Saturday, December 31, 2011

Deny Self

I haven’t blogged all month.  Yesterday, I caught a portion of Chuck Swindoll’s sermon about “Three Musts for the New Year.”  One of those “musts” is denying one’s self.  This got me to thinking – in what ways do I deny myself for Him?  I knew I had to blog about this because as I approach a new year, I want to be a true disciple. God’s Word is clear about denying self:

Matt. 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must (1) deny themselves and (2) take up their cross and (3) follow me.

Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Mr. Swindoll said “a passionate desire to obey and please God is the beginning of true discipleship and starts with saying no to self.  Say no to what YOU want.  Mr. Swindoll reminded me that obeying Him means tasting death – death to something, to someone, that it means more than occasional unselfishness.  It means dying to something or someone everyday or He would not have said ‘daily.’
 
There are movies and programs I won’t watch, places I won’t go, stuff I won’t do.  BUT, I still think thoughts I shouldn’t think, say things I shouldn’t say, offend when I don’t mean to, laugh at stuff that’s not funny.  I have to deny myself thoughts and actions DAILY that are contrary to His Will and Word to be in complete obedience to Him as His true disciple.  You have to look at your life, your thoughts and actions – what is it you need to deny to be His true disciple?  I hope I’ve provoked your thinking about this.  Please hold me accountable in 2012.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Spare the Rod?

 My daughter-in-law called me a couple days ago and shared some discussions she had with my 10-year-old granddaughter.  My granddaughter is extremely bright and questions (or should I say challenges) everything.  Before I tell you what drove her mom to call me, let me give you an idea of how bright my granddaughter is.

In March, 2009, when she was eight years old, she and my great niece who was ten at the time used my computer to create approximately 50 slides.  They named their presentation “Visiting Ohio.”  They recorded their voices (they showed me how to do this), added clipart, located my daughter’s wedding pictures on my PC and uploaded some of the pictures.   I was amazed at how computer proficient they were.  Below are verbatim excerpts from their handiwork, titles,typos and all (remember, they are 8 and 10 years old).  I only wish I was able to include their recordings as well (they could probably show me how to do this)!    

Hairstyle: WHEN YOU GET YOUR HAIR DONE IT TAKES FOREVER. YES YOU WANNA LOOK GOOD FOR YOUR MAN.BUT YOU SPENDING YOUR MAN’S CASH! SO THANK YOU FOR LOOKING AT THIS BYE! AND STOP SPENDING YOUR MAN’S MONEY!

Hairstyle #2: OKAY YOU REMEMBER LAST TIME! HAHAHAHAHA!OKAY STOP SPENDING YOUR MAN’S CASH IT HURTS IT HAS PAIN!THE MONEY IS LIKE HELP ME STOP SPENDING ME! SO LADIES STOP SPENDING YOUR MAN’S CASH

the  school:  SCHOOL IS ABOUT LEARNING AND ABOUT EUDACATION. COLLEGE IS VERY INTERACTING. MY DADDY WENT TO COLLEGE  I AM ALSO GOING TO COLLEGE ITS ME TIYE THE ONE WHO IS GOING TO COLLEGE! WHEN I WAS IN ELEMENTRY SCHOOL DAMIEN USE TO SAY I WAS TO SMALL. BUT I PROVED MY AGE! SO  YEAH I STOULD THAT BOY UP! IT FELT SO GOOD! AFTHER THEN I WAS FEELING A LITTLE  BETTER!
MIMI LIFE: MY LIFE IS SO AMAZING YEAH I MIGHT NOT BE RICH BUT I AM SO AWSOME! MY FRIENDS THINK I AM SO FUNNY! MY FAVORITE COLOR IS GREEN AND BLUE! BUT I HAVE A GREAT FAMILY AND FRIENDS BUT THAT IS NOT THE ONLY REASON ABOUT MY LIFE I HAVE A WII BYE

TIYES LIFE: MY LIFE IS EXACTLEY LIKE I WANT IT TO BE! MY FAVORITE COLOR IS PINK, BLUE AND YELLOW!TWO BROTHERS  AND ZEROS SISTER! BUT I WANT MY FAVORITE TWO COUSINS TO BE MY  SISTERS!RAHJA DOSENT NEED TO KNOW THAT!MY FAVORITE FOOD IS PIZZA AND SALAD.

