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God’s Girls Warrior Princess Party!

Princess Di

I don’t know about you, but I love parties – food, fun, & fellowship – I’m all about it.  The crazier the theme, the greater the fun!  Because I like to celebrate so much, I don’t wait for a reason to party to fall into my proverbial lap.  Instead, I put my genius to the test and create one.

That’s actually the easiest part.  Most of us can think of at least one reason to party:  Somebody is getting married.  Having a baby or a 50th Wedding Anniversary.  There are many, many reasons to whoop it up.  Some of you are well-versed in these.  First-times are great reasons to party-hearty. First birthday, first tooth, first haircut. Then there are traditional celebrations such as birthdays, dedications, graduations, and coming of age.  But surely there are more good reasons to celebrate.  And a seemingly infinite way to celebrate each one.

I’ve celebrated some crazy things in my life, like the twinkling of sunlight on the morning dew or a new haircut.  I’ve celebrated not getting my hair cut.  Ma and I make merry on grocery shopping day.  I’ve even celebrated when my kitty peed on the waterproof pad instead of the chair.

Sometimes I celebrate clearing off my desk or cleaning the house.  I always celebrate a new purse, clothes that fit, and a day away from home.  No matter what I’m celebrating, hands down, the best celebration is with family and friends.  Food, fun, and fellowship.

More than anything else, we have the greatest reason of all to party:  Jesus.  Remember that song?  “Celebrate Jesus! Celebrate!  He is risen.  He is risen.  And He lives forevermore.”

So here’s a reason to party:  The first day of a new Bible study.  Oh yeah!  What a great tradition of celebration!  Next week we are going to party, party, party.  We shall be studying the book of Ephesians in the New Testament.  God has so much to reveal to us!  It is going to be a great study.

And what’s a party without a playful theme?  We’re having a God’s Girls Warrior Princess Party.  Oh yeah.  You read it right.  I’m making the coolest Jesus princess hats (or should I say, helmets), swords, and shields.  Not too sure where to find a couple of mighty steeds (my budget is zero), but I do have several old broomsticks and a bit of yarn.  Then again, folks might think we’re playing witches and that won’t do.  Any ideas?

Groucho Mama

Swords and shields.  Hmmm.  Better buy some aluminum foil.  Need cardboard too.  No palm tree this time around.  Perhaps a jungle vine.

I’m torn between wearing a ball gown (with my waistline, that’s probably a very bad idea) or dressing in some kind of an all-black panther-like outfit. Maybe with a colorful toga over it. What does a princess wear under her warrior gear?  What do you think?

No, I do not make everybody else dress up!  Fortunately, I recognize that it is possible to party without all the accoutrements.  Dignity aside, dressing the part is like a visual portrait of the Bible message.  And it’s just plain fun.  After all, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Okay, that was slightly out of context.  How about this:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4, 5).  How’s that for a reason to celebrate?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in Adventures in Christ

 

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Out With Old, In With The New Year Goals

Just before the close of each year, I like to spend a little time reviewing it according to the vision, goals, and objectives set the previous January.  This year, I’m happy to report that I met most of my goals.  There are several reasons for my success.  First of all, I tossed out the whole idea of new year resolutions a long time ago.  Surely I understand by now that there is nothing worthwhile I can accomplish in my own power, no matter how sincerely I may resolve to do so, yet, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).  God empowers us to do His will, therefore the place at which to begin is with God himself.  With that in mind, I changed my entire approach:

  1. I spent time with God in prayer and petition, seeking His will;
  2. I formed goals based on the principles of His Word, not on a self-centered wish-list or worldly idea of perfection;
  3. I refrained from merely creating a depressing list of my faults, and
  4. I focused on goals and measurable objectives that were challenging, but not impossible.

The question to ask before committing your goals to paper is not, “What do I want?”, but, “What do You want?”  I found that by putting God first, the goals He set were not burdensome.  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29:30, NIV).  This can also be summarized by Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

Unsure how to recognize God’s voice?  Make your goal this coming year to know Him better.  The more intimately acquainted you are with God, the better you will discern between His voice and your own or that of the enemy.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4).

