Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review - Hope Runs - SO good!!

A few weeks ago, I received a pre-release copy of "Hope Runs" by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua, from Revell Books. I was not given anything in exchange for this book copy, and the words written below are my own; I receive nothing for sharing my opinion of the book.

The book "Hope Runs" was CRAZY GOOD! It's not too often I read a book that is hard for me to put down, but this was one of them. From the moment it came in the mail, and I cracked open the cover, I was taken in. I found myself wanting to have a day free to just read it straight through, but it never came, so I had to steal moments wherever I could to find out what happened next. I was more interested in the lives of the 2 authors than I was about the organization, Hope Runs (of which I knew NOTHING about). All in all, it would be difficult to NOT learn about the organization, and the insight is good for anyone involved in non-profit organizations and giving. 

I LOVED the format of it, as the chapters flip back and forth between the 2 author's tales and takes on life. It was so necessary to hear from each of them what their background was. To learn where they came from said so much about where they were going. Although I would have loved to have heard more about where God was fitting in all of this, I was grateful for the glimpses they shared. It's not going to be "that book" to bring you closer to God, but more to encourage you to step out of the daily faith walk and put action to your beliefs. 

"This is when I realize something about we as orphans. When life throws us a lemon, we must take as much juice from it as we can, because we don't know when it might be taken away. I realize this is true not just for orphans but for all people. When life gives you that lemon, take as much juice as you can, because you don't know when the lemon will be taken away and you will be left without any fruit at all." - Sammy

The things accomplished through each of them are amazing. To hear of life in so many places, is delightful. Seeing them willing to be taken out of the norm and put in new circumstances challenged me in my own life. It really was inspiring.

I'm already looking forward to seeing where their lives are in 3 years, 5 years, 20 years down the road, and hope that they continue to share the journey with us! I'm certainly going to check out their Twitter accounts (though I may pass on the series of tweets while Claire Diaz-Ortiz was in labor and tweeting live!). I'm curious where this story will end... knowing it's really just begun. 

Lord, I pray that You will continue to intercede and advance Your Cause through the lives of those involved in this story. Nurture the lives of Claire Diaz-Ortiz and her family, and Samuel Ikua Gachagua and his family and EXTENDED family. I pray that they will continue to draw close to You, and see Your hand leading and guiding them, as they chase after You and learn more of You. Let this book increase the good work that Hope Runs does, and may Your Spirit move through it. 

The book, "Hope Runs" is released on April 15, 2014 - on Kindle and wherever books are sold. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

LIFE and A Follow-Up to the Love Idol Movement Challenge

LOVE these Daily Grace - Open Your Heart Place Cards from DaySpring! 

*This post contains affiliate links from vendors. I receive nothing from them to mention them in my posts, but if you click on the link on the side, and place an order, I'll receive a small commission, which helps me to keep this blog (and my obsession with DaySpring) alive.

This week I spoke briefly to a group of 130 women at their end of the session brunch about (in)courage, (in)RL and the book Love Idol - as I'm co-hosting an (in)RL conference in my home this month, and leading a discussion group for Love Idol this summer. 

Although this is the church I attend (Crossroads Christian Church), there were only a handful of really familiar faces there. They do a great job of welcoming here; women attend from many churches, denominations and I'm willing to bet there are several non-churched attending the Daughters Of the King (DOK) weekly studies. I haven't attended this year at all, so of course it makes sense that although I went for 2 1/2 years when we lived here before, hardly no one knows me any more. There's a whole new group of women attending! It was scary, but yet refreshing. I felt like I was at a table for a small women's conference!

They had a table set up for me at the entrance of the Chapel, and I was able to set up books from (in)courage authors, the adorable Daily Grace - Open Your Heart - Place Cards from DaySpring on it, and the sign up for the discussion group that I'll be facilitating in June on Love Idol. I had used a chalk pen to write the words "loved," "beautiful, and "preapproved" on them, helping to make a quick point to Jennifer Dukes Lee's book

Everyone was so kind, and it was fairly easy (I only shook a little, LOL) to talk to them from the stage. So. Out. Of. Practice. Sigh. Nonetheless, I enjoyed being back in the company of so many lovely women, and I'm going to be signing up to take a class with them in the fall, for sure (maybe sooner!). 

I even met a neighbor! :) She and her husband are retired, and they live around the corner on another street in our neighborhood. I'm praying we get to know them better too, as well as the 2 other neighbors we've recently met. 

All in all, I loved being there. Loved the teaching, the worship, the food, and the fellowship! 

