Saturday, October 27, 2007

Set apart

Do you live your life as a woman consecrated to God?

And I don’t mean the nuns who become “brides of Christ.” I’m taking about normal Plain Jane who goes to school and fights with her siblings and does her homework and IMs too much.

This is what God told the Israelites:

“So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the LORD your God. Keep all my decrees by putting them into practice, for I am the LORD who makes you holy.” (Lev. 20:7-8, NLT)

The Israelites were to follow God’s laws (that good old Ten Commandments stuff) and not be like their pagan neighbors who were doing all kinds of nasty sexual things and slaughtering their children. (Yeah, I’m thinking they weren’t a great role model.)

God told His people to set themselves apart from those pagan guys. We are His people too, so this verse applies to us.

Note the verse doesn’t say, “follow My decrees and that’ll make you holy.” Obeying God doesn’t make you a good Christian.

On the flip side, not obeying God doesn’t automatically make you the scum of the earth.

God says to us, “Follow My decrees because I’ve made you holy.”

I want you to hear what this verse is saying:

God

makes

you

holy.

There’s a song we sing at youth group called “Uncommon Love.” I love the chorus:

Forgetting all I’ve said
Forgiving where I’ve been
You offer Your uncommon love.


God is holy enough and loving enough and forgiving enough to make you holy. You are a woman of God, set apart by Him to be His. He has made you holy.

So act like it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Practicing Presence


I've been thinking lately about the concept of "practicing presence" or living in the moment. It means being interruptible--setting my agenda aside for someone else, putting others' needs ahead of my own, truly listening when someone speaks instead of thinking about what I might say next. Responding with compassion and not judgment.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend, and she told me about some struggles her fifteen-year-old daughter is having with mean friends. Her words reminded me of a statistic I once read that singled out teen girls as the cruelest, most conniving, most unforgiving people on the planet.

I know that's not true of all teen girls, but the nice ones have to live in the same world with the mean ones. And sometimes they're the favorite targets.

High school provides lots of opportunities for mean teens to practice their art. Competition flourishes in academics, social relationships, sports, fashion, clubs and activities. Who has the best figure? the best clothes? the best-looking boyfriend? It's a never-ending comparison game with no winner.

In the middle of all that craziness, it's hard to silence critical voices and be still enough to hear God. And yet He's there all the time, saying He loves you and created you the way you are for His glory.

After I left my friend's house I wondered what a different place high school would be if everyone practiced presence. If they considered others as more important than themselves. If they really listened, not to judge, but to offer a compassionate response. If they stopped comparing themselves to others and started letting God shape them into the image of Christ.

I realize not all teens are mature or spiritual enough to make those kinds of choices. But I know some are. It's not easy to walk against the current. And it makes all kinds of ripples. The nice thing about ripples is they spread out. They can reach far corners we don't even see. And they cause change.

Are you brave enough to practice presence and be a ripple maker? If that's what you want to do, let us know. We'll pray for you and cheer you on.

Love,
Jeanne

Monday, October 22, 2007

For Cat Lovers

Re-connecting ...

Tricia Goyer here ...

I'm going through a whole new season of my life ... and it's one of reconnecting. This year I've met FOUR 1/2 sisters I hadn't met before. (FUN!) But I also have been trying to reconnect with people who mean a lot to me, but I haven't talked to in a while.

I've called up cousins I hadn't talked to in ages. I've reconnect with friends from high school, one from the cheerleading squad and another who was in some of my classes.

The other day I also decided to call a friend out of the blue. Jamie was the first teen mom I mentored. She is an awesome person and I was even there when her daughter was born! Margo is five now, but they both still have a special place in my heart.

Anyway, I called Jamie and we're having lunch tomorrow. It was so great to talk to her, and it has reminded me NOT to get so busy with "stuff" that I forget to reach out to the people I care about.

So, how about you?! Is there anyone you can reconnect with? Someone that's a positive influence in your life? Someone you've missed being around?

Do it today!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

None of Your Business

I'm writing from the National Youth Workers Convention in San Diego and came here right off of my son's wedding in Northern California. Where am I now? I'm spinning to say the least!

