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Friday, April 30, 2010

Our fences get rickety


3:39 p.m. Today's project was to begin the work on repairing the sections of fence that blew down in yesterday's wind. I'm involved somewhat in the planning, but this is really Steve's project. As a courtesy, we also want to talk with our adjoining neighbors, to ask them to lend a hand or contribute suggestions, but they never seem to be around. At least our dogs can't get over into their back yard because of our garden fence, and their dogs have a chain link dog run. Thank heaven for small favors!
Last night at Bible study, our Woodcrest friends were amazed that the wind was so strong at our house, and frankly so were we--it sure didn't seem to be blowing that hard to us either, when the fence fell down. I think that after 22 years, the fence was just rickety and ready to collapse!
A wooden fence was all we 4 neighbors could afford to chip in for in 1988, just enough to keep kids and dogs corralled. New homes call for plenty of expenses--putting in lawns, sprinkler systems, covered patios, curtains and blinds, and it adds up. In the last several years, we erected brick and iron walls in the front yard, after two cars busted through and smashed a poorly built wall and our front wood fence!
Fences and walls are gatekeepers, demarcating boundaries and ownership, dating back to biblical times. God was very exacting when He designated the boundaries of Israel as His people settled in the Promised Land, driving out the pagan nations, with allotments by tribe and by family within the 12 tribes. (See Joshua 13-22) Boundary markers were set up clearly and were to be obeyed. But these new lands came with both promises, provision, and conditions, as Joshua's farewell address in Joshua 23:3-7 makes clear:
You have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the LORD your God is He that has fought for you. See, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations I have cut off, to the Great Sea westward. And the LORD your God will expel them from before you and shall drive them out of your sight. So you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God has promised you. Therefore be very courageous to keep and do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left.
Promise, provision and conditions characterize our Christian walk, don't they? Jesus promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5); God provides the very air we breathe, the earth we walk on, and everything we need to live (Genesis 1:1).
But God creates conditions as well! He knows how humans tend to take His blessings for granted and wander away from the boundaries He has set, whether in all-too-commonplace ways, like spiritual laziness, or grave sin, like adultery or capital crimes. Instead of bolstering and reinforcing our "fences," with obedience, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, seeking Him when we are tempted or afraid, and confessing and repenting of sin as needed, we put off or slack off in our time with Him and in reading His Word. Then comes along a breeze of temptation and our unguarded, unkempt hearts lack the strength to stand! Over we topple, bringing wreckage down upon our own--and others'-- heads!
Let's commit to keeping our boundaries intact and our defenses strong!! Don't think--"I'm young, having too much fun now...I'll just wait until I'm old and worn out and then get right with the Lord."
I love Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6-7: "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'...Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."
Our physical structure will falter with the years, no doubt about that. But may our faith, obedience and joy in the Lord grow stronger each day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Whitewash


3:03 p.m. Today's project was to do a little "whitewashing" of our fireplace. Why would this be necessary when it's already white?
Our youngest son Steven was here last week resting up for his Saturday bodybuilding competition, and on the night before his show, felt like relaxing--de-stressing--in complete silence before a nice warm fire. He had already put on his tanning liquid and there was nothing to do but wait for his next meal at 9:30 p.m. We have a fake log gas fireplace, but Steven had asked me to pick up one of those pressed wood 3 hour logs at the store, so his dad set up the fire and we lit it.
It was very calming, the three of us praying, thinking, dozing off, Steven on the floor and the two of us on the couch, with only the flames for light. We noticed that we were smelling a lot of smoke, and sure enough, some wisps were rising--the glass doors were open! And Steve said, "Maybe I should open the flue in the chimney," and went outside to take care of it. That should have been the first step, but Steve doesn't arrange and prepare things as he did for so many years of our family's lives, and I don't know a thing about fireplaces--this was always Dad's job! Score another theft for Alzheimer's...every day has become an accident waiting to happen, but for the grace of God! In Matthew 10:29-30, Jesus assures us of God's watchcare:
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from Your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
The whole house was getting smoky, but the flames were low and consistently burning up through the chimney. The 3 hour log was pre-set to go out within two hours, so things were under control. But it was also time to open up the windows, the front door, and get the fans and automatic air fresheners we keep all over the house set on the highest frequency! The dogs came in and got into their crates without so much as an extra sniff, so it was the smell of smoke more than smoke that we were dealing with by 9:30. God was indeed watching out for us!
I stayed up until 12:15 am. to make sure the log burned out, which it did, right on schedule. The next day was a blur, gettting Steven ready at 5:30 a.m. to start, and the successful competition that night. But we did notice something: a greyish-black stain exactly the width of the hearth on the white of the fireplace!! That's where we had ignorantly let the smoke drift up with the folding glass doors open. Pretty ugly. So finally today we had time to brush some paint on it and so far it looks good. But only the morning light will tell if it matches.
"Whitewashing" gets a pretty bad rap from Jesus in Matthew 23:27, where He calls the phony, greedy, self-righteous Pharisees "whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
We too, can appear to be upright, nice, clean and decent, but Jesus knows the black smokiness of sin in our hearts! And we are such experts at painting over and polishing our image, aren't we? Can we ever be washed clean? Yes, by the blood of Jesus! By Him and Him alone, red turns black to white!
Isaiah 1:18 gives an invitation from the Lord that we would ignore at our peril:
"Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
God holds out forgiveness of sins in the Name of Jesus Christ--take Him up on His offer today!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lining up life



5:31 p.m. Today's project was to put together a handout for the workshop I've been asked to present on "Multi-Task Building" for the Ladies' Retreat in June. The theme is "A Wise Woman Builds." I've entitled it, "Pulled in Many Directions--Pointed in Just One."

The key question to be addressed and discussed with the group is this: with so many demands on a Christian woman's life, how does she balance them all, while keeping her spiritual life a priority? The pastor's wife, Robin, who directs our women's ministry, wrote in her letter requesting me to facilitate, that this is something I do well! (I feel less than successful several times a day, but then, the Lord knows that, doesn't He? And He allows me to serve Him anyway!) I was blessed to be considered. With the trials, lessons,victories, and pitfalls that characterize my days, I suppose that the Lord has given me a lot of experience making life work! " 'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.' " Zechariah 4:6 is a verse I can live by!

Each of us workshop leaders was asked to prepare a synopsis of our workshop, which I will work on later this week, and a handout for guiding the discussion. I composed and submitted the following handout:

PULLED IN MANY DIRECTIONS--POINTED IN JUST ONE
MULTI-TASK BUILDING
Dana Kruckenberg
Scriptural Priorities
For your personal use only, briefly rate the quality of your daily life as "doing well," "needs improvement," or "struggling" in the following areas:
I. Relationship with God (worship, devotional life, Bible study, fellowship)
II. Relationships within my family (may list individual members)
III. Work inside or outside the home
IV. Ministry
Consider each aspect of your life, and answer these questions:
1. Are my priorities in order?
2. Are any of the aspects of my life lacking the quality of commitment and time they deserve?
3. What would the Lord ask me to change in my spiritual life, schedule, or commitments?
"Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." Psalm 127:1
As I ponder these questions myself, I realize that the Lord helps, guides, and directs me to make His priorities my priorities. Retiring suddenly was certainly not my plan--but neither was Steve's very early Alzheimer's deterioration. Spending time with him to the fullest extent is now my daily priority. And as a blessed reward for obedience, I now get to enjoy another personally beloved priority--teaching and writing about God's Word pretty much full time!! It's like I'm back to the 80's, when I taught and wrote from my home--only with no kiddos underfoot. Today, there is a worldwide audience for this blog, for instance, thanks to the internet. (I've had comments from England, Brazil and China, amazingly, and translation is available in a flash.)
Other priorities and commitments: our garden, started last year while I was still working, but flourishing under the nurturing that only dedicated time can provide; the luxury of enjoying friendships, even visiting with girlfriends, on weekdays after morning Bible study; leading a new ministry of visiting ladies who need help; being available for my sons and daughters when they need help as well. The list of blessings goes on and on, from just one step of faith and obedience!
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you."
Put God first, and watch your life line up!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hello! Anyone know I'm here?



2:52 p.m. Today's project is to explore the worth of a woman who makes her family and home the center of her life, because God placed that calling in her heart! I'm thinking of the woman who may not leave the house at all on some days, while the outside world just goes on its strident, demanding way...unbeknownst to anyone but her husband and an infant and two or three preschoolers!