Keep in mind that the spiritual maturing process won’t be over any time soon: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).  Develop goals that you are actually able to meet in a single year.  Instead of saying you’ll lose 50 pounds and never eat cake again, why don’t you start with something a bit more realistic, like asking God to use this year to help you understand what is behind your overeating and under-exercising.

Finally, focus on the growth God wants to bring about.  Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” This is because you are asking according to His will, not your own.  More than that, it is because in offering yourself fully to God as a living sacrifice your mind is renewed.  You – and your will – are transformed (Romans 12:1-2) into the image of Christ.  Remain watchful, therefore, for your answer will come … in God’s timing, according to His ways.  After all, whom do you really desire to be the lord of your life – yourself or God?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:19-21).

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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On Galatians 5:6b

The only thing that pleases,

the only thing that matters,

whatsoever you find yourself doing in life and each day,

do it in His strength,

do it through His love,

do it in His grace alone

through faith

based on Christ’s blood

for it is written,

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”  Galatians 5:6b).

 

 

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How Sweet Is Your Fruit?

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with one another, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.’

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”  (Galatians 5:16-25, NIV).

The fruit of spiritual growth is fullness, the completeness of Christ’s image stamped upon our inmost being. It is spiritual maturity, from the inside out, so that others may see Christ glorified.  It begins when we first believe and receive Christ as our Savior and Lord, and it continues throughout our life all the way to its ripening on the day of Christ Jesus.  And this we can trust to be for our highest good.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

The spiritual growth process is incomplete this side of eternity because it involves a daily dying to self.  It is not a one-time deal in which we hand our hearts over to God and then everything’s hunky-dory.  I remember those first couple of days after I was saved.  I thought to myself, “Great!  My life is like a blank slate now.  I can start afresh.  In fact, I’ll never sin again!”  Well, of course, before the week was out, I’d sinned.  Being born again may be a one-time instance, but maturing in our faith is a lifelong process and never easy.  It is a daily struggle to hand over our will and our way to God, for He will do with it as He pleases.  Selah.

This letting go and letting God is the very heart and challenge of the Christian walk.  It is not about what He can do for us, but what He will do in us and through us.  This is what it means to be Christ-centered. It means we give up our very selves to God who promises to change us into something we, on our own, can never be, that is, the image and likeness of Jesus Christ:

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Are these fruits in abundance throughout your daily life?  How sweet is your fruit?

Sometimes I feel I’ll never mature.  I find myself struggling with the same issues again and again.  It’s a good thing faith is not a feeling, because the truth is that while I may tire and grow discouraged at times, the Holy Spirit does not.  He is ever at home in my heart, transforming and perfecting me according to God’s plan.

The process of spiritual maturity is like hiking.  Being born again is liking starting at the trailhead while being on the mountaintop at the same time.  It’s a case of the now and the not yet.  Your sins are forgiven and when God looks at you, He sees Christ.  It’s so exciting!  And yet you are a baby Christian, with a long growth and development process ahead of you.  You have to learn to sit up, crawl, stand, and then walk.

You take your first steps up the trail.  As you put one foot in front of the other, you begin to realize it is a long, long way to the top.  Your backpack is heavy and the trail is so steep and hard.  You wonder what on God’s green earth you’ve gotten yourself into.  Anxiety strikes and your breath comes faster and harder.  You worry that you’ll never make it to the first rest-stop, much less the mountaintop!  Yet only a short time later, the uphill climb doesn’t seem quite as rough.  You make it to that first rest-stop, albeit huffing and puffing, but you make it.  After a while you get up and start hiking again.  The backpack doesn’t seem so extraordinarily heavy; the trail not so steep.  Thereafter, every leg of the journey is a little easier even though you’re sweating and breathing hard.  You start to notice some interesting flora and fauna around you.  Once in a while you find a low view to appreciate.  Pretty soon you don’t even need to sit down to rest; you just stand for a few minutes leaning on the top of your staff with the pack, now quite manageable, on your back.  The hike is not easy by any means, but you are stronger than before.  Steeper climbs, scree slopes, and icy waterfalls take greater energy, balance, and care, but you’ve found the rhythm of the hike and the knowledge that you are closer to the top spurs you on.  Eventually, through twists and turns, switchbacks, roots and rocks, you hike your way to the top, above marmots and boulders, where the view and sense of victory are incomparable.  It is worth the struggle.  Later on, when your boots are off and your feet are up, you think back over the hike.  No part of it seemed so difficult than carrying that heavy pack up those first few steps.  Even the miles of trail up and down humpback ridges were easier than those beginning steps.  And no hike is more difficult than the first hike of the season.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).