AH, and now - My #LoveIdolMovement Journey...

God's still working on me. I've done ok with not posting to my Facebook page (only updating my timeline photo to reflect the upcoming (in)RL Conference), and I don't talk to myself in posts all day long anymore. I still want to share things on it - but I'm so glad I'm staying true to not doing that. I'm not posting on my wall, or commenting to other's posts (so I barely read them at all). I am posting and commenting on the few group walls that I'm in (book launch groups, and a few for (in)courage). 

I've found that I tend to still *waste time* online, now shifting to Pinterest and Instagram, so I'm trying to phase those out for the next few weeks, only posting for work. It's going to be hard, but I still have a few books that I'm reading and reviewing for book launches - so I'm grateful to have that distraction - and the weather has warmed up (thank You God!) so I've been working outside too. 

As far as my *preapproval* status goes with the actual challenge, it's growing me! I had a disappointment, and it happened to hit at the same time I had written a blog post about wondering what direction I should take my writing and blogging... so I pulled my post when I realized that it might be misconstrued (I had written it before the disappointment, and in reality I was not upset about it, I was totally ok with it actually - it just hit me funny and I could see that folks might read more into it than what was really going on). 

I am beginning to listen more closely for God's voice in my day to day life. I have had a few sleepless nights, and last night got up out of bed and did some reading, praying, then searched the internet on a God-prompt for Rich Mullins. After listening to some music of his, I happened to read an article about him, and stumbled on this quote of his on lonliness:

"I would always be frustrated with all those relationships even when I was engaged. I had a ten year thing with this girl and I would often wonder why, even in those most intimate moments of our relationship, I would still feel really lonely. And it was just a few years ago that I finally realized that friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things, and loneliness live together in the same experience..." 

- Rich Mullins

Bingo! It hit me squarely in the heart: God is teaching me this very thing. Maybe that's been my whole life's lesson... learning how to be holy lonely (and also wholly lonely). I have amazing friendships around the world, a 30 year marriage to my best friend, and am ALWAYS lonely. I don't think it's bad, and I crave to be alone when I'm in too much people... but I've never viewed it as this. This. It makes sense. 

SO this is a part of my Love Idol Movement testimony too, to be able to be content in loneliness, and not view it as an aspect of being judged, or viewed as less-popular, less-desirable, less-friend worthy (because when the friends are all scattered, it's hard knowing that no one will be stopping by for any holiday, and we're all too laid back to plan a birthday party... or even to send a card... and these are the things that society somehow sets the standard of how rich our friendships... and our lives themselves... are). 

I've determined that this is important. To be content in loneliness. I want to do lonely well. I want to enjoy it, and when I'm with Him in my lonely time, I want to invite Him in. I want to DELIGHT in Him. There. In the midst of lonely. 

Another area of discipline that's being assisted by the Love Idol Movement is the impact that it's having on my wife skills. I'm talking to Mark more (or he's talking to me more?) since he can't read my life and feelings on Facebook. This is a good thing. :) 

It's freeing up time for me to do more house-blessing (read: chores). I've been able to keep up my laundry more, clean the house more often, and although we've been eating out of the pantry and deep freezer, cook more too! Can this all really be attributed to stopping posting on Facebook?  Oddly enough, I think it can, although I don't have the faintest idea how to describe how it works!

Have you picked up your copy of "Love Idol" yet?  Amazon has the Kindle version available. I suggest you check out for purchasing the soft cover book. If you are so led, you can choose ViBella Jewelry as the non-profit to donate your purchase to; that would doubly-bless the Lee family! They LOVE the work of ViBella and the hope it brings to women of Haiti, Mexico and here in the U.S. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review - surprised by motherhood - everything I never expected about being a mom

First time parenting can be scary enough, and Lisa-Jo Baker had every reason to NOT want to be a mom. Every aspect of her life fought the very idea of giving birth, even to the spiritual lies that shaped that desire. With every thing that made me want to be a mom my whole life, Lisa-Jo experienced to shape her heart to NOT be one.

When I received my copy of Lisa-Jo Baker's book, surprised by motherhood, I could hardly wait to read it. I didn't think it would have anything to do with me... well, she is a tad younger than I, and didn't want to be a mom... and is in the midst of raising 3 littles. I didn't think there was anything in there for me to relate to... I'm older, and an empty-nester, and couldn't wait to be a mom my whole life...could we be more polar opposite? But I WANTED to read it - simply because Lisa-Jo is a rock star and fearless leader in the (in)courage community and a co-worker with DaySpring.

