Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Am....

Mark this on your calendars. This may be my shortest blog to date. Possibly the shortest to come.  I couldn't really say "short and sweet", 'cause, well....the Lord has me in Ezekiel! Go figure. Can't say I've found my way around it with ease or that I understand every passage, but I'm certainly enjoying the journey through it. What can I say? "I Am".....well, He is what He says He is.

Ezekiel 20:4-10
Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge them? Let them know the abominations of their fathers, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob, making myself known to them in the land of Egypt; I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God. On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, "Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness."

It sounds to me like He was pleading with them to open their eyes. Like He was saying "I AM the Lord your God....I AM the one who is calling you to worship....I put that desire in you, I AM what is longing to fill that void in you, I AM "the thing" that you can't put your finger on that's missing. I AM the thing that will work for you this time.... every time. I AM, If only you would trust Me."

And that's where He loses most of us. Trust. We don't trust that our obedience to Him in that situation could possibly bring us any good. So, we'll cling to our idols that make us feel good...for now. We'll hang on to that person for dear life , we'll keep chasing that dollar to build that dream house, we'll hover over our children....even in our thoughts, we'll bend over backwards for that promotion, we'll keep a death grip on our rights. "I AM?" I'll deal with Him later, maybe. Right now I am trying to figure out how to carry all this stuff while I find my own way.....out of this wilderness.

Anybody but me ever found themselves walking a thousand miles and going nowhere, trying to find their way? Here's a shortcut: It may very well seem like the alternate, much less traveled route, but....The I Am is actually THE way.
(Can't you just hear your internal GPS voice saying, "recalculating"?)

He'll tell you which direction. He usually will give you the speed at which to move, too. All you have to do is determine to follow directions. Here's another tip and take my word for it..... immediate response is best. Otherwise, you may miss an important turn and become very disoriented. And, please, take only what He has told you to take and let go of what He says to let go'll get there so much faster. That's the first leg of the journey in the life He wants to give us.

I've always loved a road trip!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Losing My Mind

It had been one of those days. You know...when you feel like you may be losing your mind. Nothing major. Just a thousand little things. Well, this is the scene in my house that evening:
Usually laundry gets done during the day but was one of those days. So, that evening the living room floor was full of the mountain of laundry I'd just folded and was getting ready to put away. Supper was late and it was getting closer to bedtime... and I'll admit...I was really looking forward to it. The boys were finishing up homework that had taken much longer than it should because they were less than motivated that evening. Jude was tired and had just had a little bit of a "come apart" because I didn't let her "match" all of the socks. She had a bunch folded and stacked VERY neatly and some were even matched.....she is a little OCD about some things. When it came to the dark dress socks, I just wanted to get done. So, I wouldn't let her have them. I tried to explain to her that even I have a hard time matching up daddy's socks. Let's just say she didn't agree with what I was telling her.  She finally got over it, though, and the dog came barrelling through and knocked over a big stack of neatly folded clothes. Ok. "What time is it? Can they eat a sandwich and go to bed at 6:30....and take the dogs with them??", is what was going through my mind. Yes, I guess I was a bit tired and crabby and feeling close to losing it.

I finally got the socks matched and began the joyous task of putting the clothes away. When I had an armful of clothes, Jude asked for some chocolate milk. To which I said, "In just a minute. I have my hands full right now." Well..."In a minute", I was back downstairs grabbing another armful. Jude belts out, "I SAID I want some chocolate milk".

My first thought was, "Oh no she didn't. She didn't just yell at me and bark orders at me with her little 3 year old self?!" So, I replied, "Listen missy....I SAID I'd get it for you in JUST a ask nicely when you want something....I am NOT a maid....I'm not here to serve you."

As soon as I said it I thought, "Yuck, I don't like the way that sounded. Not here to serve you?" True, I am not a maid and she needs to remember her manners. But, I immediately was convicted of that phrase, "not here to serve you". Jesus had a lot to say about "the least of these" as well as serving others during His time on earth. The phrase, "not here to serve you" should be excluded from my list of come-backs. It was just a little self-check moment that I needed. I told her I was sorry and explained to her that I would clear the living room floor and then I would be happy to fix her chocolate milk and even give her a snack if she wanted, but she had to wait for just a few minutes while I finished what I was doing. Of course, I also explained that we don't bark orders at people.....we need to ask nicely when we want something and be sure to tell them "thank you" when they get it for us. (Especially the "people" who get her chocolate milk 90% of the time!).

