Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trusting God through the losses of life

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

~  Job 1:21b-22  ~

Loss and the subsequent grieving process seem to always be a part of our lives. We lose loved ones, jobs, our health, our faculties, relationships, material possessions, status and especially our car keys LOL!

Learning to grieve and work through those losses are the most important tasks of our lives, often determining the extent of our spiritual growth and ministry on this earth. Jesus pointed that out when he shared the parable about the kernel of wheat falling into the ground and dying in order to yield a large harvest. (John 12:24)

One of my favorite Bible stories centers around Ruth and Naomi. (The Book of Ruth, chapters 1-4)  Both women suffered heavy losses. Naomi was uprooted from friends and family in Bethlehem to move to a new land where she experienced the pain of being an outsider. Then her husband died, leaving her and her sons to fend for themselves. They were stuck in a strange land because returning to Israel meant a further loss of livelihood – the famine was heavy there, leaving no grazing land for their flocks.

As long as she had her two sons, Naomi felt compelled to be strong – to bear her losses and carry on in this foreign place. She even managed to rejoice and grew to love her new daughters-in-law when her sons married local girls. But when both of her sons died, leaving her virtually alone and unprotected in a foreign place, Naomi’s resolve cracked and a deep depression which had been building up for a long time overcame her soul. She lost her faith in God, allowing the pent up anger and bitterness inside to well up to the point where she wanted to change her name to Mara(bitter).Even returning to her home and friends didn’t help break through her depression.

Orpah coped with her loss of her husband by taking the easier route away from her pain. At the first opportunity, she returned to the safety of her home, despite the fact that she belonged to Naomi’s family through the marriage contract.We can’t really fault Orpah – she was doing what she needed to do for herself to carry on; choosing to be surrounded by family and friends and the potential of remarriage rather than making the drastic life changes involved in staying with Naomi.

Ruth, on the other hand,had discovered something powerful and real through her marriage to Mahlon – she discovered faith in a new God who cared for His people and offered her a way of escape from the hardships of her life in Moab. We don’t know what her life was like before she married Mahlon, but it must have been bad enough to cause her to to be desperate to leave Moab with Naomi, despite the fact that Naomi painted a very bleak picture of the future in Israel for her daughter-in-law.

Through her newfound faith, Ruth embraced the pain of her loss. She worked through it to the point where she accepted the future, no matter what it held, because she trusted God. Sure Ruth keenly felt the loss of her husband, but the thoughts of losing her relationship with Naomi and Naomi’s God hurt worse – a loss she couldn’t bear. So she worked through her feelings of loss with trust in her new God to take care of her even if things got as bad as Naomi said they would.

Her attitude, like that of Job in today’s quote, pleased God. He brought her into a new land where she put down roots and flourished under His care. Her tears were wiped away and her life morphed into more than she ever dreamed it could as she married Boaz, had a son and was welcomed into Bethlehem’s society. God even blessed her by incorporating her into the lineage of the Messiah. Through Ruth’s healing, the lives of all around her were touched. Naomi eventually overcame her own depression and learned to live again.

I wish I could say I always reacted to loss the way Ruth did.But I can’t. I’ve experienced deep depression many times over the course of my life resulting from painful losses. I’ve also coped by taking the easier way out rather than trusting God to walk me through the hard places. But in those times when I have managed to trust Him through the losses, I have seen phenomenal growth and healing in my life.  I have reached some of my goals that I never believed possible!

We all suffer loss, but my prayer for you today is that you might know the comfort, strength and even joy of the Lord through those losses; that you might experience the healing, growth and overcoming power of the Lord to bring you to new heights because of those losses like He did for Ruth and Job. Amen!

iow-smallToday’s In Other Words is hosted by Miriam over at her blog MiPa’s Monologue. If you’d like to play along, blog about today’s quote on your blog site, then hop on over to Miriam’s blog and leave your URL with the Linky tool

Be sure to leave her a comment so she knows you visited and if you have time, visit the other blogs listed there to see everyone’s take on the quote. You’ll definitely be blessed!.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Who’s an April Fool?

Ok, I know April fool’s day has come and gone, but it was kinda fun this year….

No, I didn’t play any jokes – at least not intentionally. I was baby sitting for my 2 grandkids in Maryland and handing out money to my d-i-l  whose birthday was a joke on her mom 37 years ago. But it was a good day nevertheless.Avery in VA

Six year old Avery is in Kindergarten and is such a cutie. We started talking on Friday afternoon after his parents left. I made a statement and in typical six-year-old fashion he asked, “Why?”

“Why?” he asked again after I gave him the answer.  After my third reply and yet another, “Why?” I couldn’t help myself; I started laughing out loud. I don’t remember my own children going through the “Why?” stage, but I guess they did. It just tickled my funny bone to hear Avery do it with such a serious expression on his little face.

While I giggled, he looked at me as if I suddenly sprouted bunny ears. Then a grin spread across his face and he said, “Grammy, you’re making April Fools!” 

100_0288Saturday evening, Avery told me Mother Nature was making April Fools because  it was snowing with thunder and lightning outside. I guess so! We ended up with 4 inches of wet yucky white stuff on the ground which the forecasters did not predict. Every bit of it melted away by Sunday afternoon so I could travel the back roads home with no problems.

Once home, I began to get caught up on the weekend mail and noticed an interesting story on the front page of the northern NY newspaper where I used to work. The paper comes out once a week on Fridays (which just happened to be on you-know-what day this year LOL!) The lead story showed a photo of SOMETHING with a head and several humps swimming in the Oswegatchie River. An Oswegatchieness Monster perhaps??????

What a great story. The writer hooked his audience right from the beginning with an outrageous, yet believable story about a trucker passing through town who saw this thing on the river as he crossed the bridge.  The trucker photographed it with his cell phone and then called the local paper.

After the interview, the trucker climbed into the cab of his truck and told the news editor, “I’ll be driving slow and looking into the river again…. just in case.”

To which the editor laughed and replied, “I happen to see gullible readers who read this story all the way to the end before realizing it’s April Fools Day.”

Got me again!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Keep a craft room (or household) journal

Why Bother to Journal? Part 8

Several months ago, I ran across a discussion on a rubber stamping forum about cataloging our supplies. When I walked into my craft room, I nearly suffered a heart attack thinking of the task that lay ahead!

That room is filled with  so many cool tools and so much…well…stuff. But it’s my stuff and I do use it. So, I began a craft room journal  of all that “stuff” in an organized fashion, listing the items and their use and replacement cost.

As the thread suggested, I started with my markers and coloring supplies. But I soon gave up because I had so many run-of-the-mill dollar variety sets, purchased during those back to school supply sales each summer. However, I did manage to catalog all the more valuable items like punches, scissors,  die cutting supplies and non-consumable tool items in the room.

Oh my aching head! Why would I put myself through this tedious torture?

  • One obvious reason is for insurance purposes. Heaven forbid if a disaster ever struck my craft room and all its contents were lost (No, I’m not talking about those whirlwind creative days when hurricane Bonnie blows through the room. LOL!)