I'm not necessarily thinking of the Proverbs 31 woman, who runs a large household replete with servants, and sells homemade merchandise in the markets. I am picturing a woman who, when her tasks of feeding, cleaning, changing diapers, disciplining, reading stories, and dropping off kids to school are finished for an hour or two, gets down to some sewing, crochet, baking, painting, gardening, dollmaking, prepping for a special dinner, quilting, decorating, or even cross stitch! She definitely does not "eat the bread of idleness," as Prov. 31:27 says!! She takes it upon herself to learn or hone her crafts or interests, and then passes her skills on to younger women--her daughters especially, if she has them. Rhat's what Heart to Home is all about!!

Titus 2:3-4 speaks of "older" (more experienced) women's behavior that glorifies God, and behavior that doesn't! The woman whose home is her haven and workplace structures her time, just as you would do at a paid job. Why? In order to keep away from and shield herself from sin. Look at what Titus 2:3 says we women can be prone to:"Slander," and "drinking too much wine!" It is amazing that thousands of years ago, the Holy Spirit spoke against the alcoholic housewife who straightens herself up in time for the husband and kids to get home. And as for slander, the only difference is that an unfit homemaker can use the telephone or internet, and ruin reputations while watching her soaps!! Not much changes, does it?
But not so with the woman who follows the Lord with her whole heart! The things she teaches younger, less experienced women are, v. 3-6, "good things--to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands." Why? "So the Word of God may not be blasphemed." Wow, we have a responsibility!
But are these responsibilities burdensome? Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Do any of you find it burdensome to love your husband and children? We may not like what they do occasionally, but God has placed a love for them deep within us. And as believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we receive additional help any time we ask for it, because God has already designed a way for us to proceed joyfully and graciously through any trial! All we need do is ask. He waits expectantly for us to ask!!
The wonderful, productive life of a believing woman, one whose heart is in her home (even if she also works outside the home) may never be noticed by a casual observer. The skills we choose to develop and apply ourselves to may barely even be appreciated by the direct beneficiaries, our family, at times! "Does anyone know I'm here?!" we might be tempted to call resentfully from our seemingly thankless obscurity in the home!
Be blessed and comforted, dear sister! God knows, God sees, God anoints by the power of His Holy Spirit, and He delights in the work of your hands! And one day, you'll overhear one of your seemingly clueless children saying to their friend, husband or wife, "my mom always did this..."

Abundance isn't always evident


1:48 p.m. Today's project was to get out to the garden after a hectic weekend. Steven had been here most of last week, bringing lots of Spirit-led energy and fun with him from Fresno, culminating in a good showing at the Orange County Muscle Classic competition Saturday. Sunday afternoon, it was my turn to take a main dish to Home Fellowship, and thankfully, I had the ingredients to assemble giant ricotta-filled pasta shells with the marinara sauce I'd made Wednesday. But we couldn't even stay to enjoy it, because our oldest son Sean had invited Steve and me to dinner at Market Broiler to share engagement and marriage plans he and Pam are making!! Blessings and good news came in a flurry, but all the excitement, driving and timing challenges left me a bit downish today.

My friend Monica came to the rescue, calling at ten o'clock for our weekly prayer date, changing my frame of mind instantly! We covered one another's families, especially our daughters' upcoming weddings; needs of believers, our pastors, the Body of Christ, and our nation, leaving us both uplifted and full of faith! "Blessed be the LORD," Psalm 68:19 says, "who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!" This was the verse I posted earlier this morning on Facebook, purely out of obedience, because I really wasn't feeling very benefitted at the time!! May I add with the psalmist, "Selah." (Think it over)
God's truth and the work He is constantly doing behind the scenes are not dependent on our ups and downs. He rewards our wholehearted faith, but is certainly not dependent upon it--He is Almighty God, Creator of the universe. II Timothy 2:13 says, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." In Malachi 3:6 (KJV), God Himself says, " I am the LORD, I change not."
When I at last went out to the garden I discovered that God had been invisibly working, literally in the dark! I had felt led over the last few days to poke around under the potato plants that had actually sown themselves from scraps that were in our compost. For many weeks, I had no idea what the plants were until I saw tubers just under the soil. Our family "botanist," future son-in-law Pavel, confirmed my speculations about six weeks ago.
So I poked around, loving the feel of rich soil under my fingernails, and boom! Something firm and shaped like a egg--a small redskin potato, my favorite!! Moving on to the three other randomly situated potato plants, I harvested 3 more, one as big as store-bought. These, by the way, were fairly close to the surface. What's God got in store deeper underground?!
Indeed, what does God have in store deeper down, for all of us , while we putter around on the surface of our lives? Of course it's needful and healthy to take care of daily details, achieve goals, enjoy family and friends, and appreciate this beautiful world in which we live. But the believer has more than an orderly life and the pleasures of this world to look forward to. Jesus told us in John 10:10b, "I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."
Don't settle for a "nice" surface Christian life! Dig into the rich soil of the Scriptures, search for Christ in every verse, absorb His promises, listen to and obey His voice, and live abundantly!!
Today.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In the blink of an eye





1:40 p.m. Today's project is to ponder the violent, deadly turn life has taken around our neighborhood in the last month. Not only is life fragile and fleeting, but so is our sense of safety, security and self-confidence when another human being meets an unexpected end. Today, like September 11, 2001, is a stunningly beautiful day, but for the 3,000 people in the Twin Towers and the driver traveling up Canyon Crest Drive at 11:00 a.m., about to cross Country Club Drive, eternity has begun, and life here on earth has lost all the potential contributions of the missing--in the blink of an eye.

Whether innocent victims of horrific terrorist atttacks or speeding drivers, any one of us could have been in place of those lost! Dreadful, convicting thoughts are in my mind now, causing tears and shaking in my body--for efforts I can make to be safe behind the wheel, to be responsible in all areas of my life; but can I actually prevent taking my last breath due to a fatal illness or random act of violence? The answer is NO. And neither can you...

Ponder James 4:13-15 with me:

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

What is a person to do, then? The fatalistic view would say, "It doesn't matter what we do, our life choices will make no difference, since people are going about every day in total carelessness and irresponsibility, endangering us all, and they're still here...and anyway, when your number's up, it's up!"
There's some reality in that thinking, and factual observation as well. There are people who smoke for 60 years and die peacefully--granted. And small children tragically drown in bath tubs. Is life just random? I don't believe so, because all the logical thinking in the world counts for nothing if a person counts without God!
What does verse 15 of our passage say? "If the Lord wills..." Yes, there is One who knows exactly what is going to happen, and what didn't have to happen. There is One who responds to prayers made by believers who trust His authority and sovereignty in every area of our lives, in the lives of every person on every square inch of this globe. "Senseless tragedy" makes ultimate and eternal sense to God, who already knows His plans for each of us, and prepares a path of trust for us to walk on, be it ever so reluctantly. I don't want to lose my husband or children--no one does! Yet physical life ends...and will continue to do so until Jesus returns and declares this earthly scene finished forever. II Peter 3:10b says, "both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up." Nothing we know as daily life will exist on that day. Only what is done for Christ and in His Name will last through eternity.
If I did not know the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and have the assurance of salvation for myself, Steve, and our children, thoughts of today's crash scene and the motorcylist who died on our corner would have me frightened rather than mournful and contemplative right now. I would be trying to stop my family members from traveling rather than exhorting them to be prudent and making sure they know my prayers will precede them. Steve and I might even determine that we need to move! But for us, it all comes back to, If the Lord wills.
Mercy Me has a song called "In the Blink of an Eye," that describes the born again Christian's sudden existence in heaven for eternity, all the joy, light and delight the Bible describes for us, the reward of the believer. How can you have assurance of eternity with God? There is no task to perform, no qualification except to be alive right now, and to ask Jesus to forgive your sins, believe that He is the Son of God, and ask Him to be your Savior, to live in your heart. Take a moment's action to gain a lifetime of benefits that He has in store for you! Jesus loves you. He does, and He is calling you now.
Make that decision while you can, before your life is snuffed out "in the blink of an eye."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Prayers for Steven

