Thursday, September 29, 2011

It Takes A Strong Woman

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come. ~ Proverbs 31:25

I wrote this in memory of my dear friend, Janette, who, after a long and valiant battle with cancer, left this earth one year ago today to be with her Jesus.  I dedicate it to her loving and faithful husband, Geoff, and her three amazing teens: Laura, Chad and Ryan.

It takes a strong woman to humble herself and admit she is weak,
But knowing her Lord God is and always will be strong for her;

It takes a strong woman to fight for her loved ones, not with fists, or guns or swords,
But on her knees daily in prayer before her God;

It takes a strong woman to receive a cancer diagnosis,
And not shake her fist at God and complain how He's dealt her an unfair hand;

It takes a strong woman to smile and laugh and sing praises to her Jesus
In the midst of her pain;

It takes a strong woman to stand in the shadowy valley, look death square in the face,

And say,"The LORD is MY Shepherd, and I am NOT afraid!"

It takes a strong woman to kiss her beloved ones farewell and leave them behind,
Entrusted in the care of the One Whom she knows loves them more than she;

It takes a strong woman to give up her fight, raise up her hands,
And let her Shepherd lead her home....

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:1-4

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unequally Yoked, Part 2

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, NKJV)
In my last post, I spoke a little about my life as the spouse of a non-believer and ended with the question, ‘what exactly does being unequally yoked mean?’

Well, first of all, after searching some sites, I came to learn that while this Scripture verse is usually brought up to describe a marriage between a believer and a non-believer in Christ, it really is not referring to marriage at all. Paul was actually telling his audience in Corinth that they were to refrain from having anything to do with those who practiced paganism or any kind of ‘dark works.’ Marriage is not mentioned in this particular piece of Scripture; nonetheless, it certainly can pertain to it.

I searched around a bit more and came up with these definitions: The phrase "unequally yoked together" translates from only one Greek word, heterozugeo, which is a compound word that means, "to yoke up differently; to associate discordantly; to unequally yoke together." This phrase is used only one time in the Bible…here in 2 Corinthians. Also, the word "yoke" means a coupling, as when two oxen are coupled together by a pulling beam to plow a field or to pull a wagon. The yoke itself is actually a crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together.

As I read this, I was hit right between the eyes with two very key words....did you catch them? Working Together. Whoa. When you find yourself coupled with another whose beliefs, visions, desires, dreams, etc., do not line up with your own, especially in a marriage relationship, working together is no longer a feasible activity. Doesn’t matter if it’s two animals or two human is struggling to go one way, one is struggling to go another and both wind up going nowhere.

There’s pain. There’s conflict. There’s anger. There’s frustration. There’s resentment. There’s no unity. These are pretty fair descriptions of how my marriage and my home life have been for all of these years. There is certainly no fun or comfort to be found when you are so closely and tightly connected to someone with whom you can have no agreement as to which direction to take on life’s pathways. The greatest joy in my life is Jesus, and I cannot share that joy with the one with whom I share my life. And to explain how adversely it's affected our son and our daughter would have to be explained in several separate blog posts.  It’s no wonder I can often become discouraged, depressed, in pain and exhausted emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Earlier this year, I attended my church’s annual women’s retreat. I was intrigued to find out that one of the breakout sessions was for women who are ‘spiritually single’ and I decided to check it out. I found it somewhat odd and almost humorous when the woman who was the facilitator for this session told the group of us that God had 'called' us to this life experience. Really?? Called?? Funny, I don’t feel called, but this idea is something I continue to ponder.

Let me say right here that there are days when I think I will scream and lose my mind if I hear one more person remind me of what it says in Isaiah 54:5: For your Maker is your Husband--the Lord of hosts is His name--and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called.

And then there are other days when I can’t seem to turn the pages of my Bible fast enough to get to that section of Scripture to see it in black and white and read it for myself in the hopes of finding comfort by those words of promise.

So…where does this leave me at this point? Where’s the hope? Where’s the encouragement? Am I to forever remain being strangled by this yoke?

I’ve had many people, non-believers and followers of Christ alike, who have told me to remove that spiritually lopsided yoke, RUN like Carl Lewis and never look back. But my Jesus tells me of a different way, a better way. His way. And it’s found in Matthew 11:28-30. My favorite translation is from the Amplified Bible and in it, Jesus says:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good--not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”

I love that. Yes, I CAN remove that unequal yoke, replacing it with Jesus’ yoke, His good, wholesome, comfortable, gracious and pleasant yoke. And if I’m going to run anywhere, it should be straight to Jesus and move along the path that He directs me to walk, along with Himself. But how does this all work and what does it mean?