I might add to this later in an edit; for now I'll begin by sharing a little of what I've experienced so far. David Crowder was amazing last night, but I got pulled in and reflective when Phil Visher began to talk honest and real about the crash of his company. Vischer is the creator behind Veggie Tales. I'll make his amazing but too-long-for-this-blog story short.

And I didn't take notes, so this is definitely a paraphrase.

As Veggie Tales grew bigger and bigger, so did Phil's ideas. Just as he greatly expanded his company and staff, sales stalled . . . then VT took a nose dive.

His message last night was about how, instead of getting too wrapped up in what you're doing six months, one year, five years from now, focus on listening to God. Sometimes we've got it all figured out, and we're planning all the great things we're going to accomplish. Phil said "I don't know what I'm doing five years from now. It's none of my business."

Did that surprise you? It's none of your business what you're doing five years from now?

It's great to have goals and dreams you're reaching for, but if you're not listening to God, where are they going to take you?

Slow down.

Listen to God . . . a lot.

Make where you are five years from now God's business.

More later . . .

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lessons from the Mystery Trees


Last week we decided to plant a couple of fruit trees in our backyard. When we got to the store we noticed a large cluster of trees marked, “Shade,” “Flowering,” or “Fruit.” No specifics were given beyond that so we called a salesman over to help us.

“What kind of fruit trees are these?” We asked, hunting for a perhaps hidden label.

He rolled his eyes. “Can you believe those guys? They sent us a bunch of unlabeled trees. All I know is that they are either apple or pear because that’s all we get this time of year.” He pointed to the leaves. “From the look of the leaves I’d guess these are apple trees.”

Since we like both apples and pears we bought two figuring we’d either have two of the same or one of each. So in a couple of years we’ll know. Maybe we’ll end up with a combination of the two. I’ve seen stranger things at our local Farmer’s Market. What would you call those—papples? For now we call what we have the mystery trees.

As I planted them Jesus’ words, “for the tree is known by its fruit,” kept running through my head. I wouldn’t know what kind of jam to plan on making until the tree started to produce apples or pears. Later I looked the verse up, expecting to see some kind of connection to believers versus non-believers—one of those “you’ll know who belongs to Me by the fruit of his or her life.” Instead I got a rather jolting surprise. The fruit that Jesus referred to was our words!

“For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:34b-35).

So today I’m hyper-sensitive to what my words reveal about my heart. Do they reflect Christ’s heart of love and encouragement or the world’s sarcasm and negativity? I’m told that I have a pretty quick sense of humor so I’m sad to say that I’m often guilty of spouting off words that don’t reflect Who I belong to. I do don’t it intentionally; usually it’s just an attempt to sound cute and clever. Today I plan to be more careful with my words.

What about you? What do your words say about your heart?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OCD/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


I've been told I have OCD by a professional counselor. I sorta knew it already. :-)
I get obsessive about certain things and everything. Maybe it's part of being a writer. My husband tells me I think too much. I admit it. I think ALL THE TIME.
I often wonder how people don't think constantly. My husband doesn't. If we're riding down the road, I'll say, "What are you thinking about." He'll say, "Nothing." The thing about it is, I believe him. He says his mind is blank quite often.
I wonder if other people play weird mental games like I do. My personal thought-life doesn't seem weird to me.
As people are talking--especially if I'm in a class or listening to a sermon, I'll type the words I hear by slightly moving my fingers.
I count my steps a lot--always up to the number six, over and over again.
If I'm annoyed at somebody, I replay the whole reason in my mind tons of times, like how could she have said that to me.
Sometimes I analyze things I've said--why did i say that? What are they thinking of me now?
I wonder. What if I start to use my obsessive thinking only for good things?
Can I do it for just today? Can I use my creative thoughtlife for the following:
To pray.
To think of positive outcomes for problems.
To jot down story ideas.
To say thanks to God for simple things like good coffee and for huge things like my family.
Maybe I could even start saying thank you for bad things.
Maybe my OCD might just be a BLESSING.
Phil. 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is ANY EXCELLENCE and if ANYTHING IS WORTHY OF PRAISE, let your mind DWELL on these things." NAS
Love,
Julie

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Time Wasters

You know what? Wasting time is not always such a bad thing. I'm going to give you two links (last time I tried to embed an image, it was a total flop.) so you can see what I look at when I allow myself to waste time..