Well, the scene with Jude immediately called to mind what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
I knew the thought that I allowed to come out of my mouth was not in line with Christ in me.  He immediately convicted me of that, and I'm thankful. I know some of you may be thinking, "so she spouted off to her kid....what's the big deal?" The big deal is that it's a much bigger issue for me in that I pray often about my disposition with the kids. Here's the thing....this is the scenario that I do not want played out at the end of my life: I don't want people coming up to them at the funeral and saying, "Your mom was one of the sweetest people I've ever met, she loved the Lord, helped me so much, etc, etc.", UNLESS they can agree with them. When they hear, "Your mom was so sweet", I don't want them thinking, "Are we talking about the same woman? She was crabby to me most of the time and couldn't wait to get us out of her hair!"
So, when the Holy Spirit brought that verse to mind, it was an "Ah-ha" moment for me. I need to take those thoughts that come to mind captive to Christ (and preferably before they spew out of my mouth). The way I am going to have to do that is by examining the attitude I'm it a worldly attitude or a godly one? Again, you may be thinking, "why so deep over a simple run in with a 3 yr old?"
Well, this little run in was just a symptom of an attitude I had assumed. A worldly attitude. Or if you want to get American attitude. This very easily falls into Paul's category of "pretenses". The argument or pretense here is that "I've served enough for one day". That's what our little corner of the world teaches isn't it? Score keeping and caring for self. Like there is a limit to how much we should be expected to serve others.....even our families. Our corner of the world tells us that "no one barks orders at me!" The idea of serving others is actually a limited to-do list rather than a way of life or attitude of the heart: "Helped with the kids at, I'm done for a while."; "Helped with the soup kitchen so, I'm caught up on serving for a while."; "Spent an hour on homework with they need to cut me some slack the rest of the evening."; or "Oh no she didn't just bark an order at me....I'm not her servant!"  See my point? It's an attitude that is deep, deep rooted in our hearts and if you or I want to overcome these tendencies that cause us guilt and do nothing to build up those around us....we're going to have to stop thinking of it as no big deal. Then, we're going to have to see those pretenses and attitudes for what they are. Because, for believers, they are false realities. We have to weigh what our world pushes for against what we know to be true about God....and then bring every thought captive to Christ. Let's face it, as much as we want and vow to do better....lasting change is not something we can just "think up" for ourselves. Too much time spent trying to do that would likely cause us to lose our minds altogether!
Fortunately, Paul also reminds us that those who have the Spirit of God also have the mind of Christ. The person without the Spirit only has the world view.
1 Corinthians 2:8-16
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived” —
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit- taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
We absolutely can think like Christ.....and therefore respond like Him. What I've come to realize is that we first have to admit we don't have the servant's heart that we're called to have in Christ. We're indoctrinated with all manner of selfish tendencies any day of week. We would do well to admit we're not where we need to be sometimes. That's ok. We are all a work in progress. I'm blatantly aware that I am still woefully lacking myself. However, we still have to ask ourselves..."what do I really know to be true about God?" We may find the answer to that question, even for believers in Jesus, is shockingly little. What do we know to be true about the Character of God and the love of Christ? If when answering this question, we fill ill-equipped to "demolish any arguments", we need not fret or beat ourselves up. We simply need to commit to getting to know Him through His Word and through daily prayer. That is in large part, how He changes us and gives us a heart like His and the mind of Christ. That is how we experience Him and come to discern spiritual things as Paul mentioned. This is how I, as a mom, will be able to respond in the ways I always wish I could (or stop responding in ways I wish I didn't). Because, those things won't stir the same feelings in me because I will have the proper perspective;  A spiritual resolve...not a fragile world view.  

I definitely need that spiritual resolve in my present season of wife and mom. In my mom's group one day, we were on the topic of not stopping with our mile long to-do list we're working on to spend time with the serve them. We get so frazzled and frustrated with the laundry, homework, cooking, demanding toddlers, etc.  One of the moms shared how she had to remind herself that she chose to quit her job so she could do all of those things. She's right. What she was saying really, is that we took on a 24/7 servant position, by choice. Then, we get frustrated when we actually have to be of service so much of the time. I definitely need her reminder several times a week. I chose this...and it's an amazing privilege that I don't want to waste. So, I'm going to have to seek hard after Christ if I want to truly be successful in this season as a wife and mom; caring for and building up those around me and pointing them to Christ, too.

I remember hearing Beth Moore explain one time about her busy schedule. I've wondered about it, too....the time it takes for her to study, write, travel, and still do the wife/mom/grandma thing. I can only imagine how tired and frazzled I would be in her shoes and can picture how it would play itself out at home when I'm "done serving for the day." But, when asked how she did it all, she simply said, "I've gotta have my quiet time with God. Every day. I've gotta have it."
"I've gotta have my quiet time with God. Every day. I've gotta have it."
You may not be a frazzled mother, but there may be some area you have just wished you could not be It may be something else entirely different that brings out the worst in you and you wish you could get a handle on it; a work situation, a habit, a person.....all kinds of tendencies. Whatever it may be that you are having a hard time reigning in, know that there is no tendency, no attitude, no thought or behavior pattern that can't be brought captive to obedience in Christ. Not only that, it's not solely on our shoulders for that change to take place. We simply must make the commitment to grow in Him. As we make the effort to get to know Him, the Spirit within us teaches us and addresses the roots of these tendencies, thereby changing our whole perspective and therefore....our behavior.  This is a beautiful benefit only available to those who are in Christ. What's really beautiful is that the more we know Him, the more we will love Him and the taming of some tendency of ours is just the beginning. As Paul quoted, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived"  - these things God has prepared for those who love Him.  Talk about perspective!

Yes, if I can have the mind of Christ, I think I (as well as the members of my household) would be much better off if I just go ahead and lose MY mind.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Healthy Appetite

I was given a list of questions to answer the other day for the moms group I attend twice a month. One of the questions was, "What do you like best about attending MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) meetings?". There are so many things I enjoy about it but I had to say that I just really enjoy the uninterrupted, adult conversation along with a prepared and uninterrupted meal. Both of those things are a rarity with a 3 yr old in the house. Just the other day....I found myself quoting Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham to Jude at the table. I wish chicken nuggets contained all the nutrients my daughter would ever need instead of well....mystery meat. If so, we'd be good to go and meal times would be much more peaceful. I know those moms in my MOPS group feel my pain along with all other mothers of preschoolers! Though, I shouldn't say much. I was an extremely picky eater as a child. My husband makes fun of me all the time because, with the exception of casseroles and peas in my mashed potatoes, I still don't like for most of my foods to touch. Green bean juice does not go well with potatoes. As much as I love corn and homemade mac n cheese, I can't bring myself to eat mac n cheese soaked in corn juice. I always remind him that, though he likes to mix up all of his food, he only likes about 5 things. I guess my pickiness has come back around on me four fold!
The boys were extremely picky when they were little, eating mostly chicken...though they'd eat it all kinds of ways. So, chicken, french fries, fruit, and milk was pretty much their diet for the first four years of their life. Then we could reason with them a little. The sports fanatics that they have always been, we could say, "These are football beans...they'll help you get big and strong so you can throw the football", "These are baseball beans.....they'll help you get big and strong so you can hit the baseball really hard", etc. It worked well. They are pretty good eaters now; Casseroles, salads, green beans, lima beans, broccoli, peas, corn, biscuits, etc. And....they can hit the baseball pretty hard, too! Now, they will eat some junk....certain kinds of cake, candy, or ice cream but they are very picky about it and have always preferred fruit. They've just now gotten to where they'll eat a candy bar.... occasionally. They still won't drink chocolate in their milk. Not sure that really qualifies as a refined palate but, in my book, it no longer qualifies them as picky eaters.
Now Jude, she's not very picky at all..... about her junk food. As long as the sweets are sweet and the chips are salty & not too spicy....she perseveres! Our trouble is that she use to eat all the things that I just listed that the boys will now eat. I'm pretty sure it's a control thing and not my cooking. But, foods that Jude once gobbled up simply because I set them in front of her and didn't make a big deal about it, she has now decided she no longer likes. How can we say we don't like something that we won't try? I've never understood that! She loves corn (go figure), french fries and chicken nuggets. Oh....and hotdogs and chocolate milk. It wasn't that the boys didn't go through the control phase....but, they were older. I always tried to fix things I knew they liked and I still do. So, once I had enough of meal time drama, it only took me sending them to bed hungry one night for them to learn to eat it and like it.....for the most part. With Jude, I'm not quite ready to send my 3 yr old to bed hungry. I have to hit her where it hurts....snacks; "If you don't eat your good food, you don't get any snacks tonight either."
Oh I'm sure there are all kinds of reactions and worries associated with rewarding with snacks or withholding food. But, for now, let's focus on the steak and not the peas. There is a very basic biblical concept that we parents forget to incorporate often, or submit ourselves to often.....and that is the concept of blessing.....and withholding blessing.
I think at times, we treat the Word of God like a child does their food.