I believe the answer lies in verse 29: “Take My yoke upon you.” The majority of the various translations I checked use the verb ‘take.’ It’s a word that requires action, and it’s an action on MY part. Jesus offers His yoke to me, but I have to make the choice to remove my current yoke, step forward, take His yoke from Him and place myself underneath it. To me, this means I have to stop looking to my husband for validation and relying on him to give to me the joy, peace, rest, comfort, guidance, mercy, grace, forgiveness and ultimately, the LOVE I so desperately seek. I need to stop my whining, complaining and struggling, and accept that at this time, this is just how my life is going to be. Believe me, this isn’t easy to do. But I have to learn to stop my obsessive need to have my spouse satisfy me in all areas, take my constant focus off him as my all in all and instead, turn to the One Who IS my all in all, Jesus Christ, trusting in the things about Him I have come to know to be true:

∙ that His yoke is easy and His burden is light

∙ that He who began a good work in me (and I believe, in my husband and our children)will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

∙ that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose

∙ that I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (meaning the return of Christ)

∙ that if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him, for the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife....otherwise their children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy

∙ that love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails
So it’s a day by day, moment by moment taking off and laying down of such a heavy, mismatched yoke and replacing it with the lighter one that Jesus lovingly offers me. And I’m well aware that much of the time, the only real tried and true love I’m GOING to experience is the love of Jesus. But the fact is, I AM loved. Loved with an everlasting, unconditional, unfailing love, as long as I stay yoked together with my precious Jesus.

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us, oh! ~ How He Loves, by David Crowder Band

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unequally Yoked, Part 1

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, NLT

I wrote this way back in February of this year after listening to KLove’s morning show on my car radio as I headed in to work. I posted it on my Facebook page as a note, but in light of the struggles that continue to get more difficult for me as each day passes by, I thought it would be appropriate to share a somewhat edited version of it here and now.

The morning show personalities started off talking about the (then) upcoming Super Bowl and whether or not wives who didn’t care much for the game watched it anyway with their over-the-top-crazy-for-Super-Bowl-Sunday husbands. The conversation then moved into a discussion about being equally or unequally yoked with a spouse. I sighed, turned the volume up and drove slower. I HAD to hear whatever they were going to say. And afterwards, it naturally got me thinking. AGAIN. Those who know me well know my situation of being married to someone who does not share my faith in Jesus Christ and whom I’m not altogether sure even believes that there is a God. To say that this has made daily life difficult would be a vast understatement. Parenting, finances, moral values, entertainment choices, family relations and intimacy are just a few of the issues that have made for an excruciatingly harsh and exhausting uphill battle over the years. When ‘80s rock star Pat Benetar sang, “Love Is A Battlefield,” she wasn’t kidding.

Now, I was not a follower of Jesus at the time of our marriage, but merely a ‘church goer.’ Had been my whole life. Yet I hadn’t a clue that they were two entirely different things. For awhile, both my husband and I attended church together because we HAD order to get married in his church and later, in order to have our two children christened. Not long afterwards, however, my husband just stopped going altogether. I, on the other hand, continued attending out of guilt and fear, being raised according to the gospel of “If You Don’t Go To Church Every Sunday, Go Directly To Hell and Burn.” We were eight years into married life when one day I found myself flat on my back, staring up at Jesus’ open arms at the foot of His cross; a lost, confused, broken, at-the-end-of-my-rope woman who realized she NEEDED Jesus. That realization changed me. And HE changed my life, slowly and painstakingly.

And as with many people, I thought once I gave myself to Christ, my life would suddenly become problem-free, similar to the proverbial bed of roses/bowl of cherries concept. But I learned rather quickly that following Jesus very often won’t win you any popularity contests, even and especially with family and friends. In fact, in the Bible, both the prophet Micah and Jesus have this to say:
  I have come so that 'a son will be against his father, a daughter will be against her mother, a daughter-in-law will be against her mother-in-law. A person's enemies will be members of his own family.’ ”  (Micah 7:6 and Matthew 10:35-36, respectively)

I found that my spouse had no desire and continues to have no desire for his own relationship with the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings; he sees no need for a Savior for himself.  I know that I didn't do much early on in my newfound relationship with Jesus to help point my spouse in His direction.  I beat that man over the head with my Bible so much, it's a wonder I didn't give him a concussion. I did ALL the wrong leaving open Bibles and tracts laying all around the house. I nagged him to come to church with me and the kids.  I invited him to church events, especially during Christmas and Easter.   After awhile and after talking to some kind and loving godly people, I realized that I had done more damage than anything else, even though my intentions were honorable and good.   So sadly, there has been no softening of his heart towards Jesus and it has been a heavy and painful heart burden I’ve carried around with me for over eleven years now. In plain and simple language, it’s killing me.

