Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Houseguest

Today our sermon lessons, both in the morning service and the evening service, focused on the Lord's Supper/Communion.  One of the verses our preacher used was Matthew 28:19, which says, "He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.' ".  This celebration of the Passover would be the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before he was crucified.

After reading that verse I thought to myself, "What if Jesus had been talking about coming to my house for his last supper?"  How would I have responded?  As a mom and wife of a busy household, the first thought that comes to my mind about unexpected guests, is "The house is a mess or this isn't a good time.  Or perhaps even, "We've got somewhere to be. We're going to be late!"    But, what if Jesus was the one wanting to come to my house?  Would I really tell Him no?  I would like to think that I wouldn't say no to Jesus.

What about the story of Zaccheaus?  Jesus looks up in the tree where Zaccheaus has hurried and climbed up to get a glimpse of the Savior.  "When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." Luke 19:5.  What would my response to Jesus have been that day?  "No, sorry, Jesus.  I'm busy today.  I've got laundry to do, bills to pay, grocery shopping to get down.  Can you come some other time?"  But look at Zacchaeus' response in verse 6, "So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly."  Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus into his home gladly.  Without hesitation.

To tell you the truth, if we are having company (known company), we use our bedroom as the "pile everything into" room.  The whole house can be almost spotless totally clean, but that one room gets neglected.  It's the one that gets all the junk.  We've been known to put a "Keep Out" sign on the door - especially if it's a large group coming over.  We don't want anyone to get lost in there to see it.  It's off limits.

Isn't that what we do in our own lives?  We'll open ourselves up to Jesus, but there's one part that we say, "Keep Out"?  We won't let Him in?  There's a closet...a room....a section that we don't want Him in?

As a Christian, we've welcomed Jesus into our heart - into our life.  But, is He gladly welcome in all of our life?  In all of our home?  In all of our heart?  We need to make sure we give Jesus the same response Zaccheaus did.  We need to welcome Him gladly.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

From the Archives: Contentment

This weekend has been our kid's livestock show. This year they showed pigs and goats. Here is a story from last year about a goat named "Crazy". Her story inspired this post, which was originally published on March 1, 2009.

This is the story of "Crazy" with an emphasis on contentment.

Are you content? What would it take for you to be content? In our world today, we are bombarded with advertisements about new things we can purchase that will supposedly make us more content. We want things newer, faster, nicer, easier - all these "things" we believe will make us content.

Last week the goat in this picture (let's just call her "Crazy" for the sake of giving her a name - and it is a proper name!) thought her life was going along pretty good. She was very content. She was happily roaming in our pasture, but one day her life changed. There's a possibility that this goat is expecting little baby goats, so my husband was going to take her and all the other expectant moms to a safe sheltered barn. But Crazy wasn't interested in changing her life, so she ran away from my husband, a friend of his, plus 10 children (maybe the 10 children were why she ran - Hmmm???) Anyway, Crazy jumped the fence and ran as fast as she could up the road we call "cemetery road" here in Tipton. It was dark and they had other goats to take care of, so they didn't worry about Crazy for the night - thinking she might come back. But, no. She didn't.

The next morning our county livestock was going on at a nearby town and my husband and children left early for the fairgrounds. I started over a little later and on the way, about 2 miles from our house I saw a goat in the driveway of one of my 4-H members. This boy also shows goats and I am thinking this is HIS goat and that it should be at the county show. So, I call our Ag teacher and he says, "No that's YOUR goat!" It's Crazy! He told me to stay there and watch her until he got me some help to try to get her.

Crazy ran into the garage of the house where she was "visiting". Their garage door was open (as a side note, the mom that lives here is my son, Jacob's teacher.) So Crazy is in this garage, way up by the door going into the house, and there's all this stuff around her in the garage.

While waiting on help to come, I'm thinking that this would be an awesome picture - Crazy in a garage! I slowly drive up about one foot at an angle to get a good picture and also to make sure I'm out of the highway traffic, but the movement scared Crazy and she took off!! I begin to go along behind Crazy, she in the field and I on the highway, when all of the sudden, here comes help! The assistant Ag teacher and a high school boy come driving THROUGH the field after Crazy. The high school boy jumps out of the vehicle and runs after Crazy, but then turns around and runs scared! A jack rabbit had jumped out in front of him and ran, but it scared him! The boy jumps back into the vehicle and here we all go, chasing after Crazy! Well, Crazy stopped at the next house. At this time, I had to leave and get to the stock show to work at the concession stand. I left the assistant Ag teacher and high school boy with Crazy.

I'm not exactly sure what happened after that, but I do know that they didn't get Crazy. Crazy is still gone. But, all of the students, teachers, and people at the livestock show enjoyed the story of Crazy the rest of the day!

Why do I tell you this story? Well, first of all, I thought it would be a good laugh to start off your week. But, second of all, the story of Crazy can teach us a lesson about being content.

Sometimes we believe we can't be content unless we have more. But, also, sometimes we believe we can't be content unless things stay exactly the same - like Crazy. She wasn't content with any change in her life and now where is she? Who knows? Maybe she'll show up some day! But, Paul says in Philippians 4:11-12 "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." The key to this verse is where Paul says "I have learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul in God's inspired Word tells us in verse 13, "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength" Christ gives us the strength to be content.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

WHAT ARE YOU ALWAYS DOING?