We think that one glass of milk a week....or one verse...or one going to grow us into the healthy, whole individuals that can run the race....or hit a homerun....or whatever.
At other times, we dig our heels in like a 3 year old no longer wanting the broccoli and cheese she once loved. Only, we don't come right out and say, "I don't like that!" We show it by our appetites for junk. We can find time for anything and everything but God. We can rationalize every act of disobedience in our minds.
The 3 yr old is just being a 3 yr old. We have no excuse. Its not that we really enjoy our position. Some may but a lot of us have asked ourselves, "why can't I get it together? Why can't I get past this, stop that, start this, finish that?" I would venture to say it's because we are malnourished. We don't have the strength to change, to grow, or even hold up, because we go to church once on Sunday and then fill our lives with junk the rest of the week. Or....we go to church on Sunday, maybe even read the word through the week, but never let it sink in; never let it strengthen our bones. It's a form of rebellion called complacency. Actually, the scriptures refer to it as being lukewarm. Still, there are others who hear or read a Word, and rebel because they don't like what it means for them personally. I think we've all probably been one or all of these at some point and need to be conscientious that we don't pick up old habits.
After being all of these myself and still trying to ward off any childish tendencies, I can say that He is just plain good. Just like the proverb says...."taste and see".
         I love how Priscilla Shirer puts it:
"Once you begin to experience are ruined for anything else."
Or how about Beth Moore's take?:
"Ain't no high like the Most High!"
How true it is. I crave time with Him. As a matter of fact, when answering the questions for the newsletter, one asked, "If you had a weekend free of kids and any responsibility, what would you do?" I had to say that I would just spend some much craved alone time with God....absorbing His Word without interruption and probably journaling about whatever experience He allowed me. Don't get me wrong...I'm not tooting my own horn. I still have issues of prioritization with my own time with Him and plenty of days where I just flat don't make time...... I am a work in progress too. But, as much as I love my sweet husband and our lively children.....there are times when there's certainly nowhere I'd rather be than at His feet and if I had a weekend with no family responsibilites, that's where I'd be.
Because the excess we consume daily tends to leave us far from satisfied. Haven't you ever noticed after all the holiday pie and cookie January 1st, we're just left feeling like we'd feel so much better if we could just puke but we don't have the energy because of the crash that follows the overload of simple starches?? It's the same way I've felt when I've overloaded my life with things that are not beneficial or just pure junk.
If we let Him though, He refines our palates so we can distinguish the good stuff from the junk. (His blessings from the devil's deceptions) He's patient....he doesn't expect us to know how to cook everything ourselves and which seasoning is best to use in what dish. I've become a decent cook in the 15 years we've been married but I can't tell you what on earth you season with cumin. I've burned my share of meals. I still burn them! (My husband is always telling me not to turn things on high and walk away. You can never pass off "scorched" as a new flavor you experimented with.)
Our spiritual palates certainly need refining. Ever wonder why it's so easy for those in impoverished, starving nations to accept the gospel vs the refined palates and hard hearts in our country today? Some would say its because the poor are uneducated and don't know better. I think it's the opposite. They see things much clearer. They simply see what's real in this world and what really matters. Whereas, in our country of abundance, we value pursuit of happiness above all else and our vision is very blurry. We are just a big breeding ground for all manner of the devil's schemes. We've acquired an appetite for junk; We cross our arms like my 3 yr old and say, "I don't like it!" and go our own way. We'd rather starve than submit. He won't force feed us, that's for sure.
For a non-believer, it's not of much (apparent) consequence. For a believer though...we find out from experience about the biblical concept of blessing and withholding blessing. Others wouldn't notice because of our abundance of stuff. But, there's that nagging feeling we have inside that something's still missing. And it is.
You know, I am 35 years old and I have finally gotten over myself and my control issues. Though, I am always on the lookout for them to rear their ugly heads again. But, I don't care that I'm not in control....I tend to mess things up anyway. No telling what kind of unhealthy life I'd be living if I'd had my way in some things over the years. It really is ok. For goodness sake....just try the peas!! The peas are what's missing!! Like Paul said, there's a time for milk...sure....but at some point, you need to move on to the solid food.
I don't want anything withheld from me because of my stubborn pride ever again. I want whatever He has for me. I want my family to experience the overflow of His blessings. I don't mean financially (though, that's always an obvious area of need and always appreciated!) But, being financially sound doesn't mean one is richly blessed. I'm talking about things I want for my family after I'm called home; things that remain, can't be taken by a politician or a bad economy. Not an enormous estate...I'm talking about knowing peace and joy; Having no fear; Feeling loved simply because His love couldn't be contained in me. The kinds of blessings He gives are the kind that keep on giving for generations to come. That's His promise in scripture to the obedient. And I want every single thing He wants to give me. Therefore, If He wants me to eat brussel sprouts (and I hope He doesn't), I may not like it...but I'm going to do it. Because I know He's refining my palate to partake of the things that bring me good and make me healthy and whole, so I can run my own race.
He may be asking you to eat green beans so to speak. I have to admit, the boys actually liked them long before I did. (There's a prime example of faith like a child....."these will help you hit the baseball really hard"...."Ok!") I ate a very few just so they could see me eat them too but fortunately, I learned how to cook them where not only I really like them, too, but my picky husband has slowly added them to his short list of acceptable meal staples, as well. Miracles do happen.
Maybe "green beans" for you is staying in a job, a marriage, a house, a friendship, a town, or a church that you just don't like right now. But, I can tell you that He blesses obedience. Even in impossible situations. Especially in impossible situations. Nothing is impossible for Him. You will find that one day, you're greatest blessing came from the fact that you ate your green beans like a big girl and you are now healthy and whole because of it and you'll be wondering with a thankful heart, "what if I had refused?!"
Let's just do ourselves a favor and not play around with His Word anymore. Let's commit to a healthy portion of it every day. Then, let's ward off the authority issues, the issues of control, fear, or whatever else keeps us tight lipped with arms crossed at His table.... and taste and see that He is good.
Psalms 34:1-10
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