NO. 1 A bird dancing
This one lifts my soul. I started bopping with this cockatiel and enjoyed life for one minute and sixteen seconds with absolutely no guilt.

NO. 2 A lady dancing:
This one you could argue is not wasting time. Aren't you analyzing your mind? Getting a better understanding of yourself? Try watching the lady dancing with some one else. It isn't a trick. It isn't a trick. The other person watching will see something different than you.

So why don't I think these two activities are not bad things? Because I didn't spend time while I was supposed to do something else. For instance, if I was a heart surgeon and while I had someone's chest open in the OR, I decided to take a one minute and 16 second break to watch the bird dance, the person on the table would be justified in calling me to task for wasting time.

It's all relative, isn't it? Singing praise songs would be wasting time if God called you to blow up balloons at that moment for your grandmother's 100th birthday party.
Sometimes the choices are not so clear. And then . . . well, then some of us have the Holy Spirit to help us discern. I'm grateful for the HS's help. I might spend all my time watching ladies and birds dance.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Storms

In my high school girls Bible study, we talked about storms last night.

Storms as in: your grandpa dying, or your parents divorcing, or your boyfriend pressuring you into more intimacy, or your girlfriends seeming more shallow lately, or your parents demanding too much from you.

Storms aren’t exactly a party. Storms are often the place people lose their faith in God, because they don’t like that He allows the storms to come.

The thing is, God isn’t like your mother—he’s not standing over people, holding that wooden spoon, and as soon as they start doing something wrong, whack! he nails them.

God lets us—ALL of us—make our own decisions, whether good for us or bad for us, whether good for other people or bad for other people. He also holds life and death in his hands, because he can see the larger picture of it all.

So, all that to say, storms will come.

But you’re not alone.

God wouldn’t allow these things to happen, but let you flail on your own. Whether you feel his presence or not, he’s there. The fact you can’t feel God or hear his voice doesn’t suddenly negate the fact that HE IS THERE.

And not just himself, but also the people around you who want to help you. Reach out to family or friends, to your youth pastor or youth group. God put them there, in your life, for a reason.

Ask them to pray for you. Sometimes when a group of people pray, you can physically feel the power of that many hearts asking for the same thing from God.

Help and healing won’t happen overnight, but if you keep asking for prayer, keep talking to people, keep praying yourself—one day you wake up, and the storm has blown over.

So for now, just weather out the storm.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Top Ten List!

So, I was thinking about this the other day. I want to share with you something that means so much to me, I’ve even cataloged the reasons I love them so much. There’s depth there. Serious depth.

I’m speaking of my fuzzy blue slippers. Here they are:




Cute, huh? Yeah, they’re a little ratty, a little dirty maybe (all shoes are), but underneath the matted fuzz and the pieces of the bush that’s right outside my front door, there’s a slipper that warms my heart every time I slide my toes in.

Thus the list you are about to see:

TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE MY FUZZY BLUE SLIPPERS

10. Sometimes I have klutzy moments and spill something on my beautiful slippers. Which is horrible, but these slippers? They’re basically stain proof!
9. They have hard plastic on the bottom, so that means I don’t have to worry where I step. Worry-free slippers. What a way to go!
8. They’re the perfect shade of blue - not too dark, not too light. A calming color. They’d probably make my eyes pop if I held them next to my face, which I don’t because they’re shoes and...ick.
7. The fuzzy material is all the way around on the inside. My foot is encased in the blissful softness
6. Well. They’re fuzzy.
5. It’s so relaxing to pull my feet out of painful, boring, everyday shoes and slide into something warm and soft.
4. There is a base of memory foam in these slippers. I, and only I, can wear these. They are personalized.
3. Since there isn’t a back to them, they keep my feet a comfortable warm, but not hot.
2. They work well with any apparel I’m wearing: Jeans, Pajamas, Dresses, Swimsuits...
1. They’re sqooshy!

I hope that this week you'll join me in relaxing and remembering that we're not in control and you know what? That is totally and completely fine with me! Whatever is going on in our lives, let's leave it in the hands of Christ and focus on stuff we can change - like our shoes! ;)

Have a good week, everyone!

