Monday, December 28, 2009

From the Hearts of the Young

OK ... so let me start with a disclaimer that I do not understand the latest craze - Zhu Zhu Pet's - but I cannot help but smile as I listen to the 5 little girls that are playing with them upstairs as I type. You see I "lucked into" 4 Zhu Zhu pets. I bought them thinking that they would be cool gifts for those "a friend at school" birthday parties. I had no clue that they were "the new craze." They were $10 and reasonably cute. I bought four and put them away for a time when I could pull one out for a party and avoid going to a store looking for "just the right gift" with an 8 year old that can make looking for a gift an adventure that I have not the patience for. So, a month before Christmas, into the closet they went. My little secret.

My children had not yet caught the Zhu-Zhu fever. They didn't even talk about them. Then my dear friend Julie brought over a Christmas present for each of my kiddos from her kiddos. My youngest, who is eight, was gifted a Zhu-Zhu pet ... and the fever was born. Even my 12 year old thought that they were adorable and quickly hinted that she too would like a noisy, furry, little mechanical hamster to call her own. I just knew that there would be one under the tree for her Christmas morning. I still had 3 for quick presents ... count 1 Christmas wish come true.

A few weeks later my brother called to let us know that he was coming into town for Christmas. His kids had stumbled onto their presents, and he wanted to know if we still had some once offered items that they could use to give the kids some surprises from Santa on Christmas morning. We did, and included in the package a Zhu-Zhu pet. I still had 2 left for quick gifts ... count another Christmas wish come true.

Only now, there was a new twist to this story. Both of my kids now knew that mommy had a secret stash of Zhu-Zhu pets, but they did not ask if they could have them ... nor why I had them. They just knew.

Christmas morning came and went. Both Zhu-Zhu pet recipients were very happy with their new charges. But, I was about to be blessed more than they were. You see one of my daughter's friends, who is also 12, feel in love with the little creatures and my daughter pulled me aside and asked if we could give one of my two to her. She "just knew that it would make her happy." The next day, another proud Zhu-Zhu pet mommy was born ... and I still had 1 left for a quick gift.

That is until tonight. You see, tonight my daughters had 3 of their friends come over to spend the night. All but one of them brought with them their newly acquired Zhu-Zhu Pets. My youngest daughter came down a few hours ago and asked me if there was a way that we could give the last Zhu-Zhu pet in the closet to her dear friend so that they would all have one to play with and no one would feel left out. A few minutes later I called her friend down and extended to her my last "quick present" Zhu-Zhu Pet. The rest of the girls who were hanging over the stair well cheered as she broke into a huge smile, thanked me with a huge hug, and raced back upstairs to join the Zhu-Zhu fun.

So here I sit. I have no Zhu-Zhu pets left, but I have something better. You see, my kids who both decided that Zhu-Zhu pets were rightfully the top selling toy of Christmas 2009 knew I had more. At any time, they could have asked for themselves, but they never did. Instead, they saw opportunities to share them with others ... and did so joyfully. You see I watched both their faces as the gifts were given ... and they were smiling even bigger smiles than their friends. Somewhere along the line, my amazing daughters learned that giving and sharing is a gift that often blesses the giver more than the recipient.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Star Light Star Bright

I have been reflecting a little on this season and what it means to me. This is the time of our Savior's birth ... or at least when we celebrate it. It is a time that we should all feel just a little humbled at the magnitude of the gift that was born unto Mary on a cold night so long ago. A gift that would take years to fulfill its purpose. A gift wrapped in swaddling clothes. Have you ever looked up what swaddling clothes are? According to one site they were "narrow strips of fine linen cloth, about two inches wide which were wrapped around the baby's body." The site goes on to explain that a baby would have been "wrapped from head to foot with only a part of his face left uncovered so he could breathe." The swaddling clothes would hold the baby straight and tight, and was actually to "indicate that he (the baby) would grow up to be free from crookedness and waywardness; that as a king he would walk straight and tall before his people." While the child was wearing the swaddling clothes, which was not a long period of time, the parents would be in prayer to God and making their commitment to Him about the upbringing of their baby. Free from crookedness and waywardness, a king who walked straight and tall before His people ... the correlation is not lost on me.

What must it have been like to look upon his little face ... to smell heaven on His newborn skin ... to know that the Redeemer had just been born? We are told of the shepherds and Wiseman who knew, but how many people that were there missed it completely? Thinking about this made me wonder what would happen if His birth had happened today ... in this modern age? Would we have missed it? Would we have seen and believed?


Little one asleep in the hay

what would we say

if you were born today?

Would we follow the star

from both near and far

risking all to be where you are?

Would we offer every thing

In the gifts that we bring

and at your feet our treasures fling?

Would we see beyond the mystery

And grasp the meaning of your identity

recognize the Savior of humanity?

Would we understand the signs

the prophesies of our time

pointing us to the great divine?

Or would we hold tight

to our own lives that night

grasping at treasures

and self fulfilling pleasures

thus missing it all

and finding only a babe in a stall?

Little one asleep in the hay

what would we say

if you were born today?


May the amazing blessing and miracle of our Savior's birth captivate your soul as you celebrate Christmas ... and may you look upon the day with humble adoration for the One who came to save all of His children ... near and far ...

Lisa

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Table Talk

OK, so I know I don't usually post little stories about my day to day life, but I could not resist sharing a conversation that happened tonight at the Christmas potluck for the worship team at my church. Let me set the scene. Imagine with me a room with plenty of food and friends. We walk in an happen to sit down at the same table as our pastor and his daughter. We eat a lovely meal and chit chat pleasantly through out it. The pastor's daughter and my daughter are playing around with the candy canes that were on their plates. They are imagining that they are hooks and are gleefully announcing that they are fish that have been caught. Our pastor comments on how children can have fun with just about anything, and we all laugh. I add that having fun is one of the reasons that I love working with 3rd graders and began sharing a couple of things I had learned from them. Take for example giraffe's tongues. Do you know what color they are? They are black. Do you know why they are black? I do thanks to a 3rd grader in my class. They are black so that they do not get sunburned. That's right giraffe's have sunburn protected tongues. Good thing since they are out of their mouths pulling leaves off trees most of the day. I comment on how surely this shows how careful God was in his creation and how much attention to detail he paid. Then my oldest daughter chimes in with some more interesting animal facts. Such as: "Did you know that pigs can look up at the sky?" and "Horses can't vomit." To which my pastor says, "They can't what?" Without missing a beat she responds, "They can't vomit, you know puke, they can't puke." My pastor then asks her where she learned all of these interesting facts. She responds cheerfully, "My dad." My pastor inquires further, "And where did he learn these facts or did he make them up?" (Ready yourself for this part.) She then says, "No he looked them up on the internet, he was trying to find facts to use in kid's church!" I think our pastor found this rather amusing because he told her that was just the kind of thing he looked for when he was planning for church as well. The only think that kept it from being any funnier was that my husband was off visiting other tables and did not hear the conversation! I just love when kids share. :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Come On Bluebird - Sit on My Shoulder!

OK ... so here is my verse for December first:

All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Proverbs 15:15 NIV

This verse means a great deal to me, although I have just read it for the first time today. You see, I have a reputation. I have the reputation for being happy and always finding the bright side of things. I have even been called Pollyanna. I've seen the movie. I liked Pollyanna. I like what she represented. Turns out, in today's world it is not actually a compliment at times to be called Pollyanna. Turns out that people don't always want to hear the bright side of things ... it makes it hard to wallow in the quagmire. Nevertheless, I have hung in there ... remained positive ... embraced smiling ... chose cheerfulness. I am at peace when I choose to be this way. It is one of the lessons that has carried forward from my battle with cancer. God showed me that there was always a bright side ... even in the face of death. And now in life ... it is something that defines who I am.

Now, before you start writing me and reminding me of times that I was less than cheerful ... days when I was glum ... days when I was negative ... I will admit that there have been moments, hours, and even days when this has been true of me. During these times life has felt wretched. I have felt wretched. In fact, wretchedness seems to quickly consume my heart like a flame set loose on an Arizona sun-baked field of tumbleweeds. Just as Scripture dictates.