I'm sure you'll recognize this oldie but goody (and probably sing it for the next day or so like I have!):
"Lean on me
 When you're not strong
 I'll be your friend
 I'll help you carry on"
It makes you feel better by just singing it sometimes, doesn't it? I've been singing that one since I posted yesterday's blog introducing the topic of friendship....along with the Whitney Houston song:
"Count on me through thick and thin
 A friendship that will never end
 When you are weak, I will be strong
 Helping you to carry on"
As promised, we're on the subject of friendship again today. Yesterday we talked about what a gift friendship is from our Creator.  It truly is a blessing. Having said that, I can't sugar coat it and say it's always peachy keen. It requires effort, to say they least, and at times, the Proverb, "A friend loves at all times" can really be put to the test. We are going to look at a familiar group of friends in scripture today that were put to the test to the nth degree.
Whether you're a believer or not, you've most likely heard at least some of the story of Job. Well, I unintentionally landed in the book of Job the other day when doing a search on my Bible app on my iPhone. I got so wrapped up in the text of Job that I can't even tell you now what word I was searching for that sent me there. If I didn't know better, I'd say some of those passages weren't there before because I only remember a few basic things about Job: his often quoted "patience of Job" reference; his great test of faith by Satan; and how God got mad at Job and his friends. Let's just say that this particular search opened up a whole new can of worms for me. I must forewarn you that just as friendships can be is the book of Job....and I pray I haven't over complicated this post!:)
Now, I must give this disclaimer: I don't profess, by any means, to understand all of the subject matter and meaning tucked away in the book of Job. All I can tell you is that some things struck me during this reading that never had before. As Hebrews 4:12 says, "The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword." This I believe whole heartedly. When I first started nursing in the ICU, I had a veteran nurse tell me something that stuck with me.... the patients were so fragile and their care truly so intense...that he prayed everyday on the way to work that he wouldn't kill anyone that day. That became my prayer as well. I feel the same way when sharing anything scriptural with others....that I won't do more harm than good. So, I'm simply going to share the thoughts that were stirred in me when reading over Job and ask you to prayerfully revisit this book yourself. Who may be like me and find a whole new section of scripture has somehow found it's way into your Bible, too!:)

If it's been a while, here's the intro:
Satan had been "roaming to and fro on the earth" and had challenged God that His people only love Him for what He can do for Him. So, God brought His attention to Job, a faithful, righteous man. Long story short, God allowed Job to be tested; his family and possessions taken from him and then horrendous physical ailments to plague him.

[I am going to recap the interactions between Job and his friends the way they struck me, in the concept of friendship. I should tell you that there is much debate over why God was mad at Job and his friends. There is much debate on many, many aspects of this book. Sometimes though, I think we over analyze scripture and other times I think, out of His wisdom, He holds off our understanding until He deems appropriate for our benefit and His purposes.]
Back to Job:
These three sort of infamous friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) had heard about Job's terrible circumstances and got together and decided to go visit Job to encourage and comfort any good friend would. (you can just hear "just call on me brother, when you need a hand" playing can't you?) Only, when they saw him from a distance, he was in such bad shape it shocked them and they basically lost it. Still, they went and sat by his side for a solid week....speechless, the Bible says. Not one word. When finally, Job himself speaks. Speak he does. What does he say? Think about it, we've all felt it in some circumstance, "Why, God??"Job goes on and on and on about how he wished he'd never been born. So, disturbed by that thought, Eliphaz reminds him that he has done a lot of good for many suffering's just that now he was the one suffering. He reminds him not to despise the discipline of the Lord. He's trying to be a good friend. Though, he doesn't realize the spiritual warfare going on. Job isn't being punished....God has allowed Satan to test Job's faith.

Well, Job goes on, somewhat understandably, with his "woe is me" speeches but then begins to question God. Then Bildad speaks up. He tells Job something to the effect of, " hey buddy....we understand your plight...but do you think it wise to say that God is doing you an injustice?" To which Job simply increases his challenges to God. So, the other friend Zophar speaks up and says, "You deserve worse!" Wow. Zophar is angered at his mockery of God and attempts to call his attention back to the fact that God is the Almighty.

Well, it goes downhill from here. Job lashes back at them and says "Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face." In ch. 15,

