Owl's Head Lighthouse, Owl's Head, ME

About Me

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My life revolves around four complicated and special children, a husband who is as much of a people person as I am not, and way too many pets.  Chronic illness, homeschooling, home management and just trying to figure out how to love each other well, keeps me occupied hour by hour.  I am burdened to share the truth of God's Word and show examples of His grace in my own daily life. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Gift

The day before Christmas, and I try to think through the items still needing to be completed from my mental "to-do" list. Yes, there is more to do, but, surprisingly, much is done. We won't be going anywhere and no one is coming here so we have the joy of keeping it simple. Some cooking today to make the house have the sweet scents we associate with the season. A few more presents to wrap, but I have four willing wrappers to help with that chore.

Mostly, I am contemplating my gift for the One to which we owe everything. For it is that gift I am finding woefully inadequate this year. As I look over my heart I see it bruised and somewhat battered. That part of me that should be looking out and blessing others has been turned inward of late. And I wonder if I have failed Him in this season.

I can share this, because I know it would be an odd person, indeed, who did not understand these feelings. How can I give Him anything when all I want to do on many days is to curl up and save myself? There does not seem to be enough of me to do everything that needs to be done. There does not seem to be enough of me at times to meet all the needs within my own home, say nothing about reaching out beyond our walls.

But there is a sweetness that comes to my heart as I sit quietly. The knowledge that He understands the bruising. His message is healing as I hear Him say, "I know the pain. I have felt it too. I know because I bore it first."

When no one else understands, He does. So as I think of how many ways I should be serving and have not, I relax. His patience is great. His blessings are many. And I marvel at the little ways He brings encouragement and blessing to me. Much as a mother would nurse a child back from sickness, my Saviour cares for my heart.

He loves me. He cares for me. He holds me. And because of this, I know that I am better able to love, care and hold others. Maybe not today, but maybe tomorrow, or the next day. He will always give me opportunities to share what He does for me so often. So while the gift I bring to Him today may seem inadequate, it is exactly what He wants from me.

Myself....broken, impaired. Bowed before Him, and allowing Him to do His work.

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:4,5

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Too Much

Sometimes there is too much pain. Sometimes there is too much joy. Overwhelmed, we cry....we laugh. We grieve.....we thank. In each case there seems more than our being can bear. Our souls feel that they must burst with the fullness of feeling.

Prayer becomes more intense, but uses fewer words. "Help me" or "thank-you" express the simple but deep feelings of our hearts. We feel less in control, and more in debt. Our hearts touch the heart of the Saviour in a new and exquisite way. He touches us.

Perhaps the overwhelming flood will be relieved when in His presence we are allowed full access to our created purposes. When relieved of the burden of sin, our souls are free to experience the intensity we were meant to own.

In that day, beauty will be more fully appreciated and pain will be only a fire of our past that has performed it's work.

Thank-you, Lord for that for which we hope. Thank-you for the exquisiteness of your character. Your very Being overwhelms us in our sinful present. We cannot appreciate you the way we wish today, but we long for the day when our being can meld with Yours for the rest of eternity.

"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple."

"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the LORD." (Ps. 27:4,13,14)

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (II Cor. 4:18)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Comfort, Food and Success

Health. Fitness. These two words are not ones that I frequently use in my writing. The reason? Well.....I think its because it means hard work. There is nothing about it that can be romanticized or appear beautiful. It is easier to avoid the topic because it can quickly take me out of my comfort zone. For many of us, comfort means food. And who wants to really look at our food choices under a microscope? We want what we want, when we want it!

Yes, I would like to be healthy. I would like to be fit. Who doesn't? But like so many things, we can talk about it and wish for it, but until we get serious about changing, we will never see success. It means denying myself at times and sweating frequently. Hmmmm.....see why I don't write about it?

There is no magic formula for fitness. And yet, from years of experience, I can tell you that it requires more than just following a food and work-out plan. Don't misunderstand. It does take those things. Within each of us, though, is a place that can undermine our attempts at fitness. That place is our personal "safe zone". While we may venture out from there, often with visions of improving ourselves in any of various ways, when life becomes overwhelming we retreat back to the "safe place." At some point in our lives we learned to feed ourselves in that place. The flavors, textures and scents that we have come to associate with it are life lines. I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing.

The problem comes when we dwell in that place of comfort instead of resting briefly. It comes when we continue to depend upon food (or other type of comfort) to be our main source of comfort. Held there by our fears and failures we sink deeper into self-comfort mode. The tremendous need of humans, and especially women, to feel safe and secure is something that the Creator placed within us. Why then, do we fail to reach up to Him who longs to meet that need? Why do we insist on attempting to meet it alone?

As much as I wish cheesecake or swiss cake rolls could make me whole, they never will. So once again I am left with a choice. Do I reach for the ice cream or cheesecake or do I trust the Lord and go for a walk. When will I really understand that I don't need that food? That there is something better that the Lord wants for me?

Walking, I find time to talk with Him. "Why," I ask, "do I always fail at this? Why can't I conquer this area of my life? Is it even possible to lose the weight that has held me down for so long?"

The soft answer comes, and I know that it is not this weight that has weighed me down. The physical weight is only a symptom of a larger problem. The body is science. If I burn more calories than I eat, I will lose weight. There is something else.....roadblocks I have placed in my own path over the years.

As life happens, it is so easy to begin to see yourself as a helpless victim. And maybe in some ways we are. The problem isn't being the victim, its the seeing....seeing ourselves. If our eyes were trained on the Saviour instead of on ourselves and our circumstances, so many patterns of our lives would be changed.

That is why it cannot be that I make time for working out OR for devotions. They must both take place for me to be whole. And I don't mean a stiff, formal reading of prescribed Scripture, and a hurried prayer. There must be a spiritual meeting between my spirit and that of my Comforter. When that takes place, a peace and wholeness pervade my being. The emptiness no longer needs to be filled.

But just as one delicious dinner cannot meet our continued dietary needs, neither can one precious time with the Lord meet all our continued spiritual needs. It must be constant return to the source of fulfillment. We must become more aware of our own spiritual thirst and have the discipline to return for more of the sweetest water available.

No, it is not easy. It is, in fact, more difficult than the most difficult work-out routine. But the rewards are far sweeter than we can ever appreciate in our physical bodies.

I do believe that "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." His strength is real and so much stronger than our own. When He calls me I must bow my knee and acknowledge His Lordship in my life. As I look to Him, the other things of life will be corrected. Yes, it will take physical work and self-denial, but if my spirit is full I will continue to succeed.

Today, may I make each choice looking at the face of the Saviour who gave everything for me. Is He enough???

"Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from Him cometh my salvation. He ONLY is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved....Trust in Him at all times: ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah." (Ps. 62:1-2,8)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Responsibility....What It Looks Like

He stands tall on a stool over a sink of dishes waiting to be washed. Water drips down his arms as he scrubs away at a bowl that had held the morning's oatmeal. The drips fall to the floor. All seven of his years showing as he maturely finishes the job at hand.

The girls work together, somewhat smoothly, folding laundry and delivering to the appropriate homes within the drawers of each family member. The floor of the laundry room is, at least for the moment, free of grass and other debris. I didn't do it....she did.....my oldest.

Another son asks if he can begin his schoolwork early today. He has each day this week. Well, that is partly because his mother fired him, or at least temporarily laid him off. In an attempt to teach personal responsibility to our children, we have assigned a chore list to each for every week. Along with that comes enough training to ensure that each participant is able to meet the demands of those tasks with confidence.

Unfortunately, like we all do at times, my son had a bad week of personal responsibility last week. While some of his chores were done, many were not, and the attitude left something to be desired. As any manager must, I was forced to look at the people I had placed in each position. Each was slated to received a small amount of pay for jobs well done at the end of the week, and, with the current economy being considered, I had to unload the most unproductive of the team.

Now this is not an easy thing to do. You may think it is a hard woman who can do take away a son's sole source of income (and, no, I do not pay unemployment), but what else could I do?

After receiving the news, my son retreated to his room (presumably, to carefully consider the lesson to be learned). When I looked in to check on him, my husband sat on the edge of his bed, and they talked. While I did not hear everything, I was touched by what I did. They talked of choices. Of being the place where the "buck stops". I heard my husband share his heart....a father struggling to mold his son into a man and steer him away from the mistakes of his own.

We are each faced with our own responsibilities every day of our lives. Some we meet with courage and yes, a good dose of personal responsibility. Other times we would rather bury our heads beneath the pillow and forget what must be done. Whether there is a time clock in our lives or not, there is always a choice to do what is right or to do what is easy.

