To end the week <3

Just a couple of closing thoughts to our week and wow…yesterday…that spacing on the written portion.

So Sorry…

for some unknown reason my copy and paste feature didn’t allow me to format the text to my normal spacing.

I try to give you all plenty of white space between all my words because it makes me feel like I am not cramming it into your brain…

sigh…

like I would if I was actually talking to you…

because…

ask my family…

blah…blah…blah…I talk A LOT….

So two (hopefully) quick additions to this week’s thoughts.

#1. Here are the books that are currently, as of this moment, sitting on the coffee table and in my bag I carry around and on my nightstand…which means I am in the process of reading all of them in snatches of time I can grab for such a luxury/necessity.

Reading these to prepare for teaching Sunday mornings on our current study based on attempting to understand the Middle East and Islam:

The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent by Erwin W. Lutzer

No God but One Allah or Jesus?  by Nabeel Qureshi

Philistine  by Ramon Bennett

Recently gifted for my birthday:

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (I purchased three of her books a number of years ago, I found myself skimming through the first one, Bread & Wine at the halfway point. I did finish it, but did a quick scan of the other two, Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines  and decided I had other things I would rather read so donated. There was nothing wrong with any of them, just not a time investment I felt like making)  I am finding this book to be worth my time right now and a depth I did not find in the previous books mentioned above.

For light reading and inspiration in creative arts…

Simple Decorating by Melissa Michaels (remember when I did her book launch series for Make Room for What you Love? Check out posts in that category of the archives if you have absolutely nothing better to do with your time this weekend…(insert smile)

and

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree Drummond which is just full of fun pictures and great food – cooking and tips – and it is a treat to just live vicariously through this cattle ranch cookbook <3

 

And now…

#2 A follow up for yesterday’s post about living like you are loved…like you have been set free.

Because when we begin to realize…

truly realize…

the depth of what that means.

When we ponder what our “belonging” cost God..

and when we meditate on the sacrifice He made on our behalf.

It should bring us to our knees.

I fear in our efforts to make Jesus “approachable” we have forgotten that it was a gospel of repentance that He preached.

Repentance means we have come to an understanding that we sin.

I fear we have confused political incorrectness with sin and have begun to accept tolerance as our standard of morality.

Increasingly, we are confusing attempting to please a god of society’s own making instead of bowing gratefully before the God who CREATED us and SAVED us from our own sorry selves.

I do not think there is any way that we can rejoice in His salvation by demanding that everyone, including God, affirm us in who we have decided we are.

We must acknowledge that we were born with a sin nature, and that before we knew God…He loved us.

And He made a way for us to be restored to Him.

And now that we have accepted His death in our place, we live in obedience and worship of Him.

And if we think, for one minute, that we have all of that figured out and can put Him in a nice, neat box and tie a bow on it…

that would be a very good time to once again go face down before Him and remember that He is God…and we are not <3

We will spend each day in the process of sanctification until that final Day.

So ….here is a very good place to start living like you are loved, like you have been set free…

 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.

Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

Live in peace with each other.

 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always,

 pray continually,

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 Do not quench the Spirit.

Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good,  reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us.

 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.

I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  

1 Thessalonians 5: 12-28

And of course, there are many more, in my most favorite book…

 

 

