Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reminiscing our 2010

Leaving... 2010.... but first pondering upon it some..... :)

Wow, what a year it's been! Who could have guessed the road we'd walk? The paths it'd take us on? The places we'd travel?

My sweet husband wrote in a card that he gave me for Christmas that said, "What a year! A very hard one, very tough one, very humbling one, spent on our knees, but through all of it God is FAITHFUL."....

Indeed, He has been! He always is! It has been another of one of our hardest ones ever, but one of our very, very, very, very, very, very best! I love how God abundantly blesses... even when the tides roll in and the winds blow. Perhaps even more so then than in the calmest times? Perhaps none are as precious as those? Perhaps it takes the hard and tough and humbling to open our eyes to see the blessednesses throughout in ways an easy life would never notice or be aware of? If that's the cost then, then every hard was worth it! God has magnified His wonder and glory in the depths of our very souls! Our eyes are more focused than they've ever been on His! The beauty of His face never ever more beautiful!

I won't waste my time repondering the hard stuff. Mostly because it pales in comparison to the blessings we've been given. I have never been so amazed with my God! I have never loved Him as much!

He's radically grabbed hold of and smitten and changed my oldest daughter in ways that still astound. She's so on fire for Jesus that she can hardly stand herself. He is her constant whoa-ing wonder and she can't praise Him enough. From morning til night it's all that she speaks of! She bellows His praises and is awed by His graces. He's changed her life. He's changed her mood. He's changed her world. He's given her sight for a thing she's never seen. He's lit a fire inside that blazes! He's risen a wonder that continually amazes. She simply completely adores Him! And daily now wonders what He wants to do and where He plans to take her. She's willing and wanting and waiting. He is her heart's desire! She cannot tell and talk of Him enough. And everyone around her cannot help but notice. Jesus looks good on and in her! And her fire is so fantastically blazingly contagious to all those around her in her world!

My husband has a peace that he's never felt before. No matter the wind of the storm, nothing can taunt him. God has proven His faithfulness.... over and over and over again. He's blessed us so in the wildest of ways. Not just once or twice or a few times, but too many times to count.

Even this Christmas as much as I tried to bless another, God kept blessing us more than we could bless. We couldn't out-bless Him. He poured in more than we could pour out. We gave and gave and gave... but He multiplied all the giving and gave more. It didn't add up or make human sense... but our God is just that miraculous and that good and that gracious.

I have a Senior son that is simply the very sweetest thing evah! My youngest daughter is right behind him, a Junior that trails him. She, too, seeps in sweetness! We have the very best times together. We rarely fuss, but laugh ourselves hysterically together until our sides hurt! There's a closeness within us that if it could be bottled the stores wouldn't be able to keep it on their shelves. I must admit that we rarely sleep (I suppose there's a time for that *smile*), instead we have long conversations through the night. About how good God is! About what He does! About what He wants. About how exciting it is to serve and to see Him. About how we search in our desire and longing to see even more.

I guess to sum our 2010 year up, I have to sum it up by saying that we've very much lived and felt the pursuit of God in ways we've never been aware of before. He was relentless in His pursuing with each one of us. The wonder in the attention continually blew our minds. Who am I... who are we.. that our God pursues like He does?!

Doors were open that we'd never dream of. I don't know, I wish I knew how to say it all, but there are some things that I'll never be able to say.... some things are too big to relay and convey. I so wish I could say!!! Never will I be able to thank my God and my Savior enough! If this was 2010.... I so very much wonder what 2011 holds to bring?

Oh Lord God, You are my wonder... I can't thank You enough... and I love You so much!!!!

"Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders You have done.
The things You planned for us no one can recount to You;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare." .....
"I will praise You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done."
~ Psalm 40:5, 9:1 ~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How will you spend your Christmas?

Christmas Eve!!!.... Wow! Already? Christmas snuck up on me so quickly and silently this year. But ready or not (and ready, we'll be), it'll erupt our morning in less than 16 hours. And it'll be gone before we'll want it to be. How very quickly it comes... and how very fast it travels!

I find myself in a different place this Christmas from all the years past. My days of being enthralled with the beauty and decor of the season perhaps have left? Or rather, it's not the same as it has been. I see beauty a bit differently. At least for this year.