Perhaps, that is why I am far more comfortable being like "Pollyanna." For the flip side of that Scripture is: "the cheerful heart has a continual feast." It does not say anything about our circumstances. You see our circumstances can be miserable, but our hearts be cheerful. This is done only through abiding in the Holy Spirit and letting Him fill you with the kind of joy that is not bound to the circumstances of this world. We can have a continual feast of joy. We just have to choose to take God's road. We have to choose between grumbling and grousing and thankfulness and gratitude ... misery and joy. If we choose the latter, we are better equipped to serve and bring glory to God and we can experience His joy.

So, how are your circumstances? Good? Bad? Wretched? This world seems to be falling apart at the seams. But, there are choices to be made. How is your heart? Are you hungry? Offer up praise to God for all the He has done and is doing in your life! Choose thankfulness and gratitude! Join the continual feast ... There is plenty to go around!

May your heart see beyond your circumstances ...

Lisa

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Opportunity Knocks

I was getting ready for church this morning and there was a knock at my door. My children raced upstairs to tell me that we had visitors. I will be honest my first reaction was one of annoyance ... I was after all getting ready to leave. I could not imagine who would be going door to door on a Sunday morning ... and half way contemplated just ignoring them ... but, surely the people waiting outside my door had heard my children racing up the stairs yelling, "Mommy someone is at the door!" To ignore it at this point would be rude, so I begrudgingly went to the door and answered it already practicing in my head what excuse I would use to turn down whatever it was they were selling. When I opened the door, there were two people both holding red environmental bags. I quickly noticed the shirt that the man was wearing. It read .... "It is against my relationship to have a religion." It was while I was pondering this, that I heard the woman introducing themselves to me. They were from West Valley Bible Church. They were collecting cans of food to help others. Would I be interested in helping? With a healthy serving of conviction I responded that I would and went to retrieve as many cans as I could carry in my hands. I placed them in their bags commenting that it felt a little like trick-or-treating ... but in a good way. They thanked me in words and smiles and continued on their journey.

I have been pondering this interaction throughout the day and have been brought to a couple of realizations. First, what these people did was bring an opportunity to me to help. God calls on us to help and serve others. It is what we are designed to do. But, sometimes I think we miss opportunities that God places before us. Sometimes we miss the subtle whispers of opportunity knocking … sometimes we hear it, but ignore it because we are busy … sometimes we just don’t recognize it as an opportunity. Today God’s whisper came in the form of a knock on the door. I could have ignored the knock … I wanted to, but I am so glad that I did not. You see today’s visitor brought not only an opportunity to help someone else, but an opportunity to learn a lesson. We all have a list of to-do’s. Our list might even be full of things that are good things to do … like going to church, writing a letter to a sponsored child, or emailing a friend in need of prayer. But, we need to make sure to keep our spirits alert to the promptings of the Lord as he reads off His To-Do list for each of us as well that we might not miss the opportunity to bring Him glory. Second, there is a choice to be made. We can always choose to hide behind the curtains … to hold our breath and hope that they go away … in the name of “I am to busy to do this right now.” But, if we do that, we will never know what God has for us in that moment, and what He wants to do through us or to us ... as the case may be. Finally, there was the saying on the shirt: “It is against my relationship to have a religion.” You see what these two people were offering today was a way to demonstrate my relationship with Christ. It was not about religion. It was not about legalism. It was not about rules. It was about relationship with God. It was about blessings and responsibilities that come with the blessings. It was about loving God enough to hear His heart for others and respond to it using whatever we are blessed with to bless others. It was about hearing the knock at the door of your heart and answering use me.

Father, forgive my selfish heart. Forgive me for hesitating when you called. Oh how quick I am to see things from my own perspective instead of yours ... placing my own to-do's infront of yours. Grow me Father. Fill my heart with a reverance and sensitivity to your promptings. Help me to see that you orchestrate opportunities for me to be used ... more often than I realize. Search me and know me ... change me ... use me. AMEN

Sunday, October 18, 2009

When Hunger is the Answer

Some dear friends and I took our daughters to The Revolve Tour in California this weekend. One of the speakers at the conference was a young boy who has changed the world ... one basket at a time. Before I tell you more about him though I wanted to tell you that HUNGER is the answer to the global problem of poverty and hunger. It is both the problem and the solution. You see, we need to get hungry! I am not talking about sympathy fasting so that we can try to even begin to understand a small portion of what people around this world are feeling when it comes to hunger. Instead, we need to actively seek, pray, and yearn for a heart that is hungry to be a part of the solution ... a soul that aches with hunger for change! The child ... yes child ... that we heard speak has started an organization called Hoops of Hope. A summary of his story is listed below:

Hoops of Hope is the biggest basketball shoot-a-thon in the world, much like a walk-a-thon, but more fun! You can join thousands of participants and teams from around the world that shoot free throws for children in need. Every dollar raised will go directly to the project you select to help these children. Every free throw will literally help keep children from becoming orphans.

The United Nations estimates that every 14 seconds, somewhere in the world, another child is orphaned by HIV/AIDS. This means that each day over 6,000 children join the 15 million children worldwide who have already lost one or both parents to this disease.

In the spring of 2004, Austin Gutwein watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS. After watching the video, he realized these kids weren’t any different from him except they were suffering. Austin felt God calling him to do something to help them. He decided to shoot free throws and on World AIDS Day, 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Friends and family sponsored Austin and he was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used by World Vision to provide hope to 8 orphan children.

From that year forward, thousands of people have joined Austin in a basketball shoot-a-thon called Hoops of Hope. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $1 million. The children left behind by AIDS now have access to food, clothing, shelter, a new school and finally, a medical testing facility which he was told would save an entire generation. A second clinic is now under construction.

All of this is the result of one child's hunger to make a difference. God used what this child loved and his willingness to follow a vision to help change the world.

There are a lot of people in the world that are dying from hunger. Let's get hungry! Let's do something. Let's take a good look at what our passions are and ask God to give us a vision of how they can be used to help others. We were made for this.

Friday, October 2, 2009

When God Says Unpack

Although it is true that it is time for a memory verse ... and I do have one ... I would like to take pause and go in a different direction. I am currently at our church's woman's retreat. The theme this year is: The Journey ... and the Journey started when I got here. Within minutes of arriving, my suitcase literally opened up and spilled out out its contents - laying out in front of everyone all my stuff. I tried desperately to grasp each and every item and cram them back in, but as I did ... even more spilled out. It was absolutely horrifying, and it brought me to tears. I could not believe the things that were being revealed ... to be honest I did not even remember packing some of them. I felt so vulnerable and raw.

You see, it was not my physical suitcase that spilled out, but my emotional one. God, in His infinite grace and fatherly love, expertly lanced the suitcase of my emotions and beliefs, my heart ... and let all the packed away "junk" spill out. Six years ago, I had cancer. Six years ago, I lost my long, thick hair ... my metabolism ... my eyebrows ... the ability to grow healthy, long nails ... and more. Six years ago, my body took a huge hit. I survived, even flourished. God took something tragic and grew me in ways that I never knew were possible. We walked hand in hand through the fires of cancer ... and I knew who I was in Him. It was an amazing journey, but there were scars ... physical and emotional. You see, the physical scars are daily reminders that of what I have lost. My self-esteem ... once freed from vanity ... has been smoldering in the depths of my heart for the last six years. I have been nursing insecurities about the physical scars of my journey with cancer ... and they have indeed grown. I thought I had it under control though. I thought it was no big deal. But I was wrong.

From the moment I Got here God has been talking to me. He has bound my hands from re-packing these thoughts and has brought them into the light. He has shown me that they are in the truest sense as much of a cancer as the physical cancer that bore them. Every time I look in the mirror and tell myself how unattractive I look now ... every time I look at my now thin hair and fel shame and discontent ... every time I delete the pictures of myself from my camera because I am embarrassed to have others see me captured for eternity ... I feed this cancer of insecurity. Worse yet, I open my heart to the lies that Satan whispers into my bruised spirit and call them truth.