The Great Belonging <3

Our little guy starts school in just a few short weeks, and we are trying to cram in all these things we thought we would have tons of time to do.
Last Thursday was my day with them and I was going to cover soccer for the older two.
We showed up on time with water bottles and cleats and enough energy to win two world cups. But after several lightening flashes ushered in a fine summer storm, the young instructors officially canceled that day’s camp.
Rachel had take the two little ones to the local children’s museum, so we skirted across town to join them.
I got them checked in on their family pass and then forked over a nice little sum of cash to cover the 90 minutes I would spend there.
I tried to reason that I would pay that much for a salad at O’Charley’s and how it was a way for this great place for kids to keep functioning…but still.
Ouch.
It was my second trip there in a short time and it felt like a kick to have to pony up yet again.
When I got home that night, I scrolled through photos and videos on my phone and shared our day’s events with Russ.
Imagine the look on my face when he asked me if I had remembered to take my membership card with me, or were they able to look me up in the system.
Yes.
We are members of this Children’s Museum.
If I knew that, I completely forgot.
Turns out Rachel had known as well…and had told the front desk I had a membership…but they took my money and gave me a ticket to enter because…
I told them I needed to pay and so they obliged me in what I believed.
Besides cueing an extreme anxiety attack about the possibility of memory loss in this already slightly scrambled head of mine…I was struck with an idea to share with you.
I am a card-carrying member of a group and I was acting like a paying guest.
I belong….BELONG…to the family of the Children’s Museum because a membership was purchased for me and I have been acting like a visitor on a temporary pass.
And I can not help but think that describes me in my faith walk sometimes.
Less each year, mind you…but still…old mindsets…ruts in my thinking…that somehow I need to pay a little something to gain entry to what was purchased for me on the Cross.
I can sometimes forget that I stand justified before God because the Blood of Jesus Christ gives me full access to the Father, who loves me.
I don’t have to enter the throne room on a guest pass…I am a member of the Body of Christ because of Christ. Because I have received my membership through Him.
I am not just visiting Christianity.
This is where I live and Christ lives in me.
Of course, this analogy falls a bit short…as does all human experience…because next year my dear husband will renew our membership with a nice check to the museum.
But my membership in the Body of Christ, was one and done…on the Cross…forever.
And this knowledge fills me with Joy..and Hope…and a longing to know my Savior more. To give Him access to more areas of my life so that I can live more fully in belonging to Him.
This year I have been trying to focus on the concept expressed in one of my favorite songs that basically says…how about if you just started living like you are the beloved child of God that you say you are?
 
How about if you really started pressing in to Me when you are grieving and how about if you started trusting Me with everything? 
 
How about if you lived like I was really, lovingly, taking care of the things that concern you and the things that concern those you love? 
Or as the song goes…
 
Go ahead and live like you’re loved. It’s ok to act like you’ve been set free…Hawk Nelson
I have trouble with that sometimes…a guilty conscience that weighs me down instead of recognizing the blessing of conviction-that-leads-to-repentance-that-leads-to-forgiveness cycle of sanctification.
Of God-focus instead of me-focus.
I wonder how you all are doing with that.
Are you living like members or guests in the Beloved?
If you have received Christ as your payment, you belong.
I hope and pray we will daily live that truth out <3
 It is truly a joy of fellowship to encourage and help each other to remember that we are loved and that we belong.
Be blessed today as you celebrate the fellowship we have as members of the Body of Christ…
be kind to one another as we…
you and I…
journey onward <3

The Extras…my short list for recommended reading <3

I was trying to fashion this into a well-written post…but yesterday…this happened…

mom brought Sweet Caroline and the band of brothers down for the afternoon and we went to the zoo…

or were the zoo…

or both.

While she took the wild bunch on the train, Lola and Caroline sprinted across the width of the zoo to wave at them as they went under one of the observation decks.

And as I passed under those same trees and around the curve leading to the train station so I could wave them into the dock, I realized that it was just an eye-blink ago that I was the mom keeping little arms and legs contained as we creaked and squeaked along that track.

And I may have cried.

Just a little.

Because time marches on but the soul holds fast to the eternal.

Which kind of brings us to my list of books to recommend.

We are currently blessed (or perhaps overwhelmed) with copious amounts of Christian-based reading material these days.

Thanks to new publishing methods ranging anywhere from blogs, to self-publishing, to a constant stream of new books and studies from established publishing houses; there is much to choose from in all areas for women, men, relationships and church life.

Constantly.

My thought regarding these is…just like a good diet of food…choose wisely what you spend your time reading.

Select books from authors that you know are solid in their teaching or are endorsed by others that you know are solid.

Sometimes as I am reading one of these new books I realize that it is going nowhere and I have begun to do a quick flip through of some of the chapters. If I see it will continue to just be more of a diversion than a profit to my investment of time, I will feel quite free to pass along to a donation center.

If I find it is completely false in what it is proclaiming…I happily recycle it in our large plastic bin in the garage.

Garbage in…garbage out, a mind is a terrible thing to waste…you are what you read…etc…

Which brings me to the books I go back to time and again.

Classics on my shelves.

These are books that speak eternal truths from authors who loved Jesus against the backdrop of THEIR culture and time.

Because the Bible is relevant and God is the same yesterday, today and forever…yet is always doing a new thing…cause well…He’s God…

my favorite authors are the ones who didn’t write to their times..but wrote to the glory of God and so their words transcend time and culture and can be applied right here and right now.

