Zulily, Mad Money, and a Chocolate Confession

So I overheard a conversation the other day where some women were talking about what they buy from Zulily. (You know who you are sweet people with cute dresses and a new fur vest). I even got to see the two, really cute dresses that came in the mail that very day. We all oohed and ahhhed especially after we heard what she paid. They were so cute and so inexpensive that I sat there thinking: “Wow. I should look a little closer at the emails I get every day from Zulily because I really like cute dresses and I like a bargain even more!” And aren’t these the cutest t-shirts ever.
ZulilyAnd then I remembered I had spent my mad money/Christmas money/I-can-buy-whatever-I-want-with-it money on. . .

Wait for it.

Books.

Yep. Books.

All $140 of those crisp twenty-dollar bills.

I. am. a nerd.

But I’m a cute nerd. See? I got new reading glasses from “The Dollar General”. Stacy with books square

I love books.

I do not love fiction. Can you tell?

I like some fiction, sometimes. Like once every two years. Maybe.

So this is my 2015 Reading List. Some of it, anyway. I have a few books on my Kindle app and a few others that haven’t shipped yet so I have something to look forward to when the FEDEX truck is in my neighborhood!

And finally, here’s my confession. I ate three Cadbury Creme eggs. At one time. Well, not ALL three at one time—but one right after the other. Maddie went to the store and bought them for me as a surprise. I must’ve been sad and grumpy. She knows how to cheer me up. The smart, health-conscious, self-disciplined woman in my head said, “You should eat just one now and save the others for later.” Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatever. They were delicious. All three of them.

Now it’s your turn to confess.

Leave a comment and tell me:

1. How do you spend mad money A.K.A “a sum of money, often relatively small in amount, kept in reserve to use for impulsive, frivolous purposes”?

2. What book(s) are you reading?

3. Cadbury Creme Eggs. Yes or No?

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When Life Throws You a Surprise Party {and you don’t like surprises}

Have you ever found yourself in a situation, a job, a calling, a relationship that surprised you—as in “I did not see this coming or happening this way”? There have been a few of those in my forty-eight and three quarters years. Let’s just say, I’m not a big fan of surprises. Surprise means things happen that are not on my list, usually someone else is in control, and I may not be prepared.

To make my point, let me share one small example. I was surprised at the call to educate our children at home. I am the mom who said, “I could/would never home school my kids.” It’s probably not the first time God laughed at my “never”. I had it all planned—all 18 wonderful years. My oldest was in third grade and I had enrolled my daughter in kindergarten. We bought a house in this city because of the great schools.

Caleb Homeschool 2

“I’ll-never-do-that” turned into a litany of “I-don’t-know-how and what-if and what-about and when-will-I”? (We’re finishing our 11th year of homeschooling.)

If you’re not a home schooling family and/or you’re opposed to the idea of home schooling keep reading. This isn’t me trying to convince you of the value of home schooling. My desire is to convince you of something much greater. Here it is:

God is Jehovah-Jireh. He is our Provider.

We are introduced to God by this name, Jehovah Jireh—which means The Lord Will Provide—in Genesis 22 when Abraham is about to sacrifice his only son Isaac on Mount Moriah. God provides the lamb for sacrifice and Isaac is spared. We learn much about God, Abraham, and Isaac in this story that can impact how we react to the surprises that come our way.

Surprise Party

Know this:

1. God is never surprised. He is The All-Knowing, All-Seeing God of Creation and whatever surprising place, job, marriage, relationship you are in today know that He is not surprised. Rest in His “knowing”.
2. God has a plan. As we look back on the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah we can see how God had a plan and a purpose all along. He knew when he asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice that He would provide the lamb. He also knew that Abraham would obey and we would have a glimpse, even from the Genesis beginning, that God was working His plan to provide Jesus as our sacrificial lamb. Whatever surprising situation you find yourself in know that God has a plan. He always does. It may not make sense to you and me but the God who created the universe is perfectly capable to act on our behalf.
3. God will provide. In our surprising places we always have a need. Often that need is beyond our ability to provide. God delights in using the circumstances of our lives to show Himself as our Jehovah-Jireh. He has a provision ready for your greatest need.

Do this:

1. Be the Abraham. From the Scripture we see that Abraham promptly obeyed what God had instructed him to do. “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3) No excuses. No waiting. He made use of the resources that had already been provided by God and took the first step in obedience. He obeyed God, even to the point of giving up his Isaac, because he trusted Him.

2. Be the Isaac. Sometimes the trouble comes from neglecting to obey what God has clearly instructed. Sometimes the trouble is our unwillingness to be the sacrifice.Tweet this The surprises in our life will often require us to lay down our idea of what a job, a relationship, a calling, a life should look like. Isaac was old enough to know something was up. He asks, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood (Genesis 22:7-9). There is no evidence that Isaac questioned or resisted.

They went, both of them together, obediently, sacrificially, laying down everything for a holy God. “ So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1 MSG)

What are you surprised by today?

