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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not So Wordy Wednesday

Not so wordy and not so many pictures even. Keeping it really short today just to wish you

a Very Happy Easter!

From the Harms home to yours!

I would love to know how you will spend Easter day. Sunrise service? Resurrection Celebration Service? Special choir music? Big family dinner? Brunch? Or something less traditional but just as meaningful, special and fun?
Let me know!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Who's Your Daddy? - A Lesser Known Story About Joshua

I was going to write about Joshua son of Nun today, mighty in battle, courageous when others were cowardly. But as I was flipping pages of my Bible to get to the story of Joshua and Caleb's zeal to enter the Promised Land when the 10 other spies brought back a daunting report, I came across a lesser known story about our trailblazer. A less flattering story, but one we can certainly learn from.

Numbers 11:24-30
So Moses went out and told the people what God had said. 
He called together seventy of the leaders and had them stand around the Tent.  
God came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the Spirit that was on him 
and put it on the seventy leaders. 
When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied. 
But they didn't continue; it was a onetime event.

 Meanwhile two men, Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp. 
They were listed as leaders but they didn't leave camp to go to the Tent. 
Still, the Spirit also rested on them and they prophesied in the camp.
 A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!"
 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' right-hand man since his youth, 
said, "Moses, master! Stop them!"
 But Moses said, "Are you jealous for me? 
Would that all God's people were prophets. 
Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them."
Then Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.

Bless Joshua's heart, he was nothing if not loyal. He had been Moses' assistant since his youth and still must have been fairly young, for the Israelites had not left Egypt all that long ago at this point. He was obviously enamored with Moses' calling, his God-given authority, his spiritual insight, and his "power." Now two other guys are prophesying - proclaiming the word of the Lord - and as far as Josuah knows they didn't go through Moses to get that authority. Weren't they out of bounds? Could it really be that God could cause his spirit to rest upon someone else? Joshua didn't think so. As far as he was concerned, "Moses was his daddy!" Moses was the man!

I have to confess, I've been right there in Joshua's shoes. When I was in my mid-twenties I read my first book by Kay Arthur. I was immediately taken, not by Kay, but by the Word of God that she opened up to me. I went to a Precept training course and learned how to study the Bible inductively, the way Kay taught it. I was in love, still not with Kay, but with the Bible. I began teaching Precept Upon Precept Bible studies and I was addicted, not to Kay, but to the God of the Bible and His truth. I taught Bible studies using the Precept method for ten years and loved every minute of it. 

I heard Kay speak a number of times in person. I went to Precept Women's Conferences, training conferences, and summits. I encouraged other people to learn the inductive study methods taught by Precept and to become trained teachers themselves, and they did.

And as time went on, I became not only enthralled with the Bible and the God of the Bible, but I became more and more convinced that if you didn't study the Bible with Kay Arthur and Precept Ministries, you weren't really studying the Bible.

Then I was asked to teach a Beth Moore Bible study.  

Could she do that? Could someone else possibly write and produce a Bible study that could reach into the souls of women and equip them with truth and provide life-changing results? Could she possibly even know how to teach the Bible accurately? Did Beth study it inductively and handle the Word of God correctly? Could I trust her? Did she know Kay Arthur or study under her?
At first I was quite skeptical, but because I wanted to reach the women of my church where they were at and I wanted to provide a study they were interested in, I went for it...hesitantly. I read every word Beth wrote expecting to find error, looking for sentimentality and the absence of thorough and responsible study. I wondered as I read, "What would Kay think about this?"

Like Joshua, I was shouting within, "Kay, my master, restrain her!"
Kay Arthur never heard my words or my heart, but God did. And eventually He said to me, "Are you jealous for My servant Kay's sake? Would that all of My people were such prophets, that such a mighty portion of My Spirit rested upon everyone that they would teach My Word with such passion and authority and insight." 

I'm a Precept Upon Precept girl at heart. That's where I cut my teeth on the Bible, so to speak, and that's where I still return when I need to dig into a portion of scripture and want to get to the meat of the matter responsibly and thoroughly. But I've been teaching Beth Moore Bible studies for almost ten years now, along with studies by Priscilla Shirer, Jennifer Rothschild, and others. And I've written my own as well (I know...the audacity!). I no longer carry a torch for one particular Bible study teacher or author. I just point my torch toward the Author of the Word. He's my daddy!

