remaining bread crumbs and butter together and sprinkle on top.
 Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.
 Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Submitted by:  Steph T.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Or Is It?

The holidays are quickly approaching. The stores have had Christmas stuff out for months now and lots of people are planning what they will be serving for Thanksgiving dinner next week. For many people this is a very exciting time of the year but there are many people where this the the worst time of the year. The holidays can be a very hard time for people who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, or life just isn't what they thought it would be.

I love the holidays but four years ago when our little girl passed away the holidays really changed in our home. I know what it is like to lose someone and see everyone else living life. It can be very hard to see everyone around you happy and smiling and getting into the season. Sometimes I think maybe we are walking around with a fake smile on our face trying to make people think we are doing great this year when we are really falling apart on the inside. For me personally, the holidays are tough. Each year I wonder what they would have been like with her here, what her favorite food would have been or perhaps what she would have on her Christmas list this year.

If you are reading this and this year the holiday's are not exactly what you are looking forward to, know that you are not alone. I know there are times in our lives when it is hard to find something to be thankful for when we are going through what may be the toughest time in our life.  In John 16 Jesus is talking to the disciples and telling them there is going to be a time they will grieve and mourn but their grief will turn to joy.  In John 16:33 Jesus says "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Although it can seem like we are all alone and there is no one around we are not alone.  Jesus does not abandon us.  He is walking right beside us the whole time holding us up.   God can give you the peace that passeth all understanding.  I believe that was my prayer for so long that he would just give me peace.  During my early days of loss I found out that my comfort was through HIM.  I read quite a bit in the Old Testament back then and it seemed God always had something to say to me in the books of Psalm, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job. 

This past week at Bible study we were talking about joy.  The lesson referred to Psalm 30 and was talking about "joy comes in the morning".  When I was reading this it reminded me of a song that our choir sang in the church I grew up in.  The song was called "Joy Comes In The Morning".   I remember after Kate's death I would think about this song often.   I am living proof that Joy Does Come In the Morning!   I wanted to share the lyrics of this song with you but after much searching could not find the lyrics to the song and I don't know if I remember all the words so I found a link on "YouTube".  I hope you will all take 5 minutes and listen to the words of this song.  "Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning"! 

My prayer for everyone this holiday season is that you will lean on HIM in the good times and the bad times and know you are not alone because Jesus is with you and HE is wanting to give you the peace and hope that you desire during this holiday season.

We all do have something to be thankful for....Jesus Christ died so that each one of us might live.  If you do not know Him as your personal Savior this would be a great time of the year to accept Him into your heart. 

We would love for you to leave a comment and tell us what you are thankful for this holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And I'm Singing...

How do you respond when life is good or when life is hard? Are you singing?

I teach a small 8th grade Language Arts class and have had the opportunity to really get to know the students in addition to teaching them. I also have the blessing of praying for them. As is the routine at the beginning of each class, I asked for prayer requests.
The outgoing, happy-go-lucky class clown quietly raised his hand while staring down at his desk. He was waiting for me to call on him. Looking down at his hands, with a soft shaking voice, he asked if we 'would pray for his mom. Her cancer has returned in a more aggressive form and she has two tumors in her body each the size of a grapefruit. There is a race against the clock to begin chemo.'
His words struck me deep. The class was completely quiet and the air was heavy. I faced the white board and wrote the request. Turning around to face the class with the bravest face I could, I asked for other prayer requests. Hoping for a praise, I called on the always smiling girl raising her hand. She told the class her aunt died yesterday, and asked for prayers for her family. I printed it on the board. The next request was from a student who announced her mother was going into surgery this week and she was scared. I wrote it on the board. Yet another request was for a cousin that had a pulmonary embolism and is in the hospital fighting for his life. My hand began to shake. I felt the burden of my students as I wrote each one on the board. I have 9 students in my class, and each request was incredibly deep and heavy. I probably took a deep breath as my transparent face displayed what my heavy heart was feeling as I prepared to pray for these requests. Seeing my reaction, my class clown student whose mother is braving her second round of cancer said, "Mrs. Bain, my mom and dad have joy and hope in the LORD. Whether God heals her or not, they are praising a God who not only is the Great Physician, but is their Deliverer in good times and bad."
I was surprised by his regained composure yet not surprised by his faith in God and his words in a crisis. This student speaks of his trust in the Lord. In an instance, the heavy mood of the class transformed to hope. The class rallied and began testifying how God has proven faithful in good times and bad. I was witnessing hope in action.
I know of this mother with cancer, although we have never met. She is a worshipper in song. She sings each Sunday as part of their church's worship team. I have heard from those that attend this church that she sings passionately to God...She has seen the healing power of the Lord in her life through her first battle with cancer. She believes... She sings praises to the Lord which is personal, relevant and true.
With my students' words of hope, my voice became confident and strong in prayer as I lifted up each request before the Father.
We serve a God of hope who loves us beyond measure. No matter what you are walking through, good or bad, sing praises to the one who loves you.
I serve an Amazing God of Hope, and I'm singing.