While I hope you enjoyed reading this, I'm guessing you're wondering what does this have to do with sparing the rod?  As smart as my granddaughter is, she hasn’t at age 10 learned that while she can say just about anything she wants to her cousin, she cannot say whatever she wants to her mother.  Since she's 'slow' to learn this, my daughter-in-law occasionally has to use the ‘rod’ which prompted my granddaughter to ask her mother, “where does it say in the bible that parents should spank their kids?” 

For my daughter-in-law and other parents of young children, here’s what the Word says about disciplining your children. 

  • He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him (Prov. 13:24)
  • Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him (Prov. 22:15)
  • Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die (Prov. 23:13)
This past week Anderson Cooper (CNN) was covering Science on Spanking - How Hitting Children May Harm Them Later in Life with emphasis on the book “To Train Up A Child.” From what I’ve heard about this book, I don’t recommend it.  I do recommend these articles (see links below): A Parent's Rules for Spanking: The Correct Way to Spank Your Child by Jamie K Wilson and The Bible and Spanking Children: How–and How Not–to Spank Children, Bible-Based Guidelines for Christian Parents and Others by Doug Britton



Let me add this caveat.  I believe my dad spanked me and my siblings far too often.  He believed in spanking all of us until someone ‘fessed up.’ I unequivocally do not support spanking teenagers (I got my last spanking around age 15 - there was absolutely no point to it). After I had my first child, my dad told me he learned from me that you don’t have to spank all the time. While my son may feel as if he got spanked too much, he wasn’t spanked nearly as often. His sister, who’s ten years younger, was spanked probably five times or less. They are both intelligent, well-adjusted adults who are college graduates, married with children, and living on their own. I’m extremely proud of and have a great relationship with both of them. The bottom line, it's your decision whether to spank or not, but I suggest you follow the Word of God.  If you decide to spank, do it sparingly because there are a couple scriptures that applies to parents: 
  • And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4)
  • Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged (Col. 3:21)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is God Laughing?

This morning I arose around 6:20 am, made breakfast for the hubby, read the paper, showered, and got dressed to meet someone at 8:15.  She and I were going to ride together to a corporation to meet with their HR staff in preparation for training I’m providing in January.  After sitting in the parking lot for aboutText messaging on a blackberry 15 minutes, I began wondering if I had the time right.  Was I supposed to meet her at 9:15?  I called her, got voice mail and left a message.  I waited another 10 minutes or so.  Hmmm, perhaps I forwarded her e-mail about the meeting to my husband…if so, maybe he kept it.  I called him and got his voice mail.  Now what…if I returned home, I would miss her.  (Note to self: Having a blackberry, Iphone or Ipad might have come in handy to check my e-mail and confirm the time.) 

A few minutes later my contact called.  Not only did I have the time wrong, but I also had the WRONG date!  Sheesh, my day was not getting off to a good start as after the meeting I planned to stop by a department store to pick up a sale item.  It was too early for the store to be open, so I headed back home.

Around 1:00, I went to the department store and found the sale item, although there was no sale tags.  I grabbed the item and wondered around the store to see if I wanted anything else.  Then I noticed that the sale notices were covered indicating that the sale hadn’t begun yet.  I looked at the flyer I had with me.  The sale wasn’t scheduled to begin until 3:00 p.m.  Just great!  I got the time WRONG… again!   As I headed home back home, I was kicking myself (mentally of course, because after all, I was driving!).  Then it occurred to me to check the flyer once more.  Not only did I have the time wrong, I also had the WRONG date!  The sale is tomorrow at 3:00.  Well, the good thing was I didn’t end up back at the store to find this out.  I thanked God for that and the thought occurred to me.  Is God laughing at me? 