This weekend God has clearly said, "Enough!" He has brought my brokeness to the surface in a place of retreat ... where I am safe. He has kept me raw ... and has shown me each lie ... bringing it right before my eyes ... showing me (through the caring words of friends that are here with me) that my thoughts do not reflect the truth of how He sees me. Instead, they tear down and destroy what God has created in me ... the woman that He birthed from the cancer.

Each year, we get a word. A word to think about ... to meditate on. Mine this year was "Pure." The verse that was with it was: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8 NIV). In thinking about this word, it has become clear to me that the thoughts that I hold against myself are impure. That they consume my heart, and in reality harden it. God wants my heart to be His dwelling place ... not a dwelling place for self. A while back the following verse was one of my memory verses:

Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
and the one the LORD loves
rests between his shoulders."
—Deuteronomy 33:12

I did not know it then, but it was in preparation for this day. You see, God is not leaving me on my knees grasping to pick up my scattered emotions and beliefs ... instead He has extended His hand to me ... inviting me to climb up onto His shoulders and rest. The journey to seeing me as God sees me is one that I am sure will take some time. It means letting go. It means dying to self. It means letting Him shield me ... even when it means He is shielding me from myself.

Lisa

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When Getting Older is a Good Thing

OK ... I'll admit it ... I am turning 43 this year~ and it is a good thing! Before I go on to explain why let me, in all honesty, put a disclaimer in: I am not talking physically! Physically, getting older is ... well literally a pain! What I am referring to is spiritually and emotionally. For years, birthdays and Christmases have been difficult for me because they bring with them the question of ... "What do you want?" What do I want? At 42 very little. In a life time where I have had so much of what I have wanted ... I have found myself letting go of the need to want more. Only recently have I started to see where this might be leading though ... altruism.

Altruism comes from the Italian word altrui which means others ... and is defined as:

1. Loving others as oneself. 2. Behavior that promotes the survival chances of others at a cost to ones own. 3. Self-sacrifice for the benefit of others

What is this going to look like in my life as I continue to grow? I am not sure. I do know that surfing various blogs, especially Katie's blog has opened my eyes and heart to this desire to do something that would make a difference. I do know that it feels right. How could it not? A dear friend of mine recently made the comment that we, as believers here in America, tend to forget that the body of Christ is worldwide. What is our part in this worldwide body? What is my part? Can we sit and do nothing when our brothers and sisters in Christ are starving in the far reaches of this planet? What does it mean for each of us? I don't know. God does. Let Him awaken in you the altruistic spirit that He has created ... let Him nurture it and reveal truths to it that will make doing nothing impossible.

The more I have pondered it, the more I am convinced that we were created for altruism. It fits. It heals. It gives us meaning and purpose. In surfing about it, I can a cross a medical article that revealed scientific findings that, "Altruistic (other-regarding) emotions and behaviors are associated with greater well-being, health, and longevity." We are made for it.

Like I said earlier, I really don't know what this will look like in my life. I do know that God is blessing me with a desire to do something to help. I do know that the desire has grown since its planting. I do know it is right. Which leads me to my verse for the next two weeks:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Proverbs 31:8 (New International Version)

May we all seek to be part of the "whole" body of Christ and in doing so willingly embrace the responsibility of it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When it Rains it Pours ... Sometimes...

If you happen to live in Surprise, we had a surprise storm this afternoon. It was HUGE! The trees were whipping around as if some unseen gardener was trying to yank them out of the ground like they were weeds, the drops were the size of quarters, and the thunder was loud enough to make a grown woman jump! It was impressive. It was unexpected. Looking out the window that faces the north side of town, I wondered just how wet I was going to get in a few minutes when I had to leave for skit practice and decided that I should leave a little earlier than normal. (After all people in Arizona often are rain driving challenged and this was a lot of rain!) So I grabbed my keys and headed out. The storm was just as impressive from inside my car. The sound of the drops pounding on my car overpowered the music that had been crystal clear when I was in the garage, the street was filled with rivers of racing water, and the trees lining both sides of my street were swaying back and forth as the wind enticed them to dance. Then I got to Waddell and Bullard, which is a mere three fourths of a mile away from my house. Sitting at the light, I realized that the air around me was rather quiet, the drops a mere drizzle, and the sky blue with a few white clouds. It was bizzare. I turned in disbelief to look down the street to the area of my house, only to find that there was a huge ... isolated ... dark cloud cell that was dumping an obviously large amount of rain right over my neighborhood. With every eighth of a mile driven the skies cleared, the rain faded, and the wind calmed. Pretty soon it was if it had never even sprinkled. It was strange, and I couldn't help but see the correlation to our lives.

You see, all I could see was the storm that was all around me. I assumed that it was far reaching, and even ajusted my schedule to accomodate it. How many times do we find ourselves in a life storm that feels all-surrounding, all-devestating, and all-consuming ... feelings that are confirmed by all the visual evidence aroud us? How many times do we focus on the severity of the storm? How many times do we simply believe what we see? If you are anything like me ... often. Sometimes though, what appears to be a major life storm, is simple an isolated downpour. A simple short-lived moment ... maybe an intense short-lived moment... but a short-lived moment none the less. Sometimes we take on the role of the weatherman ... trying to identify and define the weather ... instead of simply resting in the assurances and promises of the one who controls the storms. In doing so, we tend to make the storm more powerful than it really is.

So, if you missed this storm ... and it was actually pretty small ... I am sure there is another one right one the horizon. When it gets here ... let's just enjoy the rain! The Lord has everything in control.

Lisa






Monday, September 7, 2009

When the Wrong Word is Right

Today at church we sang You Are. I love that song. I know that song. We have been singing it for years, but for some reason today I came up with the wrong lyrics. The song goes:

I will lay my life down to lift You up
Throwing down my crowns
To see Your face
I will lose myself to be found in You
Taking up my cross I will live again

I sang:

I will lay my life down to lift You up
Throwing down my crowns
To see Your face
I will lose myself to be bound in You
Taking up my cross I will live again

Did you find my mistake? One simple word that changed the whole concept of the song for me. I replaced found with bound. I knew it was wrong the minute the word left my mouth ... but it took me a few minutes to get that it was really right.

You see I am found in Christ because I have accepted Him as my Savior. I am indwelt. Being found in Him is nothing that I have done. That belongs to God alone. I do not daily lay my life down to be found in Him. Change that word though to bound, however, and it all seems to make sense. You see it is not God that changes. I do. I pull away from God when I try to create my own future, fix things, control things, follow things, worship things, etc. Why? Because He is not there? Not in me? No ... because I am not bound to Him. By laying down my life ... the right to control, to follow, to worship what ever the idol is that is calling my name ... I can then, and only then, bind myself to Him in mind ... in spirit ... in heart ... in self. It goes against everything that we are to do so. To lay down independence and take up dependence. To give up what we believe to be our rights to bind ourselves to the One that calls us His. It involves surrender, and I have so much to surrender.

Lord, may I awake daily with the knowledge that I am Yours, and choose to lay down my life and bind myself to You and Your Will.

Lisa

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When Words Are Not Enough

The world these days seems to be tilting off its axis more than it normally does. Have you noticed? It is just crazy out there. Every where around me people's lives are falling prey to economic problems, health problems, marital problems, you name it .... it is happening. My family and I are not immune. We have battled all of the above, most lately in the economic ring ... (with a few million other people!) It is enough to make one, in the words of my dear husband, "Want to crawl under a table and just go to sleep." We have been fretting over come changes that are happening at his work ... fretting is less than worrying ... but time consuming and thought consuming none the less. In fact up to yesterday it all seemed so big and daunting.

Then I got a text yesterday from one of my dearest of dear friends announcing that her husband, who is the only person who works outside the house ... I say it that way because I will stand and testify that my dear friend works endlessly at home with her kids ... especially because I know that eventually she will find her way to this post and will perhaps smile at the moment of recognition and truth just before she is summoned out of her comfortable chair to go solve dolly problems for the youngest and algebra problems for the oldest. :) My concerns over things that have not yet come to pass suddenly felt so trivial and the blessing that my husband has a job suddenly became so much clearer. Perspective. Perspective.What a mighty and convicting truth. So, I spent a little time mulling over their problem. Concerned and a little freaked out for them. You might even come to the conclusion that I transferred my anxiety to their situation ... and you would be right.