It is this that we want to prepare our children for. If they learn nothing else from us, may they learn to take responsibility for themselves. To be men and women who can stand tall, knowing they have done what is required. That they would learn how to be stewards of the lives they have been given. In the process of training my children I am challenged to do a better job myself. As I see pride in their own work increase, I am encouraged to do the same. I dare not allow my own weaknesses to be the stumbling blocks in the lives of those I love so much.

My son is looking forward to next week when he is eligible to be rehired for a position within this "family-owned business". No doubt, there will be more days of shirked responsibilities, but hopefully lessons will be learned that will continue through life.

"Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (I. Cor. 4:2)

"Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach other also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (II Tim. 2:1-3)

While the dishpan may be a lowly learning ground, may it yield "faithful men" who will be worthy to carry on the work of the Lord in whatever capacity they are led.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Legacy of Faithfulness

They say he is going to have heart surgery soon. That each day is a blessing, and that every day without the surgery is another day he risks death.

Wow. I guess I have been processing the information, and it has taken time to understand my own feelings enough to write about them.

This news about my grandfather is not sudden. The deterioration of a heart valve has happened over time. Everyone knew that eventually it would need drastic measures, and so here we are.....

A life that in one sense is hanging by a thread, but in another, very real sense, one of the most secure lives I know. My daughter asked me if I was scared....and I had to think about it. What do I feel about the grandfather who has been my pastor most of my life, the man who did "creep-mousy" with each of us, the man who taught me in school, the man who married us, the man who has faithfully stood in the gap?

A person's relationship with family, especially one in which there was constant contact, is always a crazy quilt of emotion and memory. But as I lay in the dark after my daughter had gone to sleep, I continued to think of her question. Was I scared?

I'm a nurse. I understand the risks associated. We all know that there is tremendous risk and that we could have to say good-bye to this one. But there is something else that I know. There is no one else more ready to leave this world and finally go home to the Lord he has served so faithfully.

You see, I know his heart. I have seen it so many times through the years. As a teacher of many foolish and rebellious kids, I saw his tears as he begged us to spend time in the Word of God. At the time, in our ignorance, we little understood his passion. I can see his frustration as he tried to get into the thick skull of his oldest granddaughter and lead her in the way that was right. I am quite sure he wanted to shake me, but I didn't "get it".

His unwavering patriotism has always been the standard we were to follow. He taught us to stand straight and proud in the presence of the flag of the country he had served. His stories of those who had given their lives in that service will forever remain in our minds and our hearts.

He stood behind a pulpit in a church that to most would not have been worth the time, but to him was a God-given, life-time ministry. The tin ceilings and walls held a congregation of few, often less than a dozen. For nearly forty years he ministered here without complaint. While he no longer ministers in that church on a full-time basis, he continues to meet whatever needs arise, as he is able.

That church was the family I grew up in.

In his burden for the state in which he lived, he has actively participated in outreach, not only to his own town, but in towns all across the state. Hundreds of miles they might put on in a Sunday afternoon, to be able to hold a service for those in a town without someone who could faithfully share the Light.

Always, he has offered missionaries the opportunity to share their work with a congregation that, while having little to contribute financially, would hold up these servants faithfully. My grandparents passion for missions has been a guiding light for all of us, and all of us have been involved in missions in one way or another throughout the years.

Today both he and my grandmother are actively involved in serving within their local church, filling the pulpit in others and daily ministering to the lost and newly saved within their community. To them, the Great Commission was not simply a verse to memorize..........it was an invitation to total life surrender.

When I look back at the girl I was, I am ashamed. I had the heart of God's servant in front of me everyday, and I failed to grasp the significance. This was not just my grandfather, this was the man God had given to lead us toward Himself. He handpicked this one to stand in that gap. Thank-you, Lord for this legacy of faithfulness.

As I look at my feelings regarding the man I call Grampy Lloyd, I cry. Not because I fear for him, but because I fear for me....that I have not gleaned all that I might have, from his years of walking the way ahead of me.

Every day is a gift. A diagnosis of poor health does not change this or make it more so. Today, I thank the Lord for this legacy and for the chance I have had to learn from some of the greatest servants the Lord has on this earth. I cannot wait until we all get to meet in the home of the Greatest Servant of all time.

My oldest two children recently told me that they wanted Proverbs 3:5,6 as their life verses.

"Trust in the Lord will all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

My heart was full as I listened to them quote the verses that I had heard so many times from the mouths of their great-grandparents. For it was these very verses that had been chosen by both in their youth, and had been their guide through these many years. If my children carry that forward in their lives in the same way, there is nothing else I would ask. May we, and they, be as faithful as those who have gone before.

I get it now, Grampy. Thank-you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blessed

The cat sits in the sunbeam. The dog naps on the couch. The kids are done with the majority of their schoolwork for the day, and they are enjoying a bit of free time. My back aches and there are still so many things that I need to accomplish for the day, but I am feeling blessed.

Many days are lacking this moment of quiet, but today I soak it in much as my cat does the sunbeam.

Mothering, and certainly homeschooling, are not for the faint of heart. But many times I feel just exactly that....faint of heart. In spite of this, blessings always abound. That really does not change just because I feel blessed, or I don't.

For now, though, I am so encouraged when the Lord opens up doors for me to be an encouragement to someone else. I am unworthy, yet, He allows me to work for Him and that honor cannot be seen as anything less than a blessing.

Each day we have choices that will result in either furthering the work of Satan or furthering the work of Christ. Each time that I come to that crossroads, and it is often, may I choose to work in the path prepared by my Lord......drawing others into and encouraging them along this narrow path.

Each opportunity makes the sore back and aching feet worth it. What a glorious blessing if I am allowed to give up my own plans, my own comfort, for Him.

Take me now, Lord Jesus take me;
I would give my heart to Thee.
Thy devoted servant make me,
Only Thine to be.

Use me now, Lord Jesus, use me,
As I tell of Calvary.
May Thy Spirit move within me,
Bringing souls to Thee.

Send me now, Lord Jesus, send me,
Lead me in the perfect way.
Thy command shall always guide me;
Gladly I obey.

Savior, while my heart is tender,
I would give Thee ev'ry part.
All my talents I surrender;
I am Thine, Lord, here's my heart.

Ron Hamilton

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Letting Go Of The Clutter

I had talked about it for too long. Today was the day to finally start loading up the things that have been piling up around us and send them on their way. Clutter is just one of those things that is extremely subjective. I mean, the saying that one man's junk is another man's treasure is very true. I should know....the majority of my shopping is at that fabulous chain....Goodwill.

When I see some other homes, I think, "Wow,any clutter here would stand out. Everything has a place and looks so nice." In our house it is a little harder to tell where our valued belongings end and the clutter begins. I guess that really is the essence of clutter. It grows into your surroundings like an especially virulent weed.

Usually, I can find a reason for each piece. It all has some sort of value to me. Sometimes is sentimental. Sometimes it is just my cheap side shining through. "We most definitely never know when we might need these 2x2 pieces of cloth.....my daughter is a crafter, you know." or "These Folgers coffee containers are just about the best containers you can find!" They are too....but we drink ALOT of coffee.

So as I sorted and piled and threw, I felt the draining that comes from the purge. It's hard. If it were easy I probably wouldn't have a clutter problem. I love antiques, and I have an assortment that I have either been given or have collected on my own. I have always planned to use them in my decorating, but most have sat collecting dust. I still hang on to many of them, but, today, I gave away one antique wooden box that I had found at a yard sale a few years ago. I suppose that's progress, but it feels more like scratching at a healing wound.

You see, over the last couple of years we have left much behind. We had to walk away from a home we loved and most of our treasured possessions. Those things that we carried away with us are probably held onto more tightly because it feels like its all we have left. Some of the "stuff" we have carried away did not necessarily make sense, but.....well its just the way it is.

The reality of our life today forces me to look at the clutter and consider the cost of keeping it. There is a certain amount of clutter that must come from a family of six (plus pets) that chooses to homeschool. Then there is the clutter that comes from the past; the things that we think will keep us connected to our memories. When these things stand in the way of our life, we must let go. Much as the Lord has to take away the things in our lives that keep us from serving Him freely, I must remove the physical clutter from my life.

I wish I could just do some Dorothy heel-tapping and have my clutter be gone. It hasn't worked yet. I actually had to make the hard decisions myself. While the Lord has the ability to remove the other clutter from our lives---the things that are holding us back spiritually---He usually waits for us to offer it up to Him. I can see myself holding onto the individual items of my life, standing over the bag, asking if I really need to let this one go. When I can set it down and give it to Him to do with what He wills, I will grow spiritually. My ministry will enlarge. The pieces that I turn back and put on the shelf because I don't feel I can trust Him with those parts of my life will only cause me further pain and limit my ministry.