I use many of my craft items on a continuous basis and would definitely want to replace them if something happened. But in the aftermath of a fire or other destructive event, I know I wouldn’t think clearly enough to remember all the items I have. After all, I’ve been purchasing tools and supplies for this card-making passion of mine for over 15 years.

  • A second reason to keep this type of journal for my craft room is to be able to see at a glance what supplies I have to prevent duplication when shopping.

It’s true. I come from a family of habitual hoarders! When we began clearing out my parents’ home to sell it, we started with only a pathway to get through the rooms. As we worked our way to the outer walls, we found several  cases of paper towels and a dozen unopened 3 pound cans of coffee. New sheet sets still in the wrappers and brand new bath towels while the shredded ones hung on the bathroom towel bars.

Groan! I promised myself then that I would never succumb to the family disease, but I do have a craft gadget fetish. If there is a new tool that will do the job more efficiently than one I already have, well….. But at least I’m not buying the exact same tool or Cricut cartridge twice, though I have found some duplicates among my $1 stamp sets.

  • Perhaps the most important reason for me to keep this craft room journal is to see how much I have invested in my craft hobby (obsession). What an eye opener as I went through my supplies and tools shelf by shelf!

I found consumable supplies I purchased on sale thinking that “someday” I would use them. But someday never came and here they still are taking up space while I buy more sale items to squirrel away! I have wonderful stash of design paper, cardstock, brads, embellishments and other assorted treasures – enough that I shouldn’t have to purchase anything for a loooooong time. And those addictive little $1 stamps…I have over one hundred of them, most of which haven’t seen ink yet.

So the challenge is now to use it or lose it as I streamline things. Not only am I reclaiming valuable space in my craft room by whittling away at my consumable stash, I’m saving money. Before buying new stamps or consumable items, I can see what I have at a glance and peel my fingers off that I’ll-use-it-someday sale item.

I’ve even been able to sell a few of my tools that have duplicate functions. Hmmmm….Florida, here I come!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Shortcut Less Travelled

“If you don’t change the direction you are going,
then you are likely to end up where you are headed.”

~ ~John Maxwell~

Every once in awhile,  Dan and I enjoy taking a drive off the beaten path, turning onto roads we’ve never travelled before to see where we end up. What a great way to get to know the communities where we live, a chance to see unusual and beautiful sights and  time to chat, uninterrupted by phones or the television.

A few years ago, we headed toward home in Maryland after visiting family in PA. There was no rush to get home and the day was gorgeous for driving so we decided to turn off the Interstate onto a less travelled road that went through a state park. We knew generally where we were and where the road should come out so we opted to take the scenic route. We still had about 30 miles to reach home, but we thought the road might offer us a shortcut. No problem.

At first it was a nice two lane, well-maintained road with houses on either side – a typical country road. Then we entered the state forest land.  The road was still paved, and there were no signs indicating  a dead end, so we kept going. But the farther we travelled, the narrower the road became, turning into  gravel, then a packed dirt road.

Since Dan grew up in the country, he wasn’t fazed by the changes and decided to keep going. After all, we knew that a road bearing the same name came out near our home road.

But soon the dirt road narrowed into a single lane, grassy wooded path. There were even muddy puddles from a recent rain which I was sure could swallow us up and no one would ever find us since there was absolutely no traffic. No signs warned us to turn back.  I got a little worried and wanted to turn around, but there wasn’t even any place to turn around.

Still unfazed, Dan kept going, slowly but surely down the path, navigating  around the water puddles and careful to avoid branches which had fallen on the path. I’m not sure whether the Royal Ranger, explorer side of him kicked in or whether he was just too stubborn to backtrack and make our trip home even longer after wasting so much time on our current path.

Just when I had almost persuaded him to try to turn around, patches of gravel appeared on the path, sparse at first, then more often until we were back on a gravel road. Soon we were back on a real road again, complete with the white no passing stripes down the middle. Whew!

We ended up near where Dan thought the road would come out and with a few minor course adjustments, we soon turned onto our tried and true shortcut road home. It was an INTERESTING afternoon jaunt.

I’ve been on the journey with the Lord long enough to know if He directs me down a certain path, I’d better take it! It might lead me through some interesting, narrow, muddy, tree-strewn places – some places where I’m tempted to bite my nails and feel like turning back, but as long as He’s guiding me, I will come out exactly where He wants me to be.  Thanks Lord!


     Today’s In Other Words  is being hosted by Nina  of Mama’s Little Treasures. If you’d like to play along, share your thoughts about John Maxwell’s quote on your blog today.  Then, visit Nina’s blog  and share a  link to your blog.

Be sure to visit the others who have also written on it and leave them a comment so they know you were there! Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why bother to journal?–part 7

The Family Journal

Time has a way of dulling even the most important memories of our lives.. We don’t intend to forget things, but ultimately we do.We can’t see the faces of loved ones who’ve passed away without a photograph to remind us. We can’t remember the everyday little things that used to give us so much pleasure – at least not until something triggers those memories. So here are some ideas to help keep those family memories safe.

  • Keep a daily diary of all the funny, important, memorable things from each day. When my mother began showing signs of Alzheimer's, I lived far enough away that I couldn’t visit her very often. I began to write down at least one story from that day to share with her the next time I visited – anything from funny things my children did to memorable sermon points. Sometimes I included photos so she could read and see the family since it helped her remember.

Remember Anne Frank? She left a permanent record of her family’s struggles in World War II in the pages of her diary – a slice of life during a difficult time which has helped countless children and adults remember the horrors of that time in history.

  • Interview parents while they are still here to get a good picture of what their lives were like and important lessons they learned, family traditions, stories, etc.

Too often we lose a valuable part of our heritage when family members die. Little things like their favorite foods and recipes are lost. How did they celebrate Christmas? What kind of games did they play? Where did they travel?

My father fought in World War II and has many photos of himself and his buddies standing outside his barracks in Hawaii, though he refused to talk about his experiences. The things I learned I had to piece together from his discharge papers and other small snippets of memorabilia I found after he passed away. Sites like help to fill in the blanks. but I still feel as though I lost some valuable insights into my family history.

  • Create scrapbooks with journaling of the family photos and the stories you collect. Include important papers like military discharge papers, old letters, photos, and other memorabilia you can find. One of the best pieces of memorabilia from my mother was an old autograph book with cute rhymes from her 10th grade schoolmates. 

Take some family time to go through the old family photos and write down who is in each one, the dates if possible and any memories the photo triggers. It will help to create a visual family tree of relatives long gone or ones you know little about. One of my mother;s relatives put together a genealogy of the family which dates back to  the 1700s when the family first arrived in the US. Around the early 1900s they began including photos as well which is a rich source of my Mennonite heritage.

My mother and father kept all the little remembrance cards from the funeral homes. For many of them i was able to piece together small snippets of memories about their lives and family connections.

  • Keep a record of family illnesses too. For example, I know almost every member of my dad’s family developed diabetes before they passed away. My mother’s family illnesses included arthritis, Alzheimer's and  some cancer. The information is important to pass on to my children and grandchildren.

  • In the days following the death of a loved one, write down all the memories that come to you – not only will it help you to grieve through their loss, it will give you some tangible memories to look back on later, memories that could fade and be lost over time.

