Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oh, boy! Oh, man!

Excitement is not the word!

What an outpouring of parents of sons who are longing to be led in a prayer journey of praying scripture over our sons!!! 

You are all blessings to me already.  And I know there are still more to come.

Speaking of that, if you do not already know what I am talking about or have not yet decided if you want to participate, let me urge you to consider joining my (our) group in the new 21 Days of Prayer for Sons challengeYou can check out my page about it by CLICKING HERE.

In addition to the info I give you on that page, I would like to also add here a couple of other things about my specific group for this:

  1. I am being a little different in that I am opening this group to not only moms but also to DADS! (Yes, this challenge does lend itself to fathers as much as it does to mothers - you will see.)   As a matter of fact, uncles/aunts, grandparents, anyone who has a heart for sons is welcome to join.
  2. This challenge and group is for parents of sons of ALL AGES (pre-birth to adults). Boyz to Men!  Again, this challenge is so well formatted that any and all ages of sons will benefit from our prayers we will lift on their behalf.
  3. NO perfection is expected here! You will see that if you read THIS POST where I shared my experience of participating in this challenge recently. 
  4. Expect to find yourself praying these prayers for other people in addition to your son(s) - including yourself, your spouse, your daughters, your friends, your other family, and possibly even your enemies!
With that little bit of an intro, I will leave you by saying...STAY TUNED!  More details to come!

In the meantime, feel free to contact me via email at decide2day2live (at) gmail (dot) com with any questions or to let me know you would like to be part of my group.  Also, feel free to share this with whomever is on your heart to invite.

Blessings to you all!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Re-post of For You They Signed by Marilyn Boyer


Really.  That is how I feel as I read this book, For You They Signed: The Spiritual Heritage of Those Who Shaped Our Nation by Marilyn Boyer.

To begin, it is beautiful and has a certain presence about it.  So much so, that my husband saw it on our coffee table and said, "Where did you get that book?  It looks nice there."  Not to mention he is completely intrigued by it and ready to read it after me.

Here's how it looked that day: 

Now, here is how it looked soon after, once reality set in:

And I wouldn't change it for the world!

You see, I kind of like the irony of the fact that our freedom to live and worship and play as we do here in our homeland of America is all symbolically resting on top of our foundation as a nation, the Declaration of Independence...and even moreso is resting on what that declaration was founded on---the Word of God.

Hence, my love for what Marilyn Boyer has done with this book.

In For You They Signed, Boyer creatively weaves a clear picture for us of what was done on our behalf so long ago and why.

As she points out in the introduction, her inspiration and challenge for formulating this book was one question posed to her by fellow American and founder of WallBuilders.com, David Barton.

Can you name more than three signers of the Declaration of Independence?
Can you?

I couldn't before reading this book.  Now, however, I am so entranced by the sacrificial bravery and soundness-of-mind of these men.  And grateful...yes, I am oh so grateful...more than I ever was before I realized how much was unashamedly and regretlessly put on the line by others on behalf of me and my family and friends in this country today.

Kind of seems like a much smaller scale of what my Savior did for me long before these men ever signed this document.

As Boyer quotes John Quincy Adams, "You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom.  I hope you will make good use of it."

As far as the components of this book, again, wow!  Boyer has put together a resource that can either be read as I did, straight through---or, it can be used in a variety of other ways, such as her five suggestions to use it as:
  1. A year's worth of family devotional character studies
    • A Family Activity Guide is available online as a companion to the book.
  2. A complete resource for a single mom
  3. A practical, life-changing self-study (and this I have found to be so true!)
  4. A group study designed to make a difference
  5. Inspirational general reading
She elaborates more on each one of these uses as she is introducing the reader to the book.