Then I got to work today and found the person that I work with in tears. Her sister had called just hours before to tell her that her, my friend's sister's, husband had just up and died. Fell on the floor with a thud and died. (Side note: He was a Christian, so He is home and worshiping the King of Kings.) She has no one. She had 3 kids, two sons and a daughter. Her daughter died. Her son died. She is estranged from the other son. Then two days ago she lost her job ... was laid off. Then... her husband died. I had no words. What words would be enough? All I could do was pray and claim some of God's promises over her. Perspective shift once again. It could be so much worse.

Thinking about this poor woman through out the day, I came to the conclusion that her story is a little like Job's. I have been praying that she too would come to respond to it all with the same faith as him. Then I realized that the Bible verse that I had gotten from another friend's e-mail and had claimed as my next memory verse was one that was meant to be passed on. A word given me to give to her. It is:

And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.

Isaiah 33:6 (King James Version)

Knowledge and wisdom will be what keeps us stable in our times. But what where and how do we get the knowledge and wisdom? From only one place ... from studying God's word - from living God's word - from breathing His word and writing it on our hearts. (Thank you Beth for laying out the challenge ... how important it is to learn what God has to say!) If we stay in the shadow of the cross and study the Word ... then we will find stability in our times. BUT it gives us an even more amazing assurance ... it adds that we will also have the strength of salvation. We will get our strength from our Lord and Savior. I can't imagine finding the strength to survive all that loss any other way. And the reward in all this? The fear of the Lord will be his treasure. We will be so awe struck by His faithfulness that fearing and respecting Him will be not a burden ... but a treasure. Oh how I pray that the Lord would be might to save for this suffering soul who has endured so much loss! How I pray that the beauty He can and will make from devastation will bring her to a place of love and respect for her ABBA Father. That she will let go and heal in His mighty hands.

Lisa

P.S. Even with all her loss ... there are places in this world where that would be considered minimal trials to bear. It is all a matter of perspective.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

To bowl or to save the world?

I was blessed with spending time with my dear friends last night ... some of us were playing cards while others watched a movie called "The Power of One." OK ... even those of us that were playing cards were finding ourselves watching and playing at the same time. It was an upsetting and unsettling movie about racism in South Africa and one boys reaction to it. Anyway, at one point this young man's girlfriend is upset because she is going to miss her college ball because he wants "to save the world." There was some discussion about this among those watching it and my youngest daughter was asked if she would rather go to a ball or save the world. She responded, "Well when you bowl you get sweaty, so I would save the world." This response caused quite a few people to laugh, but I actually think that there is a profound truth in what she said. In her innocence she might have just laid a huge challenge down for each of us. It is easy for us to say that we love others. It is easy for us to talk about making a difference. It is easy for us to act? What if we asked ourselves the following question from time to time ... "Do I want to _________, or do I want to save the world?" What would happen? I can hear some of you saying ... "but saving the world is impossible for one." I agree. All by myself I can not save the world, but I can help.

I think that the reason that so many of talk about the situation around the world, but do not feel empowered to help change things is because we know that the problem is huge ... and frankly embracing the truth of it all is a bit overwhelming. And so, we tend to use the impossibility of single-handily fixing it as an excuse to let out words of concern be the only thing we do in response to it. BUT ... what if we just decided to do something ... anything. To pick a place to begin. Drea shared in a recent blog that .14 cents can feed someone a meal of posho and beans. 14 cents.
A few weeks ago I canceled the extra $6 insurance on my cell phone ... if I loose or damage it I will simply use an old one until my "new every two" comes up again. This six dollars can change to world for some child who has so little, by providing almost 43 meals for him. I still have my phone ... and I don't even miss the insurance. But here is the most amazing part of the whole thing ... making that one decision has begun a change in my heart. I am most certain that there are other things that I won't even miss ... other $6 luxuries that I can forgo and have currently also passed an a few Starbuck's coffee's which will be added to next month's donation.

That's where you come in. I have been toying with the idea of a six dollar challenge. There are no guidelines for this challenge other than to forgo something and give the money to the poor. I am donating mine to Remember the Poor. The other guideline would be that you see it as a place to start ... A way to show yourself that you can make a difference by choosing to let your actions speak of love and not just your words. Are you game? The truth is that $6.00 is not much. It is not enough. BUT, it is a place to start. Are you willing? Let's work at saving the world ... and changing our hearts ... join me and let's see what God does.

My verse for the next two weeks is:

Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
(1 John 3:18 NLT)

I am going to work at not only memorizing it .. but living it out in my actions as well.

May you hold God's blessings of abundance loosely ...


Lisa




A Sweet Perfume

As I sit here and write this, I am less than 36 hours away from starting the next school year, from meeting my students, and beginning the journey of teaching once again. Reflecting, it is difficult to believe that summer vacation is over and school is starting! The summer seemed to begin and end in a mere blink of an eye, and here I sit with 36 hours left. Now don't get me wrong, I am not lamenting ... I am just recording my observations. You see, in years past the transition from summer spent with my children and friends to a working mom who teaches underprivileged children has been a difficult one for both my children and me, but not this year. This year I have such a peace about it that leaving the summer behind was as easy as shedding a coat on a hot August day here in the desert. That is not to say that it will be easy not seeing the women in my life that are like sisters to me almost daily, but I have a peace about that as well. You see, I have been meditating on them during this last week as I got my classroom ready, my lesson plans done (well almost), and put on the hat of "teacher" ... and the thoughts of them have been like a sweet perfume upon my senses.

I have spent time thinking about each and every one of them. Rolling them over in my mind, thinking about why I appreciate and love them the way I do ... and it is because their their actions have shown me time and time again that they really love. The first time I typed the previous sentence, I wrote, "Their actions have shown me time and time again that they really love me" ... but realized right after hitting the period key that it was not only that they love me, but that they love. They love God. They love others ... and yes they love me ... BUT they do more than just say it ... they show it. Their actions show the truth of their hearts.

Each of them is like a precious jewel to me, a treasure granted me by God ... fellow sisters to journey with, to learn with, to worship with. So special to me are they that I have spent the last week just overwhelmed that God would place a such a circle of women in my life. I count myself blessed beyond measure, and I carry with me parts of each of them with me. From one, I take with me a strong sense of the power that words have and the desire to use them to make a positive difference. God has used her presence in my life to curb my tongue and soften my heart. From another, I take with me the desire to step out my comfort zone and do more to help others ... to really dig deep within me and find the selfish areas of my heart. From yet another, I take with me the the sweet blessing of service and sacrifice. God has used her to teach me that blessing others is best done quietly ... seeking to bless for the sake of blessing ... not recognition. Finally, I take from my fourth sister the ability to rest in what the Lord decides ... even when it is not what we might have chosen. She has endured so much, but has responded with a trust in God that has inspired me to do the same.

In 35 hours, I will once again enter to world of touching the lives of children ... my mission field ... my passion ... and I will see these dear friends less often. I will talk with them less often. But, I will think of them daily as I choose my words, think about ways to give (near and far), seek to bless others with gifts of sacrifice and service, and trust in the Lord as He guides me through the challenges of my workplace.

If by chance you are one of the above women and you are reading this ... I love you and appreciate you. I thank God for your presence in my life. Thank you for the ways that you have shown me and taught me about love, about God, about friendship. You are truly like sisters to me. If not, then I challenge you to look for the ways that God is using the women He has placed in your life to speak to you, to thank Him for them from the depths of your heart, and to let them know just how special they are.

May you feel the warm embrace of your Father's love upon you.

Lisa




Sunday, July 26, 2009

Resurfacing

Hello there ...

April 15th was so long ago ... how did that happen? I have more than a few posts about my Scriptures in draft mode ... but none done to post. I am 7 behind ... and I will catch up ... but my heart is so overwhelmed with God's faithfulness that I just had to resurface and post how God's been weaving Himself between myself and a dear sweet sister in Christ ... bringing purpose to me and comfort to her ... taking care of His children. Let's start with the pieces, that we may put them all together and see the intricate and purposeful hand of God in action.