I thought why shouldn’t He laugh?  He probably began laughing when I got dressed because  in His omniscience He knew the meeting wasn’t today.  He saw me leaving my home to go to the store.  He knew the sale wasn’t today and that I had the date and time WRONG!  The thought of God laughing made me laugh.  I could/should have checked my e-mail yesterday to confirm the time of the meeting, which would have helped me realize I had the date WRONG.  I could/should have confirmed the sale date from the flyer.  The only person I could be upset with is myself.  Thinking of  God laughing helped me put the situation into the right perspective; laughter was a better emotion than getting bent out of shape because of my own failings.   

view detailsYes, I think God was laughing, not at me, but with me!  I believe He has a sense of humor because He gave us a sense of humor.  And you know what?  I get joy from laughing with God.   I’ll go to the sale tomorrow, but I’m glad I got a chance to laugh with God today.  When was the last time you laughed with God?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Always Saying Good-Bye

Cartoon of a Sad Woman Waving Goodbye with a Hanky clipartWhen my daughter was a freshman in college, my husband and I attended Parents Weekend shortly after the semester began.  She stayed with us at the hotel during our visit.  Before heading home, we dropped her off at her dorm.  As she is the baby of our family, I thought I’d have the ‘empty nest’ syndrome when she left for college, but surprisingly I didn’t.  However, when I hugged her good-bye after our college visit, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  Just a few weeks earlier, we had vacationed in Germany with our son and his family where they were stationed.  I knew that, while my daughter would return home for summer break, it wouldn’t be long before she too would eventually leave our home town.  I realized then that this was how it was going to be…always saying goodbye to our children. 

That time arrived this past January when she moved with her daughter, my youngest grandchild, to Texas to be with her Air Force husband, too far away for me to get to by car.  You can imagine my joy when they relocated in May to Virginia, a more doable drive!

I was going to go to Virginia for my daughter's birthday, but decided it would be better for her to come home with our granddaughter who can fly free until she's two.  Monday I took them to the airport for their flight back to VA.  The sadness I felt years ago when I was leaving my daughter at college struck me again especially because her family won't be here for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  With my son in Kuwait, his family is going to his in-laws for Christmas.  I should mention a year after my marriage, my stepsons moved out of town with their mother.  Perhaps if I had at least one child and grandchild in town, I wouldn’t get so sad about these departures. 

Yesterday, I attended a funeral.  My cousin-in-law had to say good-bye to her last sibling.  To compound her grief, just two years ago, she had to bid farewell to her second child.  Her surviving child, who lives out of state, was unable to attend the funeral.  Today, I attended the funeral for a childhood friend’s father.  Her mother passed away a few years ago.  As sad as I am when I say good-bye to my children, I haven’t yet faced the type of good-bye that my cousin-in-law or my friend had this week.  My parents, siblings, and children are living.  I don’t know why God has spared me for so long, but I’m grateful.  I’m grateful that He not only knows what I can bear, but He knows WHEN I can bear whatever He allows to cross my path.  I know that through the faith He’s building in me and the love and help of family and friends, I will be able to bear every future good-bye.  The same faith He's given me is available to you.  And that gives me joy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

So I Thought, Count It All Joy

Early yesterday morning I made a trip to Walgreens to print pictures I had taken of new members to post on our church bulletin board today.  Before heading to Walgreens, I uploaded the pictures onto my computer and then transferred them to a flash drive (or so I thought).  My goal was to print the pictures, hit two grocery stores, head back home to bake cookies for my son stationed in Kuwait, and get them in the mail before the post office closed.
 When I got to Walgreens, no one else was using the photo printer, Great, I thought, especially since one of the printers was "out of order."  I can print my pictures and be outta here in 5 minutes!  Soooooo, why were the pictures not on my flash drive?  I had doublechecked to be sure they were loaded (or so I thought).  As I left Walgreens, I was annoyed.  I could feel myself getting upset about the time I had wasted.  As I headed to the grocery store to purchase items necessary for the cookies I was planning to bake, I could feel a mini depression coming on.  This snag in my plans was threatening to mess up my entire day (or so I thought).  I began arguing with myself, telling myself to not let this little bump in the road get me down.  But it wasn't working; before I knew it, all kinds of negative thoughts began swirling in my head.