Here's one of the baffling things to me. I've always heard about the patience of Job. He originally whole heartedly worshipped God when calamity hit. Yet, here in this verse he says, "Though He slay me...I will hope in Him"....then follows it up with an arrogant comment to the effect of "but, I want to have a chat with Him and ask Him just what He thinks He's doing!" In my humble opinion, the second statement calls the sincerity of the first one into question.   Eliphaz answers this with his own speech of, "Pretty brave there aren't ya Job ole buddy? So you don't fear God anymore?" I can almost hear the words that come out of Job's mouth next in ch. 16, "Y'all are some miserable's easy for you to spout all of that're not in my position!"
First new picture for me during this reading: I know I'm not a scholar but I just didn't really get the impression that his friends were trying to hurt him with their words. I mean...they came all that way and had been there a week at his side. They loved Job. But, rather, it seemed they were trying to guard his heart and mind from going to a dangerous place with God. This is where our godly friendships can get messy. In a worldly friendship...the other friends would likely just agree with him out of support. That's what we want people to do when we are suffering isn't it? We want them to comfort us. We want them to be on our side. We want them to encourage us on the path that we've chosen. The additional responsibility of godly friendships, though, is also to be aware of things unseen. Job is right in the middle of spiritual warfare. At any given moment, we are too. I think the friends wanted to support Job any way they could. Yes, they wrongly assumed he was being disciplined for some sin in his life, but still whatever the cause, they could see the war of the mind and his faith beginning to fail and it alarmed them. They could see the enemy at work in his thoughts and they knew that was a slippery slope.  We ALL need friends like that. I think Job was in the midst of the grieving process and he simply wanted his friends to empathize. He wanted them to agree with him and say, "I can't believe God would do this or allow this!"and they weren't about to go there.  After all, does it really count as supporting each other when what we are really supporting is the enemy's efforts in our lives? Kind of like Luke 9:25, "What good does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"
I will say this: There are times when our circumstances are the direct result of letting our minds lead our hearts down that slippery slope with the enemy and though we'd like to, there is no one to blame but ourselves. Yet, there are also some horrendous things that happen to us in this world. They are allowed by God and could be prevented by God. I can't argue that point. But, just like with Job, those things that happen are the works of the enemy. I can't explain the barbaric rape and torture that took place in India that's been all over the news any other way. I can't explain why people are born into poverty and violence. This world is broken. Period. All I know is that our God is in the business of restoration. One day justice will be restored....and will reign. Period. We need only, as Paul says, to "keep the faith." It's hard and as a result....rare. As Beth Moore said it recently, "The enemy is not after our health....he is not after our marriage....he is not after any earthly thing. He is after our faith! KEEP the faith!" The enemy was not after Job's health or his family or anything else....he wanted his faith.

Back to Job and his friends, they all go back and forth for several more chapters about some pretty hefty things. Then finally, Job goes on, (for six chapters) grieving the words of his friends, the gravity of his afflictions, and the perceived absence of God. At the end of this rant, his friends just don't have it in them to argue with him anymore. They seem to have either assumed a, "You can't tell him anything. We tried to help and he's hurling insults at us....I'm not saying another word" attitude or one of..."I don't know....Maybe he's right".
This is where another question came to mind about our little Job here: I'm sure it won't be found in any commentaries, but I just wonder if Job really isn''t showing his humanity and pride here? To me, it seems he takes offense to his friends trying to teach him anything. Even when he is speaking of the majesty of God, it's almost like he is only saying it to confirm that he is just as wise as any one of them. Yes, pride can get in the way of any friendship...even, or should I say at times...especially.... friendships among believers. It can certainly hinder any healing or restoration He may want to offer. This is precisely the form our friendships can easily take. I'd say the whole scene has probably fit us all to a tee at some point.

Then something caught me off guard that I don't remember ever hearing or reading before....out of the blue, a fourth friend speaks up, Elihu, "the son of Barachel the Buzite of the family of Ram." (Which, as a side a descendant of David). He is younger and has kept his mouth closed through all of this out of respect for those older than him. But it says in ch. 32 that he "burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God and at the friends because they found no answer for Job." Basically, he was content to keep quiet and let the elders deal with Job and his ill-conceived notions but was disappointed that they had caved and fallen silent.  Now, I don't think Elihu means to be but, is a little arrogant and insensitive at times....but I think he had good intentions. Elihu calls Job out and says, "You're basically saying that you might has well have sinned and not been a righteous man....and that is just messed up Job! Do you hear yourself?" In chapters 32-37, Elihu kind of sets Job straight about the greatness, majesty, and justice of God. Then in chapter 38, God takes up his own case with Job.

I ended up camping on this one for a while. The thought that maybe Elihu had been compelled to try to reach Job and this very act may have been Job's saving grace in that maybe it prepared his heart for the encounter that was coming with the Almighty. If he had not been addressed again after his 6 chapter what state of mind would he have been? Would he have, as many have done when in hardship and as his wife encouraged him to do, finally denied God? The fact that God used some of the same words that Elihu had already challenged Job with tells me that Elihu was operating under the Spirit, as he had claimed, and could not keep quiet.

As I said, I don't understand all that transpired in the book of Job. Among many other questions, I don't know why Elihu only appeared in this segment and I don't know why God didn't mention him when He rebuked the three other friends for their silence and appearance of almost agreeing with Job. I really wonder, though, if Elihu was not rebuked by God because God saw that he was concerned about the spiritual well being of Job above what everyone thought of him speaking up. Elihu may not have handled it 100% maturity and grace and it may be why God didn't commend him either. Thoush, as the younger one, he had to assume a position that he shouldn't have had to assume. Maybe that's why God neither commended nor rebuked him, we may never know. What I do know is, in the last few decades, complacency in our spiritual lives has become the accepted norm. So, regardless of our age at the moment.... we could all do with a little more boldness in the faith.  Overall, with Elihu, I get a feeling that though he was blunt with him at times, he also seemed to be pleading with Job because he was afraid for him....and as we saw in chapters 38-42....with good reason.

When actually faced with God and HIS questions, Job suddenly could barely speak.

God wasn't happy with the friends either. Again, though it's highly debated, I don't get the impression that He was mad over what they said to Job. I think it was because of what they didn't say. They hadn't "spoken of Him as His servant Job had." Just had...when he repented of his arrogance with God. They let him wear them down. Whether they were tired of arguing, had their feelings hurt, or maybe even questioning God themselves now....they had demonstrated a lack of faith either by being swayed or by letting pride take over and shut up their defense of God and they had not yet corrected or repented of it.  So, He told them to march on out and prepare a sacrificial offering and Job would be praying for them and since Job was right before Him again, He would accept His plea for them.

This was the final thing that struck me in the book of Job this time around that never had before. After Job repented of his rants against God, we read on in Job 42:1, "After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before."
I found that fascinating....the Lord had Job pray for his friends. The friends that came all that way to comfort their ailing friend but ended up adding to his grief and having a monumental blow up. He didn't restore Job's fortunes until AFTER he prayed for his friends. In my opinion, they were all in the wrong in some way.....God made it right. He made it right because after they messed up, they wisely put aside pride and closed their mouths. Then, they....did....what....He....asked. I think what a restoring time it must have been for Job while praying for his friends after such raw emotions had just been exchanged between them. How humbling but precious it must have been for the friends to be aware as they were preparing their sacrifices for their own wrong in the situation, that Job was right with God again...and now praying for them. He is in the business of restoration!