In the New King James version of the Bible, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 reads this way:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” I’ve heard this verse in sermon after sermon, study after study, devotional after devotional. So what exactly does being ‘unequally yoked’ mean? I’ll address that in my next post.

Thanks for hanging in there.  This remains a tough and painful subject for me to deal with.  Maybe because it's more than just a's my life.

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.... ~Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon & Garfunkel

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Worship Song Sunday - How Great is Our God, by Seventh Day Slumber

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.  You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~ 1 John 4:2-4, NIV

Today started off being a difficult day. I’m not surprised. Sunday mornings generally are, for me, anyway. I certainly can’t speak for anyone else out there reading this, but maybe there are some of you who can relate.

There’s an undercurrent of tension which, sadly, is always flowing in my home, but just seems to get worse on Sunday mornings. Some of you who read my blog and who know me personally are aware that I am what people in the Christian literary world like to refer to as ‘spiritually single.’  I’m married, but my husband does not share my faith in Jesus Christ. And that is a blog post for another day, which will be coming very soon. But I mention this fact because on Sunday mornings, the war between us always seems to become a fiercer one.  Not with anything physical.  Heavy crystal vases and fine china tea cups do not go flying through the air like they do in movies (we don’t own any of those things anyway). But sometimes, there is verbal sniping.  Sometimes there is a feeling of deep coldness without any words being exchanged between us at all. And again, there is that ever present undercurrent of tension. When our children were younger, there was always a tug of war….would they come to church with Mommy or would they stay home with Daddy, who always seemed to find some really cool Sunday morning movie to put on and invite them to sit and watch it with him. Add to that just the normal fact that kids aren’t always dressed and ready when you want/need them to be, and by the time we all got to church, I was in no condition to worship.  Most times, I just wanted to scream. Or cry. Or hide. Or to do all three. Ahh, the enemy of my soul, the Accuser, may not be smart, but oh, is he ever crafty.  He's watched me long enough to know just what buttons to push and where to send those fiery missiles of his!

However, worshiping our great God is not contingent upon how my morning has been or how I feel. It doesn’t matter if I have a headache, or if I didn’t have a chance to have my morning coffee, or if my son and daughter are battling it out AGAIN over something inconsequential, or if my spouse says something unkind or ignores me completely as I walk out the door. God is worthy of my worship NO MATTER WHAT. This past Friday night, I went to see a worship concert by a Christian band called Seventh Day Slumber at Calvary Lighthouse Church in Lakewood. One of the T-shirts they had at their merch table had this emblazoned across the front:


And I would have to agree with that.  Worship is indeed a lifestyle. No matter what my life looks like….whether it’s in shambles or going along like a well oiled machine; all my problems hurts, issues and concerns aside….the Lord God is worthy of my worship.  And He is greater than ANYTHING that is going on in my life, greater than ANYTHING that is going on in this world. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All Dogs Go To Heaven

I’ve purposely veered off the beaten path today to post a poem that I wrote in honor of some sweet friends of mine who recently lost their beloved dogs:

Xena, who passed away last month after giving many, many years of faithful love and happiness to her family

Adena, who had to be put down yesterday after a valiant battle with cancer, and who also gave her family so much love and joy over the years. 

The grief both families are experiencing is heavy, fresh and very real. Anyone who owns a pet can attest to the fact that they actually ‘own’ us, and after initially capturing our hearts, they go on to become tried and true members of our families.

I know there are many folks out there in the bloggy world and beyond who do not ascribe to the view or belief, if you will, that our pets go to Heaven after they die, and will argue there is nothing in the Bible to back this up. To them, I humbly ask that they kindly set those thoughts aside today as I seek to comfort and grieve along with my friends.

They say that all dogs go to Heaven
And I believe that’s true,
For when it’s my time to come home
I know that I’ll see you.