I know that each item that was loaded into the back of the van today and taken to Goodwill leaves a little space in our life/home that is freed up to live a little better. We will reap a more peaceful and pleasant home atmosphere. Our school days will be more productive, and our time together as a family will be less stress-filled.

As the Lord brings the clutter in my life to the surface, may I be willing to lay it down. He will help me deal with the pain and the reward will be more than worth it.

"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us
." (Rom. 8:13, 18)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Life Comes One Day At A Time

I am just a little lost and lonely today. After weeks of travel, hotels and restaurants, I am back to my little world. The one that fits into a 1000 sf rectangle, with no travel and mostly a diet of casseroles. The one in which I am hard pressed to find any space that is not occupied by someone, child or animal, where silence is only had by putting on my husband's heavy-duty ear protection, meant to be used in rifle target practice.

The organization that I had hoped to have completed in the brief moments I was home, was not done. So we arrived back here again on Monday after seven days straight of road travel. Children unloaded, husband unpacked and repacked. Within 3 hours he was gone for another week of work and I was left with, well, everything. At least that's what it felt like.

Bins of clothes. Plastic bags filled with miscellaneous items the children had collected in their extended visits with family. Cupboards, while not totally bare, seriously lacked any inspiration. The knowledge that the school year must begin shortly, caused my brain to overload. The only question it saw was, "How on earth do I get from here to there?"

Tuesday the curriculum arrived. Laid out according to child, each stack added to my sense of impending doom. I couldn't do this. In spite of all my brave words and plans, the reality of it all came crashing down. I would fail again.

The children had not changed. And the fear that I would be unable to welled within. While being away from the kids and with my husband had felt long at times, I now felt like I was awaking from a dream and that nothing had changed. Maybe my husband and I had reconnected. Maybe we had laid plans for improving our child-training methods. Maybe I had been excited about starting a new year. But here I was surrounded by stuff....and it felt very much like I was back in the last year....discouraged and needing a break.

Issues with the phone has made communication with my husband difficult, leaving me feeling more alone. I can feel the fingers of discouragement reaching around my spirit. I know their touch. And there was a time that I would have allowed the feelings to take over---depression would be the result. I refuse to give in though. Not today or tomorrow. My children need me....all of me. It would be easier to sink into a world of sleep, but by writing and acknowledging the feelings I am going to keep going.

Little by little the bins will be unloaded, the bags will be opened. The stacks of curriculum will find homes on shelves needing to be rearranged yet again. The piles of "stuff" will make it's way to Goodwill, and I will get up again, fix another pot of coffee, make another day of meals, explain two-digit subtraction, vowel sounds, and gather supplies for another science project. I will load another load of laundry, wash more dishes, fold more towels and pick up more legos. I will cry sometimes, but sometimes I will laugh.

Some days will be successes and some days will feel like failures. That is life. It is a special gift. What would I do if today I found out that I only had a short time left to live it?

Today is the day I am choosing to live. This is my life, my gift, my ministry.

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

That may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain
." (Phil. 2:12-16)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Notebook of Plans and Fear In the Follow Through

The weeks of travelling with my husband for work and being separated from our children has come to an end. The silence we so recently were experiencing has quickly been replaced by the sounds, and just plain noise, made by four children excited to be back in their regular environment. Today, just today, they are enjoying the "new" of being back in the "old". Tomorrow, I know, will be back to life---the one that so often leaves me feeling old and tired. Bickering, whining and general disharmony are too often the music of the days. But, today, I bask in the spirit of happiness.

Over the last several weeks we have had opportunities to analyze our life with a little more objectivity than we are usually afforded. In the midst of the grind of day to day it often becomes difficult to separate our emotions from the job of parenting. I understand that our emotions are necessary for the role of a parent, but so often we allow our own emotions to cloud our judgment. The result is confused and often whining, bickering children. Consistent discipline becomes more than we can fathom. Enforcement is lacking.

So in this parentheses of our life, my Love and I talked and attempted to refocus for the year ahead. Lord willing, we will prepare ourselves to use the energy that is low to show consistent, loving discipline, taking the time to train our children in art of good habits, and consistently modeling a life that is sold out for the Lord. These are the goals, and we have attempted to lay the groundwork by actually writing down ideas to implement.

Planning is great and something that I need to work on, but all the plans in the world will not help if the follow-through is not there. And guess what? More often then not, I am the one in charge of the follow-through. While my husband is the leader of the family, I am the one here every day. The reality of life with four children often interferes with the best-laid plans, and I end up worn-out, discouraged and far from the kind of role-model I want around my children!

So, here I am with a notebook full of ideas, curriculum in place and a great big ball of fear in my stomach thinking about all the ways that I may fail to follow through. Without a doubt it will mean taking my notebook before the Throne and asking for Divine strength, wisdom and courage to embark on another year of training my children in truth. Years of experience in my own failures leaves me humble but confident that "He which began a good work will be faithful to complete it."

Sleep tonight. Coffee and an open Bible in the the morning, and I know He will give me the strength. We will trust Him for the future of our children and spend each day asking for all that we lack. No doubt there will be many days where bickering and whining are the predominant characteristics.....hey, we aren't in Heaven yet....but I am praying for the strength to stand strong against those little whining monsters (just kidding....sort of) and train them with love and patience.

One of my favorite quotes is "God does not ask for my perfection, only my dedication." Sooo thankful for that! The Lord will bless our humble service to Him in the realm of our homes. May He use me to boost the tone of our home to one of thankfulness and love.

Friday, August 20, 2010

When God Rewrites Our Schedule

Life changes so fast, but that reality is what keeps me aware of making each moment count. Thank-you, Lord for change, even when the adjustment is hard. We make our plans and then the Lord rearranges them to be what we need to make us more like Him.

I had planned my summer, even blogged about it, but it has turned into something that is totally different. It started with my husband being injured and needing surgery. Wasn't much we could do about that! Days spent in doctor's offices became the family outings. We were blessed to have friends willing to take care of our children during the surgery so that I could be with him.

In spite of weeks of needed recovery we were able to head to Maine for our scheduled family vacation. The chance to spend precious time with so many family and friends while there was another of God's gifts to us. The fact that one of those friends was lost to us while we were there was a terrible tragedy, but also a special gift as we were able to spend time mourning together with those that also mourned.

As time passed, my husband realized that he was going to be unable to completely return to his work which required constant travel, heavy lifting and alot of talking. He was up to all but the lifting. With frustration we slowly came to the realization that the only way he would be able to return to work was for us to leave our children and for me to travel with him as his "heavy lifter". That was a test that we did not feel up to taking. Our oldest and youngest would be celebrating birthdays, and for the first time we would not be there to share it.

The emotions became overwhelming as I contemplated the loss of a long-time friend, the loss of our family unit for a time, the loss of my husband's independence and the loss of my well-laid plans.

But as I sorted through the baggage in my mind, I was reminded of what the Lord had been teaching me over the last several weeks. The fact that each day He plans a perfect "job" for me to do. Sometimes it might be to be a blessing to someone else, but more often it is to make me into a woman that He can use and bless. My job is to submit---not an easy task. But when I do, I can feel His presence and blessing. He again gives the grace to accept each "job"---no, I don't always do that with the grace that I should, but Lord willing, each day I will reflect His grace a little more.

He does not ask too much from me, but I demand much from Him. I am so thankful that He delights in showering us with good things. Just as I want my children to experience the fullest out of life, my heavenly Father desires that for me. I can rebel or I can submit. Each day, each hour and moment brings chances for me to practice. Sometimes there are triumphs, and many times there are repeated failures. He continues to love and shape me.

I am so thankful for this time with my husband. A time to reconnect and work together as a team. Our children are making memories with family that we love. The Lord cares for them---for they are His children too. Yes, my plans changed, but how wonderful to know that the Lord cared enough to look at my puny little schedule and use His all-knowing finger to write in just the right changes to make my life more complete in Him.

"Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness." Psalm 143:10

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" II Cor. 10:5

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom. 8:16-18

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ministry of the Stranger

We knew that the convention would be one of the worst and were disheartened to realize that no one could be available to help him.

To represent a Christian curriculum company along the home-school convention circuit means to spend April to August on the road, often 60+ hours per week. Contact with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people on some level during that time. Long hours on feet, so many questions answered, back sore from unloading and reloading only to get back on the road and do it all again at the next stop.

The largest gatherings are nearly impossible to manage without assistance of some kind. While we had been hoping that somehow I would be available to help, in the end, the realities of four children, a dog and two cats pointed to the job He had for me now.