I was floored when I read the first 3 chapters online, and couldn't wait to read the rest of it! Since then, I've read, re-read, and had to refrain from marking it all up with things I want to tweet! I've laughed out loud (cackled even!), cried (sobbed), and couldn't put it down. I can't think of anyone that wouldn't enjoy this book!

Although you can read (and re-read) Lisa-Jo's blog, and learn about her life online, this book is so much more. If the blog is her skin, then this book is her heart and soul. I've come to love this woman! Her story is so very different than my own, yet I resonate with her words of home-sickness, of wanting to fix what's wrong in the world, of doubting her parenting skills, and mostly, of faith. It's so much more than a book on motherhood; more than what changed her mind to become one in the first place. It's the life story of a modern day woman who loves God more than anything, and how she really learns of His great love for her.

This book reads as entertaining as a best-selling novel - but it's all true to life. It makes it so much better knowing how this is her HIStory; the life God created her for. Just as she fearlessly leads the (in)courage community to stand up and write down our own story, she is real, and genuine, and tearfully shares the dusty road God has walked her along from South Africa to Virginia.

I can think of 100 people who should read this book; men and women, every genre of person out there. Her heart beats so strongly in it, her words crafted so well (and yes, I admit, I had to look up a few - mostly referring to her South African terms).

I hope that you'll take the time to read her journey too...

I want to let you know that although I received a complimentary copy of the book from DaySpring, they did not ask me to write this review, and I was not (and will not be) compensated for my writing it. Should you purchase a copy through the DaySpring link on the side, I will receive a small commission... of which I'd be grateful for. :)  - marina

Friday, March 14, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Crowd

Read the #FMF rules over here at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog (She's the boss of it!) :) 

My Five Minutes on CROWD

For the last 3 weeks our house has been filled to the brim in laughter, diapers (dirty and clean) and enough toddler fits to wear 2 moms down (never mind the dads). 

Our daughter and son in law and 5 kids are relocating to our area. In the midst of the transition, they've been staying with us. It makes this BIG house breathe again! It feels good to hear the kids that are supposed to be resting, giggling instead, as the sound echos in the halls. I love getting morning hugs and goodnight kisses. It makes me remember all the lovely things that being a mom are about... and it reminds me of why God gives children to us in our young(er) age, as I'm ready for bed every night! It's exhausting!!

We have a dining room, but we feed the kids in the eat-in kitchen. 4 around the table and 1 in a high chair. The grown ups sit at the counter, or eat standing up. We CROWD in to make it work. We don't have to deal with spills on the wood floor or washing placemats, and the kids like us all there close together. 

Their beds are CROWDed in together in one room. The crib and the parents sleep in a separate room, but the 4 older kids - 2, 3 1/2, almost 5 and 6 1/2 are all sleeping in one space. It works. The humidifier hums all night long and they share their sleeping songs, their bedtime prayers, their morning dreams. 


(the rest of the story...)

Come Sunday afternoon, they'll be moving out, into their new home. I'll keep the littlest ones one last night, enjoy every snuggle I can get, and make them eggs or pancakes or cereal (or all 3) for breakfast on Monday morning. Then I'll drive them home, and walk in to a completely disastrous and filthy house that will be totally quiet. Again. And I'll probably cry. Again.

I know, I know... they're just moving 30 minutes away! They could have been 9 hours away, or 18 hours away, or a plane, train and automobile trip away. This isn't so bad!! But it's going to stretch my heart again as they move along. It's always good and exhausting when they're here, and always fine once they're "there" (wherever that happens to be), but oh, the transitions... they twist my heart up and wring out the tears like a wet dishrag.

I'm so blessed to have had a season of them staying with me... and it's good to remember how much a little child can impact me, make me a morning person again, make me eat oatmeal again, and get me down on the floor to play with Legos again. I'll cherish tomorrow's CROWD as we dance around to praise songs (thank you Yancy!) and watch Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sound of Music again. I'll treasure each hug, storing them up for the empty days when the house is still and silent. I'll push them on the swings and run around outside with them as they race around the yard, at least until they are exhausted and grumpy and ready to take that nap (because I will need it!).

They will CROWD my heart ... forever.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent Follow-Up ... and a Prayer...