I think Job has a lot to say about our friendships of today. The enemy is still very much after our faith. Fortunately, even when we fall short, our God is still very much in the restoration let's be true in our friendships and help each other where it matters keeping the faith.

"When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down"


Friday, January 11, 2013

You've Got a Friend

"Oh my, it has started.", is what I texted to a friend a few weeks ago.
It has officially begun. One of our boys, here a few weeks before his 12th birthday, is very suddenly interested in girls. Say it ain't so! I had a very, very, very strange experience with Preston this last weekend. I'm certainly not saying it was a bad one....just strange....and new.

I never thought I'd say this, but the Xbox has been really good for the boys since we moved. (Just don't tell them I said the Xbox was good for them.....I will deny it!) I guess it's much like facebook has been for me.....we don't feel quite so far and disconnected from everyone with the help of technology. They can talk to and play games with their cousins and close buddies back in Tennessee. They also have a text feature on their iPods now that allows them to message each other. Now, on the Xbox, they can play anyone who sends them a "friend request", as long as we approve and enter the parental code to accept the request. So, now they can play their California friends, Tennessee cousins and friends, and friends of their cousins and friends... all at the same time. So, their Tennessee friends and their California friends are, in a round about way, getting to know each other a little and they are getting to know their friends. Which, with proper supervision, is really cool. See where I'm going with this though?

So far they've only asked to" friend" one girl who is a newer friend of one of their long time buddies. I thought it would be fine but was surprised that they cared to add a girl they didn't even know. Silly me.

To make a long story short, I'm in the garage doing laundry and Preston brings me his iPod because he doesn't have a lot of experience texting and wanted to recover a conversation he accidentally deleted. I saw more than he had planned on me seeing though. As I scanned over it....I think my mouth may have flown open. Oh, it was all very innocent....I just couldn't believe he was talking to a girl and talking to his friends ABOUT a girl. Talk about uncharted territory for this mama. My response shocked Preston. Honestly, it shocked me. My restraint must've been the Holy Spirit on me is all I can say. I simply showed him a couple of things about his message feature and even showed him how to add her to his contact list. Oh, he got a brief...."I wasn't born yesterday and I expect you to be a gentleman" speech. But, that was the extent of our short, and might I shaking, interaction. He went back inside with a funny grin on his face. As I walked by his room a few minutes later, he looked up and grinned again. I said, "what?!" Preston said, "nothing....I just figured you would freak out." I kept my cool and told him it was part of life, nothing to freak out over. But, boy was I freaking out on the inside...."What just happened??? He likes girls now??? His friends are fixing him up with girls??? And through this maze of technology that has always scared me anyway?!"

What do I do? I pick up my phone and text one of MY friends! Kim, who you've probably heard me mention before in previous blogs, is a mom of 4 with ages ranging from 5-16 years old and her oldest son is a close friend with the boys, too. In fact, his birthday is just 4 days after theirs. So, we've had many conversations over the years on raising these boys in today's world and I can always count on her to not only give me solid advice....but to give godly advice. Her decisions with her children are not based on what is necessarily easiest or even acceptable by norms today but by how they affect their spiritual walk. So, I knew she could offer me some much needed advice at the time. So, I texted her with "it has started!" and ran a couple of things by her to make sure I was looking at it and handling it with the proper perspective.

I was just reminded again what a blessing friendship is. That's the thing that we ladies have truly missed the boat on sometimes....the value of friendships...especially godly friendships. Now, I of course talked about it with my husband and we agreed on their priviledges. (They are lucky....they have such a good daddy.) But, I think I can speak for the majority of parents when I say that daddies will never quite understand how our mama brains work. When my son brought me an iPod with the first messages ever from a girl loaded on less than 100 scenarios flew through my mind. Well....let's just say I was glad to have a friend that would not just make me feel good and ease my mama mind, but one that I knew would keep me in line with what a godly mama would do.

We are so very busy these days and I know I for one have been guilty of not investing enough time in friendships. Fortunately, despite my shortcomings, the Lord has blessed me with strong friendships that, through little effort of my own, have lasted since childhood. Not to mention siblings and original circle of friends:) He continues to add new ones along the way. Today more than ever in this crazy world, I'm thankful that even though I have not always invested well in others, the Lord knew what I'd need and has placed some godly women in my life that I can discuss anything with...from the day to day joys and frustrations to all out spiritual warfare.

We tend to make relationships more complicated than they have to be. We all know that our family is our first ministry. I am not at all suggesting we leave them every Friday night to have a girls night out for the sake of investing in friendships. Nor am I saying we have to spend daily time together like Lucy and Ethel. With technology today, there are simple ways we can touch base without totally dropping our daily duties. Just a phone call, email or text to check in with them can go a long way in letting them know that we are thinking of them during our busy day. While I don't think we should be inseperable like Lucy and Ethel, I believe it is extremely important to make time to truly sit, talk, and catch up. For men, and some women maybe, it would probably be a round of golf; the occasional long lunch or evening out; whatever it may be, when that time is spent with a godly's like a dose of medicine for an ache. As I said, I have dropped the ball in this area many times. But, I am increasingly aware of a need that I feel is likely to be at the core of each of us....friendship. We were made for it. We weren't made to "go it alone."

You see, it's more than just a James Taylor song. For starters, we were made for friendship with God and fellowship with Him. We aren't alone by any means. In being the good friend that He is, He also created us for fellowship with each other....especially in the Church. He knew we'd need each other in this life. We need people to laugh with and share our struggles with; We need godly people in our life to help us maintain our accountability to God in a world that increasingly wants to draw us away; and last but certainly not least, He knew we needed these relationships...not just so we could be served, but so we could learn to serve others. When He is allowed to work out our shortcomings in our friendships, we increase our capacity for humility, love, compassion, and forgiveness...and ultimately we grow in our relationship with Him.