"Thank you God, for the faithful. For those in good times and bad- that sings and hopes in you."

Psalm 42:5-6
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's a Good Thing

"For it is GOD who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." I shared this verse (and 12 others from Philippians Chapter 2) with a group of 5th grade girls. We were in the middle of a tall grassy field, by a stocked pond, just before sunset. We discussed why on earth would GOD choose to work in us for His purpose? His good purpose? Why us? Why? Because. Because He is GOD. Because He chooses to do so. That is why. Therefore, we get to enjoy being transformed by Him. We get to focus on the work required to be changed into His likeness. We get to be safe knowing He is paying attention to us. Wow! I never want any one of my girls I teach to feel alone. GOD's attention is on her. His attention is on us. He is active in the heart of every believer. Philippians tells us it is so. Do we listen? Do we respond?
"GOD who works in you." What a phrase! This is a reminder that He is at work in us. How often do we (me!) push aside GOD and try to take over the work? Or how often do we (me!) cite exhaustion and refuse any transforming work by the Father? "GOD working in us" is not just a statement, but a blessing and promise, as well. GOD's love, care, time, and attention are on us! We are not alone and abandoned. We are not left to raise our children alone, left to be in a lonely marriage, or manage a home/job alone. GOD works in us to will and to act. He is guiding us. We can call on this help. He will guide our behavior along with His will.
I want to get out of the way so GOD's hand can create in me what He desires for His good pleasure. Who am I? Does it match with who He wants me to be? It it "GOD who works in me" as the Scripture says; or me who works in me?
As I sat with my 5th grade girls on bales of hay in the wide open field, I thought of how GOD's hand has, is, and will work in them. He has great joy in store for them. Yes, there will be pain in their lives- He will be present for that, too. But, what a blessing to know that it is GOD who works in them to "will and to act according to His good purpose."
I want to be an active participant of all He has for me, not on the sidelines. I want to be living in grace, not rebellion as His hand is attempting to mold me. I want to be ready to love Him and fulfill all of the "good purposes" He has for me!

"Father, thank You for Jesus. Please continue to work in me so that my life will be only for Your good purposes. I love You!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's All About Trust

What do you think of when you hear the word, "Confide?" Maybe you think of slumber parties where you'd share secrets with your best friend. Maybe you remember the first time you told someone that you love him. Or maybe it's a word that you don't particularly like because of the way someone dishonored it when you'd told them something that was precious to you.

No matter what memories the word may conjure, the root of the word means "trust," as in "to impart secrets trustfully" or "to have full trust." It is a word that most of us take seriously, one that implies a relationship is present. I wouldn't confide in someone based on a five minute conversation. I probably wouldn't even confide in someone based on years of casual friendship. I confide in those who I know and those who really know me.