Six years ago:

Most of you know that I had cancer 6 years ago. I was 36 with 2 small children. I just knew that I had it, even before I was diagnosed. What is more, I just knew that I was to go through the storm ... and asked people to pray simply "for the strength to do God's will." I knew deep in my soul that it was something that God was going to take me to and through. I knew that there had to be a purposing in it ... and over the years the fruits of His hand in it have been numerous.


One month ago:

I ran into someone that I recognized from church at a local beauty supply store and found myself compelled to share the short version of my cancer testimony. (I was there celebrating my 6 year clean bill of health with a discount haircut ... had a coupon ... and a new bottle of nail polish.) I remember contemplating why I had shared so quickly ... to someone that I really have not spent much time with ... but quickly forgot about it as the rest of my day wrapped itself around me.


Last Week:

I was fast forwarding through all the non-essential parts of So You Think You Can Dance ... watching only the dances ... (I have always been drawn to dance) ... when I watched one that I just knew had to be about a woman with cancer. I rewound ... don't you jut love Tivo? ... and watched the part of the show that explains the dance and the choreographer's inspiration for creating it. The dance was to honor a friend of his who is currently fighting breast cancer ... he just knew it was a subject that should be brought into the light. Anyway, the piece is amazing. Most of us have had to walk along side someone with this awful disease ... so I am sure that most of us can relate with this dance. I did. It reminded me of my cancer walk with God. He was always there for me ... holding me ... lifting me ... catching me ... and lifting me when I could not walk a single step more. (Don't miss that little hop that she does at the end just before he picks her up and carries her on his shoulders? She has no more strength ... he carries her.) It was as if the choreographer had captured my moments of weakness ... moments of frustration when I too pounded my fists ... the moments when I soared with God's help ... and made them into a dance. I have watched it many a time ... and it has reminded me of God's promise to walk in the trials with us ... it reminded me about the emotions of the disease ... and increased my compassion for those that are walking it now. It reminded me that I am a miracle with a purpose. That I am to put myself out there and be ready for opportunities to share what God has done. Take a minute to watch it ... imagine that it is God dancing with a woman struggling and then read on.(You will be taken to the movie on YouTube. After you watch it ..just click your back arrow and you will be directed back to the Blog.) PLEASE doin't bypass the video ... it is only 1:43 long and it is clean. :)

Click here to watch the movie.



Today - Part 1:

At church today the verse(s) on the cover of the bulletin caught my eye, heart, and soul. It was:

I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)

While in church the line that really stuck with me was ... I have called you by name; you are mine. I was so humbled by it, and could not help but think of God as my Abba father speaking it to me ....

I am scared of (fill in the blank)
I have called you by name; you are mine ... have no fear

Father can you hear me? I am so alone.
I have called you by name; you are mine ... you are far from alone

Father I am so insecure sometimes ...
I have called you by name; you are mine ... your security is in my Son

I have called you by name ...

Oh that the creator of the universe has called me ... not just called me ... but by name.

You are mine.

The weight of that is so humbling. That I, who am so unworthy, am His. It is just so overwhelming and amazing to me.


There is more to the verse though ... Let's look at it again ...

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)

Do not fear. Why? Because we are redeemed. We are called by name. We are His! And if that were not enough, God goes on to promise three things about times of trial:

1. He will be with us.
2. Our trial will not be too big for us ... because we are with Him.
3. Because we are with Him ... amazing and unbelievable things can happen ... we will not be burned or even scorched by the fire we are in. (Remember the fiery furnace?)

All 3 of these statements have to do with Him. What He alone is capable of doing for us.

Our part in all this ...

can be found in the first 3 words ... do not fear.


This Morning - Part 2:

The person that I ran into at the beauty supply place sought me out to tell me that our meeting had not been an accident, but rather one constructed by God. As it turned out, she had a mammogram two weeks later and found out that there is a lump in her breast. (Now... let me just say that this DOES NOT mean that she has cancer. Lumps happen. What it is, is much like a storm that one sees on the distant horizon ... you just have to remain in God's shadow and wait for him to reveal how the storm will or will not affect you.) We talked, cried, and prayed together. I prayed what had stood out to me at church over her ... "He has called you by name ... you are His." All the compassion and love stirred in me by the video poured out as I held her and went to our Father's throne with her in prayer. And I could see how God had orchestrated all the little events together for this one moment in time.


Soon:

God has brought us together this sweet sister and I. We now have each other's cell phone numbers programmed in and are planning on talking and praying together as she takes steps to find out what kind of lump hers is. Tomorrow I will be sending her a card with the rest of the verse written inside it and I am going to call her just to see how she is doing. I am sure that she sees this whole thing as God doing something amazing for her, but I would like to propose that He is doing something amazing for both of us. In using me, He is saying "Lisa, I have redeemed you ... and you are mine" ... He is using that which He has redeemed and giving purpose to the walk that He asked me to do. I am His ... and I am so greatful that I am.


Celebrate each moment today my friends. :)


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Contemplating

OK, so I am driving to work the other day and the thing I dread most as I pulled out of my subdivision happened ... I got caught waiting for the high school bus to pull in its stop sign and release me from the endless moment of time-loss. Now I know that it is for the safety of the "kids," but these are high school "kids" ... most of them are bigger than me! Anyway, the problem is that they all seem to move so slow. Watching them, I am just about positive that they are actually moving in slow motion. But I am a rule-follower, so I (when I leave late and get caught) simply wait and wait and wait. With that said, let me tell you a little more about the other morning.

The normal mass of "kids" had slow-mo'ed their way to the bus, the stop sign had resended it's order to yield, and the bus had started to mosey on its way ... when out of the corner of my eye I saw a lone "kid" walking ever so slowly towards the now empty location of the bus. When he arrived at the aforementioned site, the bus was about half a block down the street. Now I know that you are thinking he immediately started chasing after the bus with his arms a waving, but you are mistaken. He did raise his hands and did wave them around in a half-hearted way, and then he started to walk down the street in the direction that the bus was still driving. The bus driver did see him, and pulled the bus over extending once again the stop sign capable of bringing traffic to a stand still. Let me interject here that I could have at this point turned right and continued on my way, but I was so intrigued by the building situation that I remained stopped. So now, I am sure you are saying that he must have at that moment decided to run to the bus, which now had its door wide open as an invitation ... beckoning him to come and board, but you are once again mistaken. The boy simply walked at a snail's pace towards the bus that was waiting just for him! Let me just say that I would not make a good bus driver because I would have counted to 10 and then left the young man to think about the benefits of running! Dumbfounded, I decided that I could spend no more time watching, and so I made my turn and left without finding out if the boy ever made it to the bus.

This experience has stayed with me now for many days, and the Lord has been using it to paint a picture for me. You see in this metaphor the bus is God. God pulled over and waiting for us. Waiting for us to get on board. We have all had times that we waved down God, just as the boy did the bus, and have had God signal us and open doors for us ... inviting us to be a part of His will ... And, I would venture to guess that there have been times that all of us have walked, instead of running, towards Him. Thank goodness that he is more like that patient bus driver than like me! I have spent the last few days looking for ways that I am walking, when I should be running and am humbled to say that I too suffer with slow-motionitis.

So, what is it that God is waiting for you for?

To renew your heart towards Him? To forgive someone? To heal your marriage? To turn away from a sin that has consumed you? To spend time with Him? To tell him you deepest fears and surrender them? What is it?

If there is something my friend, run for Him ... run to Him ... and get on the bus.

See you there ...

Lisa

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Speechless

Happy April Fool's Day!

How many of you celebrated today by gifting those you love with a sprinkling of pranks? I know I did! I both received and gave. Being a teacher, I spent the day being caught off guard with statements from my students like: "Mrs. Day, Look at your shirt." "Mrs. Day, There is something on your pants." "Mrs. Day, Look out for the Bee!" (They know that I am allergic and kind of frightened by them.) and all of the other silly little pranks they could think of. Confession, sometimes I was distracted enough with the details of our day that they fooled me, other times I pretended to fall for it just to behold the happy look on their faces as they gleefully announced, "April Fools! I got you!"