So he left for yet another state, and our hearts were heavy realizing the load that Daddy would carry over the next several days. We prayed for him. Prayed that somehow his body and mind would hold out, that he would have safety on the road, and that he would be able to be a blessing to someone this week. We prayed that God would meet his needs---but perhaps our faith was small.

We rejoiced with him when he called to say that the first day had been light. While that meant fewer sales, it also meant Daddy's load was lighter. We knew that the next two days would probably be a different story. Because of that he would be busy and we would have to wait for night to hear how he had fared.

So it was with surprise that I answered the phone the following day around noon and saw his number on the screen.

How is it going?" I asked, dreading the answer, but his voice was light, encouraged.

"I actually have a couple here right now helping me."

"What? I thought you had tried everyone and no one could come?"

He explained. "Well, I had a line of people in front of me this morning waiting for help. I saw this couple waiting over at the side, and recognized them as customers I knew. They had placed their order yesterday. So when I got through that line, I asked them if there was anything I could help them with. They said, "Actually, we were hoping maybe we could help you. We can see that you are backed up, is there anything we can do?"

Later that night he called to say that the couple had stayed all day, answering people's questions the best they could and just helping with managing the numbers of people coming through. Not only that, but they had said they would be back the next day.

And they were. For two days, they stood by his side, refusing the offer of payment, just following the leading of the Lord in their own lives. My husband said that without their help, sales would have been much less, but also that he would have been unable to manage the crowds.

While this was a few months ago, now, we think in awe of how the Lord provided in this situation. He chose to use two servants of His who were willing to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit to meet the needs of another child of God.

I wonder if I had been the one there, would I have had the courage to follow that leading--offering my help simply on the basis of seeing someone bogged down in work. I am so challenged by these two. Sometimes God works, miraculously. Sometimes he actually sends angels to meet our needs, but sometimes there are Christians who are living such a Spirit-guided, love-filled life that they are ready vessels to be used of Him.

My prayer can only be that my ears and my heart will be tuned to Him each day, and that my response will be that of a willing servant.....as it was with these two.


"And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:44, 45)

"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (I Pet. 4:8-10)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

For The Love Of Family

Family.

Its almost such a deep and muddled subject that sharing can be uncomfortable, even unbearably painful. Not because we don't love our families, but because their presence in our lives works as a light shining on all of our frailties that can remain hidden to the rest of the world. With family you will never forget from where you have come.

The good and the bad of your life are shown on those screens which are each one's memory. Tensions can mount as we are reminded of why we do not like ourselves. Most often it is not because the others are wrong in their perceptions, but because they are right. Each one somehow affected by who you are and who you have been. Sometimes the line between the two becomes blurred as we feel tied to the perceptions of those who know us best.

Mountaintop experiences, humbling spiritual growth, maturity that comes with age---all fall away as we face those who have known us the longest. We can feel like children again as we look at the faces who have brought love, but also ridicule. Hurts of a lifetime can cripple. Ones who knew who they were before, lose that sense when with family.

Those are the reasons that "dysfunction" is the word so often associated with families today. Are there any of us who have never felt the brokenness of that union with the ones from whom we come? What else can there be when it is simply a compilation of sinners trying to live together?

Parents.....sinners. Children.....sinners. Not one perfect in any way, yet forced together by birth, marriage, adoptions, etc. At the beginning of each relationship hope reigns high. Time passes and age brings with it the wrinkles and spots as expected. Each relationship becomes a combination of loves and hurts. We hope the good will out way the bad. We hope the maturity will come in time before more bridges are burned.

Acceptance of each other brings us together year after year. Knowing each other's failures, but also becoming more aware of our own. That in itself allows for fellowship which continues in spite of the "dysfunction".

God in His wisdom planned this out so long ago when He created families. He knew the dangers inherent in placing sinners in such close proximity to each other. But He also knew that it was not good for "man to be alone." For all the difficulties of learning to live together, the fear of being alone is worse. And so we look to Him for the grace to age each relationship with love. That as we look to Him we will find less dysfunction and more peace together. Strengthened by each other as we can be by no one else.

As we see ourselves in the memories of others, may we have grace to give that memory to Him Who sees and loves us in spite of everything. Then may we share that grace with the others. May we be as kind in our memories of them. Each one, a work of grace that we are allowed, and yes, called, to love. Lifting each other up, thankful for the treasure of memories together....the good and the bad. For how would we ever see the growth if it were not for those mirrored memories?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anything Less.....

Buckling my seat belt, I knew that I would once again be facing fears that could destroy the peace He gives. Irrational fears. If you have never had them then you may not understand.

Interstate travel and driving through mountains are just two of the circumstances in which Satan delights in drawing me toward fear. Terror is the only word that could describe the feelings that overwhelm at the worst points. Hands hold arm rest and door with grips of death, and tears often leak out of eyes that I am too afraid to close.

This trip was supposed to be for fun, but the dread in my heart prevented me from any joyful anticipation. I took a breath as my husband drove onto the interstate on-ramp. Then I closed my eyes and asked the Lord for a special measure of grace to help me get through the next couple of days.

Immediately, I received the answering gift. Very clearly I felt the conviction that can only come from the Spirit. I knew that He wanted me to give Him the fear. A slow breath out and I said, "Take it Lord. It is too much."

The still, small voice gave me the words that would carry me over the next 1400 miles.

"Anything less is not to trust."

The words were as clear as if my husband had spoken them to me. I think I may have responded with something akin to "Excuse me?" Then again.

"Anything less is not to trust."

I sat in awe at the Saviour taking the time to communicate with one of his weakest servants. But I gave it to Him. And then I began with, "But Lord, my husband drives so fast..." Then the response.

"You are given a job perfect for you each day. Today your job is to ride. You have no control over what the driver does. Accept your job. Anything less is not to trust."

I will not say that there were no moments of fear, but He gave me that grace for which I had asked. Each time my heart would begin to turn, I would be reminded, "Anything less is not to trust." Several times I think I said, "Yes, Lord. I know that already!" But He was there the whole way. I cannot communicate how thankful I am to Him for that.

If you have ever dealt with fears, you will know how wonderful was the gift I was given. We do not know what is coming at us as we continue down the road of life, but He offers peace if we will just give the fear to Him.

Fears of the unknown, fear of abandonment, fear of failure, fear of loss. All these can so corrupt our minds that we are unable to be used by Him who made us. The fears we feel victimized by are actually sin that we have not given to Him. Our job each day is to trust Him---with our families, our lives, our health, our jobs and yes, our fears. If we enter that job without peace than we are not trusting.

Anything less is not too trust.

"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

We love him, because He first loved us
." I John 4:16-19

I do not know why those were the words He chose to give me, but I know that I will never forget them or the precious gift of His presence and His peace. He will give us the peace we ask for, but not until we let go of the fears that stand in the way of our receiving.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Gold of Age

They limped down over the hill to come for a visit. Hand in hand they approached. We welcomed. Hugs given. Uttered, "Won't you come in and sit down?" For it was by their generosity that we were even in that place.

For most of my life I had looked up to these people, sometimes feared them and on occasion even disliked them. They had always been full of life and vitality. They were the ones that seemed to be able to do anything and everything.

She, a special lady, gifted in so many ways, but who had known suffering. She sang in church and endeavored to teach the rest of us to do so too. No meal could be complete without her touch. They both would serve tirelessly. Gardening, hunting, crafting, entertaining.....all things that this woman excelled at. Perhaps that is why so many felt threatened by her. Our own egos stepped on by one who could do more than we.

Her husband, a carpenter, volunteered many hours to help build what needed building. She worked at his side as his most indispensable tool. For as long as I have known them they have given---given to the church, given to the community, given to charities, given to the Lord......given to me.

She struggles today for a word to describe the weather or to say hello and good-bye. Her eyes shine with the frustration of so many losses. Her loss of independence, loss of communication, loss of health, loss of loved ones. Yet, not once does she complain. She smiles and looks to him for the words she cannot use. Nods as he reads her thoughts and shares them with us.

These who have so impacted me and others, suffer with the increasing effects of age. Behind a stammered hello I can see the years, the stories. A book could be written, no doubt, to pay homage to another who has changed the world around her. Most likely, that will not happen. They have, however, left their marks on the hearts of those whom they have touched over many years.

May we not forget that behind each shut-in's window or in rooms of nursing homes or hospitals, there are tremendous stories of life that we would do well to hear. The silver hair that stands behind us in the grocery line is a person with a story. May we value them. May we share the Lord with them. They will not come to us. We must go looking. Looking for the gold ones who have gone before us. Some may be able to share stories and others may have lost that ability, but they need to know that they are not forgotten.