I love the story of Dorcas (or Tabitha) in the Bible.  She was a disciple (a follower) of Jesus.  But look at what it specifically says about this Christian woman:

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. Acts 9:36

Take some time to think about your own life. Fill in the blanks below using your own name, town, and what you are ALWAYS doing.

In _____________ there was a _________________ named ____________________, who was always ____________________ and _________________________.

How would you fill in those blanks?  How would your family fill them in?  How about your friends?  Your community?

Kind of makes you think, doesn't it? It sure does me! Sometimes it does us good to think and reflect about our lives. What we're doing. What we're ALWAYS doing. What we're not doing. Maybe what we should be doing.

The rest of Dorcas' story can be found here: Acts 9:37-42

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Sock Basket

This is what we lovingly refer to as "The Sock Basket".  That's what it is - a basket for socks.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing special.  Just a simple white basket with a thousand bunch of socks.

 I know what you might be thinking:  "Wouldn't it be better if you sorted the socks like normal people do and put them in the drawers where they belong?"  Well, yes.  Maybe it would.  But, that would take a lot of time and it's so much quicker and easier to just throw them into this basket and then we just get them out when we need them.  Wouldn't you agree? (Well, perhaps you wouldn't.)

The way I see it is that "The Sock Basket" is a learning tool.  It teaches the kids organizational skills and how to match....you know - it improves their eye/hand coordination.  Or at least it should.  With Tyler, our youngest who's seven, apparently it isn't working!
Every once in a while we have a sock-sorting party and everyone does 10 pair each, but, most of the time we just keep them in the basket.  The kids didn't like it when I first suggested it, but I assured them that I grew up with a sock basket and survived and they would, too.  One of our kid's teachers, who also happens to have a family of six like we do, is also a proponent of "The Sock Basket".  I was thrilled to hear that it's a common thing! 

"The Sock Basket" - it's just one of those things that makes life simpler. A simpler life....I like that!

How do you simplify your life? 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Chronicles of Biscuit - I Won!

Do you see the HUGE hole in the knee of Biscuit's pants?  Well, yesterday after school Biscuit (our youngest child) and one of our other sons had a dentist appointment.  When we got to the dentist as Biscuit was getting out of the van, I noticed ths hole.  Here's the conversation that followed:
Me:  Biscuit, how did you get that hole in your pants?
Biscuit:  I was trying to win the race at P.E.
Me:  Where were you racing?
Biscuit:  In the gym.
Me:  You tore that big of a hole in the gym?  Are you sure you didn't get a small hole then tear it with your hands and make it bigger?
Biscuit:  No, mom.  I'm telling the truth.  It tore in the gym.  I wanted to be first in the race.
Me:  Did you win?
Biscuit:  Yes.
Me: (In my head, but not out loud, "Well, you'd better be glad you won since you got that hole and went to the trouble to slide into the finish line.)
Me: What did Coach W. say?
Biscuit:  Nothin'.  Sorry about my pants, Mom.
Me:  It's okay this time.

I didn't really know what to say.  I am amazed that the hole is so big after sliding in the gym to win the race, but apparently it did.  I could end this post with "Winning isn't everything" and say that I told Biscuit that winning shouldn't have been that important, but I know that he didn't mean to tear the pants.  It just happened.  I didn't get on to him yesterday.  If it continues and more clothes get torn, then I would, of course.

Here's my thought for today:  Forgiveness and mercy... God's continued love for His children.  A parent forgiving a child and granting mercy...a parent's love for their children.

P.S. And did you notice Biscuit's un-matching socks?  That's for another post.  There's sure to be a lesson there!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy 1st Bloggy Birthday!

Birthday Myspace Cliparts
After thinking about starting a blog in the fall of 2008, I posted a few devotional thoughts in October.  I wasn't really sure what I was doing, but decided to give it a try.  However, at the time, I didn't realize how rewarding the experience would be.

Having taught ladies' Bible classes for years, I was taking a break - not that I needed one necessarily, bu thought it would be best to give other ladies the opportunity to teach.  Soon I realized that I missed the studying that went along with teaching.  It was then that I decided to post more often.  It became kind of a challenge in a way and made me feel accountable to my blog readers - no matter how few they might have been.  But at that time and still now today, it seemed like a perfect way to keep myself in God's Word - not just in a "daily Bible reading way" (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that!) but in more of a "study-type-way" - more like I had been doing for so many years while teaching ladies' class.  Serving God in a unique way by sharing Jesus with others - all over the world - was something that seemed very interesting to me.  I had no idea that the blog world was so big at that time.

After those first few posts, I didn't do any others until three months later - in January of 2009. And then, after another month of no posts, I decided to get more into the blogging world and be more regular with the devotional thoughts.  On February 17, I began what I thought would be regular posts, but by "regular" I only meant two or three a week.  Because of the positive response I received via post comments, emails, Facebook messages, and face to face, I began writing regular, daily devotional thoughts on February 23, 2009. 