God has indeed used Beth Moore in a mighty way and obviously His Spirit is within her. He has blessed her writing and her teaching. I have heard her speak live a half a dozen times now and I've not been disappointed once. I praise God for her ministry and the women who have been touched through it.
Funny thing is, I just finished doing a Bible study that featured both Beth Moore and Kay Arthur (and Priscilla Shirer - Annointed, Transformed, Redeemed). While I was all in a wad with my loyalties, they highly esteem one another and would never want me to choose sides among them and their teaching/writing styles. God has used them both mightily, and aren't we all glad?

What about you? Have you ever been overly zealous for a certain teacher, author, preacher, or even musician? Who's your daddy? Who is the one who "hung your moon?" If you've gotten your loyalties confused as Joshua and I did, how did God straighten you out?

Here's to good, godly, wise teachers who carry the mantle of their ministry well! God bless them...all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Look What Else You Need!

Saturday night as I waited up for the prom queen to come home (not literally the prom queen, just the little princess of this house who felt like a queen for the evening), I was privy to watch all sorts of enlightening commercials on television. If you think the ads are crazy during the day, you should check out the ones they reserve for late night TV watchers, folks who are mourning the fact that they are home alone watching TV on a weekend night or maybe those who have put away a few and are carrying on conversations with the people on the screen.

At any rate, I learned more than I ever needed to know about the newest ways to grow tomatoes (upside down hanging from a bag), get your cat's claws groomed (I never knew that was such a big deal... we have dogs), paint a room, bump your hair up a notch (or two or three), hang more clothes in your closet, lose weight and grow additional and longer eye lashes.

Now I do love me a good tomato, but I am most familiar with the traditional way of growing these summer treats - straight up from the ground or a large pot, confined with a tomato cage or along a post. Something about them hanging from a bright green bag strung up on your patio just doesn't seen natural to me. Maybe you could enlighten me if this method has actually worked for you. I'd be curious to know since I do indeed have a backyard the size of playpen. But this commercial definitely played on my ignorance. I saw the same two silly and gullible looking senior adults pulling the same two tomatoes from their hanging vine over and over, but I never saw any facts or figures, something I usually require before investing my $19.99 in anything I've never seen before.

Come to think of it, all of these commercials played on my ignorance. They assumed I was ignorant about the given subject matter (and most of us are, when it comes to how cats groom their claws or how eyelashes grow), they kept me as ignorant as possible while feeding me senseless information and miraculous demonstrations, and they asked me to act on my ignorance by sending them my money and giving their product a try.

Now this is not to say that if you've ever ordered anything off the television you are ignorant. I'm sure there's some good stuff out there worth ordering and maybe even some of the products I saw Saturday are completely worth the 19.99 they all happen to cost. That's not the point of this post. So if you're steaming under the collar right now because I've made fun of your favorite way of shopping, please forgive me and hang in there with me. No offense intended toward you TV shopper folks.

But as I sat there watching the happy cat groom its little claws on its compact and sturdy Emery Cat for the second time during my third Hallmark Channel movie (and therein lies my addiction), I honestly got one of those "voice of God" messages. It helped that I had just read and written about Eve's conversation with the serpent a couple of days before, but I clearly heard felt God say to me, "Reference back to Genesis 3:1-7, Kay, where Satan is convincing Eve why she needs to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She too already had everything she needed and more, but that sneaky snake came along and sold her a bill of goods based on faulty promises and by playing to her ignorance."

And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die!
For God knows that in the day you eat from it
your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, 
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,
she took from its fruit and ate;
and she gave also to her husband with her,
and he ate.
Genesis 3:4-6

Yes, Madison Avenue has definitely done their research in Genesis 3 and they have the spiel down pat. Appeal to the senses, promise the moon, assume the consumer is ignorant, don't bother with all the facts - just the ones that serve your purposes, and glaze over the price like it's no big deal. And, because there is indeed a "sucker born every minute," that should seal the deal!

But God didn't interrupt my regularly scheduled Hallmark movie just to enlighten me to the ways of Madison Avenue and keep me from buying a Emery Cat (though those folks actually had me contemplating the merits of that little plastic thing and I don't even own a cat!). He got my attention to remind me that the serpent, now known as Satan, continues to work in the same way. He's a slick one and he found him a pitch that has worked over and over through the centuries.