12:51 p.m. Today's project is to pray for our youngest son Steven, qualifying at this very time for a berth in the evening lineup of the Orange County Muscle Classic in Anaheim! I am also enjoying Mercy Me's Almost There album on iTunes, my all-time favorite!!
Steven has been competing as an amateur since 2008, from teen, where he won all the trophies, to novice, light heavyweight, men's novice and men's heavyweight. He has always placed first or second, not easy when you complete with men older and bigger, benefitting from mature development!
His progress and perseverance, discipline and diligence are a testimony to the Lord, without a doubt. Our family has been blown away by his focus, especially for a kid who had severe ADHD. His "up-and-coming pro" work ethic and success has garnerd him a sponsorship with Muscletech bodybuilding products, who supply his food supplements in bulk. A photo shoot last winter should lead to a magazine spread later this year. The amazing thing about that photo shoot was that Steven drove down from Fresno in the snow, slept here, then took care of business in LA (witnessing to street people while he waited for his appointment), and made it back to Fresno in time to board a bus for the citywide high school retreat, where he was one of the leaders. What's the saying? "Nothing ventured, nothing gained!" Mom was praying him safely through the night, texting to keep him going through the storm...isn't that what God made mothers for?
Steve and I have been blessed beyond measure with the spiritual growth Steven has attained in the last two years, spurred on by the Truth Project group he helped lead, and nurtured by the Christian university he attends, Fresno Pacific. Thanks to the pastoral staff at the People's Church in Fresno, Steven has developed his spiritual gifts, leadership calling, and knowledge of God's Word. As track coach for Fresno Christian High School, he gives a devotional before practice, five days a week. Talk about needing to get into the Word and learn it!
Sometimes I feel a bit teary when I realize that Steven now calls Fresno home, but where Jesus leads, a Christian must follow!! I remember the call to Bible teaching ministry I received in 1980, and after the initial shock, never hesitated, but prayed, planned, prepared, and learned, learned, learned!! "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, " 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) says, and I can testify that the privilege and excitement of studying the Bible never fades. The word of God has become Steven's delight as well--fresh and new at every reading.
We are all awaiting an exciting competition tonight, and pray God's hand will be on our son for good. May God use him in the world of bodybuilding, as he progresses from one ministry to another, propelled by the Spirit of the Lord!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The sun stood still

3:15 p.m. Today's project was to pick up more of our son Steven's competition diet supplies, all needed before noon to keep his metabolism fired up on his 7 meal-a-day schedule.I was enlisted because Steven had to go to Hemet to work out with his coach. Tomorrow is a preliminary contest, and we are all praying and working toward another successful outcome.





I had an appointment for hair color at 10:15, so I would have to get up a bit earlier to make it to the grocery store and back, and put the frozen items away. In no way would devotions or prayer time be shortened, because that is what I look forward to most of all each day. To think that the Lord waits to hear from me (or any of His kids) is utterly amazing and gracious! So, like the Apostle Paul, "I do not frustrate the grace of God." (Galatians 2:21) What I'd need to cut short would be the rabbit trails I wander off to every morning. I'm sure you can relate to the "let me just run and do this!" syndrome.



Interestingly, Steve came downstairs from his shower dressed in very nice clothes, an oddity for a weekday of working in the yards and garage and walking the dogs. He said, "I thought it was Sunday for some reason." But God was at work in his confusion, just like He works when any of us goof up. I said, "Come to think of it, that will work out great, because you can go to the store with me, and since I'll be in a hurry and will need to leave right away for my appointment, you'll be available to put the food away!" He was happy to be useful and involved, so we took off after breakfast. I hadn't bothered to do more to my face than my skincare routine, and had only run a pick through my hair, because at the salon my hair would get done, and I'd have time to put on my complete face while the color processed!

We got back with plenty of time to spare, amazingly. After I put the food away, I did have my late lunch visit with a friend at 1:30 in mind, so I dusted a bit and tidied the guest bathroom. Now the challenge was to get home with time to spare to spruce up the house after the hairdresser appointment!

No problem--I even had time to pick up food at Smart & Final for Sunday's home fellowship where it's my turn to bring dinner! The house was good, and Steven had cleaned up the kitchen, too. Pam and I had a very relaxing lunch after a tour of the garden and ate some of its produce. Isn't God good?

Ponder Joshua 10:12-13, NLT:

On the day the LORD gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the LORD in front of all the people of Israel. He said, "Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies.

Since God, who is outside of time restraints, can make the sun stand still in behalf of His people, He certainly can multiply our hours until the goals He has set for us are accomplished!

Amen?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The teaser



3:43 p.m. Today's project was to call my prayer accountability partner at 9:30 a.m. for our weekly phone prayer. Normally this would have taken place Monday morning, but plans for her daughter's October wedding took all day, and "family first" is certainly scriptural. I Timothy 5:8, New Living Translation, says, "Those who won't care for their own relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." Selah.

Tuesday found me at Bible study and later taking a meal and encouragement to a widow in our church still laid up after a heart attack, and then leading Heart to Home that evening; Wednesday found us both resting in our respective homes, ministering to our spouses and trying to catch a breath! But the goal of prayer was not deterred, and after a rough sleepless night alongside Steve as he struggled with his C-PAP machine, I needed the energizing comfort of prayer, and she provided just that. Of course her concerns have become mine as well. Prayer, laced with agape love and grounded in the Bible, has a divine way of lifting us up to the throne of God, "where we find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) I was ready to go forward, enjoying our son Steven who is visiting, and preparing for a potluck at Bible study tonight.

I had another task to take care of, this one from my publisher, Tate. I had to submit a "teaser" for my book, a Bible study on Galatians, as well as a biography.I definitely was not in the mood to write my life story, but I did come up with a teaser. I'll attach both to an email when they are ready. Of course, the editor can change it if she chooses, but I am still accountable for my part of the publication process each step of the way.

The letter of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians is a strong doctrinal book, pulling believers back from the brink of negating the sole power of the Cross for salvation. I wrote and hand-typed the lessons in the 1980's and taught it to my women's home Bible study then; and the ladies from my current home study enjoyed the newly formatted version in the summer of 2009. Now the Lord is graciously expanding the study's audience through a Christian publisher. This former young mom at home could never have envisioned such an honor. (I am amazed even now, that my editor has already put the lessons into a single manuscript!) Praise God, "to whom be honor and glory everlasting."

What kind of "teaser" would get the attention of today's busy Christian bookstore or church bookstore shopper looking for a Bible study, out of hundreds of choices? Can the false doctrines of the Judaizers that Paul decimated, be germaine to combatting what pastor/evangelist Greg Laurie calls the "easy believism" found in some churches today?

I firmly believe the answer is a resounding "Yes!" because the Bible is a book for the ages, forever true and relevant. Our study group last summer certainly had lively discussion each week! Here is the "draft" teaser:

Want to live by the truth of God's Word? Be impervious to the trendy false doctrines of today? Understand who Jesus is--and isn't? The Apostle Paul's Letter to the Galatians is the Teflon coating believers need to shake off lies from the "feel good" teachings that attempt to sidestep Christ's sacrifice on the cross and the response we must give to His offer of eternal life.

Please contact me with your comments! Would you consider this book?

My most humble thanks!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Get while the gettin's good!


3:27 p.m. Today's project was to spend a nice day at home, run an errand or two, and enjoy God's great gifts: the Bible, marriage, children, rain and sunshine, and harvesting produce out of the earth. Add a crockpot full of spaghetti sauce made with home grown-and-canned tomatoes, and it just doesn't get any better! (This side of heaven, anyway!)
Picking vegetables had a bit more urgency than usual because I had to hop out there in between cloudbursts in the early afternoon. Our son Steven was due in from Fresno later, and would be devouring every head of broccoli I could gather, due to his diet for a bodybuilding competition coming up Saturday. I also gleaned two little--but ripe--strawberries and lots of curly leaf spinach. Much of the latter will go into a salad for a friend's birthday at Bible study tomorrow night. I forgot to mention fellowship--that's another ingredient of a joyful Christian life! I quickly sidestepped the excited dogs and gathered in my produce.
Jesus spoke of the urgency of His earthly work in John 9:4: "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work." And the night is coming in case you haven't noticed increased disdain and disgust toward Christians! A judge recently had the temerity to deem the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, as if our entire system of government were not founded on God's Word!! He is quoted as saying that he won't halt any observances until all appeals have been exhausted. That's big of him, isn't it?
AS IF ONE JUDGE COULD STOP GOD'S PEOPLE FROM GATHERING TO PRAY!!!
As I just told my daughter, if government buildings cannot be used for the National Day of Prayer, let believing public officials lead prayer in the streets! May our churches be full to overflowing morning, noon and night, bursting with praise, homage to our God and petitions for our land! May we imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in prayer,
...who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though he was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8)
Not only must we be obedient and prayerful in our own lives, but we must reach others for Christ in these last days. In John 4:35, Jesus refers to those in need of the gospel: "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already ripe for harvest!"
Who in your life is ready to be born again? What will you do about it? Hear II Corinthians 6:2b:
"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Psalm 68:4-5

3:36 p.m. Today's project was to bring to life the words of these verses, to worship God by being His hands and feet to a dear bedridden widow and her three sons in our church.