You cannot even begin to know how I used to light up my home. Every nook and cranny had festivities (ornaments! lights!) of some sort or some kind hanging or poked into its corner or ceiling. I have collected Santas since we've been married, so I have a whole attic full that I failed to bring down this year. My days readying for the moment have been too full..... and wonderfully less self-centered than any year prior to our this one. I've learned that when you're wrapped up in self that you mostly don't realize you are. I don't know that you mean to be. It's just that your eyes have failed to look up and look further out to take time to see any others that aren't in your immediate world. You don't mean not to notice them, you just don't.

The pictures above are pictures of our trees in past seasons. We usually get them 15 to 18 feet tall. Beautiful trees, for sure! And I must say that I have taken great pleasure in each one of them.

This year's tree is a little bit smaller :) Tiny to be exact. Literally less than two hands high in measurement (I know. I measured it!). It may be small, it may be teeny, but it couldn't be more perfect. In years past I've always bought real ones, we've never conformed to the artificial, and always huge and flocked, paying way too much for them. That being so, and feeling too guilty this year to invest in such cost for a frivolous moment, we pulled a small tree out that we used to sit on a table. We had to place it on a small child's rocking chair in order to help it appear taller and bigger. :) My youngest daughter decorated it for us. She didn't work too hard, but she did a good job!

We did buy a tree this year (a 7 footer), but didn't keep it. We loaded it up to take to a girl that was recently released from prison. She's hoping to have her little 10 year old boy in time for Santa! The tree is decorated with donated lights and ornaments from people with very kind hearts. There have been a whole army of hands trying to ready her apartment from its emptiness to ready for her son. How priceless is that to end our 2010 year with? It's been such fun! So exciting! Such a pleasure! She told me, "It's full and it's beautiful!"

And it is!

Here is the picture she sent me:
Seeing her tree made me want to cry. It represents more than anyone can know. It's not only a gift from our family to hers, but it's a gift from my Father to me!

Back to finding myself in a different season. I am in the midst of a different world than I have ever found myself in. I am recently usually either in the prisons with the incarcerated or with those that have recently gotten out that mostly find themselves left with nothing. Or. I am with the homeless, who don't even have a place of covering to lay their heads, that are grateful for whatever it is that you'll give them and also very thankful for the time you'll spend.

I went to Taco Bell the other day with my youngest daughter and her friend. We had just picked up a man from the Salvation Army that had been homeless for 8 months and put him on a bus to see his mom (that he hasn't seen since he was 13... he's now 47) in California. From there we went to the Thrift Store to buy some things for another lady. Then, we went to the drive-thru at Wendy's to get another daughter some fast food. Wildly, I kept thinking and feeling guilty for the money we had just spent at the two fast food restaurants. I kept thinking of how far the homeless could extend that money to go for used shoes or shirts or food or blankets. I am more conscious of and spend more carefully than I used to. I'm so ashamed of how I used to spend.

I want to give more than I want to get. And I want to invest into the lives of others, not just my own or my loved ones who already have so much. I keep thinking and keep wondering where it is that I am spending my life? How am I spending my Christmas? Where am I spending my years?
Ah, the stories I could tell.... I am so thankful for my Lord!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

His Word that's sent is sent to "do"

Wow! I cried all the way home from church (not that its very far, but nevertheless, I cried the whole way of it). Then, I let my dog outside in my backyard (as soon as I walked through the front door I walked out the back) and cried more with my LORD out there under those stars... in total awe of Him....

....because just as He spoke, just as "the word came" to man all those years ago... it STILL COMES. He STILL speaks(!) Just as He did then, He still does so now..... He still sends forth His Word (to accomplish the purpose for which He sent it!), and it still does (exactly what it was sent forth to do!).

I am awed at His voice! I'm amazed at the wonder of Him. He blows my mind. I want to know Him, and hear the words that He has sent forth to me to say. My heart feels just as Samuel answered Him when Samuel finally realized and knew that it was the LORD Himself that was calling his name,... I want to say to the LORD as he said to Him: "Speak, for Your servant is listening."

I want His Word that He has sent forth and spoke so specifically to me, as He this time called my name, to accomplish the work that it was sent forth to do. God told Samuel when He called his name: "And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something...."" And that's it, that's why He called..... and that's the very reason He always calls... He calls to "do something!".... Every time! Every time(!), every time(!), every time(!), every time(!), every time(!) that He calls, He calls, because He's "about to do something!"

That's what it's all about! His Word "doing!" His Word doing something! His Word sent forth to accomplish it's purpose! His Word sent forth to do His will. His Word is alive and active.... and His Word "does!"