Now you might be wondering what this has to do with my Bible memory verse that I am posting today, and there is a connection! As I listened to the rather humorous tales that adults were telling today of trickery, something struck me ... It is so easy to fool people, and to be fooled. It is so easy to simply trust what someone is saying and take it for truth without even thinking about the obvious ... It is April Fool's Day! Here comes the connection ... or rather the disconnection. Why is it then that we have such a difficult time readily believing God's Truths?

I offer the following comparison:

The Liberty Bell Hoax

On April 1, 1996 a full page ad appeared in six major American newspapers (The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and USA Today) announcing that the fast food chain Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell. The full text of the ad read:

Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell
In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the “Taco Liberty Bell” and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.

In a separate press release, Taco Bell explained that the Liberty Bell would divide its time between Philadelphia and the Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine. It compared the purchase to the adoption of highways by corporations. Taco Bell argued that it was simply “going one step further by purchasing one of the country’s greatest historic treasures.” The company boasted, “Taco Bell’s heritage and imagery have revolved around the symbolism of the bell. Now we’ve got the crown jewel of bells.”

Do you remember that? It happened in 1996, and the public outcry was enormous! People readily believed that Taco Bell could actually buy the Liberty Bell. Looking back, I am sure those fooled are a little embarrassed at their gullibility!

Let's compare that with a common response we seem to have when things are not going well or we are scared, and what God has to say.

Us: I am so scared. These problems are bigger than me. What am I going to do?
God: I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore you will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
Us: I am so alone.
God: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
Us:
Where is God? Why is this happening to me?

Or what about when we are wrestling with forgiving ourselves of something that we feel guilt over...

Us: I am such a loser. How could I have done that? How can God forgive me and love me after what I have done?
God:
If you confess your sins, I am faithful and just and will forgive you your sins and purify you
from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9)
Us: How can I face God after this? I know that He forgives me, but I am so ashamed.
God: As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your transgressions from you.
Us: I just don't know what to do.


I am sure that many of us have had moments that were fairly close to the one (or both) of the above conversations. Moments where we believed in the circumstances of our life and the rawness of our emotions even more fervently than the truths that God has written for us. I know I have, and I will honestly say that sometimes it is really difficult to believe the TRUTH (His promises to me) instead of the circumstances that seem to loom over me or the emotions that feel so real. How about you?

That brings me to today's verse. It comes from Zephaniah 3:17 and says:

"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

Pretty amazing truths, huh? If you said AMEN, then hold on to your hats, because it is even more amazing when you personalize it and change it to first person. Read the following and then close your eyes and imagine God speaking these words to you. Take time to let them sink in.

I, the LORD your God, am with you,
I am mighty to save.
I will take delight in you,
I will quiet you with my love,
I will rejoice over you with singing.

Now if that was not enough, let's take a little look at it line by line in the Amplified Version.

17The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]!

God is with us. He is mighty. He is a warrior. He is a Savior that saves! He is our protector and defender. He is our shield, and He is purposed to save.

He will rejoice over you with love;

God is our Father and he not only rejoices over us, but does so with joy. I know that any parent knows this feeling. Just think back to the feeling the moment your child was handed to you swaddled in a blanket for the very first time. That overwhelming, quiet, wordless, rejoicing that took place in your heart as it swelled with unspeakable joy! That is the way God our Father looks at us, how He feels about us as His children. In the words of my pastor ... He loves us perfectly. It is the way that He has loved each of us from the beginning.

He will rest [in silent satisfaction]

God looks at us and rests in silent satisfaction. Not because of what or who we are now to be sure, but because he sees what we will one day become when we are finally at His feet.

and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them];

This verse does not say that our sins will make His love for us silent, as our transgressions can sometimes make the love of people that love us grow silent. (Thank goodness!) Instead, it says that God's love for us is never fails, despite our failings. It is because of this love, that He makes "No Mention" of our sins and even goes as far as to choose to not even recall them. The God that remembers every star's name, chooses not to recall our forgiven sins. If only we could do the same for each other!

He will exult over you with singing.

Exult means to rejoice greatly or to be jubilant. God rejoices over us with singing in a way that is jubilant. We bring him Joy. His heart is full when He looks at us through the eyes of His Son's saving sacrifice, and He sings over us! How amazing is it to imagine the creator of everything, no matter how small or how grand, sing over imperfect us!

How can read all this and not know the other part of what my pastor said to be true ... "We need Him desperately."


I am left speechless ... no fooling!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Practicing

OK, so my 2nd verse for the rest of this month is from 1 Peter. It says:

Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing.

Whoever wants to embrace life
and see the day fill up with good,
Here's what you do:
Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
run after peace for all you're worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
listening and responding well to what he's asked;
But he turns his back
on those who do evil things.

This version is from The Message, and there are parts of it that really spoke to me ... which is why I chose that version. Let's start at the beginning ...

Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions.

What a challenging list of things to be ... and a clarification about who is to be like this ... All of us ... NO EXCEPTIONS ... The writer is making it clear that God's stand on this is clear and firm ... there are no exceptions ... we are all being measured by this list of behaviors. As a teacher, who is in the process of filling out report cards, I found myself imagining God doing the same on me as I was filling out the "behavior" section of the reports. I am sure you have all seen the section that I am talking about ... within it is a list of behaviors that are expected in school from all .. NO exceptions ... followed by E S or N. (Excellent, Satisfactory, and Needs to Improve) I could just imagine God, report cards in hand, going through this list of acceptable and expected behaviors for life for me ...

"
No retaliation." Well, I am afraid that I'll need to mark this N. She sometimes fails to bring the wrong doings to my feet and let me handle them, trying to handle them herself instead ..."

"No sharp-tongued sarcasm."
Circle "N" again. Boy, that girl has a tongue on her. She has gotten better at holding it, but it is the thought that counts and I hear them all.

"Blessing instead..."
Circle "N" again.

"Saying nothing evil or hurtful..." "N"

"Snubbing evil and cultivate good;" "N"

"Running after peace for all she is worth."
"N"

Oh Lord, how I need to improve! Father, search me and guide me in improving my outward (and inward) behavior as a Christian that I might really be a light. Search me and know me ... help me to know myself and the areas that I can grow in that I might represent you more fully in every thing I do and say.

Lisa

PS:

I have more thoughts about the verse and some the implications that jump out at me ... but it is late and I am tired. I will post a part 2 when I have studied this a bit more, and have finished my report cards ... :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Building

A few days ago I started The Love Dare, not because my husband and I had seen "Fireproof" (which neither of us have) and decided together to do the Love Dare together (which we have not) ... but rather because God had prompted my heart to do it. I am doing it on my own, for me. Now I will admit that at first I wondered if he would notice that I was doing these little things ... and if it would inspire him to do the same in return ... But God was quick to reaffirm that His purpose for me in doing this was not for my husband, but rather for me ... To change and grow me. To make me notice the things that I do and do not do. To help me to see both my strengths and my weaknesses as a wife. To challenge me to share my love with my husband more freely and consistently. To challenge me to give without expecting anything in return.

My verse for this week is one that I am sure will be one that God uses throughout this journey and is:

"Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands."
Proverbs 14:1 (Amp)

I would like to share my initial thoughts about the verse.

How do we, being women of God, do this? Well, I think that one of the most powerful ways we either "build our houses" or "tear them down" is by what we do with our words. I did not come up with this on my own, it is something that God has been revealing to me during the first few days of The Love Dare. Before I go any further, I would like to share the challenge of day one with you. It states:

The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It's better to hold your tongue than to say something you'll regret.

Now I will openly admit that my first thought was not ... "No problem! This will be easy!" In fact, it was more like, "Nothing negative?" and "What exactly constitutes negative?" Is "There are still crumbs on the counter." negative? What about, "Did you hear the phone ringing? I called three times." Then I read the devotional for day one.