I'm still not always sure of what I'm doing, technologically speaking.  I'm sure there is a lot more I could do on the blog and there are a lot more ways to interact.  Someday I'll work on that, but not now.  Right now I'm content just sharing daily thoughts with you about God, Jesus, and from His Word.  I also enjoy sharing stories about my family - especially my children.  It's a way of documenting these special times in our life as our children grow up and learn new things.  The Chronicles of Biscuit, posts which specifically tell stories about our youngest child, Tyler, is something that I will be glad to have in the future.  Why?  So that I can show him when he has children of his own!  Yep.  Then it's payback time, for sure!

Yes, today is the official birthday of "Shine Like Stars".  This post makes #347.  That a lot of writing, and thinking, and studying, typing, and sharing.  I've missed a few posts through the year, so it hasn't been every day.  A few months ago I decided to take Fridays off, too.  Sharing the Good News in this way has been a blessing to me and I pray that it is to those who take the time to read the posts.  It's been great hearing from many of you throughout the year.  I know a lot of you don't like to comment, but still enjoy stopping by.  Right now approximately 70 of you receive "Shine" daily.  Others stop by daily or fairly often.  Thank you to all of you.

So, for this Gratituesday, I am grateful for the 1st year birthday of "Shine Like Stars" and for those who take the time to stop by.  I appreciate you!

Note:  My first five posts used the acrostic SHINE.  Those devotional thoughts are still some of my favorites because they're good reminders to me of what I want this blog to be about - Shining Like Stars.  Here are the links, if you are interested:  S - How can I SHINE?H - Hold Out the Word of Life I - Illuminate Your World!N - Never Give Up!E - Establish Your Priorities.

Sorry, I'm Taken

Last fall I found this sign at Mardel, a Christian bookstore.  We gave it to our teenage daughter for Christmas.  She has it hanging on her door.  It's from the Kerusso company, but I thought it was such a great thought and wanted to share it with you. 

Realizing that when we belong to God, we should honor Him in everything we do, is something we should always keep in mind - no matter what our age may be.  We are taken.  We are His.  And for that we should give Him praise, honor, and glory.  Forever.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Birth Order

My first year in college I wrote a research paper about family birth order and how it relates to personality.  It's always been fascinating to me.  I was the oldest in my family and tend to be a leader and.....well....a little bossy! (My younger sister would agree, I'm sure).  After reading and studying about birth order years ago, though, I can see certain characteristics in my own four children that I remember reading about then.  There are certain traits that are considered typical for the first born, middle, and youngest in the family.  Sometimes it's "right on", but sometimes it's not.

Tipton is a small town of less than 900 people, but there are quite a few families with four children.  One family with four we're especially close to. Their mom and I have fun comparing their four sibling personalities and characteristics with our four.  Some of the typical family birth order traits are very evident in each of their lives and it is kind of interesting looking at those traits.

When we become a Christian, we become children of God, but the "order" of our new birth doesn't matter at all to God.  It's just important that we've decided to be born again and become one of His children.  We are a new creation, ready to begin growing and becoming more and more like Jesus.  It is because of Him we can have the hope of eternal life - no matter what our family birth order may be.  Thank you, God, for your wonderful gift!

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. 
John 3:3 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4-7

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alive!

Have you ever seen someone you thought had passed away?  I have recently and it was such a strange feeling.

The lady I thought had passed away was someone I only saw once or twice a year at our Bible camp.  She didn't come this year and the lady who I thought was her sister told me that her sister had passed away.  I told her I was sorry for her loss and remembered things about the lady in the past - her talking about her children and grandchildren, and having fun with the ladies' group at camp each year.  The bad thing is that I never knew her name.  I meet so many people at camp and other places that I can't keep up with all of the names.  I remember faces well, but not names.

Well, in November I was at a nearby town shopping at Sam's Club in Lawton, and I saw this woman that I thought had passed away.  I was in such shock that she was alive, but also that apparently she wasn't the sister of the other lady like I thought she was.  Another thing is that if she was shopping at Sam's in Lawton, then most likely she wasn't from where I thought she was from - about 2 hours east of there!  I didn't come face to face with her that day, so she never saw me, and I was glad.  What would I have said, "I thought you had died???"  No, that wouldn't have been good!  I was so shocked, it would have been awkward for me that day.

Last week another strange thing happened.  A Facebook friend made a new friend, and for those who are on Facebook, you know that it notifies you whenever one of your friends makes a new friend.  Well, this new friend happened to have the same name as a famous movie star (one that I actually know), so naturally I "clicked" on her name - just to see if it was the movie star.  Guess what?  No, it wasn't the movie star, but IT WAS THE LADY I THOUGHT HAD PASSED AWAY - AGAIN!  I couldn't believe it, and now I was really confused about where she was from because apparently she wasn't from any of the places I had previously thought. 

The good thing about all of this is that now I know her name.  And the fact that it is also a movie star's name I know I'll never forget it.  The next time I see this lady - most likely at the ladies' retreat at camp next fall - I will talk to her and I'll even call her by name.  However, I won't mention any of the rest of the story!