They have been through the paths that we have yet to tread. The fires have done their work, and they have come out as gold. Treasure the gold. It will not last forever. Tomorrow may be too late to glean one more bit of wisdom---one more gem. Mine it today while they are here with us. Let us learn from these so that we may one day be able to be that to another.

"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10

"Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised." Prov. 31:30

"Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it." Prov. 3:27

"The fining pot is for silver, and fhe furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts." Prov. 17:3

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Every Good Gift

The kids run, crazy and loud, and the dog barks because the kids are running. In the midst of chaos we sip coffee and tea and talk of life--the good and the bad. A child runs through laughing, arms loaded with toys. Another comes crying from a bump on the head---a result of a new game involving checker throwing. He moves on. We go back to talking. Our souls refreshed by simply being with another who understands.

Husband says the bill for the car is more than expected. Somehow, having another to share that makes it more okay. Phone calls, more children running, Caladryl cream applied to skin rashes, lunches made.

We bow our heads over sandwiches and thank God for the chance to share and feel and bond with another who understands. Amens said in unison, for each prays the same prayer.

Gifts given by the Father are so many and so varied. Yet the gift of a true friend is special. He knew we would need those to encourage us along the way. He is our truest Friend, but because He loves us, He allows us those who we can hug and love here. Those who will listen to our fears and pains and empathize and who will also share in our joys.

Life goes on, but short little times taken to encourage another, encourages ourselves. We part knowing we are stronger and more ready to do the job given to us by our Heavenly Father. Thank-you, Lord for the gift of friendship.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Prov. 27:17)

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Child's Refuge

Cruel laughter rang in the air. I knelt to help my daughter who lay on her side in the dirt after being dragged by an excited dog. The tears running down her cheeks had less to do with physical pain than with humiliation. For the children that we have been struggling to reach for nearly two years laughed with the intention of causing pain.

Since moving to this place we have seen our community as a mission field that the Lord has led us to. All of the difficulties of dealing with the unsaved are realized as we try to show Christ's love to the children that surround us. While our children are far from perfect, they frequently are left bruised and battered from the confrontations with others.

"She's lying, Mommy" and "They said if we don't do what the want, they are going to tell on us" are complaints that I field daily. Repeated reminders to the visiting children to please respect the property and feelings of others results in nothing but more blatant violations. To them, I have become a symbol of what they do not want to hear. They have never been taught respect and they resent it in my children. Anger at me, seen as an unwanted authority figure, is taken out on my children.

These things cause a deep rooted response in this mother. Had the offenses been dealt to me, I would naturally drop my head and hide, but from the perspective of a mother, I lift my head and feel very much like a mother bear protecting her cubs. The thought that I would like to pick up the cruel ones and toss them away passes through my mind (I can relate to that bear).

So the constant battle rages on. The desire to show Christ's love and the need to protect the tender shoots that we are cultivating. How do we do both? Can we love the others and shield our own?

The thoughts continue to swirl, but one thing I do know. God has given me these children of mine. He expects us to guard and protect them. My first ministry is to those within my home. If I lose them, what joy will there be in reaching others? So we will continue to set up as many boundaries from the world as we are able. Many times we have spent family time discussing the need to be kind and share Jesus with those around us. My children are burdened for the other children and frequently pray for their salvation.

But as a mother, am I doing my job if I fail to ensure them a safe haven where they can be free from abuse? No, we must never return cruelty for cruelty, but they must have a safety zone---a place of escape---as we all do. Someday they will not have me there to provide that shelter, and I pray that they will realize that our Lord provides that place of refuge within His sheltering arms. Until then, I must show them what a refuge can be.

For those who choose to follow Christ, a hostile world is to be expected. He promised that. My children must remember that, as I must. But He has also promised us a Comforter (Jn. 14:16). We are not alone.

"The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee; for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." Psalms 9:9, 10

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Soldier's Lot

He stood tall among the men. Boots laced high. The uniform he wore was colored to blend with sand. Badges decorated his chest. He was ready to head to where he had been before. Knowing the dangers and toils ahead, he stood ready to take his place and fulfill his call.

Hat in hand, he stood surrounded by men who had been where he now stood. Men who were there to pray. To lift up this one who would soon face the battle again. With heads bowed, each one placed the life and testimony of this man into the hands of the One Who had already prepared his way.

Close by, a woman and her children wept silently as they sensed the moments fleeing. They knew that the time left with the one they loved was measured in minutes. Soon he would be gone again, and they would be left to carry on without his strength. Bravely they accepted their lot.

The room was filled with others who also knew this pain. Most had learned the art of trust more than the average. So with heads bowed, each in the room committed the man and his family up to the Most High.

I stood in awe of these people. Not one perfect, but each one exhibiting strength greater than they think they are capable. Emotional goodbyes, extended absences and the difficulties of carrying on alone have resulted in a stoic stance. Such is the life of those who choose to love one who has given his life in service to country.

Always the unspoken knowledge that the dangers ahead may take the one they love forever. But most do not speak of it, for that would open doors that must remain closed for life to continue.

In spite of these things, this group counts themselves blessed, for they have met the One Who knows the future. They have chosen a life of faith and have committed their love and their fears into the arms of a loving, all-powerful God. A God Who goes before the one they love and who stays with them as their strength.

What of myself? I am called to be a soldier of the Lord. But so often the sacrifices required seem too great, and I go AWOL. Instead of meeting the mission He has for me, I avoid it at all cost. If these individuals would give so much for our country, how can I give less to the One Who gave His all for me.

I have heard these men praise God for the opportunity to minister in countries that do not allow regular missions. Can I not minister within the country that I now live? With relatively minor sacrifices required, I balk at the simplest mission.

"Tell them of Me."

Simple, but oh so difficult if we do not lay ourselves down at the feet of Him first. Our fear of being disliked or thought to be "unloving" or "unaccepting" holds our tongues in check. Yet He hung naked and bleeding for all the world to see. Can I not pick up the cross He has laid out for me, and submitting to His plan, carry it down the path to the place where He will say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."?

"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 10:37-39

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This One Woman

Movement caught my eye through the sheer curtains covering my front picture window. A young woman, walking quickly, moved down the street as though she had somewhere to go. I made a mental note that I didn't remember seeing her before, and I walked to the door to look out. She carried several bags, including a duffel. In the 90 something degree heat, it would have been a miserable way for anyone to walk.

There was something about her that made me look more closely than I probably would have. She was obviously pregnant. I looked at my husband. We both silently acknowledged that pregnant women do not load their belongings into a few bags, hang them over their shoulders and go for brisk walks down side streets in the middle of very hot summer days in Tennessee. They don't, unless they have something they are trying to get away from and are hiking to the bus stop.

I wish I could say that I rushed out the door and went to see if there was a need I could meet. I could have offered a ride, or a cold drink, or maybe, just maybe, the story of One who could meet all of her needs. Those are the things that I wish I had done.

Instead, I watched her as she disappeared down the street, and I felt sad. Sad that this one woman had to be in that situation. Sad that I felt unqualified to place myself in the middle of.....the middle of what? I don't know. I didn't ask.

Everything here is my own conjecture. I don't really know what the situation was for this woman. The only way I could have known for sure would have been to walk out and talk to her---something I did not do. So, while I can pray for her in a very generic way, I can't pray for her specific needs or by her name. I trust the Lord is very aware of those things, and so I pray for a nameless woman walking down the street on a very hot day, and for the future of the baby that she carries.

Anything else is impossible unless the Lord brings me back into contact with her again. Now I pray that she will come in contact with another Christian who will do what I did not. That she will have the chance to experience the never-ending, all-encompassing love that I kept from her today. That, in spite of me, she will be able to spend eternity in Heaven. Then I pray that next time, I will take advantage of the opportunity to share His love with one more person.

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand.......For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?"

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Matthew 25:34-40

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Disappearing Dreams

"We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own, yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could. I don't wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has."
— Amy Carmichael

I read the above words and immediately knew the truth in them. They resonated within my heart and I said, "Yes, Lord." For sometimes the Lord takes from us what we cling to on this earth. He did with me.

To settle down was just exactly what I wanted in this world. Like most women, I longed for the home, white picket fence and all. And for awhile, I thought that I had it. But the truth of the matter is that it had me.

There was no time or energy left for thinking on Him or furthering His work. My life revolved around keeping alive the dream that I had spun. I truly felt that if I lost that dream, I would be a failure. Life would have no meaning. I suppose from the earthly glasses I was looking through, that might be the case.

I am so blessed to have a gracious God who saw me grasping at shallow dreams, and rescued me from them. The dreams I had spun became more and more of nightmare quality. Yet it only caused me to cling more tightly to the illusion.