For now, I miss you SO much,
I’m empty, lost and sad,
Because to me you were the dearest
Best friend that I had.

No happy bark or ‘wiggly butt’
To greet me at the door,
No ‘click clack’ of your doggie nails
Tap dancing on my floor.

Whenever I was sad or sick
You wouldn’t leave my side,
Your soft, smooth fur was there to catch
Each teardrop that I cried.

Your love was unconditional
So loyal and so true,
But now it seems you’ve finished
What God placed you here to do.

He surely welcomed you by saying,
“Well done, good and faithful friend!”
So if all dogs go to Heaven,
I know this is not the end.

R.I.P Xena and Adena

Monday, September 19, 2011

Unexpected Gifts

Whenever this happens, my heart stops— I'm stunned, I can't catch my breath.
Listen to it! Listen to his thunder,
the rolling, rumbling thunder of his voice.
He lets loose his lightnings from horizon to horizon,
lighting up the earth from pole to pole.
In their wake, the thunder echoes his voice,
powerful and majestic.
He lets out all the stops, he holds nothing back.
No one can mistake that voice—
His word thundering so wondrously,
his mighty acts staggering our understanding.
He orders the snow, 'Blanket the earth!'
and the rain, 'Soak the whole countryside!'
No one can escape the weather—it's there.
And no one can escape from God. ~ Job 37:5-7, The Message

 God calls to each of us during the course of our day, through the simplicity of His creation that surrounds us. But so very often, we are deaf to His voice and blind to the austere, yet at the same time, beautifully breathtaking unexpected gifts He offers us. We can allow ourselves to become so caught up in the activity of our lives, too busy to stop and smell the roses, as they used to say when I was younger. Or we can find ourselves held captive by our electronic devices, the very items we were told would afford us more time in our days. With our ear buds firmly in place and our eyes focused onto the screens of our laptops, iPads or iPhones, we miss out on so much, foolishly hoping to find in them fulfillment and satisfaction for our emptiness, loneliness and needful longings.

So may I invite you to slow down, disconnect from all things high tech to come take a walk with me as I point out some of what God blesses us with during the 24 hours we’re allotted each day. Drink in the vibrant color palette of a magnificent sunrise or sunset. Experience the refreshing coolness of a crisp fall day after a long, stifling hot summer. Listen to the whisper of a gentle wind as it blows through the trees, tenderly caressing each leaf. Breathe in the intoxicating scent and taste the sweetness of a honeysuckle bush (does anyone remember picking honeysuckle and squeezing the nectar onto your tongue as a child?). Check out the diamond-like droplets of morning dew as it sparkles upon the grass, flower petals and leaves. Feel surprise at the sudden brushing of a colorful butterfly’s wings against your hand. Be still and take note of the hushed tranquility after a snowfall or of the spectacular light show as lightening streaks across a stormy sky. Kick back and enjoy the nighttime symphony of crickets and tree frogs or the morning chorus of a variety of birds.

These are indeed life’s simple pleasures. The awesome, unexpected gifts that we can receive if we would only open up ourselves to receive them, each one hand crafted and lovingly fashioned for us by our Creator God, the Master Artist and Designer.

I made for the countryside,
And my eyes never grew so wide,
Apple, raspberry, river blue,
I don't wanna leave without you,
In the sound I'll gladly drown,
Into the emerald underground,
And I rub my eyes 'cause it's hard to see,
Surrounded by all this beauty
~ Dreams Don't Turn To Dust, by Owl City

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Worship Song Sunday -- Draw Me Close, by The Katinas

Without a doubt, this worship song is my favorite.  Its lyrics are very personal for me, and I see it as a love song to our Savior, as well as a song of worship and praise.  And to me, that makes sense, since it is indeed a love relationship that Jesus longs to have with each one of us.

Allow the Lord Jesus, Who loves you more than you could possibly fathom, to draw you close as you sing out to Him!