There's a song I play in the car when I feel my spirit crashing.  I use the CD repeat button to hear the song over and over until it permeates my mind and being.  It calms me, soothes me, reminds me of His Word in James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  Negative thoughts were certainly trying my patience.  So I turned to my old standby.  It worked.  I went to both grocery stores, baked the cookies with my daughter (and granddaughter playing in the background), baked a pound cake for a bereaved family, took the cookies to the post office (I was their last customer), swung by Penneys to purchase some clothes for my granddaughter, and went to the Military Support Group meeting!  Satan didn't win this battle!  When I woke up this morning, my standby song was playing in my head.  Perhaps hearing "Count It All Joy" by Tarralyn Ramsey might help you too.

If you type in the words Count It All Joy on youtube.com, I guarantee you'll find songs that will lift your spirit, such as The Winans singing "The evil one will come and will try to take away your gladness, even when it seems that He's won, We ought to claim the victory.  Give praises in everything and in everything count it all joy, even when it seems to hard to.  No, He'll never give you more than you can handle.  Meanwhile, you can meditate on the lyrics to Tarralyn Ramsey's song:
Verse 1 When you're going through, and you don't know what to do,
When the fire gets too high, don't draw nigh.
Hold your head up high and be of good cheer.
All you need to know, you're deliverance is here.

CHORUS count it all joy, count it all joy,

Verse 2 I know you sit and ask yourself so many times,
why does it seem like I am losing my mind.
As I sit and reminisce on all that I've been through,
I'm realizing its not about me but about You

(repeat chorus)

Remember, count it ALL joy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Can't Put My Finger On It

finger.gifI can't quite put my finger on...  This is all I wrote as I began to blog on September 22.  I had jotted notes to myself about blog topics but I only blogged once in September.  The other day a good friend asked why haven't I blogged lately.  I told her I couldn't focus: mom hadn't been well, I was on a couple church committees, had some stuff on my mind, all excuses.     

In my women's bible study, we've been focusing on priorities, devotion and allegiance.  I want this blog to be a priority in my life because my goal has been to provide spiritual encouragement for others (as well as myself).  I'm determined to get back to what I committed to do.  I can always find an excuse to avoid blogging.  But I want to blog.  I want to share how the Lord is blessing me and how He can and will bless my readers.  Last week's bible lesson asked the question: What is your big struggle, causing you to look back and not move forward in your desire to follow Christ?  I responded: My struggle is not causing me to look back.  My struggle is in the present, including ‘being here now.’  Giving Jesus my all, putting 100% of my focus on being in His will, doing what He wants me to do, focusing my time on service and not wasting it whether it be on the computer, watching TV or anything that keeps me from being fully dedicated to Him. 

I want my agenda to be whatever His agenda is for me.  This week I could use the excuse that my 17-month old granddaughter is visiting from Virginia.  But I want to be devoted to Him, so I'm keeping my commitment.  I hope that in sharing my struggle, you'll think about what is your big struggle  - what's keeping keeping you from moving forward in your desire to follow Christ.  If you can't put your finger on it, spend time meditating on His Word and talking with Him.  Then commit to moving forward by focusing on Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.    Remember: 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodnessDoesn't this give you joy!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What About You?