Since giving up "personal Social Media" for Lent (personal, because I have to use it in work and ministry... and that can't change at this point and time) I've REALLY struggled. I discovered that I really think moment to moment in Facebook posts. :(  I had to delete the app from my phone - the temptation to READ it was consuming me, and that made me realize that I couldn't "just" read it (my original intent was to not post there... but I couldn't read it either!). So now I'm FB free on my phone, which has since become more of a reason to not carry it around all the time! Freeing!!

I do miss it terribly... but God's been so SO faithful to fill my time with other things... mostly grandkids lately! I'm grateful that this is coinciding with their stay with me.

I'm getting hit from every spiritual angle, and I have to believe it's because of being obedient in this one thing (trying to change my approval-seeking personality and habits). God help me! I've still got so SO long to go!!

Yesterday I discovered a cd that I had bought for my grands and was waiting to share it with them, but when I began to listen to it, I KNEW God was holding it for me, for now. Yancy's album "Roots for the Journey" is amazingly healing, restorative, and draws me into a Spirit of Worship super easily. I love it. You can check out that album here, and there's even an app for it with tutorials and ideas on how to use her music to encourage parents to use it with their kids!

I appreciate your notes of prayer and encouragement!

Father, I confess and submit to Your authority in my life. Let me return to the joy of my salvation and have a right Spirit renewed in me. I ask that You empower me, give me a passion for Your Word, and bring others alongside me that will encourage me in this journey. Also allow me to be a blessing to others that are struggling with approval issues, or social media addiction. Help us to find a healthy balance in being able to use social media for GOOD (for GOD!) and leaving it at that. I am Yours. Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Love Idol Movement Lent/Life Commitment

The (non) denomination of church that we choose to attend doesn't celebrate Lent as a church body, though it's recognized and accepted as a part of the special season of Resurrection. We (Mark and I) were rather unschooled on it until years ago, when Mark prepared a communion meditation on it's history and significance. It was so good that we (as a couple) decided to participate in it on our own - not as a MUST DO - but as a WANT TO.  Over the years we have (or have not) committed to setting aside something material to allow God to work in us in a deeper way.

To be honest, I hadn't planned on doing Lent this year. Two years ago Mark and I walked through 40 days of the Daniel Fast, and it was a time of really doing deep with God in many aspects of our life, and walking much closer with God. It was from that season that God opened a door for us to move to AR for a year... though we didn't know then that it would only be for a year! 

(Why would God move anyone anywhere for just a year? You can read about our experience here.) 

Now doing The Daniel Plan as a way of life, we eat (mostly) gluten, sugar and dairy free... and I can not have caffeine because of ongoing issues of having hives - so what else is there to give up for Lent?

Oh goodness. Let me tell you...

One of the blessings of living in Arkansas was getting connected in working with the lovely people at DaySpring (you can click the link on the right if you'd like to learn more about them). They cheered me on to attend a few blogging conferences to learn more about the job with Meet Me in the Meadow and the community of bloggers at (in)courage, and also work for them there handing out swag, signing up women for the DaySpring blogs, and giving away delightful products as door prizes. 

The first conference that I attended was Deidra Riggs' Jumping Tandem - The Retreat in Nebraska. It was a small miracle that I got to go at all... another story for another time... but it was amazing. My first retreat was SO memorable! The speakers came prepared to share honestly and openly about what God was walking them through - and one of those speakers was Jennifer Lee. You can read more about my experience at the retreat here, but I'm going to side step and carry on with the topic of Jennifer...

Jennifer Lee took to the podium with nerves of steel aluminum that melted into puddles tears as she shared about the many ways God has moved in her life. I was instantly in awe of her brevity, and fell in love with her family as I heard her share about the passionate endeavors that God fulfilled through her daughters, how this newspaper-reporter-turned-college-professor gained the heart of a missionary, and how that has changed the course of her family's legacy.

I saw Jennifer again later in the year, at Allume, and it was there that we really got to talk and share and pray... and again in the airport as we waited for the plane to arrive, and for our connection in Detroit. It seemed God had the idea that we had a conversation to finish... and we haven't finished it yet.

It JUST so happens that Jennifer was writing a book, Love Idol, about the topic of which she spoke at Jumping Tandem. I knew then that I'd have to read it... not because of who was writing it, but because of what it was on.


It turns out that it's not just about the book launching on April 1, 2014... but The LOVE IDOL MOVEMENT that is launching with Lent this year... learning to give up ourselves, our emotions, our fears, our seeking the approval of others, and our pleasing ourselves before seeking to please God.

So, for the past few weeks I've been hanging out online with a group of women who are willing to GIVE A PART OF THEMSELVES UP as an offering for Lent. It's a starting place for her book that is described this way on Jennifer's web site:

You are PreApproved!