May your day be seasoned with His tender blessings,


Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Change In Direction

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  They immediately left their nets and followed Him.  Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them,  and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. ~ Matthew 4:18-25 (NKJV)

Yesterday morning, as my daughter was getting ready for school, I made the decision to head over to our county park. It’s rather large and has a beautiful lake with many places to sit and take in the peaceful scenery.  And in fact, it's where a dear friend, sister-in-Christ and fellow blogger of mine, Toni, often goes to get much of her inspiration for her blog, aptly titled ‘Lakeside Lessons’ (check it out, she’s on my Blog Roll).  Even though my husband and daughter are both gone from our house by 7:30 and my son isn’t awake yet, I still find it can be quite noisy there and with too many distractions: the constant barking of dogs (my own and my neighbors’); the phone and doorbell ringing; the banging and drilling from the guy next door who’s been tearing down his old garage and is now working on building a new one; the seemingly never ending parade of trash/recycling trucks that make their way down my street; dishes in the sink, dirty laundry in baskets, and dust bunnies on the floor, all waiting for me to clean them. There are some days that my quiet times are anything BUT quiet and focused, and I find it hard to concentrate on what God wants to convey to me, and on what I’d like to say to Him.  So before I left to drop off my daughter at her school, I packed up a strap bag with my Bible, my journals, some pens, my camera and my ‘Jesus Calling’ devotional book.

On my way to the park, I swung by a WaWa for some good, hot coffee and then pointed my vehicle in the direction of the park. As chilly as the weather had become, I was looking forward to sitting by the lake, where the only noise came from the flocks of geese and the water lapping up against the rocks. As I pulled onto Hughes Drive, I glanced over at another, smaller park in the area called Sayen Gardens. It’s also very beautiful, albeit much smaller, and the last time I’d been there was in the spring time on the night of my daughter’s school social, when we just popped by for about five minutes to grab some pictures of her by the lovely gazebo positioned right out front. It had been some time since I’d actually taken a walk through it. I drove a little farther and then noticed that the traffic had suddenly stopped. Wondering what the holdup was, I maneuvered my car over to the side of the road and saw the flashing lights of a police car WAY up ahead at the intersection. ‘Ok,’ I thought, ‘I’ll wait it out. How long can it take?’ Quite a long time, I found out. Ten minutes later, I had only moved the length of one house, and there was a long way to go. I changed my mind and changed direction, turning around in someone’s driveway. As I drove past Sayen Gardens again, I felt invited to pull into the parking lot. I accepted the invitation and drove right in


What a difference a change in direction can make. I was so glad I had come! I'd forgotten how beautiful it is in there. So many different trees and plants with vibrantly colored flowers everywhere. I saw lots of strategically placed wooden park benches with carvings of flowers on them; some tucked away and sheltered beneath the shadow of trees and foliage, others out along the path. As I walked deeper and deeper into the gardens, the sounds from the road faded away and a blessed peace and quiet settled in, broken only here and there by a birdsong or some squirrels chattering. I felt as if I’d stepped into another time and place. To me, there was such a special feeling of intimacy with the Lord as I walked along the paths.  I felt as though I were on a mini retreat minus the hefty registration fee.  Finally, I came upon an area with another gazebo, a fountain and then a lovely pond with its own, smaller fountain within.  There was a bench on the other side of the pond with the sun shining directly on it, looking like it was waiting just for me. I crossed over a little bridge and took my place on the bench, where I spent some wonderfully sweet, uninterrupted time alone with my Savior. The morning had turned out SO much better than I had planned. And all because of a change in direction.

I thought about that as I sat on the bench. That's how it is when we choose to follow Jesus.  He longs for us to change direction, to repent from our sins and follow Him.  He wants us to change direction and turn away from those idols we make ourselves believe can fill us up and completely satisfy us, be they people or possessions, places or positions. Because they CAN’T.  Only the Lord Jesus can, because:

His grace is sufficient
His love is unfailing
His peace is perfect
His mercy is fresh
His forgiveness is complete
His joy is inexpressible
His promises are true
His beauty is breathtaking
His truths are rock solid
His faithfulness is great

Jesus is more than enough for me…and He can and will be for those who hear His invitation and choose to follow Him. What He had in store for me today was so much more than I could have hoped or imagined, and what He has in store for us every day is so much more than we can ever hope or imagine as well.  It just takes a change in direction to find that out.

Into the night, in the heat of the day
We’ll probably stumble along the way
On an innocent path, or a one way street
We’ll leave our past in the dust and the concrete

If you’re ready for a change
If you’re tired of the same old thing
If you’re ready for a change, then follow Me;

If you’re ready for a change
If you’re tired of imagining,
Get ready for a change and follow Me. ~ Change (Follow Me), by Dave Pettigrew

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Morning Motivation

Then, in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a deserted place, and there He prayed. ~ Mark 1:35

What motivates me? What moves me to get up out of my bed each and every morning to greet the day? I was thinking about this earlier, sipping my coffee in the little basement room where I spend my quiet times. I wish I could always say it was something wonderfully inspiring and spiritual. However, truth be told, there’s usually several Basic Motivating Factors at work here most days - A). I NEED to use the bathroom; B). the dog needs to be fed and let outside; C). I've got to get my daughter to school before 7:30 AM (obviously, Factor C is a moot point on weekends, holidays and throughout the summer).