Erynn :)

Being strong and courageous


I'm starting a new book today.


That means I'm staring at a blinking cursor, my toes curled over the edge of the cliff that is four months of dedicated work. So what's the first thing I do?


Yep. I go to my Bible. Each of the books in the All About Us series is based on a verse that, for me, gives the book's title, encapsulates the heroine's struggle, and shows her where her power lies. For book three, that verse is Deuteronomy 31:6 ... "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."


The book's title? Be Strong and Curvaceous.


So okay, our heroine has image issues. She also needs to learn courage. So does her author, sitting at the keyboard looking at the blank page and knowing that the Lord will come through one more time and give me some killer words to put on it.


Okay. Deep breath.


Chapter One.


Love,

Shelley

Monday, October 08, 2007

Today ...



Today ... I choose to give God all my burdens.





"Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7




Today ... I choose to focus on what really matters.



"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions ... I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am you may be also." John 14:1-3





Today ... I will seek God for my education and ask for His help.



"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3




Today ... I will read God Word and discover His way because I know His way will lead me to life, hope, peace, joy.



"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11





Today ... I will remember that happily-ever-after is NOT a thing of fairy tales.



"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also early wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20

Today ... I choose to praise!

"Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 106:1


Today ... I invite you to do the same!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Out of Life's Pathways

Writing. My days (and yes, sometimes nights) are filled with it right now as I'm counting down to the next deadline.

Every single blogger on this site knows what that's about.

So the personal stuff . . . hmmm. Like where do I get my inspiration for what I write about? Right out of life, as they say. For me that includes especially where I live.

For the past twenty-something years, my husband and I have been living in the foothills of the Sierras at a residential ministry for at-risk youth. Our house sits almost in the middle of the 80-acre property, and just about a five-minute walk from the main lodge—the hub of activity for this ministry.

The wooded pathways, grazing deer, and changing seasons stir up the devotional side of my writing. The teaching of the pastors, conversations with the staff, and Bible studies with the young women here challenge me to go deep in my personal study and spiritual walk. That naturally spills into what I write.

But the teen and young adult guys and girls that come to stay here—they have the most profound impact on my writing. Through their tears and pain and then their triumph over the most difficult of situations, I learn facets of God's character I'm not sure I would have learned anywhere else. Each life I see fight a broken past colors my writing with shades of confidence in a God who heals.

So writing for me has been (and still is) a growth process, not only in technique but even more so in its substance.

I think writing is like that . . . or anything else that becomes a part of our expression of service and worship in this life. It grows out of the connections we make and out of where and how we live.

The main thing is that it grows.

You have gifts and talents, things you do well, things you love to do. Ask God to show you how you can use all of it to serve others and serve him. Even if it's in small ways, begin . . . then let it grow.

Always here to pray for you.

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/

Friday, October 05, 2007

Prayers from the Heart


Yesterday I talked to a group of teens and preteens about knowing your worth in Christ. It involved giving my own testimony, including the self-destructive things that I did because I didn’t feel valuable, so it was exciting but exhausting. By the time I put Nathan to bed I could hardly move let alone read him a story. So I used it as an opportunity to encourage him to practice his reading skills (in other words, I had him do the reading—he chose the Cars Early Reader book that he has memorized).

When it came time to pray I asked him to lead. If I hadn’t been so exhausted I would have cracked up. After each sentence he asked me to repeat it as I used to do when he was younger. He prayed for me, my husband who is taking college classes, and for our safety during the night. It went something like this (Insert “say it, Mom” after every other line).

Dear Lord, thank you for this day and for this food (we’d eaten hours before but I guess he felt thankful again). Please help Mom to feel better. Please help Dad do his school work good. Help him not to get a “F”. ‘Cause he can do it. Help Christian to . . . (sigh) help Christian. Please keep us safe while we sleep. In Jesus’ Name, Amen (said as one word).

The cool part is that I’d never heard him say such a long prayer without my occasional prompts. It all flowed from his heart. I couldn’t help imaging God smiling over the scene of a 5-year-old praying for his tired mommy and daddy. It also reminded me that I can approach my Heavenly Father just as Nathan did—innocently sharing the concerns of my heart, even when they are as simple as “And help Christian” (obviously Nathan knows something that I don’t know—we may need to have a talk).