So the reminder to me was a bit of a paraphrase of 1 Peter 5 8-9:

Be awake, alert, aware! 
You think you're above the slick talk and visual appeal?
You're not!
There is an ad executive better than any on Madison Avenue, 
the devil,
and he whispers in your ear like a smooth-talking "as seen on tv" voice-over
seeking someone to suck in for the low price of 19.99.
He won't tell you the real price of whatever he's hawking
and he'll make promises he can't deliver on
but he doesn't care 
because even if you ask for a refund (or repent)
he's had you long enough to profit from your stupidity.
Resist this slick talking salesmen 
by being firm in your knowledge of the truth
and by taking courage from all the others 
who are resisting those same enticing ads.
(Kay's late-Saturday-night paraphrase)

I didn't order the Topsy Turvy Tomato Tree, the Emery Cat, the Hanger Cascader, or the Point'n Paint. And, though I only have about a dozen scrawny eyelashes on each eye, I even resisted whatever it was that will grow your lashes to look like Brook Shields'. But believe me, I've been sucked into many a lie from that sneaky serpent and those faulty promises costs me a lot more than $19.99. I bet you've been suckered in a few times too.

I avoided being tempted to buy a Bumpit by simply getting up from the sofa and going to brush my teeth instead of listening to the promises of hair with bumped up volume - something I'm always after, thanks to my upbringing. But resisting the deceitful charms of the sneaky snake sometimes is a little more difficult. Got any suggestions? I'd love to hear how you resist the devil's smooth talk today. We could all use some tips I'm sure. So please do tell!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just Ask

Pasta again? That's a weekly mantra at my home because I happen to like all things Italian. Spaghetti, ravioli, tortellini, lasagna, farfalle, pizza. I know pizza's not a pasta, but it's Italian and I love it. If it were up to me we'd probably eat some sort of Italian dish every night. But I try to be considerate of the other folks who live here and make something more American every once in a while like....macaroni and cheese, for instance. Oops! That would be pasta too, huh?

The thing is, I'm a pretty proficient cook and if my family just asks for something I'm glad to cook it. But they rarely ask; they'd rather just complain afterward. So I throw in an Asian stir fry every now and then and if I want something from my husband I'll cook his favorite beans and cornbread. But even when I make a large salad or a no meat meal, it seems to end up having an Italian flair. Especially once the basil starts growing in my herb garden. That's when my family knows it tour of Italy time for sure!

But if they'd just ask...

James 4:1-3 are some of the most insightful scriptures for understanding why we get all bent out of shape sometimes. These three little verses have helped me tremendously to understand why I occasionally get this restless churning inside of me that eventually leads to me nagging my husband, yelling at my kids, snapping at my friends, and whining to nobody in particular. If this never happens to you, stop reading now and have a nice weekend. If it does, follow me...

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?
Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?
You lust and do not have;
so you commit murder.
And you are envious and cannot obtain;
so you fight and quarrel.
You do not have because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, 
because you ask with wrong motives,
so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James 4:1-3 (NASB)

It's so easy to forget that we have a heavenly Father who is just waiting to bless us. I'm not sure why that is because most of us attest to having received blessing after blessing from Him, but then we'd rather grumble and complain and whine to others than ask Him directly for things.

Oh, we're pretty good about asking Him to keep us safe on a trip or to heal someone when they're sick or to help us pay those bills. But what about asking Him to be your companion when you're feeling a little lonely? What about asking Him to give you a little "at a girl" when you need to know you're on the right track with something? What about asking Him to delight you when you're just a little bored and mellow? What about asking Him to make you laugh when you're having a blue day? 

He can do those things, too, you know.

If you just ask.

Earlier this week I was feeling a little blue. Call it post-vacation syndrome or deadline-pressing-down-on-me anxiety or the I-live-2,000-miles-away-from-my-Mama melancholy or just... one of my 3-5 allotted blue days per month (statistics say that's what we all have, by the way). But I was blue and I needed a little something to tickle me pink.

So I asked.

I just told God how I felt and that I really needed Him to do something about it. I asked Him to lift my spirits. And I left the means up to Him. Delight me, I said. Be creative. I trust You.