Every morning, I post a few verses from the Bible on the Facebook home page, basically taking the Psalms in order, and letting God's Word "tell it like it is" on any given day. Only God knows what each of us will need each morning: rejoicing, mourning, conviction, comfort, assurance of God's triumph over evil, or peace in our hearts over an upcoming situation.

I was already feeling convicted of not spending as much time "hands-on" at the sister's house as I should, even if my faithful team of women is taking regular meals and a health worker is coming for two hours daily to see to her physical needs. Then it was time for me to post this morning's verses, not expecting a "sit-up-and-take-notice" moment!

"Sing to God, sing praises to his name; extol Him who rides on the clouds, by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him.
A father of the fatherless , a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation."

Was I ever convicted! But, unlike the condemnation the devil brings with his wretched accusations (see Revelation 12:10), the conviction of the Holy Spirit spurs believers to righteous action! One of my team members had informed me that some recordings of our pastor's sermons would be appreciated, so our church office manager took me to the bookstore for three CDs. During Bible study, I was excited to add another member to our team, a recent widow who would be blessed to hear how our ailing sister made it through eleven years ago.

After picking up some very nice hoagies from Big Guys Pizza and Pasta (the boss gave me some potato wedges at no charge, too!), I arrived at the house. Our sister was thrilled to receive the CDS. I was able to listen to her testimony, and that of the health aide as well. Then we had a special time of prayer.

I was beyond blessed! Proverbs 10:22 says, and I can testify that, "The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it."

You can't outgive God!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sweets to the Sweet

3:03 p.m. Today's project was to consider the role of sweets or sweetness in scripture, since we all come into this world with a "sweet tooth," ready for milk! It's a rare person who doesn't enjoy a sweet taste after meals, whether natural, like honey and fruit, or elaborately contrived like the cakes we see in Food Network contests. I just followed up my homemade chicken salad with a bowl of blueberries, and cinnamon- and cocoa- dusted almonds, topped with whipped cream. Definitely hit the spot!

"Sweet" is the way hard-won victories are described, as in Proverbs 13:19: "A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul." Some of us use the word for friendship, a nice temperament, or a hot car, depending on our gender! It's almost a universal word for positive, pleasing, and pleasant experiences, people, or even pets. No wonder my 21st Century Strong's Concordance has 110 mentions of the word in the Bible. Add 12 more references with "sweeter," "sweetly," "sweetness" and "sweet smelling." The Lord knows how well we respond to a wordthat connotes universal delight.

Listen to the list of ingredients that God told Moses to blend with olive oil for a holy anointing oil for the priests, Exodus 30:23-24:

Take for yourself quality spices--five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekels of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil.

Imagine the fragrance!

Whereas we automatically think of a sweet flavor as being sugary, God found the smoke from burnt animal sacrifices to be a "sweet savour," throughout the Old Testament. Genesis 8:21 records that Noah, having landed the ark, offered up a sacrifice of every clean animal and every clean bird. "And the LORD smelled a sweet savour [aroma]. Then the LORD said in His heart, 'I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.' " A sweet aroma accompanied God's eternal promise!!

Godly counsel (Psalm 55:14) is described as sweet. I find meditation on Him to be sweet and precious to me and prayerfully, to Him! I trust with the psalmist, Psalm 104:34, "May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD." When we take the time to be alone with Him, meditating on His goodness and love, He does reward us with a sweet sense of peace, calm and fortitude for the storms ahead. Prayer--connecting with our Father-- works every time it's tried!!

One verse I value and cross-stitched on a gift for my old friend Honey Simons years ago, extols the Word of God as delectably sweet to the believer's taste!! Psalm 119:103 says it all about scripture and our intimate life-giving relationship to God through it:

"How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"

Selah.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Picture this!

4:47 p.m. Today's project was to pick up a new picture frame at Michael's crafts store after
church, to replace the one that got broken yesterday, just on the verge of a triumphant success for Steve and me!

I had been through a couple of months of trying to upload pictures of Kriss and Marisela's wedding with poor quality originals. Between Shutterfly and Snapfish, I was finally able to get three 8 x 10's. The original plan had been to get my favorite portrait done in a 16 x 20 to cover the entire wall space I'd selected, but no dice. My photographer daughter Heather informed me that the picture's resolution was too poor to be blown up that big after she'd examined the wedding photographer's disk...bummer. A lesson learned the hard way--don't be tempted by a low price for your wedding photos! "A workman is worthy of his hire," Matthew 10:10 says.

So I found one double portriat frame at Michael's in an elegant heavy dark wood, and a single one to match, blessedly, "buy one, get one free." Then came repainting the wall, which went well, and making the measurement for the gallery: large frame on top, the smaller one centered below it.

Hanging picture frames isn't the most congenial activity a married couple can participate in, between the wife trying to communicate the vision for the wall space and the husband making sure the pictures will be level. Even though I prefer to "eyeball it," we end up using a carpenter's liquid bubble level. Then there's drilling in the bolts with plastic support where there's no stud. It's a real set-up for tension in the best of cases!

Now imagine working with Steve who still has a good grip of the mechanics of the process, but struggles with details and has to be reminded that he has those skills! We were probably not as prayerful as we should have been, either, I admit. Psalm 127:1a comes to mind here: "Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build it."
Repeatedly measuring with a tape measure--"where's the yardstick?!"-- and shifting the large frame around while we took turns holding it, 1" lines were drawn for the top, bottom and sides of the frame. Dots 3-1/2 " from the top and from each side inward were penciled in on the wall as well. Steve drilled in the bolts and we put up the first picture!
Then we made the proportionately same markings for the smaller frame below. Steve got the next bolts and began to drill while I turned my attention to something else. CRASH! We should have taken the big picture off the wall before drilling, because it bounced off Steve and crashed onto the carpet! The glass was intact, but the frame was splintered, broken apart at each corner!
Not good, not good.
We were disappointed, but made a good recovery, and consoled ourselves by thinking that at least all the bolts were in, so we might as well paint over all the pencil marks. So I touched up the wall with an art gum eraser, a brush, and Navajo White #105. It looks good.
Today at Michael's we asked the young man in the frame section about running a wire on the large frame we had placed in our basket for better stability, and he had a kit right on the endcap. By the way, the identical two-portrait frame was on clearance for $24.99!! Thank you, Lord! Steve and I had prayed for a bargain as we walked into the store.
Lesson learned.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Face down


2:55 p.m. Today's project is to encourage our youngest son Steven in the last week before his bodybuilding competition on Saturday, April 24th.
Each year, as he trims down to his competition weight, the strain of eliminating nerve-coating carbohyydrates (i.e, comfort food!) causes a lot of emotional stress for him. I have learned to keep it very calm during the last two weeks, and we all make it through to a very good showing for him. His dedication to his art is exemplary, and it shows.
But this year, Steven is very overwhelmed with school, working three jobs--one at a business of his own; church ministry twice a week; and his track team's daily practice. These obligations have left him figuratively "face down on the floor." I am reminded of my lesson today in Jennifer Rothschild's Me, Myself and Lies workbook where she came upon her son lying on the floor beside a mess of undone homework, having given up completely. Like any mother would, she urged him to just get started. The longest journey begins with the first step, and that is what we have to remind ourselves when any daunting task confronts us.
There were some verses on the page that I hope to share with Steven from Exodus 14. With Pharoah's army on their heels, the Israelites had come to the Red Sea. God told Moses in verse 21 to take action. "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind...so the children of Israel went into the sea on dry ground..." (v. 23) And we know that Moses' staff later went over the sea to bring it back over Pharaoh's army.
The other example from my lesson was the crossing of the Jordan River during flood season with Joshua as the captain, Joshua 3:8-17. In this very similar situation, action was called for again. The priests bearing the ark of the covenant had to step into the high waters at Joshua's command. V. 17: "Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry gound in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan."
The Israelites would have been wiped out if not for the miraculous work of the God who spoke the earth into being! As the disciples said when Jesus stilled the storm, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!" (Mark 4:41, NKJV)
We serve a mighty God who loves us like no other! God could do all of Steven's homework for him and have him pass his finals without studying--just like He could speak my house into cleanliness and put dinner on the table while I take a nap! But He loves His children too much for that. In His wisdom, God calls for our effort and participation, be it ever so slight, while He Himself moves heaven and earth to make the work of our hands fruitful. We know He can rain down food from heaven, from the experience of the Israelites' wilderness journey. But I would not suggest that an ablebodied person test the principle given to us in II Thessalonians 3:10: "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat."
May I have the wisdom and right words to encourage my son, challenge him to put his tasks in order of urgency, occasionally say no to an obligation, and find that the Lord was making a way for him all along!