Wow!!! ... He's just so wow!!!

Today I was tired-er than tired! I don't know that I've ever felt so bad from being so tired. I felt dizzy, I felt drunk, I felt horrible. I went to bed sometime after 6 this morning, and Boo got me up @ 10. I fully intended to lay back down, because I felt so wretched, sick even... but I started studying and never did lay back down again. I studied one chapter, but had plans on teaching another. I don't know what in the world I was thinking... I was just so into what I was studying. The time went faster than I would have liked, it was soon time to pick the kids up, but before I left I went ahead and printed out the chapter, but still had yet to put the first thing down on paper for our handout. I felt so bad between the hours of picking up kids and the hour for church to start that I seriously thought the whole time that I would not be able to make it for lack of being able to function for it. I was just feeling so sick. Anyway, after the kid pick-up I sat at my computer with my chapter in hand and begin to type questions that we would use for our night. I wasn't thrilled at all with our lesson. I was even less thrilled with what I put on paper.......

............. but after all, it's HIS Word. His Breath. His fire. His Son! - for "in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God!".... He's fully able to make it breathe and feed... for it's "alive and active." And whoa, was His message full of Splendor and Glory tonight!!!! I'm so amazed at Him!!!! Spoke to me He did; and I needed speaking to! I saw a class, too, of little ears turned to hear, and eyes seeking to see, I saw hearts being moved... His lesson (what first did not thrill me) thrilled!!!!

I didn't know tonight's message until He spoke it to me there. I had no idea. You would think I had nothing to do with the planning of it (and I grin as I say that, because I didN'T!).

I got in the car to come home. I told you that I cried with Him there. Usually I have someone riding with me. Tonight I did not. I didn't need to, I needed to speak with Him Alone. And as I talked with Him the verse that talks about "a hope for which we are called" came into my mind. I thought: We're called to a hope! We're called to a hope! We are called.... to a hope! What's the "hope" that I've been called for? What's the "hope" to which I've been "called to"? "The Word" in my care that was sent to me, to "which I was called" as it came forth to accomplish its purpose?

1 Samuel 3 tells us that, "The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of His words fall to the ground."

Do I hold onto each word spoken to me, sent forth directly to me, and keep them from falling to the ground? As the Word is compared to the Sower and His Seed, how am I doing with His Seed? Do I shush the birds away as Satan tries to steal it? Do I feel the thrill of it's joy when I first hear what He's spoken to me, but then let it die in a short while because it had no root to grow? When "trouble or persecution" comes, am I guilty of doing opposite of what Samuel did and let His Words fall to the ground? Do I ignore the things that are put there to distract me (worries, desires, worldly stuff) or do I fall for their distraction? Can I say that I really: "hear the Word"... and "accept it"(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) while it produces its crop (30, 60, or even a 100 fold)?

How am I doing with His Word?? How am I doing with the Seed that He's given me? How am I doing with the "hope" to which I was called.

I had to look up that verse when I got home, the one about the "hope to which you were called." I didn't have it quoted just right for the versions that I usually use, so I'm not sure if I've got it mis-quoted some or couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. But it's meaning to me sent me on a treasure hunt. For I felt (after Him saying some of the things that He said in class tonight), that we've each been "called" for a specific thing; we each have our "word" that He's called us "for" and "to" to accomplish the thing that He's about to "do." ["And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something...."" - 1 Sam 3:11]. After finding the verses in Ephesians 4, I saw them differently than I've ever seen them before. It was so huge, and too huge to attempt and to try to write here. I'm just blown away with God & His whole everything!!! I'm just 'wowed' beyond words...... And I guess I just wanted to sing to someone and give Him praise tonight, for all the wonderful things that He does do!

Again I shall quote what He said, He said: " Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out....." [1 Sam. 3:11,12]. I absolutely LOVE those words!!! "See, I am about to do something!!!!!", He said! "See".... I'm about "to do something!".... I'm about to do something that "will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle! At that time I will carry out (dot, dot, dot).................." He sends forth His Word... He tells what His Word will do, His Word tells of it's accomplishment, He sends it forth as He speaks it to the one that will hear... it's sent "to do" His "something" that He's sent it to do. He sends forth His Word... then, when the time comes for His Word to accomplish its Work. then, "at that time [He] will carry [it] out!" He's just so HUGE!