We all want someone to think we’re sensational. We desire to be recognized, to be valued, to be respected. To be loved. Yet this natural yearning too often turns into an idol of one of God’s most precious gifts: love itself. If you, like so many of us, spend your time and energy trying to earn someone’s approval—at work, home, and church—all the while fearing that, at any moment, the facade will drop and everyone will see your hidden mess . . . then love may have become an idol in your life.
Love Idol will help you dismantle what’s separating you from true connection with God and rediscover the astonishing freedom of a life lived in authentic love.

Isn't that amazing? 

My first inclination was to do without make-up, do nothing fancy with my hair (which I'm trying to grow out, and it's driving me CRAZY!), but it seemed God wanted to take me deeper. 

So I let Him.

And here I've landed. Head dizzy from spinning, He's moved me so much! The reality is a dirty-little-secret that smacked at me just a few weeks ago, before I even heard of the Love Idol Movement... but it's definitely something that I need to lay at the cross... not just for Lent, but for a lifetime.

I give more than I take. ALL.THE.TIME.

I'm not talking about living generously. I'm talking about GIVING ADVICE. UNSOLICITED ADVICE. I share my opinion, my knowledge, my circumstances (past and present) with anyone. TMI. 24/7. All the time. 

(Please notice the self-centered "MY" that is happening here.)

And this is what needs to go... because I'm getting good at pulling my foot out of my mouth, backtracking, and apologizing... but it would be Oh-So-Beautiful if I didn't have to backtrack at all. For me to keep my words, my opinions, my stories to myself, or take them to the Lord in prayer, and keep my mouth shut all together. Or at least LISTEN twice as much as I SPEAK. (I had learned that saying in college... more advice I didn't TAKE.) 

There. I've said it. 

Please don't try to talk me out of it... to say it's a charming part of me, and how you may admire how open and honest and real I can be... because honestly, that's part of my problem. Approval seeking. I want to share my tip, my story, my solution, and then sit back and know that I've given you a tasty morsel of my life experience. 

(Can I throw up now?) 

This 50+ year old woman is weary of chasing after approval on Facebook, leaving comments and "Likes," making me think that I am doing good by affirming you (which is really seeking after you affirming me). I'm tired of reading all the posts and trying to think of clever things that go along with what you've posted. I'm even tired of sharing pages, sites, and articles or songs that I think you'll love. That's not the job I have to do. God can share all that with you through other avenues. 

I'm tired of speaking it, giving that unsolicited advice to my kids, their spouses or the stranger in the elevator. (Sorry kids and spouses and strangers.)

Sometimes it's a good thing to meet a stranger... not everyone has to be my best friend. I've got to learn to be content with one or two really good ones. Period. Pray with them. Pray for the things that others are burdened by and let God work it out in their lives. It's ok if they learn from their own mistakes (and not mine!). 

All that being said, that's where I'm going to GIVE UP for Lent. Certain MOST aspects of Facebook. 

Reality tells me that I still have a job to do, so I will still WORK on Facebook. I will still messenger on it (one on one communication with intention - but not unsolicited advice!), and I will still lead my community group with (in)courage global care (sorry, it's secret... no link available!). I might even slip over and post a scripture or prayer request in the morning... but I'm not going to surf, leave comments, be consumed to read all the posts and pages and groups going on. I may even take the app off my phone! (GASP!)

And it's not because I don't LOVE YOU... but I need to love you better... and more importantly, love Jesus better, by putting Him first in this EVERY area of my life. I need to rest on His approval, not my own false security of people liking me (or liking me more) because of what I post (or don't post) on my wall, their wall, or by the "like" button. I can pray where prayers are needed - God will know - and not post anything distracting from God, His Word and His Work. 

Would you please pray for me as I lay this Love Idol down? I know that it will take work for me to change this bad habit. The chemicals it releases in my brain soothe me and give me a false sense of security, making me think I have friendships online that may in reality only be acquaintances... and that's ok if that's all they ever are!! 

It's also about the way I use my time. 

I'm feeling God's prompt to have me write more. I want to be obedient - whether I write in a journal or a blog or a national magazine... I need to be spiritually prepared to do it. To serve. To put my own words in my mouth, or on paper, for those to read - WHOEVER WANTS to read... so that I don't force feed them to the community of believers around me. 

So that I wholly rely on my approval from God! That's ALL I need! Because of His great love, I have been PreApproved!! It's time I learned to REST in that PreApproval! 