This whole thing makes me think of Mary when she came face to face with Jesus after his resurrection.  Can you imagine what she must have thought?  (Matthew 28:8-10; Mark 16:9-10)  Wouldn't that have been amazing to be one of the ones to first see Jesus?  That would have been both shocking and exciting!  And, while I was too "scared" to go up and speak to the lady I saw at Sam's, Matthew's account of the resurrection said that the women fell at Jesus' feet and worshipped him.  They weren't too afraid to speak to him. Then they went and told Jesus' disciples. 

What a great story!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chronicles of Biscuit - Changing Seasons

Today I was at the school around lunch time.  Biscuit's (nickname of our youngest child, Tyler) 1st grade class was going into the cafeteria to eat lunch, but his teacher saw me and came back to talk to me.  It's always scary when she starts any conversation with the words, "I've got to tell you what Tyler said yesterday!"  I told her I was scared (laughingly), but she assured me it was a cute story and that it would be a great blog post!

The 1st grade has been studying seasons.  She was asking the class what season came next and Tyler raised his hand.  She called on him and he answered:  "Baseball!"  He reasoned that after that it's football, then basketball, etc.  She's told me before that if she could make every subject relate to sports he would be happy and eager to learn!

Today was a beautiful, almost 60 degree and sunny day in southwest Oklahoma.  It actually made me think that springtime is near.  But, Sunday there were snow flurries and more are expected some time next week.  Seasons change.  Weather changes - sometimes from day to day.

While scientists and politicians debate about global warming and climate changes, I'm amazed that so much money is spent on research in this area.  In fact, the Bible verifies the fact that it is God who is control of all of this - changing of the seasons and any variations in the seasons.  All over the country billions and billions of dollars could be saved if everyone believed these verses in God's Word:

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease."
Genesis 8:22
 
The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
Remember how the enemy has mocked you, O LORD,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
Psalm 74:16-18

So, you see, there is proof of the seasons....not baseball season, like Biscuit thought was coming next, but the seasons in nature which were created in the beginning...by God.

Random Living

Yesterday I had the opportunity to judge FCCLA Star Events. I enjoyed listening to several young junior high students give their illustrated talks about many different subjects. One young lady did a talk about the use of slang. It was interesting and made the other two judges and I think about the words we use ourselves. The girl pointed out the differences in the use of slang throughout the generations.

I'm not sure this word is considered slang, but I do believe it's use has increased dramatically over the last few years. The word is RANDOM. If you see pictures on Facebook, the albums are often titled as "Random" or "Randomness". Blogs feature a weekly post that can be found in the "Random" category. My son will hear one of us say something and comment, "That was random!" What it means (in "my" language interpretation, anyway) is "That was "out-of-the-blue"!

Every day, most likely, we will all most likely have a "random" thought or a "random" action. It's something we do "out-of-the-blue" or as a "spur-of-the-moment" thing. That makes life more spontaneous - more interesting. And while randomness in that sense is fun and exciting, our lives must not be lived in totally random fashion. No. Our lives must be lived with a certain purpose in mind.

God created us for a purpose. He created us for more than just living our lives randomly and according to our wants and desires.He created us for His purpose. We are His.

"Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." Psalm 100:3

Jesus came to this earth with a certain purpose.  He was sent by God to do His Will.

"...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17
Jesus's purpose was to do His Father's will.  As Christians and followers of Jesus, we do must do our Heavenly Father's Will.  And what is that?

1.  Serve Others
2.  Give Our Lives for Others (Not that we must die, but that we must devote ourselves to helping others.)
3.  Save the Lost

Random pictures, posts, and thoughts are fun and spontaneous.  But, let's remember to live our lives with a PURPOSE and not just randomly.  Let's remember WHOSE we are and WHO we are following and WHAT our purpose is as we live out our lives here on this earth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Serving Others - Senior Saints and Teens

On this Gratituesday (click link to see what others are grateful for at Heavenly Homemakers), I am grateful for the opportunity my family has to serve the senior citizens and teenagers of our church family every February.
Every February our Sunday morning Bible Class organizes a Senior Saints' Banquet for the senior citizens.   Because so many of the senior citizens in our congregation are widows or widowers, we don't place too much emphasis on Valentine's Day - although it's typically the weekend closest to the holiday.
This year our class decided to change our regular brisket meal with nternational cuisine consisting of Italian food.  The Senior Saints are always so appreciative of our treating them.  This year one special Christian sister wrote us a "thank you" poem and read it to us on behalf of the rest of the group.  Also, the oldest man in the congregation is 93 and is still very spry - even serves as one of our Deacons!  He said that the Italian food we served yesterday was better than what he ever ate in Italy where he was stationed many, many years ago while serving in the armed forces.  Of course, he probably never had the opportunity to eat authentic Italian food - only food he was served in the mess hall.