As you sort through their things, save their diaries, writings and personal memorabilia that you find.  You may not have time or  the heart to go through it right away, but later on you will value it and be better able to judge what you want to keep.

I’m not sure why, but the older I get, the more important it becomes to me to  remember my family heritage and pass on those memories to my grandchildren.  While they are busy growing up and changing their world, I have slowed down and find myself trying to document the important things my generation changed. We need the energy and enthusiasm of youth along with the wisdom of age and creating a family journal can help keep it all in perspective – not to mention give the grandkids a fit of giggles when they look back at our funny hair styles and clothing. LOL!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Touch of Mercy–In Other Words Tuesday

“Nothing humbles and breaks the heart of a sinner
like mercy and love.
Souls that converse much with sin and wrath,
may be much terrified;
but souls that converse much with grace and mercy,
will be much humbled.”

~ ~Thomas Brooks (1608 – 1680) ~

A Touch of Mercy
Bonnie Winters © 6/5/2006

A short story based on John 8:1-11 (NIV)

Gritty dust caked on her teary cheeks as she lay panting on the ground where she fell. It mingled with blood seeping from the cut on her mouth where a heavy-handed man slapped her to quiet her protests.

“Get up, harlot. Let’s see how Jesus judges you today.” A rough hand hauled her to her feet and shoved her forward. She willed herself to keep silent against the pain as she stumbled into a circle of leering men. Regaining her balance, she lifted her chin in an attempt at a haughty pose. Her clenched teeth bit back the retort she would have made to the Pharisees who dragged her here.

Fools, she thought, raking the circle with her eyes. She masked her fading bravado as she realized there was nowhere to run. The bawdy crowd blocked her escape, calling for the Master’s decision.

“Stone her. She was taken in the very act of adultery. She is guilty!” A sallow man, dressed in the gaudy robes of richness, stroked his beard with one hand while he shook his other fist in the air. She recognized his beady eyes and harsh features; he was the man who had been spying on her every move, waiting and baiting her.

She spat her contempt in his direction as the crowd took up his accusation. “Stone her! Stone her. It is the law.” She could almost see their fingers twitch in anticipation against the rocks in their hands.

On the fringes of the tense crowd, enterprising young men lay odds on the outcome of the spectacle. Anger and fear warred in her breast as her breathing quickened through her clenched teeth.

The icy bitterness in her eyes focused on the one they called “Master.” Go ahead. Condemn me, just like everyone else. What’s it to you if I die? There will just be one less harlot in the world. Why should you care that a Roman soldier stole my virginity before I was even a woman? You are a man just like all the rest, taking what I offer, then spitting in my face. But at least when I ply my trade, I hold the power.

Jesus met her glare. Like the warm wind of spring blowing over the land, His gaze melted the ice in her eyes. The catcalls and demanding shouts from the crowd faded until He was the only one in her world. Suddenly the air grew thick as she gulped back the tears, trying to steel herself against the searing compassion in His eyes. Her heart burned as though a flame had scorched it - burning away all her defenses, her hatred and bitterness, leaving her soul naked before Him. She pulled her torn cloak tighter around her shoulders, grasping it about her neck. If only she could run and hide her shame from His eyes.

Unable to break the hold of His powerful gaze, images of her life flashed through her mind. She was a cowering child with a tear-stained face, an angry adolescent declaring she would overcome her oppressors, a haughty woman taking control of her life in the only way she knew how. His eyes reflected a frightened and hurting lioness ready to turn back toward her enemy in self-preservation and rip him to shreds. The total love and forgiveness she felt in his visual embrace shamed her to the core of her being.

How can He love me with all the bitterness and hatred I see in my heart? I can never be good enough – never be clean enough to be worthy of Him. She held her body rigid, fighting against His love. The only evidence of her inner struggle was the trembling of her lower lip.

When He turned his gaze away and stooped nearby to write in the dust, the burning faded. The air chilled as though the sun had disappeared behind a gray cloud. Her soul was alone again with its icy bitterness.

She became conscious of the crowd once more. “What is he doing?” Necks craned to read His words. “Why isn’t he doing something?” The crowd began to shift nervously. “He must call for stoning. It is the law!”

When the woman’s accusers continued to badger Him, He rose and met each man’s eyes with a level gaze. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

“No!” Fear swallowed her last shred of hope as she raised her arms to cover her head for what little protection she could muster. He had deceived her! Lulled her into a false hope that He was different, caring. This Jesus was throwing her to the ravenous Pharisee dogs. She tensed, closing her eyes and waiting for the first stone to pelt her body. But the pain never came.

Nervous feet scuffed the ground, as the crowd dispersed man by man. Silence. She opened her eyes; slowly lowering her arms, daring to glance around her, yet ready to cover herself if needed. The Master still wrote on the ground, but the men were gone.

Her eyes stared at the man drawing pictures in the dust. She willed him to look at her, to face her and explain why – how He could move her heart to repentance in one moment then turn on her the next. But she dare not voice her thoughts. He was after all a man with the power to break her.

Finally Jesus stood and gazed around the empty street. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

The dragon of self-protection rose in her heart, spewing haughty words. “No one, sir.” As their eyes met for the second time, she flushed with self-condemnation for her shameful actions. She sniffed back the tears. Her lips trembled again, awaiting His judgment.

Why don’t you condemn me? Why don’t you stone me? You know what I am. You know the anger and hatred I feel. Do something! Please don’t just stand there staring at me. I deserve to die.

“Then neither do I condemn you.” He smiled, His understanding and love reaching out to her lonely heart. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

She turned and fled from His presence, running until her breath came in hard gasps. Nausea roiled in the pit of her stomach. Bile burned her throat as she retched onto the hard-packed earth. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

Kneeling there beside the road, she poured out her sins and hurts to her God. I am so sorry, God, so sorry. She wept bitterly.

“Neither do I condemn you.” His words reverberated in her mind. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

A feeling of lightness, newness, seeped into her soul. She could never, would never go back to that life again. He had seen the raw nakedness of her soul and showed mercy in spite of it. Behold, He made all things new


Today’s In Other Words is hosted by Twinkle Mom at her site SunflowerFaith.  If you’d like to participate, share you thoughts on your blog site.  Then, visit Twinkle Mom’s blog  and share a  link to your blog.

Be sure to visit the others who have also written on it and leave a comment for each one as well, so they know you were there.You will be blessed!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Bother To Journal? part 6

Leaving a family legacy

During some lean times several years ago, I wanted to give a special gift to each of my children at Christmas. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I decided to put together a family cookbook with favorite family recipes. Along with each one, I included some journaling - family trivia like where the recipe came from, who liked it best or stories about when the recipe was served.

Using clip art and some word art from my computer, I printed two to three recipes per page, inserted them into page protectors and  categorized them into recycled three ring binders. There was Aunt Alice’s Jewish Apple Cake, the Father’s Day chicken marinade from a friend in northern NY and  my favorite chocolate-peanut butter owl cookies from Halloweens past, among others.

When we cleaned out my mother’s house to sell it several years ago, I claimed the family photos and her recipe books. What treasures! I found hand written recipes, many of which will find their way into the cookbook in future years with little anecdotes about my parents. Using the scanner, I can include them in her own handwriting, perhaps with a family photo to go along with it – a kind of recipe scrapbook sharing family food and traditions.