And guess what? He did.

On Wednesday I got a message from a fellow blogger who I read often, but I don't think she's ever even left a comment on my blog. She's one of those extremely witty bloggers with gobs of followers and a stream of comments on every post. She's one of my heroes. She sent me a message saying I'd "won" something at her blog and she'd like to send me an iTunes gift certificate. I checked her blog to see when I'd entered in a contest to win anything, and... I hadn't. I don't know what in the world she was talking about, but she sent me the gift certificate and I now have $10 on my iTunes account to pick me out some new diddies. And I didn't pass it on to my teenage daughter either. Because, in my mind it was God's gift to me, via Whimzie (the blogger) of course.

On Thursday I noticed on the LPM Blog that they were offering free tickets to the Beth Moore Living Proof Live event in Tucson this weekend. I hadn't bought a ticket to go because I had just heard her in January and didn't feel it was wise to ask my husband for a repeat funding so soon. But I thought if they're giving away tickets to bloggers, I can ask. 

So I asked. Actually I asked God first, then I made the call.

I told the kind lady on the phone that I'd just seen Beth in January and if they needed to give the tickets to other women who hadn't seen her before or so recently I completely understood. But she was enthusiastic about giving me a ticket and so I took one. I get to go to a Living Proof Live event this weekend. And I completely give God the credit for that one too.

And voila! My spirits are definitely lifted, I've been tickled pink, and I'm singing God's praises instead of whining about what's on the table. I just had to ask.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Matthew 7:11

Do you need something today? Ask!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

If You're Happy and You Know It...

It's sad really, I suppose, that the thing that has hung with me the most from my recent California coastal journey is (besides the magnificent Pacific Ocean)... the cows. Yes, you read correctly. I said cows. Happy cows to be exact.

I had seen the Happy Cow commercials on TV and thought they were cute, but didn't realize how very realistic they were. Ok, before you stop reading, I know California cows don't really talk, or at least I assume they don't. But what I didn't know was that the scenery in the commercials is not some set in Hollywood pieced together with backdrop film from Ireland and AstroTurf. The cows in California really do live in paradise.

Hang with me here.

I'm not sure you folks in the East even see Happy Cow commercials. If you've never seen one you probably really think I'm off my rocker right now, obviously the effects of cutting down on coffee (I cut out coffee completely...for two days - you should have seen me then!). So, in the event that some of my readers have never seen the Happy Cows on TV, I'm providing a YouTube clip of one of my favorite of several commercials that these Happy Cows have made.

They cows in California have made several commercials, making them even happier I am sure, but this one works best with what I want you to know about these blessed cows.

When we visited California and began driving up the coast we immediately noticed how very green everything was. I was amazed by the rolling hills, the beautiful groves of trees, the mountains, and the emerald green of it all. Then I read in one of my guide books that March is called the emerald month in California because it is, in fact, the greenest month. Wasn't God sweet to take us to California for the emerald month? I thanked Him profusely for the privilege.

But as we drove along I thought it was a shame that I didn't see any livestock in these green rolling hills. Until I did. As we got a little further on our journey we began to see cows. Amazingly these cows looked just like the cows in the commercial - beautiful, rich colors, nicely fattened bellies, and clean. Not only that, but they shared their abundant pastures with only a dozen or two other cows. The pastures weren't crowded and each cow had ample green grass to munch on all day long.

I began, much to my families delight, to point out the Happy Cows every time I saw them. "Look, Happy Cows!" I would say, and my family would roll their eyes in perfect synchronization. The most blissful cows we saw were undoubtedly the ones that were not only munching away on lush green grass in wide open rolling pastures, but also had a wide view of the Pacific Ocean. Talk about happy. That's right, there are cows in California that are sharing acres of green grass with maybe 24 other cows and they're just feet from the azure Pacific Ocean. In fact, it is crashing into the shore beneath them like a beautiful symphony, over and over. They have got to be the happiest cows in the world, by golly!

My family began to get a little ticked off  weary with my obsession over the Happy Cows and stopped even glancing in the direction I was pointing until we got home to Arizona and we were driving along I-10 in the desert and I said, "Look, sad cows...." With their interest piqued by the change in my tune, they all followed my gaze to three scraggly cows desperately hunting for something to eat in their southwest desert pasture. It was sad really,...but they all laughed. Huge contrast, these cows. I felt sorry for them. They don't know there are happier pastures, and I think it's best that way. But sad too.