I tell you all of this because I recently came across a Scripture verse about who God confides in. Who do you think it is? I think an easy answer would be, "Jesus" or "the Holy Spirit". I mean, that makes sense, right? Why wouldn't that be who He confides in? But do you know what Psalm 25:14 says? It says, "The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them." Really? Did we just read that? God will confide in those who fear Him.

That blows me away. I am humbled at the idea of the Creator of the Universe confiding in me. I feel so unworthy, and yet the Lord is gracious, and He longs to have an intimate relationship with us. Just as I don't want to confide in someone who I don't have a relationship with, I believe God doesn't confide in someone He doesn't have a relationship with. In order to truly fear Him (in the sense of being in awe of Him), we have to know Him, and to know Him, we have to spend time with Him (through His Word, in prayer, etc.). And when we do this, when we know Him and fear Him, He will confide in us.

I long for the Mighty King to trust me with some of His secrets and to have full trust in me. I am so grateful for a Gracious Father who chooses not to rule us as His subjects but rather to love us as His children, children whom He sees fit to confide in as we trust in Him. Lord, let it be!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Thankfulness Box

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations."
-- Psalm 100:4-5

For many years now, our family has taken a great American "road trip" for summer vacation. We usually tie the trip in with some business travel that my husband needs to do, and just make a vacation out of it. We've driven days to get to both northern and southern California on different trips, and this summer took us on adventures through countless states to get to Boston and back. We love to stop and see the kind of stuff along the way that you'd never see if you were jumping on a plane and headed straight for your ultimate destination. It's kind of a running joke with us that our family loves to drive through "flyover" country.

Today I was looking around at all the neighborhood Halloween decorations that were being packed away, and I excitedly told my girls that it was time to get out our Thanksgiving items. We started talking about how much we loved Thanksgiving. It truly is my favorite holiday, in part because the stores want nothing to do with it (well, maybe the grocery stores do). They were laughing at me, because I told them that it suddenly struck me that Thanksgiving is the "flyover country" of holidays.

So many people hit Halloween and then the rush to Christmas is on.. full-steam ahead. The stores start even before that time. I remember one October, going in the grocery store to pick up Halloween candy the middle of October and was stunned that the store was already clearing the Halloween candy aisle and beginning the massive red and green transformation to the "Christmas candy" aisle.

Starting about now, catalogs assault us at every turn, tv ads hawking the "latest and greatest" Christmas presents abound, the mad dash begins to "hurry up and order the hot items" for Christmas before they are impossible to find. By many, Thanksgiving is all but forgotten in the rush.

Don't get me wrong.. I love Christmas. But the rush straight past Thanksgiving kind of disturbs me. Sometimes I want to just turn it all off. Stop and exhale.. stop and breathe. This mad dash to which I'm referring doesn't feel like it has a lot to do with counting down to the celebration of Jesus' birth, anyway.

Sometimes, this happens to us when we pray, as well. We are so intent, so focused on presenting our requests to God.. sometimes we forget to stop and say "Thank You" for all the wonderful blessings we have already received and continue to receive.

I know how often I have to stop my own children and remind them to say "thanks" to someone (and sometimes that person is me). How sweet it is when they do remember, on their own, with no prompting whatsoever from Mom. How much more precious it must be to God to hear "Thank You's" from His children.

Years ago, my girls and I decorated a simple cardboard box. We wrapped it in fall colors, leaving an opening in the top and they colored all the sides with crayons. "The Thankfulness Box" was born that year in our family. All throughout the month of November, we kept a stack of small pieces of construction paper next to the box. Whenever any of us felt truly grateful for something, we tried to remember to write it down and place the paper in the Thankfulness Box.

That Thanksgiving, we left the box and papers sitting out on my parents' Thanksgiving table. We had lots of extended family in attendance,and we encouraged anyone who wished to take part to also put their notes of appreciation & thankfulness into the box. The box was sealed up after Thanksgiving and placed into the attic with all the fall decorations.

The following November, we again placed the box in a central point in our kitchen and added the slips of paper. This time, on Thanksgiving Day, we turned the box over and carefully emptied it of all its treasure.