One of my favorite sayings is that "I'm abundantly blessed beyond what I could ask or think," my way of paraphrasing Eph. 3:20*.  I say this frequently first because it's true and secondly, saying it out loud reminds me to not take my blessings for granted.  
Dad and Mom with me, August, 2010

In July a friend of mine from my former church posted a notice on Facebook about the passing of her mother.  Today on Facebook, another friend from the same church posted that her mom passed away yesterday, August 31.  I'm at an age where most of my friends' parents have died.  I'm blessed, that while both of my parents have some health issues, they are alive and living on their own.  What about you; are your mom and dad living?  Then you're blessed!  If they have passed on, you're still blessed because God provided us with the unique ability to remember our deceased loved ones.

My dear first cousin, has had surgery, chemo and radiation treatments in his battle with cancer and in July was in intensive care.  In the midst of all he's going through, he continues to praise God.  Another relative is experiencing the effects of Alzheimer's.  He can't tell you what day of the week it is, but he's blessed to know his wife and live in his own home.  A friend of mine, who is now a double amputee after four surgeries over the past year, hasn't ceased telling me how good God is.  My mom is in constant pain, but when asked how she's feeling usually responds "I can't complain."  In comparison all I have are some minor aches and pains that come from being over 50.  I know that I'm blessed.  What about you?  Are you able to walk, talk, see, hear, dress and feed yourself; are most of your days pain-free?  If so, thank Him, because like me you're abundantly blessed. 

For the second time, my son has been deployed to Kuwait for a year-long stint that has taken him away from his wife and children.  My nephew is in Afghanistan after previously serving in Iraq.  He's away from his wife and children, too.  My cousin is leaving leaving her two children here in the states as she leaves for Korea this week.  She also served in Iraq.  Another cousin is stationed in Germany after his recent  deployment to Afghanistan.  My son-in-law is in the Air Force and could be deployed.  My young niece-in-law is in basic training in Oklahoma.  What about you?  Do you have any members of your family serving in the Armed Forces?  Do you stay in touch with and pray for them?  My husband and I have been abundantly blessed to have not lost any of our 30 or so active duty and veterans from a wartime conflict.  Do you know how abundantly blessed our nation is to have those who willing to fight voluntarily to keep us safe from our enemies?

Hurricane Diagram
Over the weekend, Hurricane Irene barrelled up the East Coast affecting Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and North and South Carolina.  Forty-five people died, millions of homes and business lost power, and some areas are struggling with severe flooding. My daughter lives in Virginia.  Her home lost power for about 45 hours but didn't sustain any damage.  My home wasn't touched by Irene in any way. What about you?  Did Hurricane Irene cause you, someone in your family, your neighborhood, or your employer to lose power?  I'm blessed to be connected to a source who never loses power and who the wind and sea obeys.  Draw close to Him.  In the midst of any storm you encounter, He will shield and carry you.

Although I know I'm blessed, I grumble and mumble about petty stuff from time to time.  You know what?  My Lord hears my grumbling just as loud as He hears me say "I'm abundantly blessed."  It's a contradiction, right!  I don't know why I let petty stuff annoy me and then make sure whoever is around me knows about it.  I don't like this about myself.  God knows this because He's omniscient.  He knows everything there is to know about everybody and that includes me.  He knows why I have this bad habit of grumbling.  He knows why I tell myself I'm going to stop it but don't.  What about you?  Do you have some flaws in your character; are there some things that you don't like about yourself?  Yet we're abundantly blessed anyhow because God is long-suffering, patient, forgiving, compassionate, and loving. 

I'm sorry Father for my grumbling and mumbling.  I know You know that I do know I'm abundantly blessed beyond what I could ask or think.  Inspite of my tendency to grumble and mumble, I'm going to keep on telling (reminding) myself and others how abundantly blessed I am.  Why?  Because it is true no matter how much grumbling and mumbling I may do!

*Eph 3:Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us

Friday, August 19, 2011

Peculiar People

I was sharing with my daughter recently my struggle about whether to see a certain PG-13 movie.  For years now my husband and I have avoided "R" rated movies and have been selective in seeing PG and PG-13 movies.  The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) website states a R-rated motion picture... may include ... hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements.   In PG movies "there may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity.A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. 