Friday, April 16, 2010

HeatherAllisonLove Photography: Mrs. Penland

HeatherAllisonLove Photography: Mrs. Penland

An early start to a good day

5:28 p.m. Today's project was to get well and recoup the lost hours of yesterday! I woke up about 3:30 a.m., no surprise considering that I'd slept fitfully off and on between nausea incidents most of the previous day. So I harvested my sugarcane crop on Facebook Farmtown, planted another, and then posted my daily scripture. I hope my teacher friends appreciated the early posting of Psalm 67:1-2, because they are probably long out of the house by 7:20 when I normally post! "God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, that You may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations."

God was definitely merciful to me today because I was able to begin eating some bites of scrambled egg, and later, added some blueberries and string cheese. A quick harvesting trip to the garden yielded a dozen huge broccoli florets, green onions and a carrot. I told our son Steven, now on his bodybuilding competition diet, not to buy any veggies for this weekend's visit! God's face is definitely shining down, with the sun and rain, on our garden.

I had promised the Lord earlier this week to accomplish two things: confront a family member on an issue; and submit my manuscript of A Woman's Walk through the Word: Galatians to Tate Publishing to begin the editing and production process. I can't begin the serious conversation until I see the individual again; but I definitely could write my acknowledgement and title page and attach them to an email! Since Thursday was lost, today was the day.

A real walk down memory lane occured today, because the Lord told me to write Bible studies on I & II Samuel, Mark, and Galatians in the early 1980's. I was a mom at home with my children for a decade and a half, and had been teaching and speaking at Harvest as well as teaching a Bible study in our home. In 2003, to my amazement, God told me to get the 20 year old studies out of the file cabinet where they had rested since 1988. In obedience, I found editors who had the hand-typed lessons converted to Microsoft Word format. One set, Galatians, was used at my summer study in 2009. And now a Christian company has accepted them for publication!

My acknowledgements went to my patient family; my "relevancy checkers" Jeannette Rabito and Jo Hoffman; and my wonderful editors Emily Rickard (Mark and Galatians) and Esther Balos (I & II Samuel). But most of all, I acknowledge,worship and revere God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit who all told me to study, teach, and write the Word, that all women may know that there is One who knows them, loves them, has a plan for their lives, and will be with them until the end of time.

Let God be everything to you in this life, as He has been to me! Jesus said, in Matthew 28:20, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." See for yourself--He is real and so are His promises.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bottom line: It's from the Lord

6:50 p.m. Today's project was to recognize that a small personal offfense, targeted by the enemy, Satan, to trigger feelings of being left out and embarassed, was no more than a trigger to make me recognize a much more serious spiritual issue!

I've had plenty of time to think today, because I was hit by dizziness and nausea, the harbingers of my quarterly migraine. Steve and I had a very nice morning together, completing the Bible lesson for our couples' study tonight, and then had lunch. My dizziness amplified, I lay down, slept for a while, and then threw up. I hadn't taken my sumatrophin in time because I thought the wooziness was from the Vicodin I took during the night. (I had hurt my back at Disneyland yesterday). After another rest, I'm up again. We'll see how long this lasts!

Ecclesiastes 3:8b says that there is "a time of war and a time of peace." Most of us, I am sure, prefer peace, and try to avoid war. But as Ephesians 6:10-18 makes clear, spiritual warfare is the every day lot and lifestyle of the born again believer. Vv. 13-14 (NLT) say, "Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you may be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness."

Time to put on the belt of truth and confront a person I love with all my heart about their actions that are putting oth ers at risk.I've been walking a line of not interfering, but I finally had to speak out. The reaction was not good, but expected. Now the Lord is showing me the action that must follow...that's the tough part, taking righteous action that will not be seen as vengeful or petty.

I must be obedient to what God has told me, and would covet prayer for strength and just the right words!

Better get back upstairs--feeling sick again!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A lifetime of parenting


7:21 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy uncrowded Disneyland with Steve, just moseying along and going on the usual faves, Pirates of the Caribbean--with sunglasses on as a gag to make it extra shady!--and the Haunted Mansion. We tried the Astro flyers in Tomorrowland for the first time, too. We enjoyed this after we had to be placed in two separate rockets...are we really that big? (Don't answer that question!)
Another favorite is the low-key Jungle Cruise, a must after I pretty much landed on my back in the rocket ship and had quite a headache. We walked right in, and joined the others in our boat. I happened to notice a very elegant woman in her late seventies, with two middle aged daughters, one tall and pretty, and the other one, much shorter, laughing with childlike delight across from them. (I ascertained the relationships by observing facial features).
The shorter, older daughter was a Downs Syndrome victim. I have to admit that I have never seen an adult with Downs, much less one older than myself, from the appearance of her wrinkles and graying hair. She was having a ball, very much loved and included by her mother and sister.
I thought, "This is 'forever parenting' in action." Mom and Dad never stop being Mom and Dad, but our role as directing, disciplining, watchdog parents fades out pretty much by our kids' late twenties, when they establish adult lives and we eventually become peers of sorts. Just this morning, Kriss was texting me about how he and his wife are getting information together for life insurance. I texted him, "Look at you--all grown up!" Sons and daughters do grow up--that's God's plan for us.
A child's natural break away from her parent will never happen for our fellow passengers! This mother and daughter have probably been together every day since the daughter was born. What would it be like to know that, through no fault of her own, your child would never leave home or marry? It made me put the squabbles and worries I have with my adult kids in perspective, that's for sure. I definitely have concerns, but the Lord would have them work on these issues while I watch and pray for them, sort of the Nehemiah principle of working, watching and praying simultaneously! (Nehemiah 4:6-9) I will not be showing up on their doorstep(s) with a plan of action! They are adults now.
My mother had a saying that went, "I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." How true that is. Others are in a much worse position than we will ever be, and sometimes God graciously allows us a glimpse of their trials. No one is making a pretense of enjoying tough breaks and hardship, losses and heartaches, but scripture tells us that not only can we survive these life episodes, but we can become better for them. We trust in the Lord!
Listen to Psalm 20--even read it aloud!
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
May He remember all of your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah
May he grant you according to your heart's desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
They have bowed down and fallen,
But we have risen and stand upright.
Save, LORD!
May the King answer us when we call.
All my hope and all my answers are from my God.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Do I really know?







2:54 p.m. Today's project was to go back through memories of my daughter Heidi, now 26 and getting married next year, and relish the days of her childhood and youth.

What brought on this trip down memory lane? Pleasant musings on the joys of motherhood? Funny scenarios of childhood antics? I certainly have a treasure trove of those, but this morning caught me in a more somber mood. Our Bible study, Me, Myself, and Lies, by Jennifer Rothschild, had a chapter in which we learned how to use our memories, painful or embarassing as they may be, to honor God, to view them through His eyes, and meditate on how those events could have impacted others for good. Because, as Romans 8:28 tells us, God works all things together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.

I began reflecting on a question Heidi had asked me a few days ago that has literally haunted me. We were talking about cantaloupes and I said something to the effect that she didn't like them. She said, "I like cantaloupes!" I said, "I thought you disliked melons." She said, "Just honeydews!" After a second, she said, "Mom, you don't really know what I like or dislike any more, do you?!" I made a speedy recovery and said, "You were away from home during college, and now you're an adult; everybody's tastes change. You've got the right to have different tastes!" But it still bothered me--like I hadn't been paying attention, even though I'd told her a few days before that no one knows her as well as I do, except one day her husband will. No argument there, thankfully.