For those who are born again, God assures us that He will lead us up the mountain to its peak. We may stumble, slip, or fall, but He has us safe in His hands.  We can be certain that God will continue to mold and mature us into the sweet fruit of the image of his Son:

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Megan, Matt, & Me in the High Country, 9/2000

That is like God saying, “You will reach the top.”  You respond, “Throw me the rope”.  Be encouraged.

“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5).

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

 

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Two Souls, One Survivor

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

In this passage in the book of Mark, Jesus addresses His words to everybody present, believers and unbelievers alike.  He describes two kinds of people: those who want to live life according to God’s terms and those who want to live life on their own terms.  There is no neutrality; no middle fence.  A person is either with Him or against Him.  Look at the contrast between the two types:  Those who would live on God’s terms must deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Christ.  They will surely lose their lives through this surrender, but by so doing will end up saving it.  They will lose the world, yet their souls will be saved.  True followers are not ashamed of Jesus Christ or His gospel.  Those who acknowledge Christ will be acknowledged by Him upon His return.

The others, those who want to live life on their own terms,  want to preserve it as such. They are unwilling to surrender to God and instead, reject His terms.  This present world and it’s offerings, however temporal, is their desire.  So they gain the world, but in the end, they will lose their soul.  Why?  It boils down to this:  God is God and He will accept no other place in our lives.  Let everyone understand this:  We will all bow before God; either now willingly, or later, on the judgment day, unwillingly.  In the end, God will give us what we want: we will either enjoy eternity with Him or suffer the torment of eternal separation.  The choice is ours.

Jesus asks, “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” It is a rhetorical question.  The answer is, of course, nothing. Sinful man can never redeem his own soul. God’s requirement for redemption is a perfect sacrifice.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).   Jesus is the only one who lived a perfectly sinless life and as such, became the perfect sacrifice.  He is the only one who could ever save us. We, in turn, can only receive like a child what is given.  It is only by God’s grace, through the faith He gives us, that our lives are redeemed and we become part of God’s family.

Jesus made it clear in these words that the life surrendered to God is not an easy one. Following Jesus means daily self-denial, bearing burdens, and sometimes, great sacrifice.  It is living as God desires, not as we want.  This life is one of bold, courageous love that extends grace and forgiveness without partiality, just as we ourselves received grace from God who loves us all.  Surrendering ourselves to God means exchanging our will for His will.  Instead of the pattern of my life being “all about me,” it becomes all about Him. Sound tough?  Difficult?  Impossible?  You’re right, it is … in our own strength.  We ourselves cannot live holy lives without help.  God sent us a Helper – the Holy Spirit.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Rely on God.

No, it is not easy to follow Christ, and we will stumble many times.  That is where confession, repentance, and faith come in.  It is a daily challenge.  In difficult times, I like to encourage myself to persevere by looking forward to someday hearing these great words of Jesus in Matthew 25:23: “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your Master.”  

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2010 in Adventures in Bible Study

 

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So What Do You Do All Day?

Somebody asked me that very question the other day.  “You don’t work [outside the home].  It’s just you and your mom, yet you’re always so tired.  What do you do all day?”

Hmmm.  What do I do all day?  Let’s see:  

Okay, what else do I do all day?