I want that for sure. I especially want that for my pre-teen boys! I pray that my boys will always be friends with their buds from Tennessee. I pray even more that the boys will learn to be not just good friends to each of them, but godly friends. I pray that the boys and their friends and even the ones to come will grow into the type of friends that can discuss anything; The kind of friends that won't simply make each other feel good about their situation...but will keep them in line with being godly men.

Tomorrow we're going to look at a familiar story that, I think, gives us a scriptural frame of reference for the shape that godly friendships take. For now.....text a friend today and let her know you're thinking of  her (and maybe download some James Taylor from itunes)! Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013: A Year for Change?

2013. Wow. It sounds odd to say it and even more odd to see it in writing. Growing up, the 20--'s were often imagined as having flying cars, robots galore, and civilizations on other the movies at least. Though only 6 years in Los Angeles, thankfully, is still a far cry from the movie Blade Runner's depiction of the city in the year 2019 with a dark earth, flying cars, and robots indistinguishable from humans. That's the way we use to picture things by 2020, though. A cold, dark, technologically advanced world....a Sci-Fi nightmare. I am happy to say that the view of the Los Angeles lights when landing New Year's Eve night was a beautiful sight and we were not greeted by any "replicants" or human like robots. Though, Harrison Ford would have been a welcome sight. (I don't know or care how old he is...I love me some Harrison Ford). I guess we are going to have to push those story lines of a dark LA to the 21--'s because after a week of wintry weather in Tennessee, the sun almost blinded me New Year's Day.

I'm not sure what is more odd to me, though: the fact that it is already 2013 or the fact that I find myself living in Los Angeles. Just like the 1980's imagery of a 2019 LA was far from accurate, my world certainly doesn't look as I would've pictured it looking by 2013. Having said that...I must clarify that both of the realities of today are far better than imagined. Oh, I'm not saying LA is paradise....but I'd take the LA of today over Blade Runner's depiction any day....even if I was able to see Harrison everyday! Like the city, my own little world certainly has dark spots, too.'s closer to perfection than anything I had ever imagined.

2012 was full of changes. No, that's not quite accurate. EVERYTHING changed in 2012. Location, house, schools, church, and faces. I think that's why throughout this Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's season, I found myself reflecting more than I had before and appreciating each person and moment more than ever. Who says change isn't good?

Though it wasn't quite long enough, we had a great visit with family and friends in Tennessee over Christmas. Our last night there, we attended a special worship service with our old church family to help usher in 2013 with the proper perspective. I've been away for a few months now but I knew it had been a challenging time for those long faithful members keeping things going as they are between pastors right now while still dealing So, I was relieved as the pastor filling in made his suggestions Sunday morning for the evening service. I could tell that he knew just what they needed. As it turns out, it was what I needed, too. It was so beneficial to me that I knew I needed to write down my thoughts on the matter so I wouldn't forget. Then I really merits sharing. So....these are the 3 things he suggested for us to think of and share about if we wanted to that night:

1. A scripture that had spoken to us in 2012.
2. A blessing we received in 2012.
3. A goal for 2013.

It didn't take me long to think of the scriptures that had spoken most to me or the blessings I had received. The goals for 2013....well, I'm still trying to set those. Maybe I should figure out the best goal that would help me procrastinate less!:)

Scriptures: I think He actually gave me a specific scripture in 2011 to prepare me for the changes of 2012. He's good that way! Then He gave me one to help me deal in 2012.

First, in 2011, He repeatedly presented me with and sunk the meaning of 2 Timothy 1:7 into my bones:

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

In this, Paul is reassuring Timothy in his commitment to serve Christ and not the world. There comes a point when a professing believer in Christ must grasp this concept and my time had come. He had been patient with me and was ready for me to stop trying to serve two masters. I had not demonstrated the sincere faith that Paul was commending Timothy for in the verses prior. He was gently nudging me from my long held position seated with white knuckles on the proverbial fence. Total obedience to the Lord lay on one side and conforming to the world on the other. I can't speak for any of you but the thought of going "all in" in any area tends to make the view from the fence suddenly more appealing to me. Anyone ever sat on an actual fence, though?  It's a balancing act trying not to lean too far to either side. Not exactly comfortable. One little word from this verse sums up why anyone would want to stay in that position....fear. Whether I was aware of it or not, I can see it now as plain as I saw the millions of lights when landing in Los Angeles New Year's Eve night. It was certainly fear....fear of uncertainty, fear of pain, fear of rejection maybe, fear of change for sure, fear of "what-ifs", etc. Just fear.