It's not that I don't want to see the latest movies.  I'm offended by cursing and using the Lord's name in vain which doesn't add anything to a story, sexual innuendos that lace even kid-friendly movies , and the violence that is mimicked in our communities.  I grew up in an era where on TV married couples slept in twin beds.  Now, it's almost impossible to find a TV program without everyone locking lips, passing saliva, and falling into bed (with no mention of protection, although abstinence is the only 100% full proof method).  Am I the only one who wonders why a fairly new commercial about floor dusters has sexual overtones?  And don't get me started on the language on TV - words that my generation grew up knowing we'd get our mouths washed out with soap if we dared utter them.  I've stopped watching several shows that were my favorites due to the flagrant cursing and one-night stands.   I think TV is following the lead of motion pictures.  

We made an exception for the R-rated "The Passion of the Christ" because of the topic.  While the "R" rating was for violent scenes, there is no accurate way to portray His story without including the acts of cruelty (spit on, beaten, and crucified) perpetrated against Him  for you and for me.  

Do I come across like a prude, perhaps holier-than-thou?  I hope not.  Am I peculiar for my beliefs?  I hope so, for the Word says:

For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. (Deut. 14:2)

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  Titus 2:11-14 (underscore mine)

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9-10

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) website says a "G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture."  

brotherhoods,concepts,cutouts,dare to be different,diversity,gestures,hearts,holding hands,iStockphoto,males,paper dolls,reflections,shadows,symbols,text,together,unity,teamworkIt seems to me "G" rated movies align more with 'peculiar people' and Phil. 4:8.  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I'm not judging others for what they see at the movies or watch on TV.  I'm simply concerned about my walk and causing anyone to stumble.  I've seen the following statement in e-mails recently: "Don't ask the Lord to order your steps, if you're not willing to move your feet."  I'm willing to move my feet... in a peculiar direction by trying to stay true to His Word while pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

He Calls Me Friend

I'm reading the book The Girls From Ames, A Story of Women & a Forty-Year Friendship.  This book is about 11 women from Ames, Iowa who have been good friends since childhood for over 40 years even though only one remains in Iowa.  Their bond has continued through high school, college, careers, marriage, motherhood, and deaths.  One of them said "It is my friends from Ames who've exposed me to every facet of womanhood."

I know something about female friendships.  While I don't have 11 friends with whom I've kept an ongoing friendship since childhood, I do have a number of women in my life, some my age and some older, who've bonded with me.  Dianne and I met in junior high (middle school) and became best friends in our senior year of high school.  She's also a good friend of my sister.  My husband tells people that Dianne is my sister's best friend, not mines!  BUT he's wrong!

In 1995, I met Mary, MariePam,  and Toni, at church.  Because she's been married longer than me Mary gives me free marriage counseling!  Marie, who's close to my age, has been married just a couple years less than me.  We're experiencing things together.  I know if I can reach Pam by phone or e-mail, she will pray on the spot; I consider her to be my prayer partner.   Although over the past few years Toni has experienced the deaths of several members of her family, she blows me away with her positive, upbeat spirit.  Through her example, I know beyond a doubt that God sends joy in the midst of our storms.

I met Anita in the 90's when I selected her over three other women to be my administrative assistant.  We  no longer work at the company but have remained friends over the years as our children matured, married and became parents.  Anita and I have been meeting for breakfast once a week with some of our former co-workers. 

Connie and I met in junior high, graduated from high school together, and worked for the same company in the same department.  Thelma graduated from high school with me and ConnieThelma later joined the church I attended before I relocated to another city.  With all these interconnections, I didn't become close to Connie and Thelma until  2007 when Thelma and I began volunteering with a local youth group that Connie had been involved with for years.  Our mutual passion for helping young people bonded us. 