For books on prayer I recommend:

Valley of Vision the prayers of the Puritans – if you have never read the tabs at the top of the blog (under the Journey Onward banner there are tabs that include “About You”, “My Mission Statement” etc); the one that says “Journey Onward” explains this blog’s connection to this book I love so much.

Anything written by E. M. Bounds and Andrew Murray, but particularly Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer and The Ministry of Intercession.

I will also include two modern books on prayer that I have read through several times each and still go back to for quotes:

Touching the Heart of God by Ernest J. Gruen

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

As for Christian living/developing and growth type books; I have worn out the pages of these favorites:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

and additionally, an expanded study of this book and the disciplines found in…

Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney.

I would conclude with one last dearly loved and heavily marked up favorite:

Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

Those are all good places to start.

I don’t read a lot of fiction.

In fact I learned a number of years ago that is one of those “good things” that is not a “best thing” for this girl’s active imagination.

I have a tendency to move so deeply into a well-written story that I can begin living there instead of here…and I realized that it had become a form of idolatry.

However, God is all about freedom not legalism and so occasionally I let loose the grip of fear that I simply CANNOT read fiction.

Such was the case when a friend gifted me The Undoing of Saint Slivanus. This is Beth Moore’s first effort at fiction and I loved it.

A gentle visit into well-developed characters and the regional landscape of life in New Orleans…or as I would say…

New AH-lens, Lew-weeeez-eeee-ahnna.

It was refreshing and uplifting and had me on the edge of my seat.

A great, fun and inspiring read.

So that’s my short list.

Happy reading and I will see you tomorrow, you book-worm, you <3

 

 

 

 

How it starts <3

Someone who reads this fairly regularly asked me what I read; as in, who I would recommend as solid faith writers.

It was an interesting question and given the fact that we currently have five open book shelves and some unknown number of hidden book depositories in various closets and boxes that I am too embarrassed to show my husband…

and perhaps an order or two on the way as we speak…

just kidding…

it was fun to think about what my answer to that might be.

As I continue to gather my thoughts on that…

because…

never in a hurry to actually answer in a concise way and I am still formulating my response…

I thought I would just give you my current ingredients for an “ideal quiet time” these days of summer 2017.

And by ideal, I mean that I don’t have to rush around to get out the door and be somewhere before 9 AM.

First off, I do rise early and start in with…

I have done this for years and gone through gallons of coffee, a forest worth of Kleenex, multiple pairs of readers as the eyes have dwindled in strength…

and enough notebooks to…

well…

fill a bookshelf or two.

In all of them, there is nothing routine about the entries except the date.

I always start with the day and the date..and then some days I pour out what’s on my heart.

Some days I start right in with notes from what I read.

And some days…a lot of days in this season…all that is there… is just the day and the date because words have never formed.

It’s called a dry season, people.

And when we have them…we just keep doing the thing until the drought ends.

So in my summer stack of 2017, here is where I connect with God and get fed from the words and writings and thoughts of others on a daily basis…

<3 Current devotional reading is including a “girlfriend” devotion, that two other friends are also reading, called…

The biggest value to this…

besides what God might say on a particular day that I need to hear, in a way I might not think to say it…

is the connectedness I experience knowing my two friends are somewhere reading the same thought.

We don’t talk about it every day, but from time to time will share a text comment or thought about how it hit us.

We are busy, my friends and me…busy with house maintenance and responsibilities of ministry and work and tending to our families that are now navigating adult years as well as loving and caring for extended family.

So sharing a study with a friend or two is a sweet way to embrace a deeper level of friendship as you grow closer to Jesus together. Even if it is long-distance.

<3 I am also reading a collection of daily devotions from A. W. Tozer that are exerts from some of his longer writings.

Tozer was a pastor in the early 1900’s and yet his words are relevant as they inspire me to a deeper level of love and devotion to Jesus.

I do believe he was a coffee drinker and journal writing kind of guy and his words challenge me each morning and lead me from study into worship.

<3 For actual Bible reading and focus, I am continuing to visit and meditate and chew on those Proverbs from earlier this summer.

I was delighted to discover a treasure on our book shelf called Ancient Wisdom The Book of Proverbs with Devotions for Today by James MacDonald. Thirty days of thoughtful applications based on various themes of Proverbs.