And treasure it was. We all gathered around and read with amazement the wonderful notes of gratefulness and thanksgiving. Praises to God for all His many blessings. Thankful parents welcoming a son home from Iraq, grandparents so thankful for the blessing of a new grandbaby.. siblings grateful for each other. So many notes had to do with the blessings of a close family.

There was one note that my eye settled on almost immediately. I would have recognized that handwriting anywhere. In my Grandma's shaky script, the note read "I am thankful for my family and very much for my sweet little girls." As tears began to fall from my eyes I thanked God myself for the gift of a precious Grandma. You see, my Grandma had just passed away about ten days before I read that sweet note. She'd written it on Thanksgiving Day the year before, and it had been sealed in the box for all that time.

I would so encourage you to start a Thankfulness Box tradition in your own home. Or maybe a "Thankfulness Tree" using the same idea. Our girls just love it and so many of the sweet notes every year are in their handwriting. Even the youngest children can draw pictures of people & things for which they thank God. Encourage that daily attitude of thankfulness all year long, but especially in this month of Thanksgiving. Your family will receive such blessings from this simple tradition.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Involve Me, and I Understand

Last week, our family visited the Alamo in San Antonio. The kids have never seen it, although they have studied about it in school and read about the brave men who fought in the Texas Revolution. However, there is nothing like Active Learning, which is a process wherein students engage/interact with course content. An ancient Chinese Proverb sums up this learning approach: "Tell me, and I'll forget. Show me, and I might remember. Involve me, and I understand."

Before leaving home, we had printed out a History Hunt for the Alamo. It was a two page fill-in-the blank questionaire that guided us through the courtyards and rooms of the 300 year old mission. As we searched for the answers to questions such as find the flags and their corresponding number of defenders from Scotland? Kentucky? New York? or "Draw the cattle brand for Mission San Antonio de Valero", or "In this room there is a plaque that tells us that this room protected the [women and children] who survived the siege," we were able to experience a more personalized view of the siege and battle of the Alamo.

I believe that God wants us to step into His big story in an even more intentional way. The Bible says in Matthew 7:24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock." Verse 26 "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand."

In his book God 360, Andy Flannagan shares 120 experiential devotionals that facilitate the participant's ability to see God in places where perhaps we've never looked for or seen Him. It is a great resource for learning to "allow God's Spirit to weave himself into every moment of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound as well as impacting your spirit." To see people, places and things the way God sees them. It is an active devotional that challenges the reader to act on what we read in scripture -- to experience and apply it.

A way to get engaged locally is to join Scare Away Hunger, an annual McKinney opportunity to experience God by actively engaging neighbors in collecting food for the hungry in McKinney. Matthew 25:35 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat;" Seven churches have joined together for the purpose of replenishing the Community Food Pantry of McKinney whose primary goal is to insure that no one goes to bed hungry. Please join us this weekend on October 31 to engage with those around us, being Christ's hands and feet as we demonstrate the difference He has made in our lives.

Be encouraged that God is omnipresent and omniscient. He is everywhere, all-knowing and involved in the tinyest details of each person's life here on earth. He has a purpose and plan that He is actively carrying out, with or without us. But He wants us to help him so we can be where He is and really get to know Him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 31 is Bigger than Halloween

Ninja. Pirate. Pumpkin girl. Superheroes plan to invade our house this weekend. Cute as they are, and despite having participated when we were kids, my husband and I still have mixed feelings about the whole Halloween tradition. Like we need any more cavity abetting! More than that, of course, is the uneasiness about supporting a tradition that, in other parts of the world, celebrates evil spirits and pagan rituals. Many Christians feel the same tension, choosing a variety of options on how to, or not to, acknowledge Halloween.