More additional priceless features include:
  • A full-page (letter-sized, 8 1/2 x 11 inch) picture of the real Declaration of Independence
  • A close-up picture of the real signature section itself
  • A full-page typed copy of the document (easier to read)
  • Typed signatures (They signed in sections by the state they represented.)
The book as a whole is comprised of a character study on each of the fifty-six signers divided into sections by the state they represented.  Each character study is about three to five pages in length with the following components:
  • An artist's sketched portrait of the signer with an image of his signature below it
  • A special nickname and/or patriotic characterization of the signer
  • A scripture reference relating to the signer
  • A short quote about the signer
  • Demographics such as birth date, birth place, education, occupation, marriage date(s), spouse's name(s), number of children, signer's age at time of signing, date of death and age at that time
  • A more detailed highlight about the signer
  • The three to five page biography/character study of the signer including important quotes by or about him as well as artists' sketches of many of the signers' residences
  • Questions for discussion (as well as thought/reflection) which often highlight character qualities
Some things I learned of interest (really too many to name here, but I will recount a few):
  • Many were schooled at home either by parents (often fathers), family, or even themselves.
  • They often entered college as young as thirteen to fifteen years old (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc)
  • Most were born and raised in America, not Europe
  • Many had as many as ten or more children
  • Many were involved in religious studies and were even preachers
  • When/if the father died while the signer was a young teen, it was usually the young teenage son who became responsible for the provision of the family, not left all on the mother's shoulders as it often is now.
  • Whether poor or rich, they all knew the magnitude of consequences they and their families faced, but still signed wholeheartedly, without regret from themselves or from their family.  (By signing, they were considered traitors by the King of England and faced hanging or beheading.)
As you can tell, I love this book and could go on and on about it.  BUT...I won't.  I will leave you with your appetite whetted for more.

Every American home needs to have this book in their collection.  Even my friends from other nations would greatly benefit by reading about these amazing men and the convictions which directed their thoughts and actions.

So, go to Master Books' website to find out more about this book or even go to Amazon.com or any other site where you purchase books.

Now, I leave you with this word from the Lord through Paul in 1 Timothy 6:12:

"Fight the good fight of the faith."
And like our revolutionary predecessors discovered, the word "fight" in the original Greek language is "agonizomai" which implies our English word "agonize."  These signers truly agonized and fought for the future of this nation we now take for granted.

Even more than that, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ fought and agonized for us so that by faith in Him we would not have to endure the agony which comes with living the eternal consequences of our sin and rejection of Him.

He fought the good fight for us.  

Have faith in Him and fight the good fight for all who you may impact with your life.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Friday, May 27, 2011

All We Like Turtles & Beetles & Sheep...

So, there are so many things this pic could metaphorically represent.

Almost out of gas/energy...

Running on empty...


Believe it or not, this is actually more than a metaphor.

This was my reality a few days ago...AND...I snapped this pic at the point of thanksgiving for this tremendous blessing! 

How could a near empty tank of gas be a blessing for which to be thankful, you ask?

As my son and I were facing a 30+ mile drive home from his "summer camp" (a.k.a. summer daycare for a five-year-old) we actually had LESS gas in the tank than what you see in the above pic.  AND, thanks to an untimely bill-paying blunder, our bank account was, well, far more empty than the gas tank.  Oh, the conundrum.

Then I recalled the three dollars I chose not to spend on a soft drink or snack at work.  After a little more thought, I remembered the five quarters I had in my car console.  So---I now had come up with a whopping $4.25!  Not much, when you consider gas prices these days, but more than nothing.

We pulled up to the pump.  I went inside and payed, which actually took longer than the subsequent pumping of the gas did.  As we drove off, I didn't see much change in the location of the gas needle.  My son and I joined in a prayer as I drove (with my eyes open) and thanked God for providing for all of our needs always.  We also asked God to multiply this tiny amount of gas as He did the fish and the bread so many years ago for that huge crowd.

And the needle eased up higher...and higher. 

I took this pic as it reached its crest.  I was and am more thankful for that gallon and a sliver of gas than I have ever been for a full tank.  We made it home with enough to spare for me to reach the gas station the next morning and fill up before the long drive back to the grind.  (Thankfully my paycheck was scheduled to go in at midnight following this episode.)

Why am I so transparent about this humbling situation with you?

One---you are not alone if you are or have been in similar circumstances.  God does provide.  Not always in abundance as we often hope for, but just enough just when it's needed most.  If He doesn't provide what or when we think He should, there is a reason.  He WILL pull His children through and cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

Two---All We Like Turtles & Beetles & Sheep...  What?  Am I losing my mind along with my full tank of gas?  No.  You see, lately I have been reading the Mark Twain classic Tom Sawyer to my son as part of our bedtime reading.  One recent chapter cleverly described a situation with a beetle lying helplessly on its back in the aisle of the church while Tom was already struggling to pay attention.  Its little legs were flailing in the air in unsuccessful attempts to gain contact with the ground so it could skitter away to safety.  In the meantime, a curious dog began interacting with it in a distracting manner (still during the church service...IN the sanctuary, apparently).  Without finishing the story for you, I have introduced my beetle and turtle point. 