When my children were born, I started a baby journal for each of them.  My favorites were the spiral bound ones with pockets for each age group where I could file news clippings, samples of artwork, journalings of important events in their lives – spiritual as well as family events, medical shot records and photos of my kids from each age. I wasn’t very good at organizing the info in these, but when the children grew up, I had a nice fat packet of memorabilia to send with them.

My daughter and sister-in-law both create great scrapbooks for their families. They chronicle everything from important events to physical growth, blending photos, journaling and embellishments on each page to make them aesthetically pleasing. I look forward to receiving these photo journals each Christmas.

Scrapbooking has become so easy these days with all sorts of digital programs, both free and elite which allow you to upload photos,  make pages online and have then printed into coffee table type books for a modest fee.

Why do we create these scrapbooks, cookbooks and baby journals? I think it’s because we are wired that way. LOL! The older we get, the more important it becomes for us to leave our mark on the next generation. To be remembered. To help our children know their heritage.

In Deuteronomy, God instructed Moses to  teach the Israelites about Him from the time they were small. He knew how easy it was for them to forget the pain and suffering of slavery in Egypt. He understood they would soon forget the 40 year wilderness trek when they settled into their new homes in Canaan. The idolatrous ways of the local inhabitants would infiltrate Israel’s traditions and their worship, distilling it.  Eventually the influences of the world around them would lead them away from their dedication to God.

So God used visual things like the furniture of the Tabernacle and food items in the feasts like Passover to remind them of their heritage. Mothers repeated the family stories of their ancestors – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -  to their children, beginning when they were tiny infants to help them remember.

God inspired men to write “journals” if you will, of their history and interaction with Him to be read on each Sabbath or holiday to remind the people of their special relationship with Him. These ancient writings became our Bible of today.

We may have more fancy technology to help us pass our stories and heritage on to our children, but one thing hasn’t changed. We are still charged with the responsibility to be sure our children remember who God is and what He has done for us. Through writing down our family stories, by writing down our testimonies, by sharing our day to day faith in journals and diaries, we can help our children know who God is and His plan for their lives.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It’s a scrappy life

When I get anxious I know I have gone from God’s time to my time and it’s a waste of time. Charles Stanley

I am an avid card maker. At one time I loved to sew, but can’t do that so much anymore because of my eyesight. Instead, I now merge my passion for paper with my love of quilt patterns to create faux quilted cards.

All that paper piecing! Some think it’s too tedious and a waste of time, but I tell people it keeps me sane. LOL!

Last night I began designing a card with a log cabin pattern in an effort to use up some of my scraps that are threatening to take over my craft room. I chose coordinating colors and began to glue the paper strips onto the card.

When I got done, I wasn’t too satisfied with the results. The card looked plain; just a hodge-podge of paper strips glued onto a piece of card stock.. and I didn’t care for the design at all. It needed “something,” but I wasn’t sure what..

Hmmm. Maybe some faux stitching. I grabbed my pen and added some little stitch lines. That helped.. Next I added some embellishments from my stash .Yes! Now it seemed like it was coming together!

A long time ago, I learned that I can’t judge my cards until I finish them. Often in the middle of the project, I just want to throw up my hands and say, “Forget it! This is UH-GLY!” But if I keep at it, I usually end up with a design I am proud to give to a friend or family member.

My life is a lot like that card. God is designing something wonderful with the scraps of my life, but I can’t see the finished product yet.

I have a tendency to get anxious over the unfinished state of my life’s design. When that happens, I try to add my own design elements to make  things better. What a huge waste of time and energy since He just has to redo everything again according to His plan.

Lord, Help me not to get anxious as you piece together my life layer by layer. Create a masterpiece which You will be pleased to use to bless Your World. Amen!.


Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by my dear friend Karen over at In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus. Be sure to pop in and see her take on the quote.

If you’d like to participate, simply blog about the quote on your site then add your URL to the Linky tool on Karen’s blog. Be sure to leave a comment for her and visit the others who are participating today! You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why bother to journal? Part 5

The Bible Study Journal

Like its sister, the devotional journal, a Bible Study journal helps to get me into God’s Word. This journal often generates ideas for future devotional articles or messages for me as a writer and speaker. It also provides a place to organize and categorize my Bible research. But you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from keeping a study journal.

Here are some hints to begin your own Bible study journal:

1. Study by topic

This is a great way to get an overview of all the Bible says on a particular topic or key word.  At one point of my life, I dealt with issues of forgiveness for a wrong someone had done to me. By studying all the verses I could find about the topic, I was able to gain a better understanding of what it meant to forgive and how to work through those issues.

2. Study by Bible characters

I enjoy studying about the women of the Bible and have found them to be wonderful mentors and friends. I like to know what happened to her and find out as much as I can about her personality through her words and actions. Though the bible doesn’t generally show her emotions, I try to put myself in her place to see what she may have been feeling. It helps me to work through my own feelings when I find myself in similar situations. These in depth studies have led to the writing of two Bible novels and many short stories which have blessed my soul and helped me to grow spiritually.

3. Study by passage or chapter

Many Bibles will divide up the chapters into segments with sub headings. This natural division offers a byte size portion of scripture to study. Verses in these portions are grouped together around a common story thread or theme.

This type of study might include the parables, the Beatitudes or the Psalms among many. They are short enough to read and study one portion in a day and meaty enough to speak volumes to our hearts.

4. Study a specific time period.

There are great insights and personal lessons found within each historical time period in the Scriptures. During a time of recovery from some childhood traumas in my life, I studied the stories of the wilderness wanderings found in the books of Exodus through Joshua. Watching how God delivered the Israelites from their slave mentality and helped them grow during that time proved especially beneficial for my own spiritual growth and recovery from the damaged emotions.

5. Study word-byword

This is perhaps the most extensive way to study the scriptures for serious Bible students – taking a verse or chapter and breaking it apart word by word. Studying each word’s meaning from the ancient languages along with its placement in the sentence structure, the context and meanings of words around it can be rewarding, but is time consuming and exhaustive. This was the method most used by Bible scholars and translators and thus bears mentioning here.

No matter what method you choose to use for your daily Bible studies, Always keep  these questions in mind:

- To whom was it written?

- What was going at the time on when the author wrote it? You might need to check a Bible handbook for this info or read the verses surrounding it to get the context of the verse.

- What message was he sending to the readers of his time?

Always make your studies personal for yourself:

- What does this verse say to me about this topic? 

- Also note any questions it raises for future study.

As with the devotional journal, you might want to include a written prayer for the Lord to help you apply the lessons learned from this passage.

The Bible is a living, breathing book! Even in the dustiest, mustiest passages of the law or the endless genealogies, there are spiritual lessons and treasures waiting for those who dare to delve into its depths. Treasure hunting anyone?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why bother to journal? Part 4

The Daily Devotional Journal

Having daily devotional time is one of the most valuable parts of our day! It is a time of deepening our relationship with our heavenly Father,  a time of reflecting on His words and learning from them as well as a time of personal growth as we find guidance and answers from the Word.