The "new girl" in the Happy Cow commercial I shared with you above had obviously just moved to California from not so green pastures too. Hers weren't the scruffy pastures of southern Arizona, but the snow laden ones of Wisconsin no doubt. But she knew the difference all the same. The California natives didn't have a clue as to what she was talking about. Snow? What's that? Sand? Cacti? Tumbleweeds? Dry creek beds? Overcrowded pastures What are those? We haven't a clue!

And that leads me to where I'm leading us. (Finally! My adoring family would say!)

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
and for His wonders to the sons of men!
For He has satisfied the thirsty (parched) soul,
and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.
Psalm 107:8-9

Do you know how good you have it sweet friend? Are you even aware that you live in the best pasture, the Promised Land? Jesus is our Promised Land. According to the teachings of the book of Hebrews, Jesus is the complete fulfillment of God's promises. All of His promises are "yes" in Christ Jesus. In our relationship to Jesus we enter into all of His promises just like walking into the gates of a lush, green pasture.

In fact, it is Jesus who shepherds us as the Good Shepherd, giving us the security to comfortably lie down in green pastures, leading us beside still waters. He satisfies our souls with good things and tends to our every need. And He said Himself that He came to provide abundance for us. No crowded pastures or scraggly land. Abundance.

Those Happy Cows have nothing on us. In Christ, we're perched right there on the banks of His glory, walking around on holy ground and feasting on His blessings. 

The question is, do you know that you're a happy...woman...man...young person? Do you remember the parched soil He took you from? Or have you at least noticed that not everyone is lying down in green pastures? That most of the folks in our world, bless their hearts, are searching among the cacti and the tumbleweeds for something to satisfy their souls?

Dear friend, in Christ Jesus we have it good. Maybe we should raise our heads up from our green, green grass long enough today to look around and take it all in so we can realize how good we have it. Count our blessings, if you will.

So, if you're happy and you know it... say Amen!
If you're happy and you know it...clap your hands!
If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.
If you're happy and you know it ... say Mooo!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Up the 1 - As They Say in California!

Well, better late than never. That's my motto on a busy day like this one. I have been anxious to share some of our vacation photos with you today. But when I looked at what I ended up with on my camera last night, I was quite disappointed. At what point do your kids stop making goofy faces every time you try to take a picture and start acting like nice human beings? They'll regret this someday when I pull these out at my convenience!

As you can see, Abby is beautiful and likes to do everything but smile pretty and Daniel would prefer for the world to think that he was angry the whole time. He wasn't. He really had a good time and was a happy camper, so to speak. It's just a phase. It's lasted for a number of years now, but it's just a phase. I keep telling myself this.

Well now that I have sufficiently paid my children back for loading my camera with shots like these, we can move on.

We'll start with the glitz and glamor of Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Bel Air!

We snapped this shot because our favorite "band," the one hit Wonders, stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel in That Thing You Do. We're weird that way.

Little Miss Shirley Temple had made these impressions at Grauman's Chinese Theatre exactly 75 years before our visit to the day.

This is the last time Abby hopes to be at the Kodak Theatre in anything besides Oscar de la Renta or Prada...

Now here is the way Californians spend a Sunday afternoon at Venice Beach, otherwise known as Muscle Beach.

Now a series of beautiful shots of the coast. Well, my shots are not always that beautiful, but the coast definitely was. I had never seen the Pacific Ocean before and I was absolutely blown away by how gorgeous it is. So different from the Gulf or the Atlantic (which are lovely too, of course).

First sunset from our hotel in Pismo Beach

Abby on the beach at night.

Abby on the beach the next morning.

A shot of our hotel from the beach.

I think that's a smile, don't you?

These are sluggish, rather ugly Elephant Seals, but I'm still glad God made them, of course.

Julie Pfeiffer Burns State Park which we renamed Julia Roberts Michelle Pfeiffer State Park, 'cause that's what we do. Absolutely lovely. Do you see the waterfall? The only one in the continental US that deposits into the Pacific.