Love it or hate it, October 31 has a greater significance than its identity as the Eve of All Saints' Day. In Slovenia and parts of Germany, people enjoy it as a civic holiday. Some protestant churches celebrate it as a religious holiday, with special liturgies, songs and garments. Both the civic and religious celebrations for Reformation Day remember a particular October 31—the day in 1517 that Dr. Martin Luther chose to post his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

A normally unremarkable event, the posting of this particular document set in motion a conflict that reshaped the history of western civilization. It is hard to overstate the consequences of the 95 Theses. One man, a monk dedicated to the truth of scripture, challenged the leaders of his Church to debate, among other things, the selling of indulgences.

This practice of selling forgiveness enticed common people, most of whom were poor, to purchase indulgences that would, according to the pope, buy their deceased relatives out of purgatory and into heaven. The proceeds from these sales lined the pockets of various princes and bishops while propagating the myth that forgiveness could be bought. An illiterate populace depended on their educated church leaders to guide them in their faith. In Luther’s mind, the church had deceived her people. He chose to challenge this particular issue, and the theology behind it, at Wittenberg.

Why risk the wrath of his church superiors? As a young monk, Luther struggled with feeling good enough for God. He could not understand how God could or ever would accept him. Fasting, prayer, confession—none seemed enough to please a holy God. He spent years trying, to no avail. During this season of struggle, he began a study of Romans. In the first chapter, he found freedom. Verse 17 reads, " it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'"

"This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification," he wrote, "is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness."

Luther came to understand that he could never earn forgiveness, never earn God’s love and grace, and never do enough to make himself righteous. Consider these truths he found in further readings of Romans:

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (3:22-24).

And again in chapter five:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (vv 1-2).

Justification through faith. Faith alone. Sola fide. Christ paid the penalty for my sin because he loved me and knew that I could never pay that price outside of hell. All my good works emerge out of a heart of gratitude, not from obligation and certainly not as a means to evening the score between me and God. As if that were possible!

Luther discovered freedom in his study of Romans and other New Testament books. His congregants heard him teach on these truths, other monks began reading his prolific writings about justification by faith, and when the 95 Theses were posted, then copied, the church leaders called him to account. At his trial at the Diet of Worms three years later, Luther stood before a vast assembly of world leaders religious and secular (there was little separation at the time). When the Pope’s envoy listed the charges against him and asked if he would repudiate his teachings and writings, Luther responded:

Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Sacred Scripture or by evident reason... my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

"My conscience is captive to the word of God." Luther's words should inspire all Christians to hold fast to the Truth. To study and know it, to meditate on and memorize it. To act in accordance with it—to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. (cf Micah 6:8)

We celebrate October 31 as Reformation Day, recalling the catalytic event that loosed a world-changing revolution of thought and practice. However you choose to observe Halloween, remember that Christ has freed you from darkness and brought you into his kingdom of light, if you but believe. Sola fide!

(this article was originally written for and posted on

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bring Home the Wonder of Christmas!

Sunday, November 8th
7:00 - 9:00 PM

Our Ladies Fall Event is quickly approaching and it is something that you do not want to miss. Our guest speaker this year is Mary Beth Lagerborg. Mary Beth is an author and has also served on the staff of MOPS International.

Our theme this year is "Bring Home the Wonder of Christmas". Mary Beth will be teaching us how to ready our hearts and homes for the holidays. What a wonderful time to start getting into the Christmas spirit and even learning a few new traditions that you could start for your family. Topics for the evening include:
  • Exploring family expectations in a Pre-Holiday Family Meeting
  • Choosing traditions to develop, and ones to leave behind
  • Selecting doable tasks, and releasing guilt from the rest
  • Realizing Advent as a season of spiritual preparation
  • Bringing the story of the Nativity alive to children
  • Demonstrating 12 practical, economical ways to enrich the season at home using each of the senses
  • Providing 12 “five-minute fixes” to de-stress such holiday situations as unexpected company or a quick dish for the company potluck
You will also enjoy wonderful Christmas music by Kenneth & Teri Ussery along with dessert and coffee catered by Coffee & Cream.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Sunday, November 1st. You can purchase your tickets here.