I don't know if all this makes sense, but if able I could write volumes more... but on top of it just being too big of a God-thing to write, I'm incredibly tired... and morning comes early!

night!... i just felt the need to tell of His Glory,
His Light doth Shine!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I sobbed all the way home

I had had the best night! I had had the best day anticipating the night that was to come! But then, when in the moment.... it went better than I had even anticipated.

It wasn't anything new. It wasn't anything unexpected. It was my usual. It was what I now do every Monday night and Wednesday afternoon. But still... the moments get sweeter. What can I say? I LOVE my Princess-Warriors-in-Human-Disguise group of girls! I love our time together!

We have just finished studying the book of John. One inmate kept asking me if I were cold. I'd tell her "No," because I wasn't. But she'd ask again, telling me that she knew that I was, because I was shaking. I laughed when she said it. She's right. I was shaking. "But," I told her, "it's not because I'm cold" (though it WAS cold outside!), "it's because I am so excited to be here! Can't ya'll tell?" I knew that it was that obvious! 

They all burst out laughing at my statement. Yes, they could tell! I had missed our last Monday night's meeting together last week, because my son had a Football Banquet, so it had been two weeks since I'd seen them. I had been excited all day. I was grinning all the way there just thinking of them. I don't have to tell them (though I do!) that I love them. My love for them shows loud in my actions without even trying to. I know they can feel it. And I know that they love me too. It's a priceless time together!

Bless their hearts, I talked ninety to nothing. They shared a lot also. We are all growing more and  more and more enarmored with our Lord. I think every girl (me included!) in there longs to be more like our Savior. Knowing that God has a plan and a purpose. Knowing that we are His servants. Knowing that we are His skins that He lives in. And knowing that He wants to serve others through them.

Princess Warriors in Human Disguise.... because as His children we really are princesses! Warriors of His, because we are in a spiritual battle. We ARE princess warriors, yet still disguised in these skins. Human disguises until Heaven. If only we could see us as our Father does! If only we could see us as we truly are in His Kingdom as we are about His Kingdom's business.

We meet for two hours, but could have easily have met for two hours more. We weren't finished when it was time to leave. There was so much to share and be said in the short time that we are allotted. At the very end I reminded them a little of what I had written in the earlier post. That they are not just put there for what they've done, but God has them there still for what He wants them to do! I love their eagerness. I love their attention, their focus, their deep-thought in the things that we share. I reminded them that we don't need to only keep lifting up the already uplifted, that we don't only need to continue to encourage the already encouraged, that we don't need to only continue to teach those that have already been taught, that we don't need to continue to feed the already fed..... but that we need to have eyes to see the blinded to help them to see, the deaf to help them to hear, the lame to help them to walk, the robbed and beaten and left for dead man to help them to heal, even the evil that doesn't know Jesus and show them good. Jesus didn't come to heal the well. It is the sick that we are left here to help.

Why did I cry?

I was soaring from our night when I got in my car to come home. I almost always drive the whole 45 minutes back in silence. No radio. No cell phone. Either completely silent in awe and grinning. Or praying, thanking God for His GOoDness and His wonder and them and His Word.

I got in the car thanking Him. Praying for them. Thanking God for the opportunity. Thanking Him for opening the door for me to go in there. Thanking Him for how well the night went. Thanking Him for what all He teaches us. And telling Him how much I loved them. I didn't even get out of the prison's parking lot before I bursted out crying. Tears and the bursting heart that spilled them shut my mouth into silence. I just shook my head. I held my breath and widened my eyes trying to stop the spilling. Awed with them and my Savior. A silent still. But knowing, too, that sometimes silence speaks louder than words ever will.

When I got my voice back, I tried to tell God how awed I was. I prayed for those girls and their hearts. I prayed that He would protect them, grow them, mature them, captivate them. I prayed that as they went back to their bunks to lay on their beds that their minds would still be thinking of Him. That they would be praying to Him. That they would be asking Him what they needed to do? Who to reach out to? That they would be too filled with Him to have room to be blue.