"No one likes to be around an impatient person. It causes you to overreact in angry, foolish, and regrettable ways. The irony of anger toward a wrongful action is that it spawns new wrongs of its own. Anger almost never makes things better. In fact, it usually generates additional problems. But patience stops problems in their tracks. More than biting your lip, more than clapping a hand over your mouth, patience is a deep breath. It clears the air. It stops foolishness from whipping its scorpion tail all over the room. It is a choice to control your emotions rather than allowing your emotions to control you, and shows discretion instead of returning evil for evil." (The Love Dare, Pg. 1 - 2)

In that, God revealed to me the answer to my question above. It all depends on the state of my heart. When I say "There are still crumbs on the counter." am I stating a fact or am I really saying "You did a lousy job of cleaning up your mess." What is it that my husband hears? I venture to say the later. When I say "Did you hear the phone ringing? I called three times." am I really wanting to know if he heard the phone, or am I wanting to make sure he knows he has fallen short of my expectations? The answer? ... It all depends upon my heart at the time. I have to stop and ask myself if my words were the the result of impatience or irritation or is they were spoken out of love.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I feel or the book says that we are never to talk with our husbands about things that are bothersome, but I am saying that perhaps we need to make sure that we go about it in a way that builds up instead of tears down. I am saying that perhaps we need to evaluate the things that irritate us, take them to God's feet, and ask His direction. I am saying that perhaps an open communication that honestly addresses something that is bothersome, is more apt to build a marital relationship than negative comments that are aimed, even subconciously, to jab. I am also saying that we all need to ask God to really search our hearts when it comes to our husbands and to reveal feelings that might spur us to speak in ways that tear down. We also need to really take a serious look at the little things that seem to mean so much ... like crumbs on a counter or dirty socks that are left in balls on the floor ... and ask ourselves if words are necessary or if we can simply wipe up the crumbs and un-ball the socks with a spirit of love ... and if words are necessary, if they can be spoken in love and not irritation. Practicing this in the little things, will certainly prepare us for those times when tempers flair and words could easily fly!

May the words in our marriages be spoken in love,

Lisa

Father,
How many times are those that I use my words as costumed ways of saying "I am irritated with you" or "you have fallen short of my expectaions." Jesus, please help me, and anyone reading this, to practice patience and resist anger. Pour out your Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us all and show us how to love our spouses as you would love them through us. Grant us the strength to actively choose to love and respect our spouses so that You will be glorified within and through our marriages. I thank you in advance for your faithfulness. Amen.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Resting

OK ... so the Lord is ever the teacher, and this week he as been teaching me about rest, which is really just the next step in the journey of really evaluating the time I have and what I use it for. I began the process this week of taking things off my plate and have realized that somewhere along the line I have forgotten that my time is limited. Yes, limited as far as the amount of time I have to live, but even more so in the time that I have to give. I also realized that the choice to spend time with the Lord is made near impossible by just how many things are on my to do list. What really made this hit home is that the choice to spend real quality time with my children is also made near impossible by the amount of other things that are on my list. Taking things off my plate is difficult for me, but as I am doing it ... I can see that my plate, or the time that I have to give, is more than sufficient for the things that REALLY matter and SOME of the things that really don't.


Rest

Rest
The word falls
Silently upon my soul
Another minute slips by
As I hurry through life
Trying to appease
The demands of self
Rest
The word waits
For me
Knowing its time will come
Waiting for the day
When I am undone
And ready to curl up
At the feet of the one
Who’s lips
Whispered
Rest.

May rest fall upon you today,
Lisa

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Re-learning

Hello dear friends,
I have emerged from study hall and am ready to post my next verse. My hope is to memorize this one by this Sunday, leaving a full week to memorize my fourth verse, just in time for number 5 to be posted. My verse for this week is:

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.”
John 13:13, 14

When I first was given this verse, it was on the heals of two emotionally amazing things that touched me deeply ... both of which involved helping and doing for others. One being the day a dear friend of mine and her husband sacrificed their wedding rings to bring home 3 orphans, and the other being a friend who went to Ethiopia to serve the people and children there. Two people, both willing to give and obey the call to action when it was given by God, both willing to humble themselves to meet the needs of someone else and serve them in love. It was in thinking about them that this verse was given to me, and right away I knew what it was that God was trying to show me ... that my focus should be on doing for others, and giving to others.

A week later, I have to tell you that I have learned a few things. No, not the verse ... What I learned is that I sometimes God has more than one layer to what He is trying to show you, and often the choice to peel past the first one reveals a more personal lesson beneath it. I also learned that one shouldn't rush to put your own understandings on something when God is trying to reveal it to you ... If you do you might just miss just what God is actually trying to show you. You see, this verse is just a continuation on the lesson He began teaching me with the last verse. Last time, the focus was not only in the truths about Christian attitude found in His Word, but about choosing to make time to memorize Scripture. After that conversation, I have put forth a little more effort, and was in fact feeling a little proud of myself. (Anyone else ducking a little?) Have no fear, God was faithful to His feelings about pride, and quickly revealed to me that I did not actually learn the lesson he was teaching me last week. I had not actually spent time with Him DAILY. My argument, I was studying a verse everyday ... wasn't that spending time? How quickly he answered me in the form of a devotional that I read today. Although there were a number of very applicable and interesting things taught within it, the following jumped out of the page and pretty much knocked the pride right out of me. (I was not ducking.)

"The believer's permanent relationship to Christ is pictured in the bath. The believer's daily fellowship with Christ is pictured in the foot-washing. The bath is for union--in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The foot-washing is for communion--with Christ (notice the "with" instead of "in" in verse 8). The link of union is so strong that nothing can break it (see John 10:27-29 and Romans 8:38-39). The link of fellowship is so fragile that an unholy walk will always break it (see 1 John 1:6).
How does the Lord wash the believer's feet? It is accomplished primarily by the frequent application of His Word to our lives. The Word of God is the means by which we get the bath. (See Psalm 119:93, John 15:3, Romans 10:17, 1 Peter 1:23.) The Word is also the way we get the foot-washing. David said, "How can a young man cleanse his way? By living according to Your Word" (Psalm 119:9). Our Lord said that those who believed in Him would be sanctified (kept pure and set apart for God's use) by God's Word (John 17:17, 20). Our bath and our foot-washings are both accomplished through the Word of God! In Ephesians 5:26 we read that "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word." How important it is for us to read the Bible every day!"

The bold words were bolded by the author, not me, and it was all to clear what the Lord was trying to drive home: "Be in My Word every day!" Spending time working on memorizing one verse is not a substitution for getting into His Word. I admit here and now that there has not been a time in my walk with Christ that I have ever picked up the Bible every day for more than a few weeks. I start of with great intentions ... (I have proven that) ... and then life happens. A few days missed here, translates into a few weeks there, and before I know it my Daily encouragement has turned into my daily reading about God. The bold words in this devotional, however, made it very clear to me that I am to read the Bible every day AND memorize the Scriptures that I am given along the way.

As I type this, I am still grappling with the excuse of time ... and yes I am ducking! I am the queen of procrastination and there have been many a week that I have done 5 days of Bible Study in one day. I am so remedial at times, that it amazes me that God continues to pursue me and try to teach me the same thing in yet one more way.

Lisa

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Admitting

It is the 6th of February and I am compelled to share what God has shown me. Flash back to the first post where I shared about not being able to memorize things and how I had used that as an excuse for not memorizing Scripture for years. Remember how He revealed within days that I could memorize, placing it in my heart without me even really trying to memorize it? Things were looking so promising. I was so excited. Then can week two. God just a quickly revealed to me a verse and how it applied to me. Long post ... long two weeks ... and before I knew it, it was the 15th and it was time for my next verse. The only problem being that I had yet to even write my verse on a card, let alone actually spend time with it.

Fast forward to my class last Friday. We HAD to have a heart to heart. They were turning in work that looked like it had been done by chimpanzees .... holding pencils in their mouths to write. They were not reading directions. They were not checking their work. They were not doing what they needed to do to make sure that they were successful. I was FRUSTRATED! I do every thing I can to make sure that they can do the work! I don't give them anything that is too hard ... anything that I have not first taught them. I explained to them that they had a choice to make, and that they were simply being flojo. (Lazy in Spanish.) I talked with them, I talked with the parents, and things are better this week. They are trying harder and putting forth a great deal of effort. I have assured them that they will see the fruits of their labor.