But in this hustle-bustle, gotta-hurry-up-and-wait world, we don’t always have time to get into the Word and let it soak into our spirits. Often we pick up a daily devotional guide like grabbing a cup of coffee and sweet roll for breakfast as we rush out the door. We know we need the spiritual nutrition, but we have to get it “on the run.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about using a daily devotional guide. Many times God has spoken to my heart through the author’s choice of verse for that day. But a wise writing mentor once said that daily devotionals are more beneficial for the writer than the reader.  The writer is studying, living and applying the scripture he or she uses to write the devotional material. It is too easy for the reader to gloss over it and say, “Okay, I’ve had my devotions for the day,” without applying it personally.

So here are some ideas to get the most out of those devotional guides:

1. Keep a notebook or journal with your devotional guide.

A journal is a place to write your personal reflections. By keeping a journal with your devotional guide you give yourself permission and motivation to personalize the message of the day. Over time, it will become a habit to jot down anything that comes to mind during these devotional bytes.

2. Look at how each devotional is written.

There is a formula for writing devotional guides. Most include these three elements: A daily verse or passage, an illustration from the author’s experience generated from that Bible passage and a prayer. Some will also include a core truth - a few words in bold print stating  the focus  or key thought of the devotional.

You can set up your journal the same way. Jot down the verse at the top of each page, along with the core truth. Under it, leave space for any thoughts the scripture generates like life experiences, testimonies, feelings, questions.  Leave room at the bottom of the page for a personal reflection or prayer.

3. Read the Scripture passage from your own Bible if possible.

It’s okay to read the verse from the devotional guide. but if you pick up your Bible and reread the verse, you might see something else that jump-starts your spiritual thought processes, like notes in your Bible from sermons on that passage, or dates from a time when God spoke to you from that verse.

You can also read the context  – the verses before and after it, which give you a clearer picture of the setting of the verse in the devotional guide.

At times, the devotional booklet will include additional reading suggestions. If you have time you can read those passages as well for an even stronger understanding of the passage.

4. Ask the Lord to show you  something from that verse or the author’s illustration to think about for the day.

Perhaps as you read the author’s illustration, it will trigger memories of a time you felt the same way or had a similar experience.  Write that down in your journal. It may be the Lord giving you encouragement that you are not alone in your spiritual journey, or a reminder to trust Him through the day’s circumstances.

By asking God to speak to you about the scripture or illustration, you are taking a moment to connect with Him personally and asking Him to be part of your day rather than just reading about Him.  As you take time to open your heart and listen, He will speak – giving you something to take with you that will nourish and sustain you through the day.

5. Jot down a prayer generated from the devotional experience.

Whatever the Lord drops into your heart, whatever you need from Him that day, take time to write down the prayer. it may be just a few words. It may become more of a praise than a prayer. No matter what you pray for, you have taken time to speak with Him one-on-one rather than just rushing off to start your day.

Daily devotions don’t take the place of praying, reading and studying God’s word for yourself. They are what they are – brief moments spent with the Lord, kind of like the good-bye kiss I give my hubby as he goes out the door.

Devotions can become commonplace without meaning; just something we do out of habit or because we’re supposed to.  Or  they can become a glad reminder of his presence that we carry with us through the day. The more personal we make these devotional times, the more real He will be to us ,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When the timing’s off

“In Other Words” Tuesday

“Learning to wait on God’s timing –
and having the patience to follow his lead rather than running ahead of him –
is essential to those who are committed
to seeing their faith journey through to the end.
God seldom rushes things along.
Getting used to his pace will help you in the long run.”

~ Essentials for Life For Women by Marcia Ford ~

Two of the largest maple trees I had ever seen stood in the front yard of our new home.  Towering over 75 feet tall, their branches provided shade in the summer, helping keep the house cool. They provided a safe haven for many varieties of birds and squirrels and were pleasing to the eyes.

But each time the high winds ripped through our neighborhood, branches littered the ground beneath the trees. At first it bothered me. I worried the trees would eventually become scraggly and ugly with no leafy branches at all, until I realized that those branches on the ground were usually leafless, dead branches which provided no shade or health to the tree. They were almost always dead wood.

Branches which were sap-filled and alive had more flexibility, bending in the wind rather than breaking off.  They remained attached to the tree, following the ebb and flow of the seasons as well as the winds.

Staying spiritually healthy is one of my greatest battles in life. It’s easy to switch back to my old patterns of coping and trying to handle things on my own. But when I do, I’m in danger of becoming a dead branch, one that will snap off the tree  the minute the high winds sweep across the area.

As long as I stay connected to the Tree of Life, I can stand against the unexpected wind storms of life, maybe badly shaken, but still spiritually intact with His life flowing through me.

God, help me to get  so used to Your pace, Your strength, Your life flowing through me that I will survive life’s unexpected storms.  During those clear days when there is no wind, help me to be content to soak up your life and strength for the days ahead – always resting in You!


Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by Deborah at Chocolate & Coffee. Take time to think and ponder on  the quote below and share about it on your blog. Then, visit Deborah’s blog  and share a  link to your blog and visit the others who have also written on it.  Be sure to stop by the other blogs and read their take on the quote as well and leave a comment to let them know you were there! You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why bother to journal? Part 3

The Promise/Praise Journal

I haven’t seen a promise box in years so I’m not sure if they still make them, but the idea was a good one. It was a small plastic box filled with one inch by 2 inch cards, each bearing a byte of Scripture meant to comfort, encourage or lift you up. The idea was to take a card each day and either memorize it or put it somewhere it could minister to you during the day.

What fun, to reach inside the box and pull out a card, never knowing what verse the Lord would give for that day. It never ceased to amaze me how often those verses fit so well with the events and problems of the day.

Over the years I owned several promise boxes, though now I have a small pocket-sized book  containing promises from God’s Word . It’s not as much fun since you can’t mix up the  verses and there’s really no element of surprise since the verses are more visible on the pages.  But it does serve its purpose – to encourage, strengthen and uplift my heart.

The nice thing about the book is that the promises are categorized. When I a m afraid, I can read verses on trust. When i feel ill, I go to the promises on healing and so forth. But what does this have to do with journaling?

Several years ago, a friend challenged me to keep a blessing journal – writing down all of the things I was thankful for so I could return to it later and remember the good things God had done.

Actually, it started out as a blessing jar – a canning jar with a fancy lid, filled with slips of paper. I wrote on each piece something for which I was thankful, an answered prayer or a comforting word God had given me along with the date. When I needed encouragement, I would take a slip of paper out of the jar and read it and remember the details of theblessingsjournal entry on that slip of paper.

Soon I graduated to a spiral notebook which I decorated to make it  more personal for me. In it I wrote down each blessing from the Lord along with a more detailed description of events, people and circumstances surrounding the blessing.  It always amazed me how the Lord worked out the intricate details of His blessings to me!

In recent days, I have also included the promises God gives me each day. I like to take a promise from my little Bible promise book and  write it in my journal. Then I write about all the ways God has fulfilled that promise to me.

What an incredible tool this journal has become! Whenever I feel discouraged, I can thumb through  the pages and see personal examples of how God has dealt with me in the past. My faith is built up, I am strengthened and encouraged. I have a weapon to fight against the lies of the enemy because I can see in black and white how much God cares about me!