By that time, I had tuned out the whisperings of the Holy Spirit for so long that I was deaf to them. The Lord needed to reach me through "the outside" for I was no longer a vessel He could reach from within. I don't mean to limit His power, for it is limitless, but He will not force us from within. We always have a choice. I had made mine. He could have left me there.

One by one He pried my stiff fingers from around the dreams I clung to. He knew that what I held onto was garbage compared to the beautiful, fulfilling life He wanted to give to me. In my stubbornness and pride, I grasped, even as my dreams fell away.

Pain. He allowed me to feel the agonizing pain that comes from losing nearly all of your worldly possessions. More than the possessions, though, the pain came from the loss of dreams long dreamed.

Left with little that those around would consider of value, I was faced with the crux of the issue.

"Now child, with these other distractions removed, what will you do with Me?"

We always have a choice. Maybe not about our circumstances, but always about where we place our trust. Who we will serve.

I look at my little rented home, and at the rusty old van that we ride in, and I say "Thank-you, Lord. Thank-you for not giving up on me. Thank-you for reminding me that I am but a pilgrim on this earth. I'm only camping. My dream home will come later. Use me now, even today, Lord Jesus. Change me, teach me, use me. I am yours."

"But in a great house there are not only vessels gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth: and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." (II Tim. 2:20, 21)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Light

The lighthouse beckoned me. It's light shone from high above the harbour. People from many miles away could see and appreciate the guiding influence it offered. Many, too many, had grown so accustomed to it's presence that little heed was paid. Nevertheless, it continued to shine it's faithful beacon regardless of other's indifference.

I knew that I must go to it. What others ignored, I craved. Something in that lonely tower spoke to my lonely heart. It's significance in my life became overpowering. Other things fell to the wayside as my focus increasingly centered on reaching the light.

Friends scoffed as I left the things I had loved, to plan for my trek. Hobbies and activities, that previously had brought what amounted to joy to my life, began to seem useless and mundane. It was the light I needed.

On that day, I set out, determined to reach my goal before dark. Carrying my supplies on my back, I hiked. It was a long, rocky road, for the light stood atop a rocky mound on the opposite shore. Travel was through the woods, and many treacherous paths I trode before reaching the bottom of the hill that would lead to that light.

The path became increasingly steep, and my feet continually slipped on the rocks over which I climbed. Over and over, I stopped to check for wounds or to catch my breath. It did not seem possible that my goal should be so hard to attain. Yet I knew I must press on.

Night descended as I climbed. My small flashlight lit but one dim step at a time. I knew when I reached the light that I would be alright. So I continued. My supplies weighed heavily, and my body began to ache under it. Hunger wreaked havoc with me, but my goal forced me on. My intensity increased as I climbed.

With almost a frenzied drive I pulled myself up over the last boulder to see the object of my heart's desire. The lighthouse stood, strong and true. The light swivelled and cast its reflection over the water. It turned, and the land around me was bathed in brilliance. I stood in wonder at the beauty I had searched for for so long.

The tower lights were not the only ones I saw. Surprised, I noticed the door to the cottage at the base was open and a warm comforting glow emanated from within. I walked to it. I was so hungry and tired. Maybe there was food here.

As I stepped forward I was astounded that the light began to increase. It seemed the very air was lit around me. A sound came to my ears---music? The glorious harmonies rose to a crescendo as the light became too brilliant for my eyes. I knelt on the stony ground. I looked down at myself and despaired to see the state I was in. I was covered with filth from head to toe. My clothes were ragged and worn. My shoes were falling apart. Wounds festered all over my body.

How had this happened? How had I not known of my condition? Yet as the light shown so bright I saw myself as I never had before. Weeping began to convulse my frame. The wounds and the weariness that I had before ignored, threatened to overwhelm. Crushed, I lay prostrate.

"Come to me." I heard the words, and I obeyed. Crawling at first, but knowing I must complete my journey. I saw the hand offered, and I reached out. Tentatively, I held onto the scarred hand, and it lifted me up.

I looked up and I knew that I was gazing on the Light my soul had so longed for. My supplies fell away and I wept in His arms.

The life I had known, dimmed, and I welcomed the life now offered. For the longing that had overshadowed me for so long was met here, in this place.

I knew that I had been led here. That this...."was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (Jn. 1:9)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How Will They Know?

Knocking on the door, we never knew who we would find on the other side. Personal evangelism was the class. Ed Sealy, the teacher. Fredericton, N.B was the place that each year became the target of a freshman class, zealous to wave yet another white hanky. For that was how we celebrated each and every person that we saw come to Jesus.

It was all part of the assignment, and we went at it happily, if nervously. I was the more outspoken one of our group and enjoyed it immensely when the visits resulted in debates over this or that doctrine. I could hold my own there.
But I was totally unprepared for what was behind one door on a Saturday afternoon in 1991.

Tentative knocking resulted in sounds of children. The door cracked, and the face of a dark-eyed girl, who we learned was but 13, looked at us with questions. Soon one or two other faces peeked out around the older girl.

"Are your parents at home?" asked this trio of Bible students.

"No, I'm actually just babysitting" she responded shyly.

Apparently we did not appear very frightening, and the girl continued to talk with us. We explained that we were there to tell them about Jesus. Had she heard of Him?

"No, but you can come in if you want."

The girl, Elizabeth, called the other children. "These girls are here to tell us about Jesus." Our audience immediately gathered around to hear what these strangers had to tell. Four children in all. Three had dark hair and eyes and olive complexions. Elizabeth was the older sister. Then one boy and one girl.

The fourth member of the group stood out from the others. His red hair and freckled nose immediately labeled him as a visitor in the mix. When asked he said, "Oh, I don't live here. I'm just visiting." His total lack of self awareness charmed us almost immediately. While the others were shy and quiet, this one spoke with abandon.

We sat in a group in that front room and talked of Jesus. Who He was. That He came as a baby and lived on the same earth on which we now live. We explained that He was different from us, because He was God. That He had come to earth because He loved us and wanted to help us out of our sin. And yes, that each one of us had sinned.

Each of those four children thought carefully and responded with sins they knew they had committed. They needed no prompting. They understood. And they sat, listening in wonder as they heard the story of the One Who loved them enough to give His all.

One by one, those four knelt down beside kitchen chairs and asked Jesus to forgive them for their sin and thanked Him for loving them that much. By that time, we three were in amazement at the readiness and pure faith of these children.

That was not the end though. If it had been, I probably would not be writing of it now. For after we prayed, these children began asking questions. Soaking in the truths of God's Word like sponges. I don't remember everything they asked. In fact, I only remember one question.

His name was Benji--that red-headed, freckled boy of seven. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "What about those people who are in jail and can't hear what Jesus did? How will they know?"

I do not know why the Lord placed me in that home on that day nearly 20 years ago. Without doubt, there were many more that would have been better equipped to deal with the situation. But I have never forgotten Benji.

I do not know his last name, for he said he needed to go soon after asking me that question. I think I told him that it was the job of all of us who do know about Jesus to make sure that we tell everyone else...even those in jail.

I watched him run up the street. I prayed that he would come into contact with more Christians who could help him. I prayed that that boy would be a servant of God. At seemingly strange times, the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind a little boy with red hair, and I understood. "Pray for Benji."

Nine years later I held my newborn son in my arms. My husband and I had talked of this day. "His name is Benjamin" I said.

He turned ten years old yesterday--my Benjamin. Someday I hope to introduce him to another Benjamin...Benji. Because I believe that God had a special future for Benji. I pray for him still. And I pray for me....that I won't forget the question of a little boy who shouldn't have known about the spiritual needs of prisoners, but who changed my life forever with his simple question, "How will they know?"

"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14)

"Say not ye, 'There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?' Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." (Jn. 4:35)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It Will Be Worth It All

The cool, dark room is a refuge from the heat, light and noise of my world. I enter to let my soul rest. I escape here, knowing that I am being pursued by the rising head of self-pity. It can be relentless. It's presence threatens to destroy the soul peace He gives.

The day to celebrate our Nation's Independence. One in which we have trained ourselves to expect gatherings, cookouts, beaches, parades. I see the pictures and stories of others who are enjoying these, and the talons of my enemy reach ever closer.

Stories of coastal visits reach me, and I begin to succumb. For that is the place in this world that I would most like to be. The sea and its surrounding coastline has always spoken to me in a way unlike any other. The connection is soul deep.

Sounds of sea birds in their constant struggle for supremacy. The crash of waves beating the coastline---relentless since the beginning of time. The briney smell of sea and sand linger in my mind. The horizon of blue painted forever on the walls of my memory. These things are what I miss, and what I find myself longing for today.

I ask my Lord to help my weakness. I am needed here, and I cannot retreat into any depths of self-indulgence. "Lord, be my all. I need you."