Like any teacher, I have spent some time reflecting on the situation in my room and what my part was in it. It was in this reflection time that I once again felt that hair raising feeling when you know that you are about to have the ugly truth revealed to you. I knew right away what that truth was going to be. I knew that word that was going to race through my spirit and land right in my heart. Floja. (Lazy in Spanish if you are talking about a girl.) Right away I got a little defensive ... right away I had a little talk with God about it ... I spoke for both of us ... meaning I did not actually hear His voice, but this is what I could imagine Him saying ...

"I learned the first one."
"I gave you the first one."
"It was too long this time ..."
"I have written longer."
"But the first one was shorter. If this one had been short I would have memorized it, too."
"Child I gave you the longer one so that you would have to work for it. I wanted it to cost you a little time, require a little effort ... I wanted you to see the fruits of your effort."
"This is all new for me."
"It is not new for you. I have taught you how to do this. We have done it together. I have given you the tools. You did not use them."
"It takes a long time to memorize ... I have so much on my plate."
"It is a matter of commitment ... You have a choice to make. You had time for me when you had cancer. You chose to sit at my feet. You chose me. You chose. Choose now."

I could have gone on, but I think it is right to leave it with Him having the last word on this. I do have a choice, but all TOO often I choose the complete opposite of what I should be doing. This is not a new concept ... I eat seed. I admitted that in my very first blog. I was a little naive to believe that all the weeks would be like the first. That week God was teaching me His provision. He provided me with the ability to memorize. Now he is teaching me something else. I need to choose. There will be a choice made. I will choose Him OR I will choose something else. But there is a choice to make. Also, making that choice once does not work for me. I need to make that choice every day ... many times every day ... many, many times every day. I already have His provision. I have the tools to use. Now it is time to learn to choose daily. (OK .. Luke 9:23 is crashing down upon me as I type this ... Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross DAILY and follow me.") When reading it, the word that popped out at me was the word deny, so I looked it up in Strong's and found the following definition (which I expected): not to accept, to reject, to refuse something offered ... AND these (which I did not) 1. to disregard his own interests or to prove false to himself ... and 2. act entirely unlike himself.

It is time to disregard my own interests and act entirely unlike myself. It is time to deny myself whatever is getting in the way of me committing to this journey ... to spending time with God. It is time to choose to choose.

I will post my new verse when I have my 2nd one memorized. I have a little make-up work to do. Looks like I am in for Lunch Bunch ... just like my students. :)

Lisa

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sharing

Last weekend a dear friend of mine, Laurel, ran the P.F. Chang's half marathon ( That's 13.1 miles for those of you that are like me and have no idea about anything that involves running!) Sheryl, another dear friend of mine who is also a 5 year survivor of melanoma, and I were there to cheer Laurel on as we have for the last four years. There was something, however, much different about this year ... Laurel was running to honor and celebrate Sheryl and I reaching our five year anniversary of being cancer free. (Myself from breast cancer and Sheryl from melanoma.)

When she first told me about her intentions, I thought about her gift and realized that there were similarities between her race and the one that I ran when I was fighting cancer. For example, both involve a long journey, require pacing and stamina, and are not for the faint of heart. Both have unexpected challenges, require dedication and sacrifice, and are easier if the runner has supporters to cheer them on. Both are painful, yet are filled with rewards. Both have a way of teaching those watching, as well as those running, about life. I did not realize it at the time, but this year her race was going to have a huge, and lasting, impact on me.

Being three year veterans, Sheryl and I entered this year with a tried and true game plan: catch Laurel at the 8 mile mark and then again at the finish line. We arrived at our first destination with plenty of time to spare ... about 45 minutes. While waiting, as always, I passed the time watching and taking pictures of both the participants and the onlookers ... and as always I found myself touched over and over again. So many people, so many stories. So many reasons for being there, for running, for watching. If you have never been, there is just something awe-inspiring about watching thousands of people running for a cause. There is just no way to describe it.

About forty-five minutes later, right on schedule, we noticed a bright pink visor bouncing a top the throng of runners. (Did I mention that Laurel is tall?) Right away, already quickened by all the other moments I had witnessed while waiting, I immediately found myself with a lump in my throat. When she got to us, she paused to hug us, modeled the shirt she designed for the occasion, and gave us an update on her current physical standings. Her foot was hurting her with each and every step she took and she was tired, but she was determined to make it ... and with a quick hug good-bye she returned to the race revealing to us, the back of her shirt which read, "Laurel 13:1 or bust."

As soon as she rounded the corner, Sheryl and I rapidly departed and hurried towards our final, and most important location in the race, the finish line. If you think that there were a lot of people in the race, then multiply that times 3 and I am sure you can imagine what that area looks like. It is really wall to wall people, all trying to find their loved ones. Last year, we made it to the edge of the crowd, bit were unable to make it through it to the finish line. This year we were determined that we would not be stopped. We were going to be there at the finish line for Laurel, after all she was running for us! So we ducked and pivoted, rushed and maneuvered our way through the crowds with such determination that we were at the finish line before we knew it. We strategically placed ourselves in cue at a spot where there the mob of people was only a few deep to the rail, and held our breath. Would the people move? Would we get to the front before our friend arrived? We called her on her cell phone, and found out that we had about 5 minutes to her arrival. Within minutes the family in front of us watched their loved one cross the finish line, and they were off to find him. Sheryl and I took our positions at the edge of the course and watched expectantly. Before to long, the pink visor came into view. She was walking, the time was ticking and she was walking. Slowly I realized that this could only mean one thing ... she was really hurting. My heart rushed out to great her, encouraging her, pulling her forward. She began to run once again and our hearts swelled. Camera shutter operating at warp speed, I captured her running towards us. When she got right in front of us she looked right at us, pointed to her aching feet and then us, while mouthing, "This one's for you!" And time stopped for me.

This one was for me ... and Sheryl, but I was on the precipice of an epiphany. (So, know that when I say "For me" I am not forgetting that it was indeed "For us," but God was painting a picture for me.) This beautiful friend ran for me. For me ... she trained long hours. For me she sacrificed time she would have spent doing something else. For me she sacrificed and took on the cost of running 13.1 miles ... physical pain. For me ... she smiled in the face of pain and celebrated me. For me ... she pushed on even when her body screamed for her to stop. For me ... she finished the race. For me ... she paid a price ... because of her love for me. And in that seemingly endless moment in frozen time I realized that I could see Jesus in my dear friend, and could feel His love pouring through her. As the tears streamed down my face, I could picture that day so many years ago when Christ finished his race on Earth and could almost envision God pointing down at His only Son painfully nailed to a cross ... only to then point at humanity, eyes full of love, and mouth, "This one is for you."

It has been a week and I am still emotionally moved by the memory of that single moment. I am changed by it, and I can't help but ponder what it would be like if we all strove to touch someone else's life so deeply by being intentional about the way we show Christ to others. What would it be like if we were willing to work for it, hurt for it, sacrifice for it? What if each one of us truly dressed ourselves the way that we are instructed to? (Ah, so there is a tie to my verse ...) My friends I challenge you today. Being Christians, we will show Jesus to others whether we are seeking to or not. Therefore, choose to be an active participant in the way that you do it. Be intentional about it. Be willing to love, the way that God asks us to. I love you all dearly, and thank you for going on this journey with me. Oh, and Laurel, thank you and I love you. I will never forget that moment, or the amazing way that God used you to declare His love for me.

May the Lord shine through you in ways that change the world,

Lisa


Father,
Thank you for my dear friend Laurel and her amazing heart. Thank you for using her to show me your heart for us and the imensness of your love for us. I pray that I would be aware that lives can be changed in a single moment, much as mine was that day at the race ... and in that awaresness constantly seek to clothe myself as yours ... putting on behavior that reflects tenderhearted pity and mercy, kindness, a lowly opinion of myself, gentle ways, and patience both tireless and long-suffering, that has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper. Refine and guide me Father, that I might be a vessel that pours you out to everyone I meet in ways that glorify You. Amen.