Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Serenity at Christmas

Well, here we are! Christmastime again. Do you ever have time experiencing the joy of Christ even though we are celebrating Christ at Christmas?

The "Serenity Prayer" has been really meaningful to me lately. The first line is an acknowledgement that there are things I will not change. The second line acknowledges that there are things the I can change.

Sometimes, I fall into thinking that I am powerless. And that is just where the enemy wants me. Weak and not realizing my potential as a Daughter of the Living God. However, there are things that can change, and need to change in my life.

One of those things is how I view Christmas. In my frustration with how the world handles the holidays and the gross commercialization or complete disregard of the spiritual nature of Christmas, I was failing to see my own sin. I have, for many years, dealt with dissapointment at Christmas. Usually, it was because things weren't perfect. It wasn't until this year that God really opened my eyes (which had obviously been closed!) He showed me that if my eyes are focused on Him, I can accept the world--not the way I would have it but the way it is--just as Jesus did. And when "things" go wrong at Christmas, just as they do any other time during the year, I can rest knowing that it isn't "stuff" that makes Christmas what it is.

The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace
Taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it
Trusting that He will make all things rightif I surrender to His Will
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. Amen.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Friday, October 17, 2008

Journey to Maine--Part 2

We decided that our excursion to Maine would become a 2-1/2 week journey. We plotted a route, and decided that we would stop in Erie, PA, Niagra Falls, Canada, Syracuse, NY, Boston, MA, Acadia National Park, ME, and then end up at the Waiting School in Fairfield, ME. As we were travelling, we decided that it would be fun to come back through New York, NY, and see the Statue of Liberty.

We camped for three nights in Erie, PA. Our campsite was at a YMCA campground, and absolutely beautiful! There were no other campers closeby, so it gave us some nice privacy for rest and relaxing. Although our campsite was literally on a bluff over Lake Erie, it wasn't a great beach for swimming (much too rocky). So we drove each day to Presque Isle State Park where they had really nice swimming beaches.

When we left Erie, we were bound for our next camping spot in Syracuse, with a slight detour to see Niagra Falls. The Falls were magnificent, of course, and I'm glad I can say I've been there. We didn't stay long. It was about a 20 minute walk to the Falls, and we left the parking lot just 2 minutes before the hour we had paid for was up.

We then camped at a newly renovated Christian camp near Syracuse, NY, called Adam's Eden. It is run by a large homeschooling family. We were their first campers, and they were so excited that we were also Christians and amazed that someone in Illinois had found them. The weren't expecting that people from so far away would be the first ones to reserve a camping spot. We also visited a Vineyard Church in Syracuse, and attended the Saturday evening service. The pastor's message and the vision for that congregation was a confirmation of Chuck's conviction that it is most important for the church to be "outside the building" reaching out to the community and sharing the good news of the Gospel.

From Syracuse, we went to Uxbridge, MA (near Boston) where we stayed with one of Chuck's close friends from high school and his family. They were like family to us right from the start, and we had a great time there.

Our next stop was Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine. We drove in rain and drizzle all day. By the time we got to the campground, we were at least able to pick out a spot and get our tent up without it pouring on us. We did some exploring of the tide pools, which was fun since the kids had studied tide pool life in Pagoo the previous spring. We saw lots of barnacles, mussels, and even a crab. No hermit crabs, though!

As we neared time for the Waiting School, we could sense the enemy starting to strengthen his efforts against us. The frustrations began to increase, and along with that tension began to mount. It wasn't always obvious that these were spiritual attacks, which made it difficult. The enemy likes us to not recognize him, and when we don't, there tends to be an accompanying prayerlessness.

Finally, we made it! The Waiting school was such a blessing! God was there in a marvelous way. Sitting in the sancuary, I felt not like I was thousands of miles from home, but right at home. Because wherever God is and His people gather, we are family.

Although we attended one Waiting School without the kids, it is so meaningful to be able to attend with the children as well. Red Nose Ministries www.rednoseministries.com has been at each Waiting School, and the kids not only love Pastors Steve and Janet, but grow closer to God through their ministry.