While I'm definitely more of a morning person than a night owl, I’m certainly NOT one of those perky people who jump out of bed with a smile on their faces and a song on their lips, dancing towards the coffeemaker. Most days, I’m thankful that I make it down the stairs in the semi-dark without tripping or getting knocked over by my oversized, ravenously hungry dog. And let me assure you -- with major bedhead, morning breath and a face sans all traces of makeup, I certainly don't make for much of an attractive package. I'm glad no one in my household is awake when I first get up (except for the dog, that is). It’s a wonder that ANYONE would want to spend some time with me that early and especially with me looking like an extra from 'Dawn of the Dead,' but amazingly enough, Someone does.  Jesus does. He's been waiting for me. And that should be the Number One Priority reason that motivates me to bound out of bed early each morning.  Thankfully, the Lord God is more concerned with what I look like on the inside than the outside. He looks past my scarecrow hair, dragon breath and splotchy face to my sinful/joyful/anxious/burdened heart. He wants me to come to Him with all my expectations, my ideas, my concerns, fears, sorrows, questions. And...not only does He want me to sit and talk to Him......He wants to talk to ME!  

Think of it:  The Master, the King desires to have a conversation with each of us, whether it be over a steaming mug of hot coffee, tea or an ice cold glass of orange juice. He's been up all night, watching over each one of us as we sleep (Psalm 121:3 states that “He Who watches over you will not slumber....”) like a parent might watch over a much loved child in the night, just amazed to see their little chest rise and fall with each breath. He is delighted when we wake up, waiting with anticipation for us to come and spend some time with Him; and sorely disappointed when we don’t. Yes, He knows how busy we can get with our lives, but conversation and time spent in the company of our Savior shouldn't occur:

*Only when there’s a crisis in our lives or we desperately need or want something from Him
*Only on Saturday evenings/Sunday mornings
*Only at Wednesday night prayer meetings and weekend retreats

Jesus doesn’t want a hastily scribbled note from us dropped in some Holy Suggestion Box: ‘Would like less trials and difficulties this year. Thanks!’ He doesn’t want a neatly typed service request handed to Him from us: ‘My child’s heart needs changing ASAP.’ Nor does He want us to send Him a Western Union Telegram: ‘FINANCES DWINDLING. SEND MORE MONEY NOW!!’

No, He longs to have some slow, sweet, intimate 'face time' with us. We were created for that. I believe Jesus loves it when we set aside a special place and time, just for Him, when we come to Him with our Bibles in hand, ready to sit at His feet. Not to talk AT Him, but to converse WITH Him. And most importantly, to LISTEN to what our precious LORD has to say to us. He desires to go over our agendas with us to show us what HE has planned for us. He wants to forgive us of our sins, cry with us in our grief, laugh with us over our “I Love Lucy” life moments, rejoice with us in our victories, comfort us in our pain, listen to our doubts and questions, encourage us in our hopelessness, hold us when we’re afraid, bless us with more than we could ever imagine and carry us through our darkest valley experiences. And so much more. It’s time well spent. And all before we dash out the door in the morning. We just have no idea.

My dear friends, don’t accept the malarky the world loves to dish out, pushing us to be perpetually productive the moment our feet hit the cold, hard floor, and having us believe that resting and just BEING is synonymous with laziness. It’s not. Please accept this as some food for thought and perhaps as some much needed encouragement, comfort and a renewed motivation to spend some time talking with and listening to our amazing Jesus.

Can you hear Him? He’s calling to you.  Are you ready to come and meet with Him, to sit at His feet? He's waiting for you......