The Bixby Bridge - I think Daniel has better photos of this. 

Sunset in Carmel.

Do you see the sea lions? At least I think that's what these were.

The Lone Cypress. Please don't send me any money for viewing this photo. It's copyrighted so I can't charge you. Just in case you were so overwhelmed by my photography that you were feeling moved to contribute.

Pebble Beach Golf Course - amazing!

More sea creatures of some sort.

Getting ready to go on our whale watching expedition. It was a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour... and my guys had to fight over who was the Professor. 'Cause that's what we do.

Abigail and James looking for whales. We actually saw quite a few gray whales as they migrated north. They gave us a good show too, flipping their tails into the air and all!

Looks even more like a smile! The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Abby is finally cooperating and looking very happy here because we had just bought her prom dress in San Francisco and were now heading to her favorite store - Forever 21.

Lombard Street in San Fran. And yes, we drove down it too!

Thanks for sharing my pictures with me. We had a great time and I highly recommend "the 1" (as the Californians say) if you ever have a chance to do it. We went up from LA to San Fran in 4 1/2 days and back down in 1 1/2! Whew! But we loved it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The One Jesus Loves

Last night as I was watching Dancing with the Stars - because that's what I do when I'm exhausted and too tired to read or sew or do any more work - I noticed that some of the "stars" had changed their looks since I had seen them last. I won't mention any names, but a few of them looked a little blonder and a little curvier. Their appearance had changed, but appearances can be deceiving. Things can change on the outside and stay completely the same on the inside. On the other hand, when things change on the inside it definitely shows up on the outside too.

God didn't change John's name, an outward indication of who someone is. But He changed him so much on the inside that John changed his own name and others surely saw the difference too. Once known as one of the "sons of thunder" along with his brother James, the apostle John only refers to himself in his gospel account as "the one whom Jesus loved." He never once mentions himself by the name John in that book. But at least five times he identifies himself as the disciple Jesus loved.

I chose to take a look at the apostle John today because I was once again struck by the difference the love of Jesus can make in a life. He turned this quick-tempered, self-centered son of thunder into a loving, compassionate, committed man whom He would later trust with perhaps one of the most significant  revelations ever - the revelation of Jesus' return.

The fact that John repeatedly refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) tells me that he was himself overwhelmed with this love. He was amazed that Jesus loved him, honored by His love, mobilized to love others because of Jesus' love for him, and passionate about telling others how they too could know such love. The love of Christ had become the core of who John was.

Everything John wrote is laced with the message of love, is compelled by love, and instructs others to love. And even long after Jesus had ascended into heaven and left His disciples behind to carry on His work and to share the good news of salvation through Him, John continued to feel loved by Him as much as he did when he walked beside Him daily on the dusty roads outside of Jerusalem. He didn't write any of his portions of scripture until approximately 85 - 95 a.d. and yet the love of Christ still compelled every word he penned.

How much has the love of Christ changed me? Does His love for me amaze me? Do I wake up each morning thrilled to be "the one Jesus loves?" Do I even see myself that way, as one whom Jesus loves? Does His love resonate through everything I do, every word I say, each word I type? Does His love motivate me - to share that love with others, to be obedient to Him, to share the gospel, to warn others against false doctrine (as John did in 1,2, and 3 John), to tell people about the imminent return of Jesus? Does Jesus' love for me cause me to stay true to Him for the long haul as it did for John, believed to be the last surviving apostle? Has being loved by Jesus changed my character as it did John's?

I won't give you the answers to all those questions for myself, but suffice it to say I'm certainly not batting a thousand. I'm convicted by the overwhelming change that Jesus' love wrought in John's life. John obviously spent time reflecting on the love of Jesus. He must have so appropriated that love that he didn't just believe "Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world," but he knew without a doubt that "Jesus loves ME, this I know!"

Dear friend, do you know today that Jesus loves YOU? Are you overwhelmed with that love? Does it mean anything at all to you? Has it changed you from the inside out and are you telling others about it?

I'd love to hear your quick response to a couple of quick questions.
  1. What song about Jesus' love for you overwhelms you every time you hear/sing it? "Oh, How I Love Jesus," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul"? Maybe something more current? Or if you can't think of a song, what scripture best sums up His love for you and knocks your socks off?
  2. What is one way being loved by Jesus makes you different? How has His love changed you?
Let's all live today a little more aware that each of us are indeed "the one whom Jesus loves."