Picture this:  It’s 8:00 am on a Tuesday and I’m snoring away in the snuggly comfort of my bed while my kitties snooze peacefully beside me.  Downstairs, my mom has already risen and is spreading jelly onto a couple of pieces of bread for herself.  The sun is shining, nary a cloud in the sky; it’s a beautiful day.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

By the time I snort and snark myself awake, Ma has managed to spread jelly not only on the slices of bread, but all over the bread-bag, table, counter, and herself.   She no longer remembers to use a plate nor can she precisely control her hands like she used to. Fortunately for me, since I am the clean-up crew, she has long since forgotten coffee.  Six months or so ago, she made it every morning – with way too much coffee and no filter, if you get my drift.

My Alzheimama

My mom has Alzheimer’s Disease, a disease characterized by memory loss.   Her short-term memory is shot.  On a good day, she can recall simple events or conversations no longer than a minute or two afterward; on a bad day, it is a matter of seconds at best.  She forgets what she’s saying even as she speaks and has difficulty finding the right words. Fortunately, I know my mother well enough that I can usually fill in the blanks. Nowadays, however, her conversation is rather limited since she’s unable to fully formulate a cohesive thought AND express it before her brain short-circuits and shuts down.

Her long-term memory is breaking down as well.  She remembers some things from her childhood, however faulty, but nothing from my childhood.  It’s like she sort of passed us by.  Most of the time she thinks I’m her sister; occasionally she calls me Mom.

Beyond memories, though, Alzheimer’s continues on its destructive path.  One does not just forget events and words and people and memories, but the brain slowly loses the capacity to process information; to think and act accordingly.  My mom can no longer dress herself appropriately.  She puts on two or three shirts over her nightgown, steps into her shoes, and thinks she’s ready for church.  I have to dress and undress her.  She has difficulty even remembering how to take off or put on her clothes.  Too many steps or choices are overwhelming.

Right now my mom is able feed herself although manners are a thing of the past.  She uses a fork and spoon, but isn’t safe with a knife.  Sometimes she eats with her fingers. She talks with her mouth full, which is kind of gross (wanna see a train wreck?).  I serve her soft foods only, with everything cut up ahead of time.  I tell her to drink her milk, take her pills, brush her teeth.  Making jelly bread and pouring herself a glass of water are the only nutritional acts she remembers.  Anything else is too confusing.  She can’t even make a bologna sandwich anymore.  If I did not prepare her meals, she would never eat anything except jelly bread.

Eventually, my mom will no longer be able to walk, talk, feed, bathe, or toilet herself. Those things will become my job.  She will lose all recognition of me, my sisters and brothers, and eventually even herself.  Unless God takes her home sooner rather than later, she will become a kind of human vegetable.

It is my desire to care for my mom at home until the end.  I hope to never need to place her in a nursing home.  Be assured, however, that I am not looking forward to cleaning up poop and pee, vomit and drool on a daily basis.

My Old Man

In fact, I’m pretty well aghast at the idea of bed baths, bed messes, bed changes, or anything else associated with the nasty secretions of a crumbling human body. Yuck!  But I do want my mom to spend her final days and weeks and years in the comfort of our home, safe and sound, with me to watch over her.  I can do this, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit through God’s radical and free-flowing grace toward me.  God always provides what is needed to carry out His will.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Let the reader understand: there is no way on God’s green earth that I ever would have chosen to do what I am doing.  I am no self-sacrificing, gentle, kind, loving thing.  That is only Christ in me.  Let there be no comments like, “What a good daughter you are!”  I am not a good daughter – not on my own, not by myself.  God put this in my heart.  I came kicking and screaming to obedience and it certainly has not been smooth sailing ever since.  But God’s mercies are new every morning.

So this brief telling explains a little of what I do all day.

Christ In Me

It’s been a long, strange trip solely fueled by a daily dying to self through the power of the gospel.  The credit, the glory, belongs to Christ in me.  Amen!  So be it.

And now I ask: What do you do all day?

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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