In the morning when I rise,
Help me to prioritize
All the thoughts that fill my day;
Before my schedule tells me that my day is full,
Before I'm off and on my way
I want to praise You

I need to praise You;
Let the first song that I sing
Be praises to my God and King ~ First Song That I Sing, by Sara Groves

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Worship Song Sunday -- While I'm Waiting, by John Waller

"I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope." ~ Psalm 130:5

Some of you may recognize this song from the movie, 'Fireproof.' I haven’t heard it in awhile, but the other day, I watched its author and singer, John Waller, perform it on TV.  This is one of the songs I've included in what I refer to as the soundtrack to my life.  Perhaps it could be yours as well if you're:

*Waiting for answers
*Waiting for God's direction
*Waiting for your prodigal to return

*Waiting for a loved one (be it family or friend) to give their life to Jesus Christ
*Waiting for the phone call to tell you the job is yours

*Waiting for the pain to just stop
*Waiting for your test results to come back negative
*Waiting for healing
*Waiting for your broken marriage to be restored
*Waiting to hear someone say "You're beautiful, and I love you"

*Waiting to be made whole again

It's my desire for the words and music of this song to encourage each of you in your journey, to give you hope to hold on, to persevere and to worship the Faithful One Who knows what you need even before you do, while you're waiting for Him to bring you through the valley and to change your stormy circumstances today.

I like what someone posted below this video on YouTube: 'When God is silent, we are still to worship and serve Him!'  Amen to that.


In memory of all those whose lives were stolen ten years ago today;
In honor of all those whose loved ones, dear friends, neighbors, bosses and coworkers were taken from them on September 11, 2001:

You say you will never forget where you were when
you heard the news On September 11, 2001.
Neither will I.

I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room
with a man who called his wife to say 'Good-Bye.' I
held his fingers steady as he dialed. I gave him the
peace to say, 'Honey, I am not going to make it, but it
is OK..I am ready to go.'

I was with his wife when he called as she fed
breakfast to their children. I held her up as she
tried to understand his words and as she realized
he wasn't coming home that night.

I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a
woman cried out to Me for help. 'I have been
knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!' I said.
'Of course I will show you the way home - only
believe in Me now.'

I was at the base of the building with the Priest
ministering to the injured and devastated souls.
I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven. He
heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat,
with every prayer. I was with the crew as they
were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of the
believers there, comforting and assuring them that their
faith has saved them.

I was in Texas , Virginia , California , Michigan , Afghanistan .
I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.
Did you sense Me?

I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew
every name - though not all know Me. Some met Me
for the first time on the 86th floor.

Some sought Me with their last breath.
Some couldn't hear Me calling to them through the
smoke and flames; 'Come to Me... this way... take
my hand.' Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me.
But, I was there.

I did not place you in the Tower that day. You
may not know why, but I do.. However, if you were
there in that explosive moment in time, would you have
reached for Me?

Sept. 11, 2001, was not the end of the journey
for you . But someday your journey will end. And I
will be there for you as well. Seek Me now while I may
be found. Then, at any moment, you know you are
'ready to go.'

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Live Your Life

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). ~ Jesus (John 10:10, Amplified Bible)

Don't remain in the past, bound by memories, held captive by things you did, but shouldn't have or by things you didn't do, but should have.  You can't carry what was along with what is -- your Father God did not create nor equip you to do so. Remember and learn from the past, but don't live in it. Live life in the here and now.  Savor each day, each moment, as you would a fine, choice wine; a tender piece of filet mignon or an exquisite piece of rich, dark chocolate. Don't rush through it in a blur, but walk slowly, patiently and purposefully along the path that your Lord God walks with you, being attentive to His Presence and to each detail along the way.

Breathe in every scent; listen closely to each sound; be mindful of the scenery that surrounds you, no matter where you find yourself, and seek the beauty in it.  Feel the sun's warmth and the wind's coolness against your skin; the rain on your face, the snow on your tongue. Take off your shoes and dance, feeling the softness or hardness of the ground against your bare feet. Delight in the pure, simple pleasures and the joyful times that are gifts from your Father.  Learn and gain strength from the seasons of trials and sufferings that He also allows in your life.

Change is imminent.  Keep an eye towards the future and be ready for it, knowing that your precious Lord, Who is your Shepherd, is with you, holding onto your hand, leading you and guiding you. 

It's your moment, your day, your life.  Live it to the fullest, remaining open and ready to receive whatever He has in store for you.