Monday, March 22, 2010

And Then You Pay the Piper!

We had the most fantastic time on our Spring Break journey up Highway 1 on the coast of California last week! I am still amazed at how wonderfully the whole trip went.
  • The weather was stellar, 
  • this family of four got along 98% of the time, 
  • the 5 hotels I had picked out via the Internet were superb 
  • and I'd say two of them were even unbelievable, 
  • the whole state turned this amazing emerald green just for our visit
  • the Pacific Ocean, which I had never seen before, was so much more than I had imagined,
  • the scenery was magnificent
  • the sea lions, otters, elephant seals, and gray whales put on show after show for us in their natural habitats,
  • we got upgraded to a nice KIA van instead of the car I had originally rented at no extra charge,
  • the kids didn't complain about eating picnic sandwiches one meal a day 
  • James managed the LA traffic splendidly
  • the AMTRAK trip proved to be fairly pleasant and a good choice
  • and we got home safe and sound, leaving only a bag of over-the-counter meds in a hotel room.
God blessed us with a wonderful vacation and my heart is still thrilled today. I promise pictures on Wednesday, but today I must pay the piper - not God - I don't have to pay Him. He is simply gracious and good and requires no payment for the multitude of blessings he rained down on my family this past week. But, even though I tried to get a lot of work done before skipping away to play in California, I am, alas, behind with some deadlines. Well, not really behind. I don't want you to think I don't meet deadlines. But if I don't get in gear here soon, I will be behind. I must type my little fingers off today to meet two deadlines by tomorrow morning.

So thanks so much for those of you who did trail maintenance with me last week. I loved reading your comments and was so glad you joined me out on the trail, but I wasn't capable of commenting back any last week. Yes, my son had his laptop with him and we had free wifi in most of the hotels, but he's 19. Enough said. So, again, I'm grateful you worked along with me last week.

Sorry for such a random post today - I guess it's sort of a post-vacation type thing. Please pray for me to get my work done today and I'll pray for productive days for all of you too. You are my joy!!!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Trail Maintenance - Part 5

 Well we're down to the final day of sprucing up our spiritual trails for some good hiking, so to speak. I thank you for joining me for this work week. It's always more fun to clean, maintain and repair in the company of others than doing it solo. My goal here has been to do a little spiritual assessment and make those necessary alignments and repairs so that afterwards I can move forward spiritually at a more enjoyable pace while covering more and more ground. Sure, there's joy in the journey - beautiful vistas, challenging climbs, and breathtaking views - but we also want to make some progress! We want to get somewhere!

So let's make a few final adjustments to our trails today and get on our way! If you're just joining us today, I'll let you in on our maintenance method real quickly. I'm just asking some questions that help us gauge the condition of our spiritual trails and then I'm supplying us with a few scriptures to help us make any necessary repairs. The goal is to honestly apply those scriptures so that the changes are made, not just to read them and think, "Well, isn't that dandy?" We gotta do the hard work folks, if we want to see any improvement in the trail. So heave ho!

Checking the Signage

  • How's the signage on my trail? The markers? The maps? Do I have adequate guides on my trail to help point the way? Not only do I have them, but am I using them? Am I reading my Bible daily, allowing it to guide my steps, my decisions? For those times when I need a little direction quickly, have I been memorizing portions of scripture? Have I been meditating on it and letting it sink in? Am I taking part in a weekly Bible study or doing one on my on? 
Establish my footsteps in Thy word,
and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.
Psalm 119:133

Thy word is a lamp to my feet, 
and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

  •  How are the blazes on my trail? Trail blazes are usually a vertical dash of paint on a tree or rock or maybe a footprint of paint on a rocky trail. Blazes mark the right path so you don't make a wrong turn. They also tell you where you do need to turn and where to find shelter. Thing is, someone has to put those blazes there; they aren't natural phenomenon. Whether I think I'm a worthy guide or not, I'm blazing the trail for those who come after me. Am I marking the trail accurately for those who are following me? Am I leading them on a safe path that will get them to their ultimate destination? Do I need to adjust the blazes on my trail so that my children, my grandchildren, younger people in my church, young friends, and others who are watching me will be guided in the right direction? BIG responsibility!
I do not write these things to shame you, 
but to admonish you as my beloved children.
For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ,
yet you would not have many fathers;
for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.
1 Corinthians 4:14-16