Serving the Senior Saints every year is such a blessing for our young adult class and to our children.  It is a time when we can say "Thank You" to each of them for their Christian example and service for so many years.
I get the priviledge of decorating for the yearly event and many times coming up with entertainment, games, or activities to go along with the theme.  It's something I always look forward to doing. 
Thank you, God, for these Senior Saints who spend their lives living for You and letting Christ's example be shown to all of us and to our children. Thank you for letting us serve them in this way.
Also every February, often on the same day of the Senior Saints' Banquet - except in the evening - our family hosts the teen youth group of our church family.  Two of the teens are our own children, so that's neat. Usually this event is totally in our home, but this time we decided to begin in our church's fellowship building.  We've hosted this event for seven years and the menu is always the same (click on link to go to recipe located on our family recipe blog):  Beef Lasagna, Chicken Lasagna, Semi-Homemade Bread Sticks, Green Beans/Salad, Pudding Cake, and Butterfinger Cake.  Since the teen meal was Italian-themed, too, I used the same decorations for them most part.  However, I added twinkle lights, candles, real fabric tablescloths, and other special things to make it seem more "Valentine-y" for them.  At this meal they are served - just like a fancy restaurant....except they can request second servings!  Between the 23 teens and 4 adults, 72 bread sticks and 4 1/2 loaves of bread were eaten!
As the teens arrived at the fellowship building after evening worship services, I heard what was probably the highlight of the evening for me.  Several of the teens we host live at Tipton Home, a children's home I've mentioned before (my husband's work place).  One of the boys that is a 6'2" seventh grader (amazing!) said this when he walked in and sat down, "Wow, it's like I'm in a real fancy, Italian restaurant!".  Knowing a little about his background and the fact that he's only been at Tipton Home since this summer, I'm pretty sure he's never been to a super-fancy restaurant before.  If that meal last night - being "served" a meal amidst twinkle lights, real tablecloths, and candles made him feel extra-special for just those few hours - it warms my heart and makes me smile!  All of the teens are very appreciative of the evening, but for my husband and I - we get joy out of serving them. Serving them.  Showing them God's love.  Showing them Jesus' example.  That's what it's all about.
Following the meal, the teens are divided into four groups.  Four adult men are drivers for the teens and they are sent on a scavenger hunt.  This year the scavenger hunt began at the fellowship building, but ended at our house.  Here are a few of the things the teens had to bring back this year: a roll of pennies, a children's Bible, a signature of one of their school teachers, a signature of the preacher, and lots of other things.  The group also had to go to someone's house and do a good deed for them.  One of the groups took out the trash for someone.  That was a good, "Good Deed".  Another group sprayed Febreeze in someone's house!  Lame "Good Deed"!! 
The groups also had to go to our local convenience store (we only have one in the whole town) and purchase someone's item or items.  They must take a picture of this, as well, as "proof" of their purchase - plus a signed receipt.
Another neat thing the teens have to do is bring back a person.  Acutally this year we had them bring back two people who had not previously been at the event that evening.  It's fun having the visitors into our home because many times it's teens who haven't been in our home before.  And while some of the other teens are a part of other youth groups in town, many are not.  In fact, many of them may not have a church home themselves and for them it may be a new experience and cause them to become interested in God and Jesus.
The scavenger hunt is a lot of fun, not just for the teens, but also for many in our small town.  They look forward to the visit from the teens each February.  One sweet Christian sister tried to cheat yesterday, though.  She asked me what we were going to have on the list so she could start rounding up items in the afternoon.  I teased her and told her she was cheating and that I couldn't tell her.  The teens said when they got to her house she had three rolls of pennies ready and waiting for them!  I'm going to change that item for next year (hee hee!)
After the scavenger hunt this year, the teens were served dessert in our home.  They were ready for dessert after running around for an hour or longer gathering all of those items they needed. 
The final part of the evening is singing a few devotional-type signs and a devotional given by my husband.  Please allow me to brag about my husband.  He does such a great job.  He preaches from time to time as he travels around speaking to congregations that support Tipton Home, but I don't always get the opportunity to hear him speak.  He is able to keep the attention of the teens and relates God's Word to them in a way that will have a spiritual application, but also a character-building application. He encourages them to be the best they can be, but with a higher purpose than just for themselves.  That's something we should all strive to do.
Serving the teens every February is a joy. I pray that the time they spend with us and the rest of our church family will influence their lives in a positive way and help them decide to dedicate their lives to Jesus and serve God for the rest of their lives.
Thank you, God, for this opportunity to serve the teenagers - our own two, plus all of the others around us.  Help us to live our lives in a way where they see your Son, Jesus through our lives.

Having the oppotunity to serve others.  That's what I am grateful for today.  What are you grateful for?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rough Seas

Whenever I go to Lawton, OK, I see this quote on a family counseling sign:  Rough Seas Make Skillful Sailors.  It always makes me think.

This quote is really true, isn't it?  When we're having troubles in our lives, we are learning something new.  We're learning to deal with the trial or struggle - maybe juggling a dozen things (or a million!) all at once.  But, it's at those rough times that we rely more on God and less on ourselves.  It's at those times we search for ways to mend what is broken or heal what is hurting. It's God who can calm those rough seas and His Spirit working within us to make us skillful sailors. We must anchor ourselves to Him for strength.

If we went through life with only smooth seas, we would become complacent.  Oh, it sounds like it would be great- just coasting along without any worries at all, but we wouldn't be learning and growing.  And once a living organism fails to grow - it dies.

Remember the story in the Bible when the apostles were in the boat with Jesus and a storm came up?  The boat rocked back and forth in the rough sea and the apostles were scared and worried, but what was Jesus doing?  He was sleeping!  The apostles woke him up and said, "Don't you care that we were about to perish?"  The apostles  Jesus knew that God was in control.  In His own voice He calmed the sea. Because the apostles were scared, they saw that Jesus provided them with safety.  They saw that He was able to save them. 