I asked God to help them to bask in Him this Christmas Season. I asked Him to let them be so focused on His Son and what He had done that they had no room to mourn with sadness having to spend their Christmas behind bars again instead of at home with their loved ones. I asked Him to let their thankfulness be so full that others couldn't help but see it. I asked that they would be such a blessing this year, that they in turn would feel blessed beyond reason. I asked that their joy be full and that it could not help but bleed out onto others. I asked that instead of sadness for what they didn't have, that they were overwhelmed with gladness for what they did! Him! And in what our Savior has done! I asked that they could see and appreciate Jesus this year more than any year ever before. That really, that their joy, their gladness, their awe, their hearts, their thank-full-ness was FULL! Full to over the brim and running over! So that others would see! So that others could be touched! So that others could wonder what they had that held them and captivated them with wonder despite the prison they were held in!

I so very much love them, Lord! Oh Lord, please let them show Jesus!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All I want for Christmas....

I am continually being haunted by something I've read...

It is found in David Platt's book Radical. A friend sent my oldest daughter the book to read several months ago. The particular haunting words that I am referring to start at the very bottom of the 15th page. It talks about two headline articles that the writter saw sitting side-by-side placed in a Christian publication several years ago. The left side headline read, "First Baptist Church Celebrates $23 Million Building," with a lengthy article describing the churches extravagance in vivid detail. On the right was a much smaller article. It's headline read, "Baptist Relief Helps Sudanese Refugees." The article talked about how more than 350,000 refugees in western Sudan were suffering and dying of malnutrition. The article described how the Baptist had raised money to send to help them. The amount that they raised (keep in mind the $23 million just mentioned) was $5,000.00!

The book goes on to contrast the twenty-three million dollars for an elaborate sanctuary and the five thousand dollars for hundreds of thousands of starving men, women, and children, most of whom were dying apart from their faith in Christ. It doesn't take a genius to see that something is badly wrong with that picture. Sadly, most can easily see this. But then, the bulk of that "most" will still be blinded to being guilty of doing the same thing in their own lives.

As I type this, tis the Christmas Season. And I keep wondering how much we'll spend on ourselves and on our own friends and families that (in comparison to the world) really don't need it? Then, I wonder about how much we'll spend on the feast that we'll feed ourselves and stuff our already full and stuffed bellies? Some might help the poor and the forgotten. But most won't. Yet even with those that do... in comparison... will they spend $23 million on themselves and only $5,000 to go toward the 350,000? Will you spend hundreds (maybe thousands) on your own families (that really don't need it) this year, but only give 25 dollars (if you give any at all) to give toward all of the homeless and hungry?

My daughter was telling me about a friend of hers. She said that she couldn't think of what she wanted for Christmas. She (like a lot of us that can read this do) has so much, that she had to browse through catalogs, stores, and websites looking for something that piqued her I-want-that in order to even find something to ask for from her mother.

All of this was weighing on my mind as I was driving to the prison for Bible study the other night. I know that they don't have money to buy loved ones gifts, but this still applies to the moneyless. I wondered:
  • Are we only being discipled and neglectig the non-discipled?
  • Are we being fed and continuing to fill up, but failing to feed the hungry?
We're not given to just hoard and store in our barns, but how guilty are we of doing it?

We are:
  • blessed to bless.
  • given to give.
  • told to tell.
  • taught to teach.
  • shown to show.
  • fed to feed.
I wanted to ask them: Do you think that you are only put here because of what you've done? What if you lived thinking more deeply and with the knowing, that you are not just put here because of what you've done... but you've also been placed and kept here for what God wants you to do? I asked them, do you sit here on these designated nights feasting on God's word without ever leaving this classroom to feed and share with another what you have heard? Are we not being taught and discipled in order to turn and disciple all the non-discipled? Do we only stuff ourselves with more of the word and share the word with another that already knows Him? Do we only encourage the "well" and overlook the "sick" without ever introducing them to The Great Physician in hopes that He'll heal them?

I have scheduled my husband to speak in the men's prison on Monday. He's been hem-hawing about it... whining a bit... complaining some.... and wondering if he should take off to do it (I am scheduled to go in if he can't). I was talking to him some of all I've been writing here, and I asked him: Do you think you'll be fed at church on Sunday just to hoard in your barns (of knowledge) and keep for yourself? Or rather, do you not think you will be fed on Sunday in order to go feed the hungry (those in prison) on Monday morning? (Okay. So I was jokingly trying to guilt-trip him.)

What do we do with what we've been given? Whether money or food or manna of God's word or any other kind of blessing? Do we only keep what we've been given for ourselves, or do we turn to give to another who has been less fortunate?