Here’s the challenge: Try keeping a promise and praise journal for thirty days. 

Each day write down one promise God gives you from His word.  At the end of the day, look back and reflect on how God fulfilled that promise during the day. Write down how God blessed you through that promise.

At the end of thirty days, go back and reread your promise and praise journal. I believe you will see a phenomenal growth spurt in your faith and your Christian walk! I’d love to hear what God does for you!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why bother to journal? Part 2

The prayer journal

Have you ever promised to pray for someone, only to get caught up in your own cares of the day, forgetting to hold your friend’s need before the Lord?

Yikes! I know I have!  But over the years I have learned the potential prayer has to get people through the day and help them to survive the storms of life.  I know it is important for me – so important I decided to try to become more of a pray-er for others.

Here are some things I have done to help me pray more:

  • Create a prayer journal

One of the tools that has helped me accomplish this is keeping a prayer journal. At first it was simply a spiral bound notebook – the kind I could buy at Wal-Mart for pennies during the back-to-school supply sales. But since then I have graduated to a computer file, using the notebook only to record prayer requests until I can get home and organize them.

No matter what you use, the important thing is to make the prayer requests visible. It’s too easy to forget to pray when you keep them in your head. Even as I log the requests into my files, I am praying for the need.

  • Break your journal into sections

Prayer requests come in all shapes and sizes. Some are emergency needs like the person who just had a heart attack. Others are important, but not necessarily urgent like praying for the success of an upcoming outreach event.

If I lumped them all together on the pages of my journal, it would be easy to gloss over an emergency prayer need so I try to categorize the requests: Emergency needs. Family and Friends needs. Church family needs. Missionaries. My Community needs. Global needs. Work and ministry requests. Personal requests.

For the needs that are ongoing, I divide the journal into weekdays, concentrating on one of the categories of requests each day.

  • Keep a file or section or your prayer journal for resources on prayer.

As Prayer coordinator for our local Christian women’s group, I collect resources on prayer for future reference and to share with the group during our monthly prayer meeting. Anything from illustrations, articles, quotes,  or devotionals will find its way into this section. This month I even found a wonderful paper butterfly  on a heart shaped background with moving wings to cut out and assemble   to go along with our February prayer devotional this month.

  • Keep a prayer calendar

A prayer calendar works great when friends ask e to pray for an upcoming event like surgery which will happen on a specific day. While I do include the request in my family and friends section to pray for prior to the surgery, I have a special reminder on my calendar to pray that specific day and time for the surgery. It also serves as a reminder to ask my friend for an update after the surgery is done.

  • Reserve a section of your prayer journal for answered prayers

This might be the single most important section of your prayer journal!  Whenever I feel down or upset because one of my prayers hasn't been answered yet, I take a stroll through these pages of answered prayers. It helps me remember what God has done in the past and reassures me that He has this current need under control. In His time He will answer.

Prayer truly is one of our most important resources as Christians and keeping a prayer journal can help us make the best possible use of it. Consider keeping one today! If you already do, I’d love to hear about how you do it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feelings are deceiving


“I will never be the same again,
I can never return, I’ve closed the door.
I will walk the path, I’ll run the race
And I will never be the same again.”

~ lyrics by Geoff Bullock ~

Have you ever seen one of those optical illusions that can be viewed more than one way? Try this one from a site called miss optical illusions:


What do you see? A pretty young woman or a stern old Scotsman or an old hag??

They’re all there if you look just the right way!

In one of the earliest scientific books on optical illusions, Visual Illusions: Their Causes, Characteristics and Applications. Matthew Luckiesh, states that “Seeing is deceiving.”

He attributes our mind’s interpretation of the things we see around us to our “past experiences, associations, desires, demands, imaginings, and other more or less obscure influences….”

When you really think about it, we don’t always get an accurate picture of life based on the things we see around us. Both our eyes and our feelings can deceive us, yet we tend to depend so strongly on them to determine our beliefs about the world around us.

Many years ago when I was a teen, several of my youth group friends got together after watching a Billy Graham movie. As we sat together discussing our salvation experiences, one thing stood out – most of us had an emotional experience when we accepted the Lord. Some felt the burden of sin lift from their shoulders. Others felt a sensation of joy.

One young man gave his heart to the Lord after the movie but doubted the validity of his experience because he didn’t “feel” any different. No matter how many scriptures we shared with him, no matter how many convincing facts we presented, he went home dissatisfied because he had not felt anything. He soon turned away from our youth group activities for those experiences which gave him the feelings he craved.

The same things that cause our minds to interpret optical illusions: “past experiences, associations, desires, demands, imaginings, and other more or less obscure influences…” are the same things that determine how we interpret every day events around us.

The devil understands that and sits on our shoulders lying to us, trying to evoke personal pity parties. This young man succumbed to those lies rather than looking for the truth. Perhaps his father ignored him or failed to give him the love he craved so he interpreted his lack of feelings at salvation to an uncaring God.

No, the resolute life of Geoff Bullock’s lyrics above grows out of a life based on the truth of God’s word. It is a conscious choice to believe no matter what things look or feel like just because God says it is so.

That’s no easy task because we are wounded, emotional beings. It requires daily spiritual warfare:

  • open, honest sharing with The Lord about how we see the events and actions of others toward us. “He makes me sooooooo mad!”

  • being willing to pour out our feelings of guilt, shame, doubt, fear, mistrust, until we have laid all before the Lord. We really can’t hide our true feelings from God, though we often try.

  • taking time to be quiet before Him to listen to His words of comfort, instruction and correction.

  • allowing His Spirit to give us a fresh, Godly perspective of what is going on around us – seeing things through His eyes rather than through the illusions of the enemy.

  • being willing to act on what He shows us – offering forgiveness to others and to ourselves. Becoming teachable and willing to work with the Lord to change those things we need to change about ourselves.

We must make a conscious decision to seek intimacy with Christ; getting to know Him so well we aren’t fooled by the illusions, lies and memories the enemy dredges up. Then and only then will we be able to say honestly, “I will never be the same again, I can never return, I’ve closed the door. I will walk the path, I’ll run the race and I will never be the same again.”

Today’s In Other Words is hosted by Miriam at Miriam Pauline’s Monologue . Take time to think on Geoff Bullock’s quote and share about it on your blog . Then, visit Miriam’s blog - Share your link and check out the thoughts of others who have also blogged about it today. You’ll be glad you did!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why bother to journal? Part 1

How quickly we forget!

As a young person, I never kept a diary – I’m not sure why, because I did enjoy writing. And now I wish I had because there were so many stories I wrote as a teenager and I’ve forgotten them all. There were also so many good things the Lord did for me back then, in spite of the bad things which happened to me as a child. Though I remember many of those good things, there are details I wish I could remember accurately.

But about 18 years ago when a respected counselor insisted I keep a journal as part of my healing process, I decided to try it. Now, looking back, I realize just how much it has meant to me over the years, as a healing tool, a worship tool and a memory aid.

Journaling as a healing tool

There were no “rules” for journaling except that I had to be honest, writing down everything I was thinking and feeling. At first I wrote tentatively, thinking about events rather than the feelings connected with those events.