This is my Love Idol Lent Commitment. Please help hold me accountable. 
UPDATED: Oh man! This has been such a hard day (and it's just early
afternoon of Day 1!). I've got work to do online, and each time I'm tested to not spend time in my personal feed, or if I skim through it looking for specific updates to pray about (a friend's father passed, another friend has a sick child, and I want to keep up with my kids/grandkids!) I am tempted to "LIKE" and "COMMENT" - the very things I do NOT want to do! I'm turning to prayer to break this habit - THESE HABITS - and I'm seeking scripture to guide me. 
I was led to reading through Psalm 51, and my heart stuck in these places…

 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.
 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your  forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord,  that my mouth may praise you.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Yes, I know that this is – for me – sin, and although it’s not the same sin as David’s sin… If I'm unrepentant and unwilling to change my behavior, it receives the same penalty… death! I have taken my desire for God and replaced it with the desire for human approval. Not only that, but I’ve wasted time, not attending to things that He has given me charge over (my marriage, my home, my family and friends and even my ministries) thinking that this false god of approval is more important than any (or all!) of these things. And although it CAN be used as a ministry tool, I tainted it and made it more important than God… more important than His work.

Pray with me? For me? - I am repenting. I am laying down my life, my sin, my attitude, my worship to a false god, my eyes, my misguided mindset, and turning it all back to You. God forgive me! I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to others when they tried to tell me, and I'm ashamed that it’s taken this long for me to turn this over to You to ask for help. I won’t justify it any longer. I give my all to You and ask that You alone will be my provision, my strength, my source of approval. I pray that I’ll see You at work in me, that I’ll feel You refining me, and that through the painful times - the times I forget and fall – that I’ll feel Your forgiveness and restoration. I also ask Father, that You’ll use this for Your glory, for then I will know that Satan’s strongholds are broken, and he will have no strongholds over me in this. Give me courage to make this a lifetime change, like my diet and other habits, to make this beneficial for my lifetime here on earth, that I may delight more with You and IN You every day. Father, I breathe in MORE OF You, and exhale LESS OF ME… I want MORE of You! Fill me! Release me from the sin that entangles me and help me by doing spiritual warfare on my behalf. I am Yours! I want ALL of You! In Your Son’s Name, and by His blood I pray, Amen. 

You can pre-order your copy of Love Idol, by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Although it's available on many venues, I suggest you purchase it through Givington's, where a portion of your purchase will benefit a non-profit of your choice. I do NOT make any commission on sales made through - and that's ok with me!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Checking in... and a prayer...

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Well, it's not Monday OR Wednesday, but I thought I should check in since I hadn't written a post in a while. It's been busy... that's how life is though... so it's been more than that. Traveling back to AR for meetings. Housing grandkids. Busy calendar. All of it - and none of it. Just not sure of my motivation to write, second guessing it... and busy at work too... and wondering if I am more of a facilitator to help other's social media come out online without a hitch, or if I'm supposed to be applying these nuggets of wisdom to my own writing. Who knows??

It's also been a time of seeking God on what direction in missions Mark and I are supposed to take. Other prayers appreciated!!

Father, I ask that You would pour out Your Holy Spirit on this house, on our marriage, and on our family. We desire to serve You in new, deeper ways. Be with us as we each seek after You. In Jesus Name...amen.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Word Wednesday....errrrr THURSDAY... On Tithing, Generosity, and a prayer!

I hate it when I misplace days. Does that happen to you? I knew all day Tuesday, that it WAS indeed Tuesday, but somehow when I woke up Wednesday I thought it was Tuesday all over again! UGH. These stupid antihistamines... It's a wonder I can think at all!! I'm grateful that despite those days I'd love a do-over, God keeps us moving forward... or rather, with all the snow and ice around here... PLOWING forward! He's so gracious to give us all things in it's proper season. 

God is SO good to give. He is a GIVING God! I love to read about the giving that goes on over at The Generous City, hearing stories of people blessing others. Mark and I try to make it a priority to live generously, and it's always exciting to hear of new ways that others are being led by God to live that out in their lives. 

Last weekend at church (Crossroads Christian Church, Newburgh, IN), one of our pastors, Patrick Garcia, offered a moving prayer (well, it moved ME) as we were preparing to give our tithes and offerings. The phrase he said (and maybe others have said before) that resonated so clearly in my mind was this:

Goodness... is there not a more compelling reason to be generous than that?