Join us for this wonderful evening to begin getting ready for the upcoming holidays.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,a]"> Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking Off My Mask

For the past couple of weeks, I have heard the word "mask". Every time I would hear that word spoken, my spirit would stir on the inside. Why? Did I have something to hide? Is there something I am hiding? Or could this be my own safe haven for survival? If no one "really" knows what's going on with me, then I am safe. But am I? So many questions from one little word mask.

The point in wearing a mask is to disguise, to hide, and to keep your true identity hidden. For me, wearing a mask became my protection. I had to find a way to keep those out that I felt would bring me harm. I could put on a mask and pretend to be stronger, faster, prettier, smarter and thinner. You name it; I had a mask for it. Hmmm, does that all sound insecure or what? I had convinced myself that whatever I needed to do to get through, I would do it. As long as it didn’t bring hurt upon anyone else.

But I am reminded daily, that God loves me just the way I am. And since He knows all there is to know about me, what is there to try and hide from Him? I mean, He is the ONLY ONE that I am to fully please. I have daily reminders that nothing is hidden from the Lord. He sees all and He knows all. I am exposed to Him from the crown of my head to the soul of my feet. And that's a good thing. It's a very good thing because I do need someone to always be accountable for my actions. For all that I say and do, and for all the places I travel that I think are private and visited in secret. Perhaps for all those times when my heart reveals its' true color when I am placed in a situation or environment with someone who is a little different from me.

When I mess up, I grab a mask. I want to cover myself from the Lord because of the guilt and shame of my sins, my true identity. I don't want Him to see me being so ugly and filthy from having a bad attitude or speaking unkind words; especially when He takes the time to wash and bathe me in His Holy Word. I don't know about you, but the devil really cranks it up after I have spent time with the Lord being refreshed, renewed, and restored.

Somewhere along my journey, I lost my identity. Maybe it was stolen from me, maybe I gave it away. Nonetheless, I now know where I am and what I need to do to get back to who God created me to be. The Lord says that He will love me despite my shortcomings. He has forgiven me for the times when I thought I had to “cover up”. He wants me to be right in Him and with others. And all that takes is for me to be true to myself, true to others and mostly true to Him. He has given me another chance to reveal the beauty that is within. No more masks!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seeking Clarity Among the Noise

I am tired. Well, honestly, I am sick and tired-literally. I have been burning the midnight oil on more than one occasion, putting too many irons in the fire and need another activity like I need a hole in my head. These metaphors parallel the frazzled life of a hard to say no-er. I am guilty as charged, and paying the price for doing too much during a flu epidemic. But I am finding my way back to the simpler life. What have I learned as I reflect on my noisy life? Just as it is difficult to listen to two pieces of music at the same time, it is hard to listen to God’s voice when there are too many things challenging it. Yet, like me, most women have multiple activities chattering in our ear and competing for our attention. Most are well purposed. Distractions are sometimes subtle like a whisper, relaying layers of seemingly silent clatter drowning out the most important voice of all, Our Lord’s voice. By noon, we have forgotten the voice of intention from God, and are racing to and from activities with reckless abandonment. Sometimes we tackle tasks with the hopes of glorifying the Lord and in the mean time we are not doing anything well. We are tired, empty and burned out. God did not intend for us to live this way.

Gently and thankfully, this is what my time with the Lord has revealed. There are 3 ways to put our schedules in alignment with God’s plan for our lives. Isaiah 43:7 says are created for God’s glory, to complete His tasks for His glory. We need to go back to the nuts and bolts of our faith.
Firstly, we need to seek God first with our schedules. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) God’s word is filled with direction. “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding. To receive instruction in wise behavior. A wise man will hear and increase in his learning.” (Proverbs 1:5) In our world of instant connection, it is easy to be distracted from God’s original intention of the day. Seeking our Lord first before anything else is vital for the course our day will take.