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
Mark 4:35-41

If the apostles had not been faced with "rough seas" from time to time, they would have failed to see their need for a Savior.  If we never have rough seas in our lives from time to time, we may not see the need for a Savior, either.  Rough seas, do indeed, make skillful sailors and God should always be where we put our anchor. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Should I Be Worried???

That Tyler's Valentine's sack for his 1st grade party says, "Every kiss begins with K"?
from the jingle "Every kiss begins with Kay" for Kay Jewelry! 

Tyler's teacher had told me about his sack the night before at a ballgame.  She thought it was hilarious!  It is kind of cute - as long as he's not really kissing anyone at seven years old!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Going Against the Flow

This is used by permission. I received this via email from "Thought for the Day" by Alan Smith.


GOING AGAINST THE FLOW

The story is told about a woman who called her husband on his car phone as he was on his way home from work and she said, “Honey, you need to be careful. I just saw on the news that there’s some nut driving the wrong way on the Interstate.” Her husband said, “There’s not just one nut, there’s hundreds of them!”

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like trying to do God’s will makes you go the wrong way down the road? All the traffic’s coming the other way. Have you ever thought, “If everybody’s going this way, it’s so hard to go against the flow. Would God really mind if I just turned around for a little while?”

An article in The London Times a couple of years ago reported that there are currently about 200 million Christians in over 60 countries who are being persecuted for their faith. Because we have freedom in the United States to worship God, those of us who live here sometimes we forget just how many people in this world live under oppression – by Communist authorities or Muslim authorities, or authorities who simply oppose God and the people who follow God.

And even if you don’t face governmental oppression, there are no doubt many of you who live with oppression – in your home, in your workplace or at your school – oppressed by a family member or boss or teacher who makes it difficult on you as a Christian. More and more, we all are living in an anti-God culture. We live in an environment that makes it difficult at times for us to stand up for God.

We must remember the words of Paul: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

No matter which way the crowd around you is flowing, may you have the courage to travel the direction that God would have you to travel.
Have a great day!

Alan Smith
Helen Street Church of Christ
Fayetteville, North Carolina

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Assumed He Understood

Today was our counties' annual 4-H demonstration contest.  Two of my boys entered the contest - Jacob made Crockpot Candy (recipe on our family blog, click here) and Zachary made a mousetrap catapult. Others from our local 4-H club also entered the contest, along with many others from the county. 

Because we've been so busy with other activities, last night was the first time my own boys had actually gone through their demonstrations.  Instead of pouring out the ingredients for the recipe while practicing last night, I just had Jacob play like he was doing it.  However, the plan (according to me) was that he would pour out the ingredients during the actual contest.

Well, today, Jacob was giving his demonstration.  As he began telling the audience how to make the candy, instead of actually pouring the ingredients into the crock pot like was planned (or at least I thought it was planned!), he just pretending to be doing it!  I couldn't believe it!  He had no idea that he was supposed to actually use the ingredients during this real contest time!

Jacob was surprised when I explained to him what he was suppose to have done.  I just assumed that he realized that he would actually pour the ingredients, but he didn't. I guess I should have been clearer and explained to him exactly what he would be doing.  I actually had no idea he didn't understand.  Kind of funny!  I got the whole thing on video so I can show him for himself some day. :)

Communication breakdowns sometimes happen and many times it's not anything super-important, but sometimes it is very important.  Relationships can be severly damaged by broken down communication.  I've heard the saying about how God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we talk.  That's pretty good advice! Assuming that someone understands something is most likely going to result in problems of some kind.   Effective communication is communication that involves both talking and listening - not just one or the other. 

I can think of a few top ways in which we can communicate more effectively with others:

1.  When listening to someone, really listen. 
2.  Make eye contact. Look directly at the person speaking.
3.  Try not to be thinking about what you want to say next - instead fully listen to the person who is talking. 
4.  When someone explains something to you, it's wise to repeat back to them what you are hearing...that was you're sure to know you are both thinking the same.
5. Never assume someone knows what you're talking about.  Make sure to explain what you mean fully.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
James 1:19

What are some ideas you have about communication?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dollar Tree is Sinful?

I posted a funny story about one of our sons the other day, but today I want to tell one about our daughter, Lauren.

Lauren was about five or six years old. She and I - plus her brothers - we were driving down the road in Altus on a Sunday afternoon.  We were close to a Dollar Tree store.  She asked me why in that morning's sermon the preacher had said it was wrong to go to Dollar Tree.  Not sure I was hearing her correctly, I moved the rear view mirror down so that I could see her face as she was talking.  Again she said the same thing, "Why did the preacher say it was wrong to go to Dollar Tree?"

Only then did I realize what she was thinking.  That morning our preacher had talked about the sin of IDOLATRY.  Lauren was only hearing Dollar Tree!  It was so funny, but I didn't want to laugh at her.  I quickly moved the mirror back up so she couldn't see my face, but then went on to explain to her what idolatry meant. This story is funny, but the message that morning about the sin of idolatry isn't funny at all.  It's sin. 