But over time I noticed that I began to preface my journaling time with prayer that the Lord would unlock the secret places of my heart – those places I tried to hide from myself and especially from Him. I needed to know the roots of my depression, anger and pain so He could heal those damaged festering places of my heart.

Psalm 139 became a favorite of mine. There was no place I could hide from the light and knowledge of God. He taught me how to become vulnerable to Him and that vulnerability brought trust as I realized He handled those hurting places in my heart with care and love.

The writings showed that trend – though each entry started with pain and shame pouring onto the page, it ended with praise and jubilation. He saw the darkest parts of my heart and still cared! He saw my naked heart and still loved me!

Later, during some counseling training through Dr. Richard Dobbins at Emerge Ministries in Akron OH, I learned why this kind of journaling was so effective as a healing tool. .

Dr. Dobbins suggested to pour out our hearts to God – to basically pray until there are no tears left. Then as we felt the emptiness, he suggested to begin to listen to the voice of God and ask Him to help us reinterpret the painful parts of our lives. He called his model, “praying through.”

Journaling was a form of “praying through” the difficulties of life which helped me identify the feelings I hid inside for so long – a way to empty my heart onto paper.

The act of writing down those thoughts and feelings in a journal involved the additional sense of touch. I often found myself speaking the words as I wrote them with tears flowing down my face as I poured out my hurts, shame and fears.

Writing was slower than praying – which meant I had more time to feel what wrote. Since I had learned to bottle up my hurts and fears from an early age, I needed the extra time to really feel what was in my heart.

When my heart was empty, when all the words were out on the paper, there would be a lull – a silent empty time to regroup emotionally. During that time, I was able to listen to the Spirit of God.

Once again, journaling helped. As God spoke slowly and deliberately to my heart, I wrote down the impressions I felt from Him and the alternative ways to view my past. The message was loud and clear – what man meant for evil and to harm me, God had used to mold me into the unique, special person I was, a person with a message of life I could share with others.

As I reread the entries later, the powerful, overwhelming love and intimacy of those moments spent with God struck me. Being humble, empty and quiet before God allowed room for His Spirit to fill my heart with His healing love and by journaling them I had a permanent reminder of those moments to reinforce His truths when the doubts came!

Journaling has truly been a healing tool!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stone Soup's On

One of my favorite stories from childhood is the folk tale of Stone Soup. A poor man becomes hungry on a long journey and stops to fix himself a meal. He has no money to purchase the ingredients for a pot of soup and no one will share their food with him. soup spoon

So he gets creative. He places a large stone in his pot with some water over the fire. As the water starts to boil, he sniffs at the steam, pretending it is the most delicious pot of soup ever.

At first those passing by scoff at the man. But finally one person stops to stare at the man and his pot of rocks. The man makes a show of tasting his soup and smacking his lips. “Ah such wonderful soup, but it would be even better with an onion.”

The passerby roots through his pockets and finds an onion which he contributes to the soup in exchange for a bowl when it is done. And so the story goes as another person stops, watches the traveller taste his soup and contributes another vegetable. Soon the soup fills the pot to overflowing and the wonderful aroma thrills the  travellers and the locals alike. It has become a feast they all can share.

Today, I thought about this story as I put a BIG pot of soup on the stove. It reminded me of the work Jesus does in our lives. He takes our hearts of stone and simmers them together with all of heaven’s good ingredients like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Soon He creates lives overflowing with His love – fragrant offerings which draw the spiritually starving people of the world to Himself. One thing about the Lord – He never does things in a small way. He wants to fill our lives so full of His goodness, that there’s plenty of His love to go around.

Truly, the best part of being a Christian, like making a big pot of soup, is sharing with friends and family. So come on over, there’s plenty to go around. But you might want to bring a loaf of bread or some dessert to make it taste even better LOL!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Good day/Bad day Scenario

“”Your worst days are never so bad
that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.
And your best days are never so good
that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

~ by Jerry Bridges ~

Four-year-old Sam followed his mom as she led the way to the kindergarten Children’s Church class. She turned a corner into his classroom and began talking to his teacher, when something on the wall caught his eye – a small red box.

He looked carefully at the box and read the words, “Fire Alarm Pull Down.” Of course he had no clue what the words "Fire Alarm" meant, but he recognized “Down” because of the arrow. So Sam found a chair, climbed up and pulled the handle down.

As soon as the fire alarm began to blare, Sam put his hands over his ears and sank to the floor. Mortified, his mom found him there just a moment later. She groaned, realizing exactly what had happened. It was going to be a bad day….

Fortunately, one of the associate pastors who knew Sammy, arrived on the scene and learned what happened. He ran back to reassure the pastor it was a false alarm and quickly alerted the fire company.

Because the congregation rented the public school building for their Sunday services, the associate pastor couldn’t turn off the alarm. He had to call the school principal to come and take care of it.

So for the next half hour, the senior pastor valiantly carried on the service, ignoring the intermittent, loud blare of the alarm while the congregation politely endured it all.

As mother and son walked back down the hall to exit the building with the alarm blaring, Sam looked up at his mom in consternation and said, "Too many Pull Downs."

Because of Sam’s age and because he didn’t pull down the alarm purposely as a prank, Sam received grace that morning. Except for the extreme embarrassment that it was their son who caused the ruckus, the school principal, the pastor and the congregation extended grace to Sam’s parents as well.

But every day, Sammy’s mother thanks God for His grace to raise her bright, high energy son. She knows it’s only a matter of time before the little guy strikes again. Like the time he tried to make popcorn by himself, almost starting a fire in the microwave because he pushed the automatic start button twice…. Or the time he didn’t want to go to sleep so he figured out how to open his window and climb out to watch the alligators in the canal behind his house….

The point is that we are a lot like Sam, getting into all sorts of scrapes in our lives.There are too many pull downs - too many opportunities for life to drag us down because of our own sins or the sins of others. Yet, even on our worst days, God is there waiting to be gracious to us. No, He won’t prevent us from facing the consequences of our actions. But He will be there to help us through them, making sure we learn from our failures. He brings beauty out of our ash-heap experiences. That’s God’s grace.

He walks with us and even carries us during the worst days so we will want to walk with Him during the good ones.

Father, please help us to remember your love and grace on those good days when we think we can make it all by ourselves! Amen.

Today's In Other Words is being hosted by Jennifer at Scraps and Snippets. Why not drop over and check out all the great posts on this quote. If you'd like to participate, blog about the quote on your blog, then leave a link at Jennifer's site so everyone can share your post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Walking With The God Who Sees

A Short Story Based on Genesis 16:1-15

“You worthless slave! You have caused me so much trouble; I almost wish you had died out there in the wilderness. If you weren’t carrying Abram’s child… Humph! I would beat you senseless for your insolence.”

Hagar clamped her lips together in a thin line and stood tall in the face of Sarai’s rage.She wanted to blurt out every detail of her experience in the wilderness – how Abram’s God had seen her lying there on the ground with her face covered in muddy tears because of the older woman’s harsh words and abuse. How He comforted her and told her the baby she carried was a son. Yes, she…Hagar… a worthless slave, would bear Abram a fine son when her mistress couldn’t even conceive!