I'm not one for prosperity preaching/teaching, or "stake it claim it" theology for us to receive much from God, but I believe that the Bible is FULL of examples of commanding us to GIVE. Consider a few of these...

Paul in Acts 20:33 states this,
“I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (NLT)

and in Proverbs 11:24-25, Solomon shares,
One shares liberally and yet gains even more,
    while another hoards more than is right and still has need.
25 A giving person will receive much in return,
    and someone who gives water will also receive the water he needs.
Generosity places God’s gifts and blessings into circulation. The principle is simply stated: by giving we receive. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is how God’s economy works. As Jesus said, “Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give” (Luke 6:38). (The Voice)

Giving can look very different to each person, both in our financial resources - how much God has GIVEN US to give, and in our convictions - how God is TELLING US to give to others. 

In our married life, we have lived lean, out of necessity. Early in our marriage I remember a few years that we were blessed by our church, as they helped us by paying for diapers and formula while Mark was staying at home with our daughter as he recovered from a work injury, and I went off to work every day. I don't ever forget the generosity of the body of Christ around us! IF we went out on a date, my dear sister or a close friend would babysit, and sometimes give us $5 to pay for the date!! It paid for the coupon special -  .25 cent hot dogs at the Der Weinerschnitzel around the corner from our house, and a few rounds of video games at the local arcade. That was it! But we learned to be content with our circumstances, and learned that others' generosity blessed us greatly. Those times we had nothing, we learned to depend on God for our every need, and He provided for us... and more! 

Another period of time in our marriage (more than one year) we lived paycheck to paycheck. If the kids got sick it was charged to a credit card. Vacations were limited to driving to visit family members who gladly helped pay for gas, and let us stay with them in their homes (which might not feel like much of a vacation... but still, I was - and still am - VERY grateful to have experienced a change of scenery). 

Living lean can be hard in our culture today. There's so much pressure to have all the games, bells, whistles - whether it's electronics, cars, clothes or homes. It takes great discipline to live lean, and set aside our wants for God's needs. And when we don't have money to assist others, we can still give a tithe offering to our church, and give time and talents to honor God in other ways... helping a woman who is broken down on the side of the road... buying a few burgers for the man out in the cold... or other random acts of kindness by opening doors and helping carry groceries, or shovel driveways, or offer a drink on a hot day. We can tithe the actions of our hands and feet, the words of our mouth! 

Perhaps we have gifts that can bless the body of Christ, and we can serve in the church or community as a volunteer (which, by the way, is a great way to build your resume during times of unemployment... keeping your professional skills in tact and showing that you have what it takes to be resourceful). 

I believe God allows some of us to go through seasons of RECEIVING, to make us better at GIVING. I don't think that the amount He gives us has much to do with it... it ALL belongs to Him, and we are all blessed by giving in generosity to honor His Name.

And then I'm sure you've heard this before...
If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.

Perhaps as one of the "rich" of this world, I would remember Paul's words from 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NLT)
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.  By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

and in 2 Corinthians...
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 
2 Corinthians 9:11

And finally...
Matthew 6:21
Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Which, I think, says it all... to keep our attitudes, our priorities, our activities, all pointing heavenward... from our hearts to His. 

(Emphasis in all scriptures is mine.) 

Father, I ask that You will make me generous, financially, in mercy, and forgiveness. Help me to see ways around me that I can be a blessing to others, with my seasons of much and my season's of need. I pray that You will show me creative ways to bless others, giving from my heart to please You alone, not man or woman, just You. I ask You God, that You will give freely through me, to bless Your work in my church, in my home, in my neighborhood, my community and my world around me. Give me a passion for those organizations that You have ordained to be Your hands and feet, to carry Your Good News to the Nations, and in my back yard. Give me Your eyes, and Your heart, to help those around me. Turn my world upside down, to bless You and give You glory. In Jesus' Name... amen. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Middle-Aged Monday... and a prayer...

The view from my husband's office this morning... grey skies make me blue too...

Some days I wake up blue... do you? 

I had been putting off the unpleasant task of writing my father's obituary. His wife still hasn't told us that he passed away 4 months ago, and she chose to not have any services for him at the time of his cremation. We have no way to get in touch with her (besides driving the 10 hours and camping out on her doorstep). She's not going to be happy that we put a notice in the paper, but we felt it was due him, and our family heritage, to know the details of his life. It will appear later this week in the Cassville Democrat. 