Yes, it's certainly true that total obedience to Christ alone is costly and uncomfortable by our worldy standards. The things we fear most may actually come to be. We may have to give up things we treasure; a job, a person, a habit, a place, a way of life or maybe the one we dream of. When our mind is centered on this world....the fear of losing those things can keep us on the fence or even drive us to climb down on the world's side. We love our children, our spouse, our family, our church, our job, our stuff, and on and on. We should. They are blessings. What I found that I had done though, and I'm sure many other believers do as well, is that I had placed those blessings in the position in my heart and mind that my God was always meant to hold. Yes, I was to appreciate and cherish them as blessings, but they were not meant to hold my allegiance. That turned His blessings into idols. Therefore my obedience to Him, on the big things and the little daily things, revolved more around how that obedience would relate to my treasures. Would it affect my relationships? Would it cost me something? I was a professing believer who didn't believe in the goodness of God and His faithfulness to the faithful.
I wish I could tell others on the fence that my fears were inaccurate and nothing changes just because you say "Yes" to God. But, I can't do that because when I began saying "Yes" to God....everything changed. I changed. My perspective changed. That's what He does though. If we are willing, He wants to work in the worldy, selfish hearts we are born with and transform us more and more into His image. This is where our fear takes hold on a very subtle but powerful level. When we begin to look like Him, we will inevitably stick out from the crowd. We will often even find ourselves feeling different from or seeming different to co-workers, friends we've known for years, family, and even church members. Because the life lived in obedience to Christ is far from what we typically see on a daily basis today. People tend to start looking at us like we're crazy for the truths we hold or the decisions we make....maybe even tell us so. That's always been an underlying fear of mine and likely for the majority of Americans to some extent. Why else would the phrase, "Keeping up with the Jones's" exist? We shouldn't understimate the power of our need for acceptance, to belong. It's the fear of not being accepted that keeps us conforming to this world. Fear is a very effective tool used by the enemy. No, our spirit of fear certainly does not come from God.
What He has clearly taught me is that the fear of losing the things we love in this world and especially our place in this world....will surely keep us from finding our purpose in it. We may seem radically different...even crazy to many and that's ok. When we allow Him to take His place in our hearts and as we seek to obey Him more and more, He drives out fear, filling us with His love and power. I know some may call me crazy, but I have never been more sound in mind in all of my life. That is the assurance that I can honestly offer to those on the fence. There is such peace in having a sound mind that I wish I had gotten off many, many years ago. It's rather hard for fear and peace to co-exist.
"Sound mind" is translated in the ESV as self control and in the NIV as self-discipline. All of which fall under having a sound mind. It means that those with a sound mind are not easily swayed, don't over-react, aren't continually making poor decisions, and maintain the proper perspective. For me, at it's root, there is just great peace in having a sound mind simply because fear is removed...along with it's symptoms of worry and anxiety.  It can certainly creep up and we have to turn it over to Him daily. The devil doesn't give up easily. Doesn't the bible tell us the enemy prowls around like a lion waiting to devour us? (1 Peter 5:8) But how freeing it is to be comfortable in my own skin, regardless of who I'm around. How relieving it is now to realize that even if my worst fears were realized on this earth....This is not my home. Nor is it my husband's or my children's. Oh, how I wish I had gotten off the fence years ago! The one on the world's side of the fence is really a captive whether they know it or not. But so was I when trying to balance myself with white knuckles.
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
~ John 8:31-32
In 2012, He gave me my greatest test of faith ever in our move to California. But, He was so faithful in His reassurances that fear was never allowed to take hold about the move, which was a miracle in and of itself! What began to surface then was more of an inward struggle with weaknesses...of which I still have plenty. The move would change everything for all of us and I questioned whether or not I could be all that I needed to be during this time of unprecedented change for our family. The answer to that question was most certainly, "No!"
Then in May of 2012, before the move, I had another verse soak into my bones. It was one I had heard a thousand times but never grasped beyond the superficial level of, "oh that's a nice verse." 
"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor 12:9
This came as I somewhat hesitantly went on a weekend away with the Lord to an event called Faithwalk.  Along with this verse, I received one of my greatest blessings...not just of 2012 but of all the 34 years prior. I got a profound sense of His love for me and understanding for the love He has for us all on a level I never had before. When He says He loves us, He LOVES us. When He says He forgives, He forgives....and forgets. When He says He is sufficient for us, He is more than enough.
If you look at the passage in context, Paul has some sort of weakness. We don't know if it's spiritual, emotional, or physical. But he knows that he has been created less than perfect because when the Lord begins to reveal Himself to us in such personal's such an indescribable feeling that one could begin to feel so "special" that they grow a rather large head! So, He allowed Paul the experience....the priviledge..... of having to stay humble before Him. He loves us in spite of our weaknesses. So much that He is pleased to show Himself to us through those weaknesses.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “ My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
 Makes you want to shout "Amen!" doesn't it?
I know I'm not going to have all the answers. My weaknesses are going to get the best of me some days. I know I'm not going to handle everything the way a "good mom" should. Still, when I have days I have come up short, when I've blown it, or anytime I read scripture and realize that my heart looks nothing like my Savior's on the matter....He still loves me. He doesn't ask me to be perfect....He asks me to be obedient.  He can work with that! If we ever question whether or not He can still use us and our imperfect selves, we can just read the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. All He requires from us is faith. Faith sets our feet in motion along the path of obedience. Walking with Him is what makes us strong.  His grace is truly sufficient for me.
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, to strengthen those whose hearts are fully commited to Him." ~ 2 Chronicles 16:9 
So, this year I only have one goal so far...make my time with Him a daily priority. He gives grace daily. Therefore, like tending a garden, I need to spend time with Him daily if I want to keep those feelings of fear and failure weeded out. Otherwise, how would I ever hope to grow to be fruitful?  That should be a goal for all of us as believers... to be glorify Him. We don't like to use the word "change" except when we are seeking a change for the better in some area at the beginning of each year. Don't get me wrong...goals for diet and healthy lifestyles sure help us to look and feel better and are important. Even in those weaknesses and "guilty pleasures" we obsess over...He is sufficient. Therefore, in 2013, instead of obsessing just over food choices, our imperfect bodies or character flaw, or any other resolution we've made so far, why don't we resolve to live a life of obedience, to be fearless in our walk with Him, and to make every effort to glorify Him in our choices. Then let's just watch and see what change He starts in our hearts and the power He pours into our lives in the New Year. 

Again I ask....Who says change isn't good?
Jude 1:24-25
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Happy New Year!!!!

The Home Place: A few clips from our trip....definitely showing some roots!:)
The sistas
Lily & Jude:)
Slept through dinner Christmas Eve!
The reluctant annual photo at Me-Maw's before they get all messed up playing with cousins! 

Jude's cookies and note for Santa.

The guys Christmas morning with their new sweatshirts. They love them so much they've tried to wear them everyday since! Santa could've gotten off much cheaper had he known!
Jude and Maw making biscuits Christmas morning.
Jude working the biscuit dough...If you look closely, you can see Poppy ruining the Christmas will go down in the books for sure...Christmas 2012....the year Pop made an unauthorized adjustment to a 40 year old biscuit recipe:)
The annual Christmas morning show and tell!

The New Addition for the Browns, Hudson Taylor! Or as his uncle BB calls him in true southern fashion..."Hud Taylor"!
Snow Christmas night made for a memoral day after!
Thankfully not enough snow to keep me from having a short but sweet lunch date with sista girls!
Didn't take long for Jude to get reaquainted with everyone!

Steve (left) with his brother Jeff (center) while Jeff spoke and prayed in typical Jeff Brown fashion that typically makes us teary eyed:) It was our Cousin Jeff's (right) 50th birthday party.....pulled off by telling him we were all getting together before heading back west. Glad we got to be there for it!

Looks about typical. Cousins.  :)

Me-Maw and Grandaddy with "Wheet-tuff"