Beetles and turtles are similar in that they can end up on their backs and thereby end up in a very frustrating and helpless situation until someone comes along and helps them...or hurts them. 

Sheep---oh sheep.  Stubborn.  Hard-headed.  Creatures of habit.  Easily distracted and lured off course.  Lazily doing what seems okay and even good, only to find themselves in the grips of a hungry wolf at supper time.

Me.  You .  How many times have we found ourselves like sheep going down the same paths that have gotten us into trouble before rather than carefully considering and choosing wisely even when it was not the most enticing choice?  Then, like beetles and turtles, we find ourselves flat on our back trying with all of our human might to save ourselves but ultimately helpless on our own. 

These are the times we are most reminded of our utter need for and dependence upon our Heavenly Father, Faithful Provider, Creator, Redeemer, Wonderful Counselor, and Undying Friend.

I got busy with life's daily tasks and even a bit comfortable with what seemed to be a slightly improving financial situation and did not watch our finances as closely as I should have and normally would have.  Then it snuck up on us.  Unfortunately, like the sheep, this isn't the first time.  But, this time, rather than beat myself up over it and wring my hands in dire fear and hopelessness, I immediately gave my concerns and mistakes to God.  He immediately renewed my peace and joy as only He can. 

We will get through this.  Not because of my intelligent handling of the family finances, but only because my God is Jehovah Jireh---The Lord Who Provides, Who Sees, Who Will See to It (Genesis 22:12-14) and He will get glory through this while I grow in my faith in Him through it.  And hopefully my husband and son and many others will grow in their faith through it as well.

Do you sometimes feel like a turtle, beetle, or sheep?

How have you seen God pull you through big (and little) mistakes 
you have made as well as tough times?

Do share!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Reason Why: Faith Makes Sense by Mark Mittelberg

Why believe in God?

And furthermore, why have active, evident faith in God?  After all, "even the demons believe." (James 2:19)

In times like ours as well as throughout history, many people question their once firm faith in God and many others do not believe that God exists at all.  In fact, many of those who do not believe have made it their mission to prove it so and even to convince believers to give up their faith in God.

Mark Mittlelberg has done quite the opposite for us in his book The Reason Why:  Faith Makes Sense

If you recognize the title, it is because Mittlelberg has updated and expanded the original book The Reason Why which was written by Robert A. Laidlaw almost a hundred years ago.  Mittelberg has done a fabulous job updating this little (a.k.a. short) treasure of a book.

Mittelberg walks the reader through several tough but necessary topics such as "Matters of Faith that Really Matter", "Is there a God?", "Can the Bible be Trusted?", "Are We Accountable to God?", "Who Was Jesus and What Was His Purpose?", "Is Divine Forgiveness Available?", and such.  He covers all of this in a book whose dimensions are about the size of a postcard and includes 127 pages.  Short, small, easy to read but tackles some heavy topics.  Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum of faith in God, I challenge you to get a copy of this book and read it and see what revelations may happen in your heart and mind. 

If you are skeptical, I challenge you with Mark's words, "May I encourage you to think again, and at least to say, 'Maybe'?  Admit to yourself that if these things are true, then Jesus' point about the importance of the soul is valid---big time!  Do you doubt that?  Then at least be consistent enough as a skeptic to also doubt even your own doubts..."

Mittelberg, once a skeptic himself set on disproving God, states, "I am confident of this:  the deeper you look---assuming you'll read with a receptive mind and an open heart---the more you'll become persuaded concerning the basic claims of the Christian faith.  I say this because after more than three decades of studying both the attacks against that faith and the evidence for it, I'm surer than ever that it is based on real facts.  In short, I'm convinced that Christianity is true."

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.   No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

All Waters Meet at the Mighty Mississippi

Okay, so not ALL American waterways meet at the Mighty Mississippi, but at times like today it sure seems that way.

Countless gallons of water are flowing at daunting rates down this awe-inspiring, unforgiving mammoth of a force to be reckoned with.  People are evacuating...or rather most have already done so who took heed of the warnings.  This is no Hurricane Katrina.  People KNOW they are living in the direct path of the watershed that will come as the spillway is opened.  No questions...no "the last hurricane wasn't that bad."  This is a given.

As I ponder all of the possibilities, I am in no way envious nor judgmental of the officials who had to make the tough decision to divert this water through many of our Cajun communities.  It was literally a decision between hundreds of homes and thousands.  Never an easy decision.  Ever.