During the "awards/recognition" time, we were overwhelmed to find out that we were the first people to register for the Maine Waiting School, and Elaine gave us a lovely gift. We were then recognized as workers, and then called up another time and given an envelope. When we opened the envelope at dinner, Chuck and I were shocked to find a check from the Maine district that covered our travel expenses. We both thought there must have been some mistake. We weren't expecting anything, although Elaine had generously offered to pay the cost of our hotel. When I asked her about it, she just said, "Isn't it such a blessing!?! That's what happens when you follow God!"

We are currently making plans to attend the Feb '09 Waiting School at St. Simons Island, GA., and praying that the Kingdom of God will continue to grow in the hearts of His people during this and other revivalistic endeavors.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A life lived for the love of God

When we realize how much God truly loves us and how much he cares, we are drawn to Him in an inexpressable way. Our heart leaps at the thought of spending time with Him, the awesome Creator of the universe and the keeper of our souls.

God can only use a pure heart--one surrendered to Him completely--to reach His children who are lost. When we begin to love the Father with a passion that draws us toward Him, we are given a heart full of love for those souls that we once despised, desiring to see them also draw near to the Father. It's the kind of love that Jesus has--the love that caused Him to get up early to spend time with the Father, and spend all day ministering to the crowds. It's the love that caused Him to bear the sins of the world.

When we sacrifice, and truly live lives for Him, He opens doors in the lives of those around us. He will give us a burden for their souls. When we pray, God will work. When we love others, they will be drawn to the Father. As a result, the Kingdom of God will be established in our cirlce of influence.

Monday, September 8, 2008

God's Chosen Journey (to Maine) -- Part I

God took us on quite a trip this summer! We never would have even thought of going to Maine, but that is where He took us. When the idea first surfaced, God might as well have said, "You should think about taking a trip halfway across the globe."

It all started in November. I had the date marked on the calendar that campsites would open up at our favorite campground in Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, where we have gone the past three summers. But as the date approached, I had a sense that I shouldn't make the reservation. It's a feeling that I've had before--subtle but sure--so I figured it was God. I thought, "okay, I'll wait a week." Still, it seemed like I shouldn't make the reservation. So, I decided that God must have something else in store. As is often the case when we follow God, I had no idea what. He seems to love surprises. I would personally like to see the whole plan, but we're working on that.

Chuck and I have attended several prayer conferences called "Waiting Schools" in the past couple of years with Rev. Elaine Pettit Ministries (www.elainepettitministries.org). As winter ended, and spring was beginning, we knew about another Waiting School coming up in May in Columbus, OH. We really didn't have much interest in going this time. Rev. Pettit's assistant contacted us a few days before the conference, and wanted to know if we were coming. I called back and apologetically said we would be unable to attend. She called again, as apparently she had not received the first message. Then, Rev. Pettit began emailing us. Finally, she asked, "Could you come if I paid your way?" It became clear that God wanted us there, and was leaving no room for excuses. So we went. Of course it was glorious, and we desperately needed that time of refreshing, awakening, and revival, although we didn't realize our need in the state of busyness and apathy that had begun to infiltrate our lives.

At the Columbus Waiting School in May, there were approx. 30 people in attendance from Maine. The Maine District Superintent of the Church of the Nazarene was there--a man with a true heart for revival, Rev. Cecil Jones. Talk began circulating about having the next waiting school in New England. It was then that I began to realize that God wanted us there. It was an exciting prospect, yet part of me thought, "God, you have to be kidding! All the way to Maine? With 4 kids in the van?!?"

I decided that if we went, I wanted us to help in any way we could. I knew that some of those who would normally help with a Waiting School would not be able to so all the way to Maine. I talked with Rev. Pettit, who was willing to use us where there was a need. But then, the Devil started to put doubts in my mind. "It's silly for you to go all that way. This is something geared more for the Maine churches. You're too far removed from that region; it won't matter whether you're there or not." Confusion was starting to cloud my judgement, so I prayed. Then I emailed Rev. Pettit. She has such a full, busy schedule, yet she emailed me right back. Everything she said made perfect sense. The enemy had begun to narrow my vision; she reminded me that there is a bigger picture. Relief overwhelmed me. Praise God that He is so faithful to us when we submit to Him. He always leads us in the right path.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The solution for adversity

Chances are, whatever you and I are struggling with, it is nothing compared to what Christ faced on Calvary. And yet in Luke chapters 22 and 23, we have a perfect example of how to face adversity--no matter how unusual or ordinary the situation.