Secondly, clarify why we are choosing to be involved in an actual activity. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for man.” Lately, I find an excuse for why I am doing something (saying it is for the Lord), when I am really fulfilling a need that I, alone, will never fill. Praying to God for His clarification and listening to His voice while being in His word are ways to check my motives. I pray He gives me understanding of His Will.

Lastly, God says to rest in Him and His will. Hebrews 4:10, says, “Anyone who rests in God’s rest, also rests from his own rest.” Taking the time to stop and truly rest in God is when I hear God’s voice the clearest. He will force me to do this if I do not plan this in my day.
And like today, I am alone, sick and tired, finding my rest in God and spending time with Him. It is like a spring in a desert land, refreshing, soothing and healing; medicine for my sick soul. I pray that I may unearth God’s voice buried among the noise of the world. I know God has a plan for my daily life just as He has a plan for you. I challenge you as I challenge me- slow down, seek God, clarify His will and do not forget to ask Him what plans He has for you today.
Your life is so important and matters!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Life Story

A life story. We all have one. Actually, we all have several. I love hearing people's stories. As a mom, I hear a lot of stories. My kids tell me some wonderful stories. They and their friends tell me stories. I also hear stories from neighbors, friends, even strangers. Each life story has purpose, intricacies, nuances, characters, tragedies, heroes, and suspense. Each life story has GOD's hand woven throughout the plot.

One day a few weeks ago I was privileged to hear a conversation between my son and a friend. I was driving a group of kids from one place to another. We were dropping off and picking up- the usual- one gets out here, one gets in here. As my middle daughter and a friend were loading the car, I heard my son in the third row ask a friend, "Have you ever heard my life story?" I was a little caught off guard by this. My son has quite a life story. His story is a detailed one that takes more time than I have right now. GOD saved his life several times in miraculous ways. I was wondering how my son would share this information, with this friend, in this time, in this chaos. I kept listening. I looked in the rear view mirror. I saw him grab my daughter's Bible. He opened it to John 3:16 and read it out loud to his friend: "For GOD so loved the world that He gave His one and only SON so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Then my son shared this: "That's it. That's my life story. GOD loves me and I love Him. Do you believe this too?"

Well, praise GOD, that's my life story, too. I believe it. Yes, all of the other parts of my life that pointed me to the cross and to belief matter. But, the simplicity of this is wonderful! GOD loves me and I love Him. Oh, I want to keep it this pure. I want my life story to be this simple, this pure. I want my family's story to be this simple.

When all of your life's story seems confusing, hard, or too complicated, make it simple again. Remember, GOD loves you. He died to make it all OK. We will have everlasting life with Him- if we believe that JESUS is the CHRIST the SON of GOD who died for our sins. If you accept this free gift, this can be your life story. What a great story!

Many chapters of my life have been painful, GOD has held me in those times and carried me with such peace and love. No matter all of the inbetweens, it all comes down to the fact that I was never alone. It is a true statement that GOD loves me at all times and is always with me. I love the simplicity of my son's statement: GOD loves me and I love Him. I hope no matter how complicated my life gets in the days ahead, I will remember to slow down and focus on this. Is this truly my life story? Or, am I allowing something else to take over and be the storyline?

"Dear Father, thank You for sending JESUS to die for me. Thank You for being my life story. Please keep my life simple, pure, and centered on You."


Thursday, October 8, 2009


Have you ever known someone who is really encouraging? Someone who always knows how to make a person feel better and seems to always have Jesus shining through them as they speak to others? I have a friend like that. A few years ago when we were taking a Bible study class together, she would go up to the teacher every week after class to shake her hand or give her a hug and tell the leader what a great job she had done. Encouraging. I remember watching her and thinking, "I want to be like that." And several years later, I still want to be like that. I want to build others up, not tear them down. I want to show Jesus by the words I speak. Yet, I still struggle at making this part of my routine.

The Bible speaks several times throughout Scripture about encouragement:
  • Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11
  • But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13
  • Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

From these verses, I learn that I am to encourage others daily--but am I? Are you? I don't know that I can honestly say I am. There are some days when the best I can do is just make it through the day. However, when I think about the days that I do take the time to encourage others, I realize how much better those days tend to be. The days when I do remember to listen to the nudge that's urging me to say something kind, I find that I am blessed as well.