What is idolatry?  Quite simply it is whatever is put in front of God in our lives....whatever we allow to become #1.  If we allow our jobs to become the most important thing in life, then it's become our idol.  We could say the same thing about money, about food, clothing, entertainment, pleasure, and even our families. 

Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.
1 Samuel 12:21

"You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.  Exodus 20:3-5

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
1 Corinthians 8:4

Nothing should come between us and God - even Dollar Tree!

Being Grateful - Even for the Messes

This past weekend was filled to the brim, but resulted in very little sleep for me.  Monday morning, when the alarm went off, I seriously wanted to just turn it off and go back to sleep.  But, I knew I had to get up and get the kids breakfast and off to school.  I was tired and grouchy.

As I made breakfast and packed lunch boxes, I looked around and saw messes all over the place. Some of those messes were made by others in my family, but some of them were made by me.  However,  I let those messes that were made over the weekend (but that we didn't have time to take care of) get to me and I allowed them to change my attitude. 

As the kids ate breakfast and my husband was in the kitchen and ready for work, I was allowing my attitude to spoil the little bit of time we were going to have with all six of us together for the whole day. I began emptying the dishwasher and rinsing off other dishes getting them ready for the dishwasher. I wanted to yell out, "I'M NOT YOUR MAID!", but I didn't. Thankfully.

Suddenly, I stopped.  I thought about my attitude and my family.  I thought about the water running and the dishwasher ready to fill up again.  Last week we were without power and without hot water for five plus days.  We were sooooo excited when it came back on. Now here I was, six days later, getting upset and complaining about the messes I needed to take care of, and that I was going to be able to take care of with the conveniences of electricity and hot water.

At that moment my attitude turned to gratitude.  I chose to be grateful right then - even for the messes. For ALL of the messes. Not that I don't expect my family members to help out and take care of their own messes, but grateful that I have the resources to take care of those messes.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:15-16

For more Gratituesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Just Couldn't Help It!

Sometimes funny things happen at inopportune times.  Worship is one of those inopportune times when you wouldn't want or expect anything funny to happen, but sometimes it does.  Although very rare, I can think of a few times when something really funny happened during worship and I just could not help it.  I couldn't keep from laughing.

Our third child, Jacob, was about 14 months old.  My husband, Joe, was the guest preacher at a small country church where his dad is actually the minister.  Joe had been holding Jacob on his lap, but in preparation to go up to the pulpit, he handed over Jacob to me.  Unbeknownst to us, Jacob had basically "exploded" in his diaper and "out" of it as well.  The problem was that it was all over my husband's suit pants!  Quickly I reached for some wipes and we did the best we could in the few seconds time we had to clean up the mess. 

Joe went up to preach and I took Jacob to the bathroom to clean him up.  By the time we got back there, he was dirty all the way down to his socks and shoes.  Fortunately, the little outfit was a two piece sailor suit (a hand-me-down from our older son) and not a one piece, so the undershirt was completely clean and dry.  Unfortunately, I never was good about taking a second pair of clothing when I went places - even with the third (and later even with the fourth) child.  I changed Jacob's diaper, wiped him off as best I could, and went back in to the auditorium - in only that little shirt and his diaper.

At the end of each sermon, a song is sung that serves as the time where people can come to the front for any needs - perhaps they've decided to become a Christian, or maybe they need prayers from the church. We commonly call that time the "invitation" song because it's the Lord "inviting" them to come to Him. 

This "invitation" song typically has lyrics that would make one think about their own relationship with God.  Not typically a "funny" time at all. But, this time when the song was sung, I just "lost" it.  I could not control my laughter.  I felt bad, but all I could think of was the "explosion", Joe's pants, and the lyrics of the chorus that were being sung to "Are You Washed in the Blood?"  Here is the specific part where I lost it after each verse:
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?

I just couldn't help it!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Surviving Without Power