The Lord continues to bring new friends into my life.  A little over 2 years ago when I joined another church, I formed a close friendship with Carolyn.  We had no idea when God connected our hearts that her husband of almost 50 years would pass away this year.  His passing cemented our friendship. 

I'm blessed as well with other important women in my life that includes my mother, mother-in-law, aunt who's like a second mother, sisters, daughter, and daughter-in-law.  I have many other female relatives and friends too numerous to mention who in providing joy have made a difference in my life.  I cherish women who have exposed me to every facet of womanhood.  Yet, as wonderful as it is to have these women in my life, I cherish my Lord and Savior most for HE calls me friend! 

You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my nameJohn 15:14-16

Thank you, Lord for choosing me and calling me friend!!!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taboo Anyone?

My sister and I are making a concerted effort to bring our large family together for other than sad occasions.  We had our first gathering this past October at my sister's home with several of our female cousins.  We had such a good time, we knew we needed to keep the fellowship going.  It took longer than we expected until yesterday - 9 months later - to make it happen again, this time with an expanded invite to include more of our female cousins.  My sister and her daughter and ten of our female cousins came to the fellowship at my home. 

As a surprise, I asked my brother to bring our cousin Sammie who has been battling a serious illness for several months.  They were the only males allowed!  I'm just a month older than Sammie.  I've stayed in touch with him throughout his illness.  I knew he needed  a festive occasion after after his recent scary  hospitalization. Sammie and my brother ate, posed for pictures with us, visited for a little while, and made their escape. 

Two of my cousins are twins.  For this occasion they dressed alike - first time since they were teenagers!  Another cousin had 4 of her grandchildren (triplet girls and their brother) visiting her for the day and brought them to the fellowship.  The triplets had not met their older twin cousins which provided a perfect opportunity to get a picture of all of them together!     

    After the men left, we settled down for a game Taboo.  We played Taboo at our October fellowship and had so much fun that we were anxious to play again. Everyone who played before remembered who the best players were so it took forever to divide into two teams.  We played a highly spirited game!  Although my team has to live down the humiliation of losing, we know we'll have a chance to redeem ourselves at the next cousins' gathering.

Topping off our evening was my Create Your Own Sundae dessert with chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate mint ice cream, peanut butter brownies, whipped cream, chocolate chips and cherries.  What more could you ask for on a Saturday night surrounded by family!  I can't speak for anyone else, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nobody Greater

I spent last week as a volunteer for an annual week-long performing arts youth workshop.  I was one of 8 women on the Volunteer Committee charged with ensuring there were enough volunteers to monitor dorms and classrooms, escort youth on campus, serve meals, supervise activities, and assist whereever needed with our 300+ youth participants. 

I thoroughly enjoyed working with some truly special ladies: Connie, Tiffany, Daphne, Linda, Karen, Barb, and Gwen.  I'm blessed to have known 2 of them since junior high (or middle school in today's vernacular).  Tiffany's exuberant personality helped the Committee in maintaining high energy throughout the week. The Committee bonded so well together that we purchased matching shoes to wear with our program t-shirts! 

The Volunteer Committee worked efficiently and effectively in coordinating the collective effort of over 100 volunteers.  We provided everyone who interacted with us with plenty of laughter and fellowship to counteract the stress generated by 300+ youth AND 90 degree weather.  The camraderie the Committee shared, along with Krispy Kreme donuts, candy, fresh fruit, homemade cakes, and beverages, prompted staff and volunteers to take their breaks in our room.  No doubt about it - our room (Block 105) - was THE place to be!    

The staff, instructors, and the Volunteer Committee prayed daily for God's anointing over the Workshop.  We especially prayed for Ms. Dolly, who had been with the workshop since it's inception and is fighting a battle against cancer.  Yesterday was the culmination of everyone's endeavor as the participants performed a free concert for the community.  God answered our prayers as Ms. Dolly was able to attend the program after having major surgery just a few days earlier.  Also, our local mayor attended the performance and proclamed July 24, 2011 as "Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop Day!" 