I've spent part of my day today Christmas shopping. My mother-in-law gives me a check for $500 each year to do our shopping for her. There are five in my family, she gives me a hundred dollars a piece for each of us. Thus far, for me for my Christmas, I've purchased 20 wool blankets, a bulk of tarps, and have yet to get backpacks and other items to fill them. We're heading to the homeless next week to give out as many backpacks full of things for them that would be helpful. I think that this will be my best Christmas ever (it's just the beginning)! For this year, my gifts won't be all for self, but for some of those that wish they had, but they didn't. Tim told me a minute ago that he wants to do the same as I've done. So, wow, because of his kindness, we'll get to double all that and do twice as much as I'd planned to. I'm so excited that I can hardly stand it! I am not writing this here to brag and boast about what we're doing, but to perhaps provoke and move another heart to think differently, too, during this Christmas season.

Again, back to the contrast of the example of the $23,000,000.00 opposed to the $5,000.00.... let me ask this again: Do we continue to.... feed the already fed? to bless the already blessed? to uplift the already uplifted? to give sight to the already seeing? to give life to the already living?.... Or, do we look to feed the starving? to bless those that are without and less fortunate? to uplift the downcasted and down-trodden? to give sight to the blind and the unseeing? to speak life into the spiritual dying?

What will you do with what you have, with what you've been blessed with, with what you've been given? Will you help the already helped? Or look to help someone who isn't? Will you continue to give more to all those that have? Or start to give more to all those that haven't?....    

I ran across this interesting site today while shopping for the homeless. Click here: Backpacks for the Homeless/How It Works if you're interested in doing something similar in your community.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I spent my day with Maria

I spent my day with Maria. A recently released inmate (5 days ago), and a darling of a girl.

I got an email telling me about her two days ago. Along with my introduction, I was given a list of her needs. Let's just say, the list showed me that she had nothing. I've been on the phone and emailing people for two days trying to organize some help for her. Several kind men donated $100 each to go toward her utilities and deposits. I found a resource for her for free furniture which he kindly delivered to her newly rented empty and very naked apartment this morning. I drove up as he drove out and whisked her away to all sorts of places before she even had time to arrange what he'd delivered. We went by the gas company, the power company, and the water company. She had been living in the apartment sleeping in the cold in a sleeping bag. Her electricity was finally turned on, but we will still have to go back and handle the gas issues on Monday. She is now using the burners on her stove for her heating. And only today did she get her water turned on. She's been flushing her toilet hauling water in 5 gallon jugs from a friend not so far from her for the 5 days that she's been there. She still lacks a refrigerator, a frame for her bed, sheets for her new mattresses, a washer and dryer, pots and pans, dishes and utensils to eat with. Plus, so much more! So many of the things that we have that we often take for granted.

We went by a Caring Center for clothes and food, but they close early (at noon on Fridays) so we were told to try back next week on both Monday and Wednesday. Monday for the clothes. And Wednesday for the foodbank. "We open the foodbank up on Wednesday's at 9," we were told, "but you'll need to get here early. I get here by 7 or 7:30 and there is always a line already formed outside the door when I walk in."

After going to a couple of places after there for this thing or that it was after lunch and our stomach's were growling. I asked her if she was hungry. Smiling she said that she was. When she hesitated to say where after I had asked her where she'd like to go to eat, I reminded her that yesterday was her birthday... though a day late, today I'd like to splurge and treat you to celebrate it. We went to Martin's. They serve the best homecooked meals with HUGE portions. One meat with three sides. Our plates were heaped high and we started eating. After a little while she looked at me timidly and apologized for still eating with her spoon. "I've not quite gotten accustomed back to the fork again, I find that I stab myself when trying to eat with it." She showed me the fork and the spoon. "See. The fork is a lot longer. I've been eating with a spoon for too long."

"They won't let you eat with forks in prison?" I asked. To which she shook her head no. "I guess that makes sense, you know. I wouldn't want the wrong person to get a hold of one in a bad mood."

I loved that we could talk so openly and honestly. I asked her lots of questions about prison. There was nothing it seemed that she minded telling me. There wasn't a morsel of food left on her plate when finished, but that didn't stop us from ordering desserts. My goodness it was good! We both opted for coconut pie...the biggest slices that I've ever seen! with meringue the height of a standing finger! They almost had to roll us out of the place upon leaving.