But how well do I know this middle child? "I'm the good child," Heidi would state throughout the turbulent teen years of her siblings, and she was right. The others weren't ever in serious trouble, but were very loud, assertive and wore their mouths on their sleeves! Kriss and Heather were talented performers, from elementary years onward; Sean and Steven played football, soccer, and ran track; Kriss played baseball. But Heidi preferred quiet activities like Brownies, swimming, tennis and golf. She even said, "I want to play golf. It's a quiet game." Heidi was a breath of fresh air in all the commotion.

It's easy for a quieter child to get lost in the shuffle, so I would take her to the library on Saturdays and teach her to read when she was in kindergarten, and then we'd walk hand-in-hand downtown while Heather, then 3, was at Riverside Ballet Arts. We'd cap off our expedition with a big bag of green burritos from Del Taco on Riverside Avenue and Central, then 69 cents. Most Saturdays, we were off to somebody's soccer or Little League game. Heidi was always there, supporting and cheering, and helping with Baby Steven.

When I ran for school board, it was the neglect she had suffered in a 90% bilingual classroom that spurred me on to challenge the policy that segregated kids of one race on a single track, and won resoundingly. Change came swiftly and our kids were among the thousands of children who received a solid education. But there were sacrifices. I had to leave for twice-monthly meetings by 4 p.m., leaving dinner ready, and just needing a warm-up, which Steve could do, or in later years, Heidi took charge. It was the same for political campaign events and then grad school. Quietly supporting, being a blessing, and cheering for goals accomplished--her own and others' !
I could wallow in guilt for not being home every single night during those years, but I praise god that Steve always was! I strongly feel, and know, that when God calls, He takes responsibility for all impacted. I always made sure to wake the kids up extra early on school days so we could share a long morning and I could read our daily Pslam and Proverb to them before we headed out.

As the years went by, Heidi came into her own as an excellent student, an athlete, and even modeled for a while at Nordstroms. A first romance eventually fizzled after high school, as such romances will. But she always kept her Christian testimony through ups and downs with friends during both high school and college, confiding in me as always. She became a leader of her dorm friends, undoubtedly due to her strong convictions and consistent lifestyle. I was just grateful that she came home on Sundays to attend church, do her laundry, and clip coupons for me. [Somehow, this had become her self-selected job during her younger years.]
I'll never forget when Steve and I had to sit the kids down while they were still in elementary, jr. high and high school and tell them that I had a suspicious lump in my breast. It was Heidi who went up to her room crying unconsolably. I went to sit with her--it was very hard. That time, the lump was benign. The next lump four years later was cancer. Now a college student, Heidi rallied around me with Steve and the other kids, even driving me to a Christmas Bible study get-together at our pastors' home because I couldn't really move my right arm with the drainage tubes from surgery still in place. Not much can keep me out of fellowship!!

The two of us have suffered strains during stressful times, probably because we are quite a bit alike, but she does still confide in me. Receiving her new teacher pink slip two years in a row, enduring a very bad teaching assignment, a back injury, and a seriously bad allergy season have not helped! Steve's Alzheimers threatens to worry us about my children's generation--who will get it? She and I have both learned to "take refuge under the shadow of God's wings," as Psalm 91:4 puts it.

But we now have a joyful season coming up--shopping for a wedding gown, selecting a photographer, florist, caterer, etc., for next summer's signal event--her and Pavel's wedding.

I may not know all I should about my children--who does, really? But I know and can trust in the One who knew each of us before we were ever formed in our mother's womb. Or before my children were formed in my womb. It is a real comfort and assurance to know that each of us matters to God.





Monday, April 12, 2010

We have this confidence...

8:18 p.m. Today's project was to drive south to Chula Vista to deliver a huge bag of Easter treats, clothes, cash and shoes left here, to our grandsons. Adrian and Xavier's engraved Bibles were also in the bag. We looked forward to spending a bit of time with them, maybe taking them out for a bite to eat depending on the time they got home from school. I needed to be at church by 6:45 to set up our Heart to Home craft samples, and really wondered if it would be possible. How or why I plan two major events for the same day, I don't know--crunch time's Perfect Storm hovered above my head!

Actually, I needed to present the projects to the evening Bible study ladies tonight, because we are at the start of a new Spring Session of classes. Very nice announcements had been made from the pulpit and flyers were made available Sunday. I'll do the same tomorrow morning for the daytime Bible study, and stay for the lesson. I know that I'm not indispensable, and no tragedy would occur if I hadn't gotten back in time, but I feel very strongly, even compelled, to honor the ministries God has entrusted me with, by being faithful.

So yes, I felt pressured!!

Each Monday morning, my prayer-accountability partner Monica and I pray for all of the needs of our families, friends, ministries, and the needs of the week ahead. This morning was no exception, and among the very serious issues we both face, Monica prayed with Holy Spirit anointing for Steve's and my trip. We left at 10:25, with no doubt whatsoever of completing our journey safely. I can't say I was quite as sanguine about getting back in time, but since "with God, nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37, the angel Gabriel told an amazed Mary about Jesus' birth), I was definitely able to believe we'd make it.

We made the 100 mile trip in record time and enjoyed a leisurely lunch at IHOP. From there, we drove around until we found the boys' middle school and parked right in front, just killing time until 3:15. We had brought books--Greg Laurie's Lost Boy for Steve, and Karen Kingsbury's Redemption for me, so we had a nice hour and a half of uninterrupted reading.

Despite Steve's staying in the car at the front gate watching for the boys, and me walking out to a side gate where many of the kids head out, walking in and among the black and white uniform-clad students, we missed them! Good grief! So we drove over to their apartment complex and waited. The bag was carried up to their apartment, we took them over to Carl's Jr for burgers, and then sadly, had to hit the road. It was now 4:45!

Even with light traffic and using the Express Lane of the 15 north, I was feeling so-so about getting to our house by 6 to freshen up and grab the craft samples. Not doubtful, just very focused, wired up by a delicious McDonald's caramel latte, and glad for the speedy traffic flow!!

By the time we got to the 215 split, I was feeling very confident, because it was just 5:30. We were home by 6:00! Steve went to walk the dogs, and I took off for church at 6:29, a minute earlier than planned!! Praise the Lord Jesus, who lovingly cares for His task-oriented children, even as He sees us in our self-imposed pressure cookers. I just love the Lord!! Not one of us whom He created has to be someone we're not--He allows me to rest in Him even when I'm on the run!

We had an hilarious time introducing the Heart to Home classes, as well as a new instructor who had just agreed to teach the crochet class. God answered all kinds of prayers today!

I love I John 5:14-15 (KJV):

And this is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.

We don't need self confidence; we need Son confidence!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fresh greetings

4:00 p.m. Today's project was to make sure the craft samples and sign-ups for our church's Heart to Home classes got off to a good start. So we arrived before first service ended and set out the samples at the Activities Table; attended second service; helped with sign-ups between second and third services; then left for lunch in the nearby shopping center and finally came back after third service at 1:00 to help out at the display table once again.

It was quite a schedule, but as the Lord has entrusted me with a stewardship over the ministry, I take responsibility for introducing the instructors and the products of their talent to our women. As I Corinthians 4:2 puts it, "it is required of stewards that they be found faithful." May I be found faithful, Lord!!

One thing I have been noticing the last few weeks at church is that all kinds of friends and acquaintances from past home fellowships, Saturday morning and Tuesday evening men's studies, and people Steve doesn't know, recognize or remember, are taking the time to come up to him, say hi, mention that they miss him, or even give him a hug, both men and women. They'll ask how he's doing, and when he can't come up with a ready verbal response, tactfully keep on with a bit of conversation before moving on to their seat, or to other friends. How precious our church is!! They truly love him "in truth" as our pastor's message from 2 John 1:1 words it.

The brothers and sisters at Calvary Moreno Valley love Steve in Jesus!

While I am blessed and proud of our Body for extending such kindness to Steve and to me (because it frees me up for some moments of fellowship with my girlfriends and for taking care of ministry duties), I ponder what they may be thinking. [Methinks I think too much, Lord!] But do greetings such as these, uncommon before this last year, silently say, "I'm praying for you; I'm making sure to have time with you before you won't be able to come to church any more"?