Is it a job that hasn’t turned out quite how you had hoped? Are you surprised to find that the one you married has (or hasn’t) changed after all these years? Maybe it’s a dream you’ve chased since childhood that dances, always just out of reach. Has God asked you to do something that seems impossible?

God is not surprised. He has a plan. He will provide.

I’ve witnessed and experienced it time and again.

I encourage you to take the first step, or continue on, in obedience to God. Gather and use the resources He has so graciously provided. Be willing to lay down your idea, your plan, and your pride on the altar of Providence. God is directing the affairs of each and every one of us for our good and His glory.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

How has God been Jehovah-Jireh to you?

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Would Jesus do Facebook?

Did you share a Facebook Year in Review like the rest of the world? I did. Look at mine and you’ll see photos of happy people doing fun things, enjoying life. I like that.

would jesus do FB

But my Facebook Year in Review represents real life about as much as reality TV—and that’s OK. I read the love and the hate of the Year in Review and I just keep scrolling. Then I read this in a blog post:

We are not living our true selves in front of the world, much less in front of those who matter most. We are curating memories and moments as if they were pieces of art to be hung on the walls while the rest gets stuffed in the basement. Why do we do this?
I think it has to do with fear. We hide because we are afraid of being known. Because at our core many of us believe we are unlovable. If people really knew me, I often think, they wouldn’t like, much less love me.

(The writer goes on to share how his real-life-year-in-review has helped him set meaningful goals in order to have the best year ever. I like the way he thinks!)

The quote above challenged me to question my motives with social media posting. I agree that some of what we share and don’t share has to do with fear but I think there’s more to it than that.

First, Facebook is a tool. That’s all. A vehicle of sorts to get and stay connected with friends, family, and contacts all around the world. It is not the sum total of life, nor should it be. One’s timeline, photos and status updates mostly skim the surface of life and present an overview of how we spend our days.

Second, what’s shared on Facebook often has to do with time management. We share what we have time to share. Usually that comes in the form of downtime at night or during holidays, vacations, and dinner out with friends.

Third, the choice to share/not share certain things doesn’t mean we’re trying to come off as having the perfect life or that we’re being unreal or inauthentic.

  • My life is not perfect. My year in review does not show the heartbreak, the tears, the epic fails, the frustration, the sugar-binges, the envy, the insecurity. Do you want to see all that? Really? (If you said “Yes” to that I can recommend a good counselor.) And since my life isn’t perfect I assume yours isn’t either. The goal is not to make my life look better or worse than yours. I think we are striving in real life and on social media to focus on the good, the blessings, the celebrations, the wins .  Let’s keep doing that!
  • Occasionally my life has a fairy-tale moment. My year in review doesn’t show those either. In general, I define a fairy-tale moment as: something that brings tears to your eyes, a heart-overflowing proud moment, a dream realized, or a prayer answered. Yes, sometimes those moments are shared. But I believe there are many more that are not. Some treasures are reserved for those closest to us.

I’m a late-comer to Facebook by most standards. I admit that from the outside it seemed shallow and petty. Once I realized the opportunity to connect and reconnect with old and new friends around the world I was all in. I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it. If you’re not on Facebook, don’t apologize or criticize. If you are, be an ambassador of encouragement and kindness. Share stuff you like. Promote your business. Help someone find a good carpenter or a lost dog.

Facebook is a wonderful tool but it in no way replaces or erases my need for real life relationship

Jon Acuff recently wrote: The more time I spend on Facebook, the more I realize face to face interaction matters. The best online technology in the world will never be able to replace offline relationships.

Once I heard someone ask, “Would Jesus do Facebook?”

Would Jesus do facebook

I can’t answer “What would Jesus do?” and I’m not sure that’s the best question to ask.

Based on the truths in God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit I can confidently answer “What does Jesus want me to do?”

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

God created Mark Zuckerberg and the mind that created Facebook. I don’t believe creating a Facebook timeline or a page is a moral issue. What I do with what I create is. I choose to use it for good to the glory of God.

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Who You For?

I grew up in a small town—actually on the outskirts of a small town. By outskirts I mean down Highway 58 which most people refer to as “old 82” (Highway 82 is now a bypass). I was always a little envious of friends who lived in a subdivision. I can’t really remember why. It wouldn’t have suited the wanderlust that led me into the woods around my house. Sometimes I’d end up miles from home resting by a tree, thinking. Certainly wouldn’t let my kids do that now.
who you for 7
My daddy was happy when the bypass was complete and the traffic decreased. Not me. I missed it, really. Once when a friend spent the night at my house she asked how I could sleep with all that noise. I didn’t know what she was talking about. I think it was the first time I really heard the hum of the tires on that worn out blacktop. For most people traveling northwest from Montgomery, Highway 82 was and still is a main thoroughfare to Tuscaloosa. And we all know what’s in Tuscaloosa. Everything. That’s how I looked at it back then. Within 30 miles there was fast food, a mall, a movie theater, and The Bear.
who you for 6
The local traffic was always humming but Saturdays in the fall brought a special treat with worshipers headed to their shrine. I was a little envious of that, too. I didn’t attend a college football game until after I was married but I shared in the excitement. They dressed in their team colors from head to toe, traveled in lively groups of friends and family, and seemed like the happiest people in the world on that day.