By this time it was almost time for school to be out and I had to go pick up my daughter. I took her back to her apartment with her thanking me the entire way. When turning into her drive she told me that my vehicle (a red Dodge Durango) doesn't fit in her neighborhood. She told me to be careful, because though I might not know it, I was definitely being watched and noticed. She told me too, not only does your vehicle not fit here, but you don't either. She warned me to be cautious on my way out, because people can gang up and start something that you wouldn't want to happen.

I told her I wasn't afraid and didn't feel intimidated or threathened and that I felt that they could read that. I drove off feeling sad that she felt she had to apologize for the only neighborhood she could find to live in that she could afford to pay for. Even empty and naked it was a place over her head and in all of the hours that we spent togethet not one time do I ever recall her complaining. She talked about God and how good He is and she praised Him for all that He's done for her. She didn't complain about the cold (it was in the 20s last night!), nor having no water to even flush her toilet, or about any of the things that she didn't have... she was simply overwhelmingly grateful for all that she did! 

I posted a blog once about the "Get Out Of Jail Free" card stating that sometimes getting out of jail wasn't free, at all. This time it is! It was! Today I watched Maria soar in her freedom. With Jesus Christ (no matter your situation or circumstances), if you chose to, you always can! Maria may have had a naked and empty apartment with hardly any clothes and no coat to put on; but even in her emptiness, because of our Savior she was full and free and joy~full! The joy of the Lord really IS our strength! And we can do ALL things with Christ who strengthens us!

Lord, thank You today, for blessing me in mighty ways through the precious vessel of Maria's. You look good in her! And it made me want to even be more and more like Your Son, Jesus!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A dream.... Looking like Jesus

I had a dream several years ago that made such an impression on me that it stuck and stays with me still. I can't seem to quit thinking about it. In my dream were lots of people, and every single Christian in my dream looked exactly like the picture of how we've seen Jesus so often painted to look. Basically, once you were a born again Christian, your outward appearance immediately changed to look like exactly Him (or at least the way that Jesus is colored and pictured in all of the pictures that we see Him in). Everyone still knew who you were.... because (though your outside looked like Jesus) you still had the same mannerisms, the same characteristics. You still walked the same and talked the same. You were still called by your same name. Everyone still knew who everyone else was. You had the same likes and dislikes, went to the same places, etc. You were still the very same you, you just looked exactly like that icon that we've always seen Jesus painted to look. Every Christian on the outside looked exactly like Jesus.

The very first Christian that I saw stood there (like I said, looking just like Jesus) and as he was talking to me he was smoking a cigarette (yes, it seemed the craziest look!)...... He kept talking and smoked while he did, until all of the sudden he realized what he was doing and he couldn't in all good consciousness stand there looking like Jesus while puffing on the little white stick that he held. I saw it on his face. And though he never said a word about it I knew what he was thinking. I watched him take his last drag and then slowly put his cigarette down. I knew that he'd never have want to ever even pick it back up again. Next, I saw another Christian drinking his alcohol. He was staggering while swigging on his drink. After watching him for a few minutes he all of the sudden stopped too. I watched that look that knew fall across his face as it had on the one I had seen before him. And so, he too did the same thing, he laid his bottle down. and I knew he'd never go back to it. Because, neither of them could feel comfortable looking like Jesus (wearing His skin, wearing His name, pictured completely to look exactly like Him) and stand there perfectly happy still doing their sin.

It went on and on and on through so many people in all kinds of sins (the gossiper, the embittered, the one that raged with hate, the one who's just mean, the one who refused to forgive, the adulterer, the thief, the pornographer, the liar, the.... etc.); it was the most incredible thing. I loved it. For no one could keep doing their sin while wearing their new look in Christ Jesus. It wasn't right. It conflicted, it clashed, it contradicted,.... and in the end the old couldn't be meshed with the new. One look had to go, and the new look was the one that was greater desired by every man that I saw E-V-E-R-Y time! The look of Christ Jesus set the older man free. It was filled with love and kindness and a purity that shone with the Light of God's Glory..... leaving no room (nor want) for the darkness that it once sought after and desired til it chained and held you captive to then steal and kill and destroy you. The total look of Jesus totally set each man free! It totally liberated him. And I woke up thinking: Wow, if only we saw ourselves pictured as we really are, wonder what all we'd be anxious to change?

I want to truly follow Jesus.... walk in His footsteps, talk words that only He would say, do things that only He would do, live as we're taught by Him to... and put EVERYTHING else aside!