Gently, He turns my mind to another place. He shows me the beauty which awaits those who long after Him in this life. The beauty for which this world can only be a foretaste.

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." Rev. 21:1

"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him; And they shall see his face;...." Rev. 22:1-4a

Could it be that the blue horizon, which has beckoned so many, is actually beckoning us toward Him. The part of us that responds to the beauty He has provided is responding to our need of Him. He tells us that He speaks through Creation. By following His call, we enter a path to greater connection and beauty than we have ever known.

My call is not to abandon the beauty, but to follow it to where it leads---to the One Who created it. He alone can fill the aching hole inside us. Were we able to follow the horizon to it's end, we would find the greatest treasure of all---a "glimpse of His dear face". With our eyes fixed assuredly on that goal, our trials of this life will surely "seem so small", and we will say with the hymn writer, "It will be worth it all." (Rushton, Esther, When We See Christ)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Songs From The Barn

I close my eyes; the breeze blowing my hair; the sun warming my face. I think of years ago--summers on the farm. The wind blowing tall grasses in the fields. The smell of honeysuckle pervading the senses. Apple trees sporting hundreds of miniature fruits. Grass freshly mown.

The white farmhouse and red barn, a perfect picture of the American dream. Flag waving from the entry of the covered porch welcomed all to come on in. Ice cold tea in the 1940's refrigerator available to any and all.

The hand pump still mounted on the counter over the kitchen sink, though no longer connected to a water source. The wood cookstove, cold and silent, in that warm time of year.

Windows stood open. Screen door slamming as children ran in and out. The smell of summer everywhere.

The barn, though empty of animals, still smelled of occupants long since gone. Children loved the cool dark of that place. Games of hiding and seeking could go on for hours. Cookouts in that barn. Family gathered together. Tables strung together. Food that spoke of plenty.

Family that went through hard times, but that came together to celebrate the season and each other.

We never left there without music. Grammie at the piano, or with the accordion in that barn. Music was a part of that life. Singing together was our due. Never realizing then that she gave us a gift for life.

For us, the farm is gone now. We miss those days. Some of the family, too, have graduated to a new life---one far better.

The pictures remain vivid in our minds. Little things bring to mind that season of life. Sometimes, the past can seem more vibrant than the todays. We sorrow. We laugh. But as much as we would like to, we can't go back.

One thing that has not changed is the music passed on to us in that time. Grammie spoke to us of songs in the night. Back then we could not understand the need. Today, older and more worn, we do. We have each had those songs. Songs that brought comfort or cheer. Songs that encouraged us on. She knew then, what we did not. That with life comes suffering. But that in spite of what might come, we could go on singing the songs.

The songs that were born from that time in the old, red barn.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Words Wielded

Little hurts rain down like hail against my sensitive nature. The things that happen when you live with and around people....especially around those you love. Each thoughtless word hits and stings. I react. I always do.

I return the missiles with more of my own. Words. My best friends, and my worst enemies. Language has always been an easy sword for me to wield. But I often become confused on which side I am fighting.

Words of love and life have been given to me in His Word. He commanded me to spread them. I do.......until I receive the first stinging wound. Then, instead of peace or love or truth, I spread hate, hurt and the lies of His enemy without thought of the damage being done.

Feelings of self-pity, insecurity and discouragement rise to the surface when triggered by the words or actions of those I love. I make them pay for their offense. I hurt them because I want to hurt them....for one brief moment. Then the Spirit lays His hand on my shoulder.

I feel it there, and I don't want to look. I know He sees, and I am ashamed. I go through the arguments in my mind of why I am right. Justifying my cruelty by my own hurts.

And He shows me once again that there are more hurts to lay down at His feet. He died for those too. My arguments that felt so strong, fall as ash around me.

Naked truth lies before me. I can face it or turn away and pick back up my offense. I wish the decision came easily, but it doesn't. I reach toward the offense, wanting to hold onto the pain that has long been my companion. Easier by far than giving it over to my Life Giver.

I feel His love and I know that I am wrong. I must leave it before Him.

I am frustrated by my repeated failures. I know that each little victory will lead to more. Each moment spent with Him and in His Word will bring me closer to the place, the mission, he has for me.

Humility first. Apologies. Hugs. Learning to lay it all down. Accepting that my human response is almost always wrong. That praying for wisdom once a day is not enough. It takes prayer, "without ceasing" and "giving thanks always."

"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell....Therewith bless we God, even the Father: and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." (James 3:5,6,9,10)

"Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you: let him shew out of a good conversation his words with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth, not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits....." (James 3:13-17)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

He Is Mine

He sits on the couch and reads, and plays the games and watches the TV, and I think, "why must I have one more person to run for?" I get his sweet tea, and he thanks me. I make supper and think of how much better it would be if he could grill the way he usually does on the weekend.

We pick up every piece of stray paper or toy so that he does not slip. I think, "this is what they did for me not long ago." I open up the bed and adjust his pillows, thinking of the fact that I am tired.

I walk by, and he grabs my hand. He looks at me and blows a kiss. I think, "he loves me." I adjust his leg brace.

He lays on the couch and calls to me. I answer. He is mine, and I am his and we have belonged to each other for nearly 13 years.

"For better or for worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health."

Vows that meant little when said years ago, now have body and are the words that make up our union. This is marriage. Two people. Two different views of life. Two different sets of plans. Two different sets of hurts.

Two made one, and I think "this is what so many wish they had." I am blessed.

He calls me and I go to him because I can, and I want to---because we belong to each other, for now and always. "Til death do us part."

"And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Gen. 2:23,24)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Joy Comes In the Morning

Walking through the aisles of the grocery store I felt a heaviness in my heart. Trying to focus on the best deals, I instead was reminded that life was changing, as it always does. And that knowledge caused me to feel full of sadness. My eyes filled with tears, and sale prices became hard to read.

The week has been a hard one, more emotionally than physically. And emotional weeks are the ones that drain a mother to the core. The security that I, as a woman, crave is threatened. While it is difficult to be injured yourself, as I realized this year, it is harder still to watch the one you count on for security be hurt.

All the possibilities that may result from a husband's injuries play through my head. This together with children's issues that continue to pain, cause me to begin to question--not the love of my Saviour, but my own faithfulness. Do I love Him enough to accept His plan?

The way has never been easy, but He has brought us through. I don't know what tomorrow will bring; but then, I never have. I am choosing to trust. No matter what, I am choosing to trust someone. Myself? My husband? My LORD?

Once again, I hold out a platter---on it my dreams, my concerns, my pain......my heart. Humbly, I present it to the One who gives more grace. No doubt I will attempt to take it back at some point. I always do. But in each moment I have that choice, and the grace He gives is what I need, in this moment, to give Him my life. My husband's life. My children's lives.

He already holds our lives in His hand. I can choose to accept it and trust Him, or I can fight a battle that I will always lose. I am laying it down. Tears may come, but that's alright. Tears are a gift He gives to wipe out the pain and fear. Through tears God allows us to communicate with Him our deepest feelings.


"Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back; this I know; for God is for me. In God will I praise His word: in the LORD will I praise His word. In God have I put my trust; I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." (Ps. 56:8-11)

"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (Ps. 126:5,6)

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Ps. 30:5b)


I can weep, knowing that the Lord treasures my tears, and I can trust, knowing that my God knows the end from the beginning. He has promised me joy in the morning. Thank-you, Lord.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When Drain Cleaner Isn't Enough

Over the last few weeks I have been experiencing the frustration that results from a bathtub that does not drain. Well, I may be overstating the case just a bit---it does drain, but not until you have showered, wading in water half way up your shins.

While normally I would agree that there should be a fairly simple, though disgusting, solution to this problem, it does not seem so in this case. Maybe I am just being more than a little blond, but I can't seem to find any way to easily clean the drain. It is a closed system from the top---no simple screws to turn. The only thing I can think of is to go down into the crawl space and try to open the trap down there. Uuggg.

I have tried drain cleaner and that has been less than successful. Since this is the only tub/shower in the house it is well-used and definitely needs a working drain. The crawl space is probably the best idea, but never having gone in it myself I am having visions of all the creatures I will encounter while making my way to a trap, certain to contain all kinds of treasure I don't want to find, if I can even unscrew it.

It does seem that my mind works in somewhat strange and mysterious ways, because once again the Lord brought to my mind a comparison. He reminded me of all the years of my life when I struggled to find any spiritual growth. My frustration was frequently great because I felt I should be further along in the life I had chosen as a child---that of a Christian, a follower of Christ.

The verses in Hebrews spoke of my spiritual condition. "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again....and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."