A hint of a smirk played on the young slave’s lips. The old familiar arrogance bubbled up from the pit of her stomach. When my son is born, we’ll see who’s worthless, she thought

Submit to your mistress.” The force of the whispered words in her heart left her emotions off-balance just as Sarai raised her hand, striking the young slave’s cheek.

Hagar staggered backwards. Her cheeks paled and black spots danced before her eyes. She grasped her bulging abdomen and breathed deeply to keep herself from fainting.

The eyes of her mistress narrowed. “If anything happens to that child because of your foolishness, you will pay! Now, go to your own tent and get out of my sight!”

Submit to Sarai.” The Voice spoke again as Hagar stumbled back to her own tent.

Shadows crept over her soul, like the darkness swallows the desert at twilight. She feared this inner darkness more than anything her mistress could do t her. Would Abram’s God kill her unborn son because of her foolish pride?

“Forgive me Lord. I know you told me I must come back and submit to Sarai, but you see how she goads me. I don’t know how I can bear her abuse until this child is born. “

Tears pooled in her eyes as she sank wearily into the pile of goatskins in one corner. Though she was able to maneuver her body into a comfortable position, her heartache increased. Sleep refused to come. “I guess I thought it would be different. I hoped you would change her heart and things would be better. But she hasn’t changed at all! Why did you make me come back here?” She sobbed, unable to stem the flow of her tears.

Things will be better Hagar. You’ll see.”

El Roi, the God who sees, was still watching her, hearing the cries of her heart! An overwhelming shame blanketed her soul and she wept bitterly. “I am unworthy of Your care, my Lord. After all You did for me in the wilderness, my only thought was to flaunt it in the face of my mistress. Help me to lay aside my foolish pride and arrogance. Help me to please you with my attitude.”

Once again, the Voice spoke to her heart. “You cannot come face to face with the God who sees you and remain the same. Your mistress has not changed, but you have.”

Hagar struggled to sit up, dashing the tears from her cheeks as a cocoon of love enveloped her. A sense of wonder swelled inside for His words to her heart rang true. El Roi was not just the God of Abram; He was her God too! He saw the ugly condition of her heart and cleansed it, made it new again. He forgave her!

The young slave knew what she had to do. She bowed her head and surrendered her will wholly to her God. “No matter what my mistress does; no matter how she treats me; even if she never changes toward me or the son I carry, I will serve Sarai as an offering of love to You.”

by Bonnie Winters – January 21, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ice Storm

“God loves you.

He loves you so much that He’s allowed this trial to push you to the point where you have no choice but to look to Him.”

~ When Life is Hard by James MacDonald~

ice stormI’m not sure what woke me. Perhaps it was the cracking of a tree limb outside the window, an eerie sound in an otherwise silent night.  I lay there wondering what was happening when I heard a loud sizzle-pop and all went dark.

Power’s out again, I thought, rolling over and hoping it would be restored by morning so I could get to the office on time.

Not so. Several hours later with the power still out, I knew it was bad. The battery powered weather radio droned out the news of a catastrophic ice storm blanketing the northeast.

Outside, the yard wore a layer of bubble wrap with each blade of grass cocooned in its own ice bubble. Even the dog hesitated to venture off the porch. No traffic dared navigate the streets because of downed tree limbs and power lines.

As the town’s news reporter, I was one of the first cleared to be out and about. Throughout the week I watched in awe, writing story after story, as people banded together in the face of catastrophe to care for each other.

It forced us as a community to accept the helping hands of others to get through the trial. Electrical linemen came from as far away as Hawaii to replace the downed poles snapped like match sticks by the weight of the ice.

Truckloads of food and clothing arrived to help feed and house those who were forced from their homes because they had no heat against winter’s deep freeze. Local churches, schools and even the local prison became shelters.

The trial of the ice storm caused people to work together, to pool their resources to care for one another. What seemed to be a catastrophe, turned into a blessing as neighbors forged new bonds, uniting their community as never before.

It’s true in the spiritual realm too. When things are going well, we wander through life on our own, not trusting the Lord. It’s during the trials of life when we realize how much we need him to carry us through those devastating times. It’s during the dark times when our faith grows and our hearts forge an intimate bond with him.

Life’s trials change us. Either we admit our frailty and reach out trembling hands to embrace God’s help, or we curse him and die a little more inside our dark and lonely hearts. The choice is ours.

Father help us to choose life during those trying times – to embrace your power, love and help, rather than pushing you away, isolating our hurting hearts. Amen.


clip_image003Today’s In Other Words is hosted by Debbie on her blog, Heart Choices. Take time to think and ponder on  the quote below and share about it on your blog. Then, visit Debbie’s blog  and share a  link to your blog. Be sure to visit the others who have also written on it. You’ll be blessed!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Drowning in complacency


" . . . to refuse to bend our shoulders to carry a load is to miss a new opportunity for growth."
J.R. Miller from
Streams in the Desert

Several years ago, we visited a water park with our children. The water slides were great, but my favorite thing was the “Lazy River.” Even though I knew it was foolish to stay in one position for too long under the summer sun, the refreshing of the cool water and the warmth of the sun against my body lulled me into complacency. I bobbed along the course several times that afternoon, basking in contented bliss.

I ignored the prickles of heat on the tops of my thighs. I overlooked the slight pink tinge – warning signs that I’d had enough sun. The sunscreen would protect me, I reasoned. As you can imagine, I looked and felt like a boiled lobster later. Ouch!

No one I know wants to suffer pain. And yet crisis and pain seem to be a tried and true tool for producing growth in our lives.  Without it, we bob along with the current of life in a stupor. We get comfortable and don’t want to change or grow. Even  when we recognize the danger signs, we would rather overlook them than leave the place of complacency.

But then the crisis comes. We are jolted from our reverie by the turbulent emotions of confusion, pain, shock. We have to do something or die. Suddenly we feel like we’re drowning so we thrash around trying to save ourselves while sinking once, twice….

These are the times God offers us a chance to shoulder our responsibility for personal growth and change. He knows that until we hurt bad enough, we won’t choose to change – it’s human nature. But He is wise enough to know we can’t make those life changes alone even though we may want to.  So He comes alongside us and offers to tow us to the shore, provided we stop thrashing around, trying to save ourselves.

Drifting and complacency are not the same as resting in Jesus. To rest is to trust. It’s difficult for many of us to stop thrashing around and allow Someone else to be in control.  It requires a conscious choice on our part.

As we make the choice to trust, we are really taking on a load of responsibility to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. We learn true contentment as opposed to complacency. We learn intimacy with God and others rather than wearing masks to protect ourselves. And we are buoyed up by the truth about ourselves in relationship with Christ rather than drowning in the lies we were taught to believe from childhood.

Jesus loves His creation too much to let us bob through life singing, “Whatever will be, will be.”  He gives us a purposeful life filled with opportunities to shoulder the load and grow on a daily basis.

The question is, are we done thrashing around on our own?


Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by Tami Boesiger over at her blog, The Next Step.

What thoughts does this quote inspire in you? Feel free to participate in today’s In Other Words by blogging about the quote on your blog site  - then leave a link at Tammy’s site to share with the other participants. Take time to be inspired today by  this great quote.