This is your time,
This is your dance
Live every moment
Leave nothing to chance;
Swim in the sea,
Drink of the deep
Embrace the mystery of all you can be
This is your time. ~ This Is Your Time, by Michael W. Smith

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Worship Song Sunday -- Hungry (Falling on my Knees) by Kathryn Scott

This is a very special song to me, such a lovely song of worship and of abandoning yourself to Jesus Christ. As you worship Him through music, take note of the lyrics:

Hungry I come to You
For I know You satisfy
I am empty but I know
Your Love does not run dry

Broken I run to You
For Your arms are open wide
I am weary but I know
Your touch restores my life
So I wait for You.....

The images and landscapes throughout this video are also so beautiful. Recently, I came across the following quote written by my church's former youth pastor, Curt Leininger:

'Worship happens each and every time we recognize a beautiful thing and ascribe worth to the One from Whom that beauty flows.'

May this be so for you today. And every day.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Something To Say

The other day a friend emailed me, encouraging me to not give up writing my blog, after I'd let it be known that I was struggling with this thought.  She said, ‘The world needs to hear from Pam Manners.’ I’ve been thinking about that this morning and wondering ‘Why? What can I possibly say that a thousand others out there haven’t already said as well as or more eloquently than I ever could on blog or devotional sites and in books?'
Yet, that should be of no concern to me, because my friend is entirely correct -- the world does need to hear from me. Ok, let me step in immediately here to assure you I am not saying this to brag or boast about myself. Actually, what the world needs to hear or read is God’s message through me, through the words with which He provides for me and inspires me to place onto this blog.  God speaks. I am merely to be His humble, obedient scribe.

In the Bible’s Book of Numbers, there is the story of Balaam, a man summoned by Balak, king of Moab, to put a curse on God’s own people, the Israelites, after they had encamped nearby. In my study Bible, Balaam is described as a prophet who always relied on God to guide his words. When confronted by Balack to do his bidding, Balaam answered him by saying, “But can I just say anything? I must speak only what God puts in my mouth” (Numbers 22:38) and “Must I not speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?” (Numbers 23:12)

And in the Book of Jeremiah, when the young, would-be prophet gave God his fearful, hesitant and lame excuse as to why he couldn’t do what God had asked of him -- “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” -- God reprimanded him by saying, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you” (Jeremiah 2:7), and “Stand up and say to them whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 2:17)

And so it must be with me. God’s called me to be His wordsmith and He’s given me this gift of writing to share His messages with those who need to hear them. He doesn’t want to hear my laundry list of Moses-like ‘What if?' excuses:

*What if someone gets offended by what I write?
*What if people think what I’ve written is dumb and make fun of it?
*What if no one likes my blog?
*What if no one reads my blog?
*What if I I’ve got nothing to say?

In God's grand scheme of things, all of that really doesn’t matter. So what if someone’s offended by what I’ve written? Maybe what they’re actually feeling is conviction instead:
’For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12) So what if people think what I’ve written is dumb and make fun of it? I’m in good company, for the apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that ‘the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing’ (1 Corinthians 1:18), and ‘For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).

So what if no one likes my blog? Paul says, this time in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 & 6, that when we speak (or in this case, write) with God’s approval, we do so to please Him, not others, nor are we to seek or expect praise for it. And so what if not many people or nobody at all is reading my blog?  God has made it crystal clear to me that I’m to continue writing  anyway. In Ezekiel 2:7, God told His prophet Ezekiel, regarding the Israelites, to ‘speak My words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen.’  And those times I feel I’ve got nothing to say?  Not to worry. Look, if God can put words in a donkey’s mouth (flip or scroll on back to Numbers 22 and check out THAT part of the story!), He will certainly put the right words in my heart and head and allow them to flow from pen to journal, from fingers to keyboard to blog site. I have to say, I’ve been utterly amazed at and humbled by how God has done this and how He continues to do this with me. I had absolutely no intentions of writing what you're reading here today… was completely Holy Spirit inspired.

So, there you have it.  Thanks to my friend's email and God's persistent nudging me towards these eye opening verses from His Word, I'm pressing on with my writing, no matter what. 

Today, what is God inspiring YOU to blog about, speak about, sing about, write a prayer about (and perhaps send along to someone to bless and encourage them)? Sit quietly, wait patiently and listen to what He’s telling you. And if He’s given you something to say -- then just say it -- because someone, somewhere needs to hear it.

Come on and let your life be heard today,
You’ve got something to say;
If you're living, if you're breathing
you’ve got something to say,
you know if your heart is beating
you’ve got something to say;
and no one can say it like you do
God is love and love speaks through
you got it, you got it,
you’ve got something to say ~ Something To Say, by Matthew West
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