Couple of things come to mind...

1.  God faced a similar yet more excruciating decision.  He chose to send His sinless Son to die a gruesome death in order to pay the inevitable ransom that is the consequence of our sin.  He did this so that He could save and set free any and all who would believe in Him and His work on our behalf and in turn accept His free but costly gift.  And, His Son additionally faced, endured, and defeated death and rose again and now lives and reigns at the right hand of His Father---our Father.  He is returning soon to bring us all to His side and even to reign on this earth.  Are you ready?  He will come when we least expect---like a thief in the night.

2.  This is what the LORD says—
   your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
   who teaches you what is best for you,
   who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
   your peace would have been like a river,
   your well-being like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants would have been like the sand,
   your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be blotted out
   nor destroyed from before me.”

For this is what the LORD says:
   “I will extend peace to her like a river,
   and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;

you will nurse and be carried on her arm
   and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
   so will I comfort you;
   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” 

So, God says He wants to and will give us "peace like a river."  From what you and I know of the Mighty Mississippi these days, do you view a river as being peaceful?!  Not exactly.  

Well, that depends on what you think He means by "peace."

Lazy, tea-sippin', book-readin', lyin' back in the hammock without a care in the world nor a thing on the agenda to do.

That's what you're thinking when you think of peace, right?  

As Beth Moore points out in her study called Breaking Free
  1. "A river is a moving stream of water.  God's Word doesn't say we'll have peace like a pond.  Some imagine peaceful people as boring and a breath from death.  We think we'd rather forego peace and have an exciting life.  Beloved, few bodies of water are more exciting than rivers!...We can have active, exciting lives without suffering through a life of turmoil...When God used the analogy of a river, He described a peace that can be retained while life twists, turns, and rolls over boulders...To have peace like a river is to have security and tranquility of heart and mind while meeting many bumps and unexpected turns on life's journey through change.  Peace is submission to a trustworthy Authority, not a resignation from all activity."
  2. "A river is a body of fresh water fed by springs or tributary streams.  I've found that I can't retain a spirit of peace in the present by relying on a relationship from the past.  Peace comes from an active, ongoing, and obedient relationship with the Prince of Peace.  He wants to feed us with the Living Water of His Holy Spirit and a steady stream of His Word until we have peace like a river."
  3. And her final point on "peace like a river":  "A river begins and ends with a body of water.  Every river has an upland source and an ultimate outlet or mouth.  Rivers are fully dependent and are always connected to other bodies of water.  Likewise, peace like a river flows from a continuous connection with the upland Source, Jesus Christ, and a timely reminder that this life will ultimately spill into a glorious eternal life.  This life is not our destination, hallelujah!  We who know Christ personally move continually over rocks and sometimes cliffs, through narrow places and wide valleys to a heavenly destination.  Until then, abiding in Christ (John 15:4) is the key to staying deliberately connected with our upland Source...God's authority not only brings peace like a river but righteousness like the waves of the sea.  Not righteous perfection.  Righteous consistency...God's way is the safe way.  The right way.  And the only peaceful way in a chaotic world...The path to peace is paved with knee-prints."
I think it is not at all by coincidence that God had me participate right now in an online Bible study of Breaking Free.  Not only did I just finish studying the book of Isaiah for the past several months in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) - which by the way, Isaiah is the central book of the Bible that Breaking Free is based on - but of course I also live in an area that is closely watching and potentially affected by the rise and fall of the waters of the Mississippi River.

Coincidence?  I think not.

So, wherever you find yourself on your life journey right now - evacuating a home and town that you love, going back into a flood-ravaged or tornado-ransacked home and town, watching all of this from a distance with a heart of concern, or even moreso struggling with the numerous tornadoes and floods of life that have nothing to do with weather - wherever you are, whatever you are doing and considering...consider your only Source of true peace and security.

His name is Jesus.

He is the Prince of Peace.  The Lover of your soul.  The Wonderful Counselor.  
The Comforter.  The King of Kings.

Run to Him.  Cry to Him.  Ask Him to help you come to a place where you can even thank Him.

He knows your pain.  He knows your struggle.  He's been there...and worse. 

Trust Him.

Please also feel free to leave a written prayer here for yourself and/or those who are or have been in the path of the floods, tornadoes, and various other storms of life.

And here is a song I really find peaceful in times when water is threatening our way of life:
Washed by the Water by NeedToBreathe

Friday, May 6, 2011

Read, Pray, Love...oh yeah, and Work, too

You may have noticed that I have been reading a lot lately.