I have noticed that two older gentlemen with Alzheimer's no longer attend, being years more advanced in the disease. My friend Jeralee has mentioned that her father had to go into care; perhaps the other gentleman is now in a facility as well. Steve's own brother Larry, only 57, was placed in a Christian care facility two weeks ago. The progress of this disease is inexorable, robbing strength from victim and caretaker both. As I see Steve's often blank expression at church, lack of understanding of what we need to do, inability to go into the sanctuary and find seats for us when we arrive early and I have to use the ladies' room; and the necessity of helping him find his place in the Bible he tabbed himself, I have to admit that he is going downhill. But I am determined that Steve will attend worship service and men's Bible study for as long as possible--he loves it so! Watching him worship is so inspirational. He remembers every word...that's the kind of selective memory I'd like to have!!

We have no way of knowing how long Steve can continue functioning well in public. Many years more, prayerfully. I do know that God is faithful, whether He chooses to heal him or not. But God does not leave His children alone, ever! His Holy Spirit comforts us, and those brothers and sisters in Christ who have become His loving hands and feet to us have a special crown awaiting them in heaven, I am sure.

I John 3:18 says to believers, "let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth." God is well pleased with the Body at Calvary Chapel!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The life and property you save may be your own!

2:10 p.m. Today's project was to paint the living room wall, covering some old semi-gloss paint and readying it for Kriss and Marisela's portraits. I am happy to report that prayers for Steve were answered, and he did a really nice job! The only minor casualty was a bit of spotting on one section of my living room sheers, but I quickly went to ehow.com to find that a simple scrubbing with dish soap does the trick for water-based flat paint. Best of all, the paint is the exact shade that we had already!

An odd incident took place at 7:00 this morning, while I was finishing up my devotions. The doorbell blared, sending the dogs into a loud frenzy from their crates in the family room and causing me to run upstairs for Steve to come out on the front porch and check things out. I may have been closer to the door, but I wasn't going to confront some weirdo in my nightgown...or even fully dressed! That's a job for the man of the house, in my view!

There was no getting out of this investigation, because the doorbell had been punched at an angle and was stuck, buzzing madly the whole time, ugh. Several minutes went by with the dogs still barking before Steve dressed and opened the door. No one was there, of course. Apparently someone thought they were being funny: "Ding, dong, ditch!" or, as my girlfriends at Mimi's suggested later, a burglar was trying to see if anyone was home...a pretty daring trick with the RV and Heidi's car in the driveway, on the busiest corner in Riverside!

But it seems, however, that full daylight criminal boldness is becoming the norm lately, after the armed robbery of a Brinks truck last Monday in a busy, crowded shopping center nearby. Powers of darkness, such as drug addiction, are driving the desperate out of the shadows. Prayerfully, such perpetrators will be apprehended with no harm to property or loss of life!

When circumstances are as difficult as they are today, we see the difference in the response of those who walk in light, trusting the Father, and those who choose to remain in darkness, looking to themselves alone for answers, to their own and others' hurt.

Christians walk from darkness into light when we accept Christ as Savior! Ephesians 5:8-13, 15-16 says of the change we have undergone:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is all goodness, righteousness and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light... See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.

How do we expose darkness? Shine our light on it! How do we shine? Not with self-importance, judgmentalism, or condemnation, but by simply living in prayerful obedience to our Heavenly Father, searching His Word for answers, and listening to the "still, small voice" of the Holy Spirit first, not after we've decided to go our own way!

Pray for the lost and desperate, so deceived, headed to hell! Share Christ by small mentions as well as full witnessing conversations whenever opportune. The Lord will lead, provide opportunity, and you will indeed SHINE!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dessert




4:30 p.m. Today's project was to visit with my friend Charlotte at her 1-acre spread in Woodcrest. We get together every few months to exchange Christian fiction and catch up on one another's lives. Charlotte faithfully attends the Bible studies I teach each summer, much to my delight, because she was educated in a Christian college and her career has been in Christian education, so she is very well versed in scripture. (Very humbling, keeps me on my toes!) I taught 8 years in Christian schools, one of those years at Riverside Christian where she taught upper elementary while I was "set apart" in the kinder-nursery complex. Until we ran into one another at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley women's Bible study, we hadn't been more than staff acquaintances.

Now we are both retired: involuntarily, in her case due to budget cuts; voluntarily, in my case, because of my husband's disabling Alzheimer's. She gave me a tour of her very large and beautiful mobile home--which you would never know from the street. It even has a stone fireplace! What fun seeing all of the drama, craft, and academic supplies she owns from the 14 years that she taught in the "Sonshine Christian School" that she founded in one of her outbuildings. I practically inhaled the open spacious feeling of the property, because I've always wished I could live on acreage--imagine the garden and animals our large family could have nurtured!

As we shared and talked about odd doctrines going about today, Christian education, our future plans, and about the helps ministry team I was asked to lead, I just felt so refreshed, like being treated to dessert, something special in my day!! Fellowship, koinonia, with Jesus in the center, as the foundation, is God's invention. Jesus said, in Mathew 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them." What a sweet and precious promise! How it elevates and enhances believers' conversations! And how the presence of the Holy Spirit checks our fleshly tendencies to speak hurtful and demeaning words to--or about-- one another!

Whenever we gather in Jesus' name, whether for Bible study, prayer, aid to the needy, or in a creative effort, it is a praise to Him and refreshment to our spirits. Fellowship is not a luxury, but an absolute must for a Christian who seeks to grow in his or her faith and desires to be of use in the Body of Christ! Listen to Hebrews 10:25 in the New Living Translation: "Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near." I further feel led to mention, now that we are in the 21st century, what Paul wrote in Romans 13:11: "This (loving one another, v. 10) is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."(NLT)

Please don't let fear, failure or doubt keep you from tasting the sweetness of fellowship for yourself! Draw strength and sustenance from others who desire to be Jesus' hands and feet to you in your troubled hour. (And who will gladly celebrate with you later in your deliverance from that trouble!)Enjoy the breaking of bread, the laughter and joy, as well as the tears of the redeemed. "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man who trusts in Him." (Psalm 34:8)

And trust His plan for a taste of heaven--the delicious dessert called "fellowship"--which one day, will never end!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My sheaf of joy

4:26 p.m. Today's project was to pray for the needs of friends and acquaintances, and their family members, at a time when I myself am struggling with Steve's and my ever-changing roles in our advancing Alzheimer's drama. At a time when I feel frustrated and sad, others are facing the loss of their homes, constant chronic pain or imminent death--and that includes a five year old boy.

The Stage 4 cancer has metastisized from the kidney to the lung of the young boy; one long-time friend "chatted" with me this morning online, at a loss with their home being repossessed; another friend has chronic leukemia, undergoing blood filtering; one is now moved to a rehab facility for further medical treatments; a very late stage cancer victim I have come to know is now having to give up her beloved cat, her treatments are so numerous and debilitating, with regular trips to the emergency room. My friend in pain dreads the question from concerned ones: "How are you feeling?" because nothing ever changes for her...

Each of these tragedies came to my attention this week! What is happening, Lord? Every one of these suffering ones loves and serves You faithfully to the extent of their ability. I do know this, that the Body of Christ is united in prayer for Your healing, peace, comfort and strength for each one who is reeling from either physical or mental pain for themselves or their loved one! We do not doubt one iota that You hear and answer prayer as only You can, in the way that is best for each one of us. "He knows the way that I take," Job 23:10 says, "and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." God does try His children! Some trials are lengthy and grievous, while others are mild; yet others are tragicically sudden. And some of us will be called home to Him unexpectedly. Not one of us will glide through life in this world. We can neither run nor hide--ask Jonah!

Trust, worship, and wait on our Lord--He will always do right! As we unite in prayer, remember that He is the God of miracles. There is no other!

God sees our tears and sorrows with us for the impact of life in this fallen world. Psalm 56:8, New Living Translation, reassures us, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book."