Each day ends with a few questions to help me respond and apply the teaching.

It has been encouraging and also a bit painful…

for example…

the teachings on “laziness” have revealed some areas where I have allowed circumstances to overwhelm me.

This morning I had to face a hard truth that I have slipped into an attitude of numbness about things.

He writes, “It’s also very easy to lose the will to care about God and other people when life gets hard and the burdens of the day seem too heavy to bear.” page 39

I may have written “OUCH” in the margin.

<3 Which brings me to the final ingredient of my “dailies” …

I have been using my beloved Prayers that Avail Much collection of Scripture based prayers compiled by Germaine Copeland.

I wore out paper back copies of Volumes 1, 2 and 3 YEARS ago…so eventually purchased the leather bound set of all of her prayers.

Lately, when I realized my prayers had just become venting, griping and whining…

I pulled this old friend off the shelves and have literally been reading through the prayers to end my daily quiet time with God.

If His Word is a sword, then this is one powerful weapon because Copeland has simply taken line after line of God’s written word and woven powerful, mind-changing, attitude transforming prayers that renew my soul to be God-aligned.

And as only He can do…today’s entry was about casting my cares and burdens on Him…

which tied beautifully with the conviction I received in Proverbs.

<3 And then I close up my books and lay down my pen and listen.

This morning the Spirit led me to sing what I can remember of Blessed Assurance and since I love music but am ill-equipped to produce it, I pulled up Third Day’s version on my iPhone and just sat with tears streaming down my face and let them sing to the glory of God while my soul rode along with them.

When I opened my eyes, a little bunny was snacking on our petunias and I felt God smile as I opened the door and the critter just kept munching as he gazed over the top of the pink bloom at my bed-head hair and mascara streaked cheeks.

So that’s how I start my day.

Tomorrow I will give you some other resources I have found to be good food for spirit and soul.

In the meantime…God bless and I would love to hear what YOU do to start your day <3

A quick Monday thought <3

As we swing into a new week I know all kinds of ways that the weekend was maybe wonderful and hard to leave ..

and that the week ahead could be the start of your much-anticipated summer vacation get-away or one that holds so much tension and foreboding you would like to pull the covers back over your head and ride it out in the safety of your own home.

Either way, child of God.

You are loved.

And you are blessed.

Sometimes we only believe we are blessed when we FEEL blessed.

But God’s blessing on us is something we can KNOW.

I am not doing a sermon recap (although it was a very good one…so if you missed it this week FCC people, do take time to listen online)…but…

As we were led through the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop as recorded in Matthew 17, I recognized a familiar phrase that was voiced out of heaven…

“This is My beloved Son..in whom I am well pleased.”  Matthew 17:5

I knew I had just read that same phrase earlier in the week in the opening chapters of Matthew.

In fact I had written them down in my journal because in Matthew 3, just after Jesus came up out of the waters of baptism…Heaven opened and the Spirit rested on Him and a voice came out of nowhere earthly and said…

sure enough…

“This is My beloved Son…in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3: 17

And how wonderful does all of that sound?

This ONE…right here…belongs to Me..is My Son…loved deeply by Me…and who brings me great joy and pleasure and I am putting my seal of approval on Him.

Blessed, right?

And yet in both cases, what happens next would most assuredly not FEEL like a blessing in our human terms.

Because the verse after the baptism proclamation tells us that the same Spirit that descended like a sweet dove as music played and the clouds parted and God boomed out His love…

LED…

Directed the feet of this same beloved Son…

directly and purposefully into…

the wilderness…

for the express activity of ….

being tempted by…

THE…

Devil.

And after the Transfiguration experience, Jesus began sharing that the Spirit was leading His feet once again to a place where He would face this same adversary and that it would appear He lost this time.

I have to say that the trials and the chaos of facing temptation and the daily and intentional dying to myself and crucifying my flesh does not smack of a perk of being a beloved child of God.

But if Christ is my example; then I must accept that it is indeed, because I am blessed, that I suffer.

That laying down my life to take up His is, in fact, the blessing.

That temptations will come, perhaps disguised as guilty pleasures but quite often as seasons that are barren and dry and lonely and hard.

Times when I will not walk by what I see…what I feel…but by what I know.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  John 1:12-13

You are beloved, little child of God…walk as though you are blessed…up and down the mountains…in and out of the valleys…you are loved <3