Repeatedly I asked the Lord to help me grow in Him, but any progress seemed temporary, and my frustration grew. Sometimes to the point of questioning God's love for me, perhaps even His existence, I am ashamed to say. I felt dead inside because I did not have good fellowship with Him.

The Lord had not changed, but something had come between us. Little by little the Lord has revealed hurts and the resulting bitterness that had wedged themselves in between. Most were not affected by my simple, unbelieving prayers, but had to be revealed in all of their ugliness in order to be dealt with. Circumstances that washed over me and I thought had gone down the drain of life, but that in reality never went very far away.

Those things will always block our fellowship with our Saviour. If not dealt with immediately, they just continue to build up. Some I never even realized were issues in my mind. Until we allow Him to open up our secret places, we continue to live as struggling, baby Christians. For how can we teach others if we have not allowed Him to heal us? We can't.

Once we give ourselves over to Him, secret rooms full of hurts and all, He gently shows us where we fail. And then He gives us the grace to hand all of it back to Him---and He takes it away. Fellowship can be sweet again. Sometimes it takes going through some pain for the sweetness to return, but it is worth it.

Now I pray that He will strengthen me to no longer be a babe, but that I might be used of Him in the way that He means for me to be. That I will be able to eat the "strong meat that belongeth to them that are of full age". (Heb. 5:14)

"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." (Ps. 51:10-13)

How sad if we live our entire lives and never accomplish the mission God has for us here, because we failed to see the sin in our lives blocking us from His blessing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Integrity---Unbroken or unimpaired

A couple of days ago, I posted a quote on facebook that had to do with integrity. It was a quote by the 19th century educator, Charlotte Mason. In essence she said that everything we do should be our best because it is a piece of us and that equals integrity.

While I do agree with what she said, I have spent quite a bit of time since then contemplating the idea of integrity. Is it simply a term used to describe a collection of other traits? We probably all have pictures that come to our minds of examples of integrity. I can think of many individuals from past and present.

The reality is that there are so many from history that we could point out as examples of integrity, but there are many fewer today. What used to be accepted as the "normal" way to approach life is now discredited by many. The unsaved see little need since many believe there is no true right or wrong. Even sadder, though, are the many of us who are saved who lack integrity in our day to day life.

The same day, someone else posted the dictionary definition of integrity. "Unbroken and unimpaired" were words used in that definition, and they suddenly struck me as something I had never heard before. Now I realize that this is usually speaking of maintaining the integrity of some thing, but I think the Lord closed my mind to that, and all I could see was how far away from that definition that I was.

"Unbroken and unimpaired". If that was the definition then who could measure up? After pondering this for hours, I considered the fact that the definition was not written for the kind of integrity that I was looking for. So I looked it up in another dictionary. "1. The condition of being free from damage or defect; 2. total honesty and sincerity." (Merriam-Webster, 1996)

Again, I felt the Lord showing me something, but I was not grasping exactly what it was. I escaped to the quiet of the green area to try and make sense of my muddled thoughts. As I sat enjoying the peace and lazy summer weather, I looked down at the grass in front of where I sat.

A small branch, leaves brown and stiff, rested on the green grass. It's dark color called my attention to it. It lay under a tree that is a lovely shade tree, and under which we sit to escape the heat of the sun. All of a sudden the connection I had been looking for became clear.

This branch had been part of the green tree above, but at some point it became broken from the larger branch. It did not take long for the death to occur without the life-giving sap from the main tree. The integrity of the branch had been compromised. I understood.

Jesus, the only One who has ever been completely "honest"; the only One never "impaired" by sinful thoughts or actions is our tap root. Connected to Him we become strong and bear fruit. However, if that connection (integrity) or fellowship is broken or becomes impaired, we wither away. The integrity we think we have, becomes hollow without His constant life-giving grace. Soon we lie dead in our own works, calling attention to ourselves but not fulfilling our purpose.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered;" (Jn. 15:4-6a)

Integrity is so much more than being a productive, honest citizen. While many may attempt to imitate the integrity they admire, only those who are connected to the Source of true integrity will ever really have it in their lives.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Promise Series by Dr. Robert Wetmore

While I have no intention of going into full time book review, on occasion a book may catch my attention enough to want to share it with you. That is the case today.

This spring I was introduced to a wonderful series of books called "The Promise Series". They are written by a man named, Dr. Robert Wetmore. I have had the privilege of meeting his sister, Carol Robb, who introduced me to his writing.

Dr. Wetmore was a professor at Toccoa Falls College when he wrote the first book, The Two Trees in 2005, and as far as I know, continues there today. Formerly a self-professed atheist, he presents the story in a way that will appeal to saved and unsaved alike.

He very clearly states that it is fiction, and wants there to be no confusion in that regard. It is Biblically based though, and shows what may have happened from the dawn of Creation.

The reality of sin and it's affect on each one of us is startling brought forth. From God's Promise of a Redeemer in the Garden of Eden, Dr. Wetmore continues the story of men. The Bible is one story, not many. I don't think that I ever truely understood that until reading these books.

I feel so strongly about this that I felt I needed to share it. With my own children I am memorizing the first three chapters of Genesis. I want them to realize that the Gospel did not start with Jesus in a manger or on the cross. It is a much deeper and longer story than that.

If you have an opportunity to read any of the Promise Series, I would encourage you to do so. As long as you read it, not as a history, "but as an illustration." (Wetmore, The Two Trees Intro)

I am anxiously awaiting the fourth book of the series, that I am told will be about Abraham. Thanks for visiting, and if anyone else has read this series, I would love to hear your comments. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti21mf5bI4I

By His Grace,

TammyJ

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Laziness---Impediment To Growth

My husband and I were talking about our kids the other night. The chosen topic was our sons, who are two totally different people. I mean, they are night and day, black and white, meat and cheese, dogs and cats-----you get the picture.

The one thing they both have in common is being a middle child. I don't know what your opinion on the birth order is, but to me its pretty clear. Kids have certain issues depending on where they are in the birth order. Strengths and weaknesses. This leads to tremendous competition to have the choicest middle child position.

Their stress related to this issue is manifested differently, but recently one of the boys seems to be struggling more. Thankfully, my husband has been willing to put some time in with him. He was telling me that when he was talking with our boy he had tried to build him up and show him his own worth.

Wise man that he is, he explained that while one son has tremendous natural athletic ability, he has a tendency to be little lazy in that regard. On the other hand, the son with a little less natural ability is always learning and listens to all the instruction from his coach/dad.

Both have the potential to do a great job, in sports and in life. But they will have to spend their time working on different things. On thinking about it, I think in some ways I am more like the son with the ability.

I experienced all the benefits of growing up in a Biblical home. Generations of my family had loved and served the Lord faithfully. The Bible was a tremendous influence in my life, as were the Godly testimonies of those around me. Early in life my Bible knowledge exceeded many adults. After graduating from high school I attended a Bible Institute and then another Bible College.

Now, years later (not saying how many) I find that too often I am depending on what I learned as a child to maintain me for the rest of my life. I have become lazy in my study of the Bible. Frequently, I find myself lightly reading over a passage and a little note in my brain, says, "oh, yeah, you know this one"---then I can move on to think about whatever else is spinning in my mind. Unfortunately, that precious time is used up with me gaining little new insight from the Lord.

As a result of this, I decided to begin studying I&II Thessalonians. No particular reason, other than we had a study guide for those books, that had yet to be used. Using that as a guide, I am already learning so much.

Recently I read that often we keep our old Bible because we love being able to go right to the passages that mean the most to us. Our favorite verses are highlighted, and we skip right to them. Often at the expense of other wonderful passages that the Lord would use in our lives if only we would read them.

I believe this is true. I have been holding on to my Bible that I have loved for over two decades, and that is exactly what I do. In my laziness I count on verses that meant something to me in the past---wonderful, often comforting verses. The problem is, the Bible is a living Book. By depending on the mountain top experiences of other times in my life, I restrict myself to living in the past. The God of my fathers, wants to bless me today.

So I will endeavor to study, really study, a little each day. I will ask the Lord to give me fresh insight into each passage, and a new appreciation of the living Word of God. Being a perfectionist often gets in my way, in Bible study, as in everything else. I have to start somewhere.

Maybe it's time for me to start looking at finding a new Bible without any marks in it yet. I can spend the next 20 years loving it. I do know that my current Bible will stay around, where I can go for encouragement on those discouraging days when the Lord seems far away.

Laziness---its a battle I will always face. My son will probably always have to as well (sad, but true). I want to be an example to all of my kids, and I desperately need daily blessings from God's Word for myself. Better to start somewhere and grab onto the Lord there, than to never start at all (my own version of a well-known quote).

A verse I memorized early in life, is a truth I continue to learn today.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." II Tim. 2:15