But God is not an impassive onlooker by any means. Jesus Christ upholds this universe (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3), and He upholds us! I love this promise from Psalm 126:5-6:

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

A harvest of joy awaits those who trust in God!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

No quick fixes


5:11 p.m. Today's project was to organize our son Kriss and his wife Marisela's engagement and wedding portraits to hang in the living room.
We've had some hassle with the resolution of the original pictures, finding out that 8 x 10" is the largest size we can have printed, when I had planned on one huge, at least 11 x 20 portrait that would take up the space. I was disappointed, but got two very imposing, elegant frames at Michaels that I will use to create a "gallery" instead.
When I downloaded my favorites to Shutterfly, only ONE of them made an acceptable 8 x 10, so I am filling in with engagement pictures and our family's group shot. Not one to give up, I am determined to get a few more large wedding glossies made! But for now, I'm being creative. Since artistry, handiwork and inventions were God's idea to begin with, I'll continue to seek His wisdom for my project. Proverbs 8:12 says, KJV, "I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions." Wisdom, prudence, inventiveness, and perseverance--I need them all, Lord!
As we all can attest, there's never a quick fix when it comes to home projects! Once Steve took out the screws that held some wall sconces, there were holes left that didn't correspond to our frames, so he filled those with putty. Unfortunately, the putty is a different color than the wall, so it needed to be sanded flat and painted over. Meanwhile, I glanced over at another part of the wall on which we had accidentally used semi-gloss to cover some scrape marks, wincing at those covered-up spots shining away in the noonday sun. "Looks like we'll have to paint the whole wall," we agreed. Out in the garage, we saw that with all of our cans of paint, we had no Navajo White 105 "Iso-flat" paint, so I called up Sherman-Williams, they mixed me up a gallon, and now it sits in the garage awaiting application!
A word to the wise: no matter how exasperated you get, don't ever ask, aloud OR in your mind, "What's next?" OK? Because you usually don't want to hear the answer!
Patching, covering up, sanding down uneven rough spots--don't we waste an inordinate amount of time on quick fixes for our sins and missteps, instead of confessing them to the Lord and getting a fresh start, letting Him do a complete correction of the entire circumstance, relationship, or even His entire plan for our lives? Isaiah 53:6a reminds us, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have gone every one to his own way." And we wander off God's path for us more times than we would care to admit--but God loves us anyway! My prayer is not to get off-track using my picayune ideas for more than a few minutes, if at all! I want to be sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit's guidance to get back into His will speedily. Psalm 86:11 says, "Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your Name." Let me have a heart that is unified around Your Word and will, so I don't end up wandering around in a mental wilderness, looking for my "real" personality, lifestyle, or where I "fit in," when my place is in Your arms!!
Help me Lord, to remember Philippians 1:6, to be "confident in this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Focused

4:24 p.m. Today's project is to keep my thoughts focused on the Lord's goodness after a difficult day yesterday. Irritation, anger and discouragement characterized my Monday as I careened from one stressful interaction to the next. Preoccupation led to setting off my car alarm; forgetting I'd set the house alarm caused it to blare full force when I back in from the garage to find the car keys Steve was sitting on. Late last night, I had a fright as I checked my grown daughter's empty room, which looked much more scattered than usual. The curtain on the window of the guest bedroom that opens out to the wood patio cover was opened, with the blinds bent. Had she run away, or been kidnapped? My imagination concocted every wild scenario...

Turned out to be a real comedy of errors! Heidi had rushed out to a friend's birthday party; and the curtain in the guest bedroom was open because she was giving her houseplant some southerly sunlight!

I can't truthfully say it was a bad day, however, because the faithful God I serve had gifted me with a prayer/accountability partner that morning to see me through, and I her. 2 Timothy 2:13 reminds us that "He is faithful; He cannot deny Himself." Shifting circumstances and emotions are of little consequence when we focus on the Lord. He is just too good, good all the time, to leave us let down and disconcerted--Jesus is Truth, and if we know the truth, the truth will set us free! (John 8:32)

Living with my husband's Alzheimers is like experiencing a series of minor car accidents--as I have--each one unexpected, damaging, but with definitely manageable results. The car will never really be the same, but it is driveable; you make your repairs and keep driving, hoping to have some time before the next "surprise." Prayerfully, you can regather your resources and your spiritual footing and learn the lesson as needed.

God's plan for each of His children is never a bad plan. He only does what is best for each one of us! He guides us through the maze of choices in our actions, reactions, and next steps. He teaches us the way to show His lovingkindness and humility in service to another. The Apostle Paul tells us that God outfits us with His armor for the daily spiritual warfare we face (Ephesians 6:10-18). He gives us His Word and His heart, in the holy scriptures--ours for the taking of daily sustenance.

We may be pulled in many directions, but we must remain pointed at only One!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Be instant in season and out of season

4:36 p.m. Today's project was to get some rest after an Easter weekend that included preparation for a large family dinner, delivery of three days' worth of food to a needy family, a lovely wedding, Sunrise service, CCMV school breakfast, and an active house full of family, all while the Lord allowed me to post blogs about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ! We were joined by new addition Penny Lane Kruckenberg, a darling cocker spaniel pup belonging to Kriss and Marisela!

Exhaustion and preoccupation, along with a couple of honest mistakes on my part, led to an expression of hurt from our youngest son that let me know how much he treasures our family's dinner table traditions...it was an expression of a very tender heart. We talked it out and forgave one another before he set off for Fresno, but I was definitely in need of a break!

The Lord does not allow for us to rest on our laurels; nor, however, is He stingy with His encouragement. The Holy Spirit does send loving approbation to His servants, but how many times is it followed with new challenges? We need to remember that we, the carriers of the treasure of God's Word, are just "earthen vessels," commonplace clay pots, according to 2 Corinthians 4:7, "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Believers cannot accomplish anything for the kingdom without the Spirit's leading, guiding, and filling!

The nature of my husband's Alzheimer's disease is such that every day brings new and sad surprises as to what he can no longer be responsible for. This morning, Steve lost the new registration tags ($598 worth) for our RV while he was in the process of putting the sticker on. I continued to ask him to keep looking, because I still hadn't had a chance to get dressed, after devotions and taking care of breakfast and basic morning chores. Eventually Steve found it in his shirt pocket, but not before the stress level had risen for our daughter Heidi and us! (In a similar situation later in the afternoon, Steve failed to notice he was sitting on my very large set of car keys when I couldn't find them).

The Lord sent His encouragement while my stress level was slowly going down to a simmer, because my friend Monica called me! She is the very one the Lord had told me to ask to be a prayer/accountability partner!! She had called for personal prayer, and we prayed for one another and all of our families' needs. We agreed to pray every Monday at the same time, and to call immediately with any urgent needs. James 5:16 says, "Pray for one another, that you may be healed." I felt as refreshed as my garden was by today's rain!!

But testing was not over for the day! In the snack food aisle of our neighborhood grocery, a lady began to complain about the price of vegetable chips and it came out that she was flying to New York to be with her dying sister and needed snacks for the plane trip. "Ooh, divine appointment!" I thought as I asked her sister's name and said I'd pray for her. It turned out she's a believer, too, but she's still afraid of flying across country. So we talked a while more.

Next thing I know, she's attacking Greg Laurie, his late son, Harvest, the crusades, and Pres. George W. Bush, gossiping, backbiting, letting out some real smears. Turns out she's an anti-war activist who was letting her political positions turn ugly against Christians of other opinions. I shared scripture with her, as well as made it clear that I know Greg and his family--in fact, Topher and my oldest son attended preschool together. I told her that I was also very active in ministry at Harvest, and contrary to her opinion that it's a rich church not giving to the poor, I set her straight with actual facts. Her biggest pet peeve? That Greg Laurie has a security detail, "while he's telling 18,000 people to trust in God!!" I asked her whether Christians should call the police during a break-in? Or whether the Brinks guard who was shot not 2 hours before in that very shopping center should have fired back? What about my home's alarm system? "Well, you're not preaching to people to trust in God!" Unbelievable. I replied, "Every Christian is to be a preacher of the gospel, wherever we go."

People were creeping quietly down the chip aisle, because it did get heated. My bad for debating, but I do not believe that we can allow hateful personal attacks on people we know are godly. John 8:44 tells us who the father of lies is: the devil! And even if she was worked up and beside herself, and went off huffily with "the last word," perhaps she might have something to think about later. I did tell her several times that she is free to attend the church of her choice, but please allow others to do the same. (And Christians who don't agree with her are still Christians!)

Unpleasant and nervewracking as that conversation was, it was still a divine appointment. I thank the Lord for bringing scriptures to mind for the many wide-ranging topics of her rant, and I will pray for her, knowing how afraid she is to fly, and that her sister Gloria is dying. As I think this over, I realize that fear leads people to behave outrageously, and can be a tool of the enemy for disruption and hostility, instead of our fears being given to the Lord.

From the famous to the obscure among the Body of Christ, we all have faults! God knows each of our weaknesses, and we would do well to face ourselves with them, and confess sin speedily.

"For He knows our frame: He knows that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14)