Who You For graphic

But I was an Auburn fan. Back in the day, Alabama held the bragging rights. When I asked my daddy why we were Auburn fans (as if it were some unchangeable genetic predisposition) he said, “I cheer for the underdog.” So I did.

At Auburn Bball camp

I’m miles from home now.

And I’m not an Auburn fan anymore. I married an Alabama fan; we had children who grew up to be Alabama fans; and while there are many divided households in this state that doesn’t work for me. The drama was real, people. I tried hanging on to my team for a while but I hate conflict, even the kind involving a silly football game. So I baled. Became a traitor. After three decades of being an Auburn fan I officially announced that I was an Alabama fan. ***Gasp.*** I wear the team colors and plan football Saturdays around T.V. game times. To my father my defection was one of The Worst Moments in History. He threatened to write me out of the will.

As if.

He still loves me and I buy him Auburn stuff for his birthday. But I need peace in my life with my people and it came to the point that hanging on just wasn’t worth it. My allegiance to the past, to a team, to a crowd, to a way of life all became like the noisy hum of wheels on a blacktop highway. Once I heard it I couldn’t not hear it. The price for peace seemed high as I quietly considered my defection and my pride blindsided me a few times. In the end the need for peace won.
DSC_0070

Football in the south is serious business. If you move to Alabama the first question you’ll have to answer is not “Where you from?” but “Who you for?” Neutrality is not an option.

Spring Break Beach 216

That’s how it is with obedience except there’s much more at stake than bragging rights. We have our allegiances to habits, people, and ideas, many of which are a constant source of conflict in our lives. But we’ve grown so accustomed to the noise that we don’t hear it anymore. It takes fresh eyes and ears and hearts to help us see and hear. And there’s the rub. It almost feels easier not knowing, not hearing, and not feeling the conflict.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to walking in obedience with our Father God. He is the winning team. This isn’t just about cheering and wearing the team colors but being in the game ourselves and winning at life. Still the price for peace seems high. A lot is at stake. Usually our pride plays first string or we claim some sort of spew-worthy-lukewarm neutrality. The heart is deceitful and will unquestionably choose the losing, destructive ways of disobedience rather than submit to God’s Plan. The result of our choice:

We get tackled and eat dirt rather than run the gap made for us by grace and forgiveness.Tweet this

The peace and joy of the Lord—being in an obedient right relationship with Him— is worth it. Once we’ve made the decision we wonder why it took so long.

You may not have an allegiance to a team or ever consider switching sides. No problem.

But in life, there is only one plan, one play, and one winning way. God is pursuing you, recruiting you, inviting you to be a part of all He has to offer. It’s the chance of a lifetime. One that’s too good to refuse.

So.

Who are YOU for?

Great Smokey Mountains 2012

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5 Tips for Reading Through the Bible in 2015

I had been a Christian for decades, attended church all my life, earned a degree in religion from a Baptist college, and earned 2 seminary degrees before I read through the entire Bible. Nothing has changed my life more than consistently reading God’s Word. I keep reading not only to know what the Bible teaches about living this life well, but to know God better; when I meet him face to face I want it to be the happiest, most glorious reunion I’ve ever experienced.

If Reading Through the Bible is on your 2015 To-Do List may I offer some suggestions?

5 tips

  1. Have a plan. Most successful projects start with a good plan. There are lots of good Bible reading plans out there and since the most important goal is being in God’s Word everyday pick the one that works best for you and go with it. If you’d like to join me in Reading Through the Bible start here.
  2. Set a time. Our days are full of important tasks and reading the Bible can get crowded out by the demands of life. Decide what time of day is consistently best for you and keep that appointment with God.
  3. Choose a place. As much as I like to be cozy and comfortable early in the morning (my reading time) it is a recipe for dozing off while I read. God’s Word is full of adventure, comedy, drama, and truth and I don’t want to miss any of it. I sit at the table with a notebook and pen handy while I read. Eric sits in his favorite chair and uses the YouVersion Bible app to listen to his Bible reading. Find your happy reading/listening place and go there.
  4. Just do it.
    • There are days that I don’t feel like reading the Bible. Yep. That’s the truth. I am prone to laziness at times. I want to lay in bed or drink coffee and listen to music or watch TV and eat.
    • There are days that I think I don’t have time to read the Bible. I’m also prone to craziness—the kind that makes me wake up way too early and try to do everything on my undone to-do list from the last six months.
    (Neither of those extremes blesses my family or me. Reading God’s Word renews and restores me and sets the tone for my day.)
    • There are days when I don’t want to read the Bible because I know that the day’s reading is full of “begats” or something that seems irrelevant to my life. Read those passages anyway