So, what do you say we try it? I challenge you (and me!): Let's make it a habit to encourage someone every day--whether it's your husband or the person behind the counter at the store, find something that can build someone else up and share it. Maybe it's your minister or your boss; maybe it's the doctor or the school teacher....Whoever it is, my guess is they could use a kind word.

And for some of you, your first job may be to start by saying kind things to yourself. Build yourself up as well. The Lord has great plans for His people, and He did not make a mistake with any one of us. Don't let the Enemy's lies tie you down. We are the King's Creation, so let's start acting like it!

(For those of you taking this challenge, I'd love it if you'd post a comment about how you encouraged someone--or how someone else encouraged you.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Take a Moment

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
--John 15:13

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
--Mother Teresa

I am a firm believer in the restorative powers of "a day of rest". I think if even God rested on the seventh day, we should all take a cue from His lead! Our world these days is so fast-paced, our calendars so jam-packed.. sometimes, as women, it can be enough to make our heads spin. We desperately NEED moments of rest.

There's almost nothing I love better than a long Sunday afternoon nap, when it's raining outside. Not all "resting" has to be napping, however. God created us for companionship, for friendship, for fellowship. After time with a friend, we usually find ourselves re-energized, refreshed and renewed! It's so easy to get caught up in work, taking care of children, responsibilities.. just "Life" in general, that sometimes we look up and realize we haven't seen or talked with our friends in far too long.

Grab a friend today, ladies.. whether you swing through Starbucks together, rent a chick flick and laugh until your sides ache, or just relax and have some yummy goodies together and catch up on each other's lives.

I thought I'd include a few easy, fun recipes for the cooler fall weather. Invite a friend over to share, drop by her house & surprise her with a treat, or (my favorite) invite her over and make a fun, easy recipe together. The time spent together, conversation and laughter will be priceless.

For many humorous girlfriend stories, more delicious recipes, and inspirational scriptures, check out a book, "Coffee Cup Friendship & Cheesecake Fun", by one of my favorite authors, Becky Freeman.

May you feel truly rested after spending time with one of God's greatest treasures: a good friend!

Mixed Fruit Cider
1 quart apple cider
1 quart pineapple juice
3 cinnamon sticks
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced

In a Dutch oven, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain mixture, discarding solids. Serve warm.

Baked Artichoke Dip
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. Tabasco

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Spoon into lightly greased 1-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.
Serve with melba toast rounds or your favorite crackers.
Source: The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Pull-Apart Bacon Bread
1 tsp. veg. oil
3/4 c. green pepper, chopped
3/4 c. onion, chopped
3 cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 lb. bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a skillet; saute peppers and onion until tender. Remove from heat, set aside. Slice biscuits into quarters; place in a mixing bowl. Add vegetables, bacon, butter and cheese; toss until mixed. Arrange biscuit mixture in a greased 10" tube or Bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Invert onto serving platter. Serves 8.
Source: Gooseberry Patch's "Flavors of Fall"

Sopapilla Cheesecake
2 cans crescent rolls
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter

Layer 1 can crescent rolls in a greased 9x13 pan; pinch together to cover the bottom. Cream together 1 cup sugar, 2 pkgs. cream cheese, and the vanilla. Spread mixture over crescent roll dough in pan. Top with 1 can crescent rolls; pinch together to cover top. Mix 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Melt butter and drizzle over the top; spread gently to cover. Bake 30 minutes at 350.

Easy Chocolate Chip Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 sm. box vanilla instant pudding mix
1 sm. box chocolate instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar (for top, if desired)

Mix together cake mix, pudding mixes, eggs, oil and water. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Bake in greased Bundt pan for one hour at 350 degrees. Let cool slightly in pan, then invert onto rack and cool completely. Transfer to cake plate. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar over the top for presentation.