The first line of action is private prayer. We call it "God Time" in our house, and every day each person has their own "alone" time. In Luke 22:42-44, Jesus prayed in the garden. He didn't want to suffer, and certainly not to death. He knew that was where it was all leading, though; so He prayed. He knew that if there was another way, the Father would show Him. As He prayed through, God impressed upon Him that there was no alternative. Jesus responded with complete acceptance and submission to the Father's will.

How impatient we become with God! I've been known to become like a child--although not in the Biblical sense--more like a pouty, petulant child, just because God didn't conform to my will when I approached Him in prayer. "Why aren't You doing this for me God? What's taking so long? Don't You want to help me?" God is teaching me that when my prayers aren't answered, it is often because He doesn't agree with my request. It shows in me a lack of maturity in knowing the Father and knowing His will. For if we ask anything in His name, it will be given.

The second part of the solution is our focus on God, especially when we are not alone. When Jesus wasn't alone in prayer, He was always focused entirely on the Father. In Luke 23:35, 37, and 39, Jesus was mocked. Three times, by three different people. And yet His only response was "Father, forgive them. They don't understand." He didn't even answer His mockers directly. He just kept His focus on the Father.

How quick I am to let others' comments "get to me". And then I complain to God that I don't feel His presence or whine that He isn't helping me.

Lord, open my eyes in the ordinary ups and downs of my day. Cause me to see that I must approach life the way Jesus did. Show me that time spent alone with You is invaluable if I am to know You more. Teach me that by staying in Your Spirit at all times, I will overcome.

Friday, July 11, 2008

In the beginning...

Of this blog, that is.

I have been wanting to start a blog for a while, as I have written some devotionals and find it very worthwhile for myself and for those who have been touched through them. I started keeping a journal a while back to write down what I thought God was impressing upon me through my routine reading of the scriptures. I felt that it might be a good thing to be able to share with others, and a blog was born!

The scripture I was studying yesterday is so appropriate to begin with, and I believe it was out of this scripture that God birthed the name for this blog.

In Luke 21:34, Jesus says, "But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the [a]giddiness and headache and [b]nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the [c]business of] this life, and [lest] that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose..." (Amplified Bible)

It is interesting that our downfall--being overburdened and depressed--can come from such extremes as the giddiness of self indulgence to the worries of this life! What are the "cares" of daily life?

I often find myself in the middle of something (a project, house-cleaning, etc.) when an interruption (children, phone, etc.) comes that irritates me. When I snap or grouchily leave what I was doing to take care of the interruption, I have allowed the cares of this life to take over. The enemy is overjoyed, because whatever I was wrapped up in caused me to lose sight of what is really important!

At the other end of the spectrum is self-indulgence. While I have not experienced physical drunkenness since my pre-Christian days, there are times when I experience the nausea of self-indulgence. It usually has to do with spending money. Buying things we don't need. There was a time in my life where my husband and I used and abused credit. It was a sickening feeling--one that often led to tears--to spend and realize later that we didn't actually have the money to pay. If you are drowning in debt--there is hope! I testify to God's love and grace in helping us to overcome many selfish desires which led to impulse spending. He has brought us to the place where our only debt is the mortgage on our home.

Are you wrapped up in the giddiness or the nausea of self-indugence? What are the cares in your life?


Lord, by the Power of Your Spirit, break the cycle of selfish pursuits. May I see those temptations to spend money unnecessarily as the hand of the enemy trying to gain a grip on my life. Open the eyes of my spirit.

By Your Spirit working within me, I will respond appropriately to interruptions in "my" agenda. May I see Your hand in those moments pulling my focus back to where it belongs. Father, forgive me for those times when I did not respond. I want my children, husband, and others to see You. Make me a pure vessel that You can use.

In the Name of Jesus, and for the sake of Your Kingdom,
Amen. So be it.