I pray that you will find time to go to your Father as His beloved child today!


Jeanette

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Different is Cool

Before I jump into my message, I wanted to give a shout out to Debbie, who won a copy of my book On the Loose by leaving a comment under my last post. YAY, Debbie! And thanks for all of those who volunteered to throw a fit in Wal-Mart on my book’s behalf. Just the thought of it makes me tear up. Stay tuned…you never know when we’re gonna give something away around here. We might auction off Sarah’s knee brace….

So I’m a teacher, right? And I see sooo many different personalities, faces, skin colors, clothing choices, etc. Like school-closing snow flakes (bring ‘em on), no two kids are alike. And as an adult it’s easy to look at them and say, “Oh, I wish you realized how special you are.” Right now I have a student who initially came in with quite the attitude. She’s quiet (her face says it all), she’s different from the others, and she has absolutely no confidence. She’s amazingly smart, I’ve discovered, but she slumps in her chair and does everything she can to fade into the background. And it works.

I have some beautiful friends, and lately I’ve gotten caught up in the habit of comparing myself to them. I’m shorter, I’m paler, I’m this, I’m that. I have more wrinkles!!! But you know what, just like this student in my class who can’t see herself the way I see her, (not to mention the way Jesus sees her), I am a creation of the King, ya know? God made me. He orchestrated every single line on my face, every fleck in my green eyes. If God had wanted me to look like Reese Witherspoon, I think he could’ve managed that. But he didn’t (and I’m almost over it). This same God who made the oceans to only travel so far and the sun to only burn so bright, made me too. And I’m his favorite of all his creations. And so are you. And so is my student.

Today let’s just take a moment to thank God for what we have and how we were created. He loves you just as you are, every flaw and every pretty detail. It’s all beautiful to him.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14


Love that verse. And here’s a great example of it, to bring it all together. Another beautiful child of God…Retainer Boy!!!


And as someone with a retainer, I happen to like this a lot.
Have a great day, G3.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Candles


I've started something new. When I pray and read my Bible, I light this special candle. It smells incredible. Since I'm a writer, I'm home a lot during the day. I light my candle early in the morning while I'm praying, reading my Bible, and writing in my journal. Then I blow it out. It's a cinnamon one. The cool thing is that during the day, I'll get whiffs of it, and it reminds me of God's Presence always close, always with me, always ready to help.
Today is October 3. I love to read the Proverbs (since there are 31) and they coordinate with each day. Lately, I've been reading from The Message Bible.
Proverbs 3 says, "Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you do; he's the one who will keep you on track."
So, like the sweet-smelling candle, God's aroma goes with me and keeps me on track.
If you've never tried lighting a candle while you read the Bible or talk to God, you might want to. Just be sure and blow it out. :-) Don't worry. His Presence will stay lit inside you.
Love,
Julie


Monday, October 01, 2007

Fences


A plain old fence is a walloping good resource for all sorts of spiritual truths. I like fences. They keep the dog in and the coyotes out. Coons don't slow down for a fence though.
I see fence illustrations pop up at the most unusual times. Usually during conversations.
For instance, I was talking with . . . no that's not accurate . . . I was being talked at by a young man. He described what was wrong with his present situation. I got a clear picture of his goal. It was the grass on the other side of the fence. I listened to another lady and saw her perched on her fence. She was going to jump off on whatever side looked most comfortable as soon as she knew where the other fence-sitters were going to jump. Then there was the man busily building fences around his rights, his possessions, his time. He was going to be pretty lonely in there when he got the last planks nailed in place. You all know the teen who is tearing down fences, even the fences designed to protect. But I met a lady who was tired of the fences in the same way a teen might be. After years of living according to the rules, she decided to bust out. From my position, sitting on the sidelines, I don't think it profited her much. She lost the valuables that had been inside her fence, and allowed ravaging beasties to enter her home and wreck what was left.
Fences are an interesting way to look at life. Consider what is your most important fence and why it is there. What are using it for? To keep your goods safe, to keep people out, as a comfortable place to sit? You may want to repair your fence or tear it down. Depends, doesn't it? It depends on if your fence lines up with God's will.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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