(Please forgive the sacrilegious picture I posted above of Jesus with a cigarette in His hand. I was appalled when I first ran across this picture after having dreamt the dream that I did. But to give you a visual of kind of how I dreamed what I did (probably against my better judgment) I went ahead and posted it here. Forgive me if it offends.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sent on a mission

I've been reading in 1 Samuel 15 where God tells King Saul to go and attack the Amalekites, because they had ambushed the Israelites on their way to the Promise Land when coming from Egypt years ago (Exo 17:8-15). God told King Saul to "utterly destroy all that they have and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."  So, Saul did attack the Amalekites. But instead of doing just as God had said, he spared the king (King Agag) and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good.... saying later to Samuel that he spared them in order to sacrifice them to the Lord.

Because of Saul's disobedience, God was greatly upset. His exact words were, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." (1 Sam 15:11, emphasis mine)

Wow! Can you imagine God saying that about you? That He "greatly regrets".... setting you up in the place where He's set you?

That you have turned your back from following Him?

That you have not performed His commandments as He's told you to do?

A few verses later Saul tells Samuel that he did this "because I feared the people and obeyed their voice," rather than the voice of God and what He had said to him.

I am not exactly sure if that is why Saul did this or not, or if he were pointing a finger and laying the blame upon someone else. Either way, he disobeyed. And to fear and obey the voice of man over our God's voice is something to take note of! We need to take heed and ask ourselves if we have been guilty, too, of doing the same... of fearing man and submitting to him rather than what we've been told by our God that has saved us?

Samuel goes to King Saul to tell him what God had said to Samuel about what Saul had done. Samuel says, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, "Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed. Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?" (1 Sam 15:17-19, emphasis mine.)

Wow (again)! "The LORD sent you on a mission".... "Why then did you not obey" Him?

I've thought a lot about that verse since I've read it. Wondering what "mission" that has God sent me on? What place has He "set me up" in? What has He told me to do? And have "I" obeyed the voice of the Lord? Or have I rebelled in the mission He sent me for? Does God "regret" the place that He's put me?

The KJV words it this way, "The LORD sent thee on a journey and said... Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD...?"

The Lord sent you on a mission..... The Lord sent thee on a journey.... on a road, on a path, in a manner, in a way, in a direction, He sent you toward something, on a course................ but you quit following Him, you quit the direction, the manner, the course, the road, the path, the plan that He sent you on.

As God's people, we are all called to a purpose. All put here for a plan. All set up in the place that God wants us. All sent by our God on His mission.

Are we obeying the voice of the LORD and doing as He's told and wills us?

I want to fulfill what He wills! I don't ever want God to regret the place that He's set me up in... nor say that I've failed in the mission to which He has sent me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Do not pass me by"

I’ve been praying a lot lately for God to pour HIS love into me. To fill me so full to overflowing, that I might pour it out and into others.  It’s my constant plea.  I say it to Him over and over and over again in my prayers!  I want it! I want it! I want it!

I know that I can’t love the way I need to love with my love and not His.  I need God’s love to love like Him!  He has to give it to me and fill me with it.  He IS Love. He is the source for Love.  He is the fountain of Love. I am asking Him for a filling, so that I can fill!

I ask Him, too, to open my eyes to see, to open my ears to hear, to see and hear the one in need! Make my heart to ache, and with an ache so strong inside that it’s pulled to ‘do’ - to help the one who needs helping! To tend to the one who cries! Even if his tears are shed by meanness and hatred or ugly words or a flipped finger! I ask Jesus to give me a heart, HIS heart(!), a heart that stops to help the man robbed and left on the side of the road for dead.  I ask Him constantly lately:  “make me a Good Samaritan, Lord! Make me into one! Don’t let me pass them by! On my way to study … on my way to hear ‘a word’ from You – a desperately wanted and needed and desired word! – still then, especially then, don’t let me pass him by!

I think of the song:  “Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry.  While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by.”

I’ve sang the words of the song myself to Him with the urgency inside my soul pleading its every word! He knows the plea I have in the words to that song that I sing! I mean every word when I sing it! I pray it! “But, now, dare not let me, Lord, pass on by the one that is praying those words that I come to in the path of my journey – that one in the midst of my road that’s looking for a Savior to save them – and You sending me ‘by’ to see them – my “calling” at the moment being to help them!  Do NOT let me pass by them by!

Horrors at the times that I have been blind and have been guilty!