Whether it was a spiritual battle, or an emotional one (or most likely both), I put it off for a full week and a half. I didn't even think of it during that time, but I'd set aside a deadline that it would be completed today, whether or not I met the paper's deadline for 3pm on Monday. 

Little did I know that their deadline is moved for different things... and I'd actually have until Tuesday to complete it... but I had my momentum going. I wanted it behind me.

What do YOU do when some unpleasant task is ahead of you? 

I'd rather scrub floors with a toothbrush than repeat this job!!

How does stress manifest itself in you?

I've had headaches, wanted to stay in bed (on Pinterest!) and ignore the world. I've also wanted potatoes, chocolate, mac and cheese... all those comfort foods that set my chemicals in the right direction to settle me in for a nice, long nap!! I didn't eat any of them... but BOY! I wanted them!!

I don't want to exercise, get dressed and go out, or complete that task. 

But complete it I did! and tonight I'm getting dressed up and letting my husband take me out!

Celebrate with me? This task is done, and I'll never have to do it again!! :) 

Lord, I know that YOU can comfort me during these times of stress. Forgive me for not turning to You, to lean harder on Your arms, and for allowing food cravings to get the best of me. I pray that you will calm our hearts and our minds when we face difficult scenarios, and let us learn to rely on the peace that comes only from You to carry us through unpleasant seasons. 

We love You, and want more of You in our lives...
In Jesus' Name...amen...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Word Wednesday - Matthew 19 - and a prayer...

The Rich Man - Matthew 19

16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” the man asked.
And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.
26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”
28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.

This has always been one of my favorite passages of scripture... for many different reasons, but today I want to focus on the last part of it. 

Verses 29 - 30 are scriptures that I've clinged to most of my adult life. We may give up houses for a number of reasons... I think that it represents wealth as a whole. Sacrificing luxuries for the advance of the gospel. 

It seemed easier to write about this aspect of it when we were poor... really poor. There were years that we lived paycheck to paycheck, and didn't have much to share. We used credit cards to pay for medical expenses, and often had to do without things that others considered "normal" in life... to us they were luxuries. We couldn't afford them.

Now, our life is very different - but I tend to hold it all very loosely! I'm grateful for our home - but we could live with much less - square footage, furnishings (and I think many would be surprised that it's not top of the line, and it's more creatively decorated than "expertly" designed!), but it's home. It's becoming home. I had a hard time moving here... it's by far the "nicest" home we've ever had, and I think it's too big, too fancy... but for this season, it's where God has us. I look forward to seeing how HE will fill it! 

And HE can move us - to a different house, or a different city, or even another country where houses look very different - any time He wants to! That's ok by me!!

The second part of the verse is a little different, but just as important... giving up family for the sake of the gospel. How hard it is when family members choose to let their opinions of your relationship with God separate them from you... but I know from our family's own fractured state, that it happens all too often. But don't be dismayed! He EXPECTS it to happen! We are supposed to love God the most, our spouses next, then our children, siblings and parents, etc. We can show our parents respect (v19), and not cower down to their wishes to leave our faith. Our relationship with Jesus is, and always will be, the most important relationship we have. When our family members are non-believing, we can still love them (absolutely! EVEN Jesus loves them!!) but not give in to them. We can honor God by showing them kindness, pray for them in their relationship with God, their salvation, and their relationships with others (including us), and also pray for God to send other believers into their lives to impact them. 

It's so hard to step away from unhealthy relationships in family, but sometimes the best thing we can do is "tough love" our kids (we had a season of that too; you can read about it here, here, and here), or put space between our parents. I think that the only relationship we have to really fight for is with our spouse... it's so easy for Satan to wiggle in and cause problems there. Even if a spouse is unbelieving we are told to stay in the relationship and pray for them, show love to them, honor them... UNLESS the relationship is abusive... then that's different all together. 

Have you ever had to distance yourself from a family member for the sake of the gospel? How did it affect you? How did it affect them? Did you stay close in the relationship? How did that affect you? Them? 

Have you struggled with owning possessions and wealth, or has love of money come between you and the Lord? What have you learned in your life over these things? 

I hope that you'll share what your thoughts and opinions are, and how God has worked in you and through you in these areas...

Lord, I pray for each of us that will read this blog, continue to grow in us and to always love you "more" - More than money and material possessions, more than our parents and siblings, more than our children. Give us grace to love them the way YOU love them, but for none of things to have such a hold on us that it draws us away from You. Give us wisdom and discernment, and teach us to let You have control of these things, and people, in our lives. We love You... and it's in Your Name we pray... amen.