You therefore, my son,
be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things which you have heard from me
in the presences of many witnesses,
these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to 
teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:1-2

And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your might.
And these words, which I am commanding you today,
shall be on your heart;
and you shall teach them diligently to your sons
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house
and when you walk by the way
and when you lie down and when you rise up. 
and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand 
and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house
and on your gates. (Like blazes?)
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 
Ok, once again I've supplied the tools, but it's up to you to do the work.

Folks seriously. I've been on a lot of hiking trails. I love a good, well-maintained trail. It makes the hiking sweet, safe, and fun. But a trail that hasn't been maintained in a while is full of logs that have fallen across the path, weeds (full of chiggers) that hide the path, and faded blazes that confuse even the best hikers. They're passable, but the chances of getting lost are heightened and your progress is definitely slowed.

Our spiritual trails are similar in that they occasionally need a little maintenance. We have to stop and get rid of that which impedes our progress, that which trips us up over and over, and that which makes the path dangerous or dark. And we have to do whatever is necessary to make the trail a little safer, more enjoyable and fruitful, and easier to stay on.

I've been on a spring break trip to California with my family this week. When I get back I plan to have a freshly maintained trail to continue my spiritual journey on. I'll be continuing to read the Bible through, I'll have some new scriptures to memorize, and I'll have a new resolve for my daily quiet time with God. What about you? What does your trail look like after a week of maintenance?

Happy hiking!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Trail Maintenance - Part 4

We're on a roll now. Spring trail maintenance is hard work, but hopefully we're beginning to see some results, and that should be encouraging.

If you're just joining us, we've been doing a little annual maintenance on our spiritual trails here at Off the Beaten Path this week. And it's not too late to catch up or just to get started. We're hoping to get the narrow path we're on into good working order so we can make some real spiritual progress in the days to come. We want our trails to be rightfully challenging, but not because we've allowed danger to lurk in the bushes. And we want our trails to have ample water supplies, but not muddy pits. And Monday we simply made sure we were on the right trail - the narrow one where Jesus is calling the shots and blazing the way.

Today we're checking for anything that might leave us standing still in our tracks and not moving forward. So heave ho! Let's go!

Digging Up Anything That Impedes Progress
  • Have I reached a plateau? Am I standing on a precipice where the path ahead of me looks scary and uncharted? Am I spending a lot of time looking back - either with pride and sweet memories or with regret and guilt? Have the trail blazes grown dim, causing me to struggle with the direction I should be going in?
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13-14)

Do not call to mind the former things,
or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new;
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
Isaiah 43:18-19

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous! 
Do not tremble or be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9 
  • Have I grown so complacent, so lazy in my spiritual walk that I'm going nowhere? Do I no longer have a vision for what God has ahead for me because I've retired from the journey, stubbornly digging in my heels and refusing to go any further? Do I need to shake things up a little so I can move out and up? Have I let my guard down and let the weeds of complacency choke out the fruit I'm supposed to be bearing? Or has the oppressive presence of depression darkened my path? Is despair and hopelessness choking out the light from ahead?
I passed by the field of the sluggard,
and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense;
and behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles,
its surface was covered with nettles, 
and its stone wall was broken down.
Proverbs 24:30-31 

These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, 
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
for the help of His presence.
Psalm 42:4-5

  • Have I allowed the roots of bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, or resentment to grow up on my path. Are these negative emotions and dangerous attitudes impeding my progress forward. Are they causing me to stumble, therefore making me grow even angrier and more bitter? In fact, are these evil roots on my path even causing others to trip and stumble?
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
Hebrews 12:15

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger
and clamor and slander be put away from you,
along with all malice,
and be kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving each other, 
just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

If little things are causing you to trip up and stumble on your path today, I hope you'll dig them up by the roots and give them to Jesus to dispose of. You might then allow Him to plant something good and healthy in the place of that which was uprooted - love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, compassion. Those all make lovely stepping stones for forward progress!

Blessings to you! Just one more day of heavy labor and our spring maintenance is done!