And, I have just finished a 21 day challenge of praying scripture over my son.

Oh, and love...I'm just blessed to be surrounded by love every day in so many ways.

Life gets hectic.  We know this.  We've been over it quite a bit here on my blog.  Added onto all that I would love to be doing (writing more, meditating alone in a peaceful outdoor sanctuary, etc.) as well as all that I feel responsible and/or obligated to do as a wife and mother, I also have a highly demanding full-time job outside the home which even requires a commute.  I am thankful daily for the stability and security of my job and the provision God offers me and my family through the income I earn from it.  But...with all of the above, it is easy to just get "spent"---frequently.  (Yes, the money gets easily spent, too...on bills, but I am referring to my mind and body.)

That brings me back to Read, Pray, Love.

The reading I have been doing lately (in addition to my daily Bible reading) has helped to replenish and strengthen me in many ways.
  1. I gain fresh insight and guidance by reading what the Lord has taught others.
  2. I am able to share with you some about books you may or may not have been aware of so that you, too, can benefit from the vast resources available to us.
  3. I am "forced" to write more often than I usually make myself do it.  (Thereby helping me not completely neglect putting my thoughts into readable words.)
  4. I even learn by others' writing styles and such so that I can be a better writer myself.
Praying---I cannot say near enough about this.
  1. I need to pray more---and more sincerely.
  2. I need to truly sit and listen to God---to truly connect my heart with His voice.
  3. I have been praying for my son with scriptures and in turn have prayed for myself, my husband, and many others in my life---maybe even you!
  4. Did I say that I need to pray more?  I long for a prayer sanctuary, yet I truly need to become a sanctuary.
And love---oh that beautiful four-letter word.
  1. Love lifted me---when nothing else could help.
  2. I can love and I do love because I am loved.
  3. I am loved first and foremost and to the fullest by God.
  4. I am loved by those whom I love and maybe even by some whom I need to learn to love.
So, whatever your journey in life resembles at this moment, I charge you to Read, Pray, Love---and even be thankful for the Work that may be involved along the way.

Just remember Who is the Reason and Center of it all.  His name is Jesus.

If you've seen Julia Roberts' movie Eat, Pray, Love (based on a true story), my one piece of advice is to not just try it all on for size and pray to whomever or whatever makes you feel good.

Talk to your Maker---The Lord Almighty is His name.  He will guide you, strengthen you, and be the Lover of your soul in this twisted journey of life.  Trust Him alone.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Church Diversity by Scott Williams

How diverse is your world?  Your sphere of friends?

For those who attend church---how diverse is your church?

Does everyone there look like you?  Does that make you comfortable?  Have you ever even given it any thought?

In reading Scott Williams' book Church Diversity: Sunday the Most Segregated Day of the Week, I cannot help but give thought to the topic.

You think you know yourself.  You think you've come so far from where others are.

I did...

...Until I read this book.

Scott (or @ScottWilliams as he is know on Twitter) really forces us as readers to take a deep, honest look at how we view diversity and lack of diversity---specifically in our churches.  He brings us to a place of honesty and realization that is even uncomfortable at times, I must admit.  But this place to which he pulls us is a necessary place in a pivotal time.

As Scott states, "It's become the 'new normal' for sporting events, concerts, and other arenas to be filled with worshiping fans of all races, holding hands, cheering, yelling, shouting, and worshiping together.  Unfortunately, that is not the 'new normal' in God's House---the local church."

What do we do about this conundrum?

"We have all been empowered by God to leave our little piece of the world different than when we found it.  There is a responsibility to change, to have tough conversations, to make tough decisions, and to move past the Nobel Peace Prize-winning platitudes of 'hope' and 'change.'  We cannot just talk about the change, but instead we much be the change." - Scott Williams

Because we are one body in Christ and share one faith as believers, His church---His body---is to reflect that.  Not only is it/are we to reflect that oneness, but we are also to be constantly reaching out to "all the world" not just the people and parts of the world that are most like us and most comfortable to us.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20
 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  - Galatians 3:26-28
So, now, do you think this Church Diversity thing is a big deal?

It should be.

If you take on the heavy challenge of diving into Scott's book, be prepared to be uncomfortable with yourself and your world around you.  And be prepared to be challenged and inspired all at the same time.

Oh, and fasten your seat belt and hold on tight!  It's a bumpy ride, but somebody's gotta do it!

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.