The phrase, "You never know what you've got until it's gone," has become very apparent to those of us in western/southwestern Oklahoma this past week.  God has blessed us abundantly in so many ways and one of those blessings is electricity.  And we are all thankful to have it and the modern conveniences it provides.
My own family lives in a total electric house.  We have no gas at all, so even our water was cold during the power outage.  Thankfully we do have a wood-burning fireplace.  We hadn't used it before, even though we've lived here for 10 1/2 years.  We never had because of the irritant it seems to be with those with asthma, and our three boys and myself all have asthma.  It didn't bother anyone until the last few days.  The two youngest began having trouble and had to be given a steroid and began breathing treatments a few days ago, but they'll be fine.  We're still thankful we had the fireplace and for the warmth it provided during the power outage.
The fireplace also provided a place to warm up hot water for hot chocolate, a place to roast weiners and marshmallows, and a way to heat up other food items, as well.  We ate lots of S'mores last week!
We also cooked on the outside gas grill and found another interesting way to cook - using candles in the oven!  I saw this idea in the Lawton, OK newspaper and thought it was great!  Thankfully I have several handed-down old pots and pans, so I used those for the fire-related cooking and didn't mess up my better cookware/bakeware. 
I had lots of little votive candles left over from previous decorating events.  They rested in a mini muffin tin and heated up food splendidly! (Keep the oven vented a little bit.  I stuck a knife in the edge to keep it open slightly.) My sister-in-law liked this idea and used it, too.  We played games one afternoon at their house as she heated up dinner.  We began to smell it soon and she said, "I guess my burners are too hot.  I guess I'd better blow one out!"  If you cook by candle, maybe you should think of one candle as "low heat", two as "medium heat" and so on!
Candlelight dinners are usually thought of as being romantic, but last week it was just another sign of "survival mode"!  I wrote about this wrote dinner on our family recipe blog.  You can read about that recipe here.  This was our favorite dinner of the whole "no power" week!
Keeping warm was the major concern during the week.  As I'm sure everyone else around here did, we bundled up in layers and layers of clothing and sported hoodies, hats, and gloves in the house to keep warm. We wore our ski socks and two pairs at a time. We slept with layers of blankets, quilts, and comforters. We also made a game out of using a small, portable thermometer and taking it to different areas of the house to find out the temperature.  In our bedrooms it stayed 39 degrees F.  In the seating near the fireplace it would get to 60-63 degrees F, so of course that's where we stayed most of the time.  We had fun moving the thermometer from one end of our long dining room table to the other end, which resulted in a 6 degree difference in temperature!
Surviving without power was difficult, but possible.  God gave us the strength to get through the crisis and we thank Him for that and for all of the blessings He gives us so abundantly.  Surviving without God and Jesus is impossible.  Many try, but it will never work.

We are thankful for all who worked so hard to repair the broken electrical poles and wires.  They worked and continue to work tirelessly long hours to help others and for that we are grateful.  Remember them in your prayers.  Pray for God to continue to strengthen them.  Pray for their families, as well.  They have many hours ahead of them.

We are thankful to all who cared for others during this time.  Many opened their homes, shared their food, and checked on friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they were warm and fed.

And, as strange as it may seem, we can be thankful for the storm.  Although it caused many problems, it also brought many blessings.  For a time everything in our normal life stopped.  We lived the way my great-grandparents lived - without TV, without computers and internet, without deadlines and appointments and schedules, and without daily ball games/school events.  But, we had family meals around the table.  We had worship in homes. We had game days and game nights filled with lots of laughs and talking.  We took the time to call and check on others and care for others.  We took the time to do things that were really important and that too many times we become too busy to do when life is back to normal.

Surviving without power.  We did it with God.  We did it together.

Have you survived a weather-related crisis?  How did you cope?  What did you do?  Do you have any tips for survival and for getting by?  I would love to hear how you did it and look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

2010 Ice Storm - What a Week!

One week ago today Oklahoma was hearing of bad weather coming to our area.  None of us knew what the next few days would bring.
Freezing rain, sleet, snow, and falling temperatures were expected all day that day and came with a vengeance.
 Early in the day many southwest Oklahoma schools canceled classes.  Soon ice began to collect on roads, trees, and highline wires.  Little by little tens of thousands of people lost their electricity.
Our small town was without electricity for five days and six and a half hours.  Many are still without it in surrounding towns - including my parents.  Many of these pictures are actually from Altus, Oklahoma, where they live. We didn't get the destructive ice - just a coating of ice - but it's easy to see why there was so much damage to electrical lines.  My pictures of the lines on the ground were blurry, but there are thousands of electrical poles having to be replaced.
I don't think I've ever seen a chain link fence coated in ice.  Not all of this is solid, but much of it is.  An amazing sight!
The pecans were coats on this broken branch in my parent's front circular drive.
The small field on the side of our house always fills with water, but this time it was an ice-covered pond.  The boys thought it was fun!
The river west of town.
I am anxious to see if this tree makes it.  It may be standing straight up now!  This is in Altus.
Even though it was very destructive, the ice on the trees was beautiful.  It actually looked like a war zone and certainly does now that the ice has melted.
Clean-up and electrical crews are everywhere doing whatever needs to be done to restore power and clean up the neighboring towns (This is Altus again).

Thankfully our school is back in session today.  Our children weren't necessarily ready to go back after having five days off!  Many schools are still closed and some have already closed for tomorrow, as well.

I'll write more about "Surviving Without Electricity" and have more inspirational thoughts about the storm in the next few days.  But for now I just wanted to share some of the amazing pictures. Thank you for your prayers.  Continue to pray for those without power and who are working to restore power for others.  It's raining today, so it's sure to make their job even tougher.

Monday, February 1, 2010

ICE STORM!!!!

Well, if you've missed me, I'm sorry!  We haven't had electricity since Thursday.  The kids haven't had school since last Wednesday.

Right now our family has driven to Lawton, OK, to eat at the mall and just get away and thankfully we were able to connect to the internet to do a little looking at what is happening outside of our "bubble" in southwest Oklahoma.

It's not looking too promising for us to have power anytime soon.  Tens of thousands (or more) are without power and crews from all over have been sent to our area to help restore the power as quick as possible.  Please pray for all of those who are working so hard - for their safety and strength.

My family is keeping warm by our fireplace and we are cooking on our grill outside and with candles in the oven.  Our house is total electric, so no gas appliances or heat.

This is quick, but just wanted to touch base in case anyone was wondering.  I've got lots of pictures to show when we've got power again!
 
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