Our youth proudly sang praise songs, danced, stepped, performed in the orchestra, showcased their personal art and newsletter, and signed to an appreciative audience.  The closing song, Nobody Greater, was a magnificent end to a splendid day.  Nobody greater than God could have kept this workshop going that started with 75 local youth over 20 years and has spread in recent years to as many as 500 from around the country!  To God be the glory, honor and praise!  There's nobody greater!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Give Me Strength, Lord

This week I'll be one of over a hundred volunteers assisting with a week-long summer workshop where approximately 300 young people will participate in performing arts classes, hear motivational speakers, and learn how to be and stay excellent in all aspects of their lives.  This is my fifth year volunteering with this organization.  It is challenging and rewarding work. 

I moved outside my comfort zone when I was blessed to serve as the program director for two years for one of the components of this organization, as my ministry in His service for years had dealt with women.  I found that He has also given me a heart for youth.  Although I resigned as the program director, the position stretched me beyond my imagination.  My career had been in Human Resources...working with adults.  Working with teens is entirely different! 

While I'm no longer the program director, I've stayed involved with the organization because the work they do is positively impacting the lives of young people.  My husband is now involved and takes a day of vacation to help with game day.  My sisters-in-law have been involved with the organization for many years.  My daughter also volunteered when she was in town.   This is truly a family affair!

I seek your prayers this week as I, along with all of the volunteers, the organization's staff and Board, and the instructors come together to provide a safe place where the Lord will be worshipped and praised.  Help us Lord, to glorify You while encouraging young people to:

1) be excellent in all their ways and endeavors,
2) trust You to guide them through everything they face, and
3) develop their own personal relationships with You. 

Father, give us strength that they will see You in us.  To God be the Glory!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Virtuous Women

This morning the women of my church sponsored a Prayer Breakfast.  Our theme was "Who is a Virtuous Woman" taken from Proverbs 31:10-31.  Over 80 people were in attendance.   Ms. Cassie, who is 90 years old, prayed with the Devotion Team and set our souls on fire.  Leslie, our dynamic guest speaker, exegeted the Scripture and made it plain for all.

Leslie said the Virtuous Women are strong and bring 100% to their marriages, not 50% to add to their husbands' 50%.  No, when the Virtuous Woman's husband found her, she was already at 100%, and both brought their full 100% to the marriage!  Proverbs 31:10-12, 23, 26 A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.   Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.  She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Leslie told us that Virtuous Women: 1) have BUSINESS SAVVY and should be serving on school and corporate boards, city council, etc.  Proverbs 31:13-14, 16, 18-19, 24  She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
 
2) are BEAUTIFUL. They stay physically fit - they take care of their bodies.   Proverbs 31:17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  

3) and are BALANCED.  Leslie talked about the Virtuous Woman using her hands.  Virtuous Women are busy, not idle.   They take care of their homes AND are involved in their community.  They are not worried about tomorrow nor concerned about their pasts - they are able to laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:15, 19-20, 22, 25, 27  She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.  In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needyShe makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.  When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to comeShe watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Leslie told us that most of all the Virtuous Woman is able to do all these things because the Virtuous Woman fears the Lord.  Virtuous Women use their hands and whatever the Lord gives them to honor Him.  Virtuous Women are blessed and will be rewarded for all that they do.  Proverbs 28-31  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Leslie reminded us that all the women in the room this morning have the potential to be  Virtuous Women because the Holy Spirit residing in us gives us what we need to do our Father's will.  He's gifted each of us with something.  Our responsibility is to find out what He wants us to do with our hands and then do it so that when we face Him, He won't ask us "what did you do with what I gave you?"  Leslie challenged us to use up all that He has given us.  You may not have heard her entire message, but I challenge you, too.  What are you doing with what He's given you to do?  If you don't know what it is, ASK Him and He will tell you.  Listen for His voice and then obey.  Read Matthew 25:31-40 for ideas on what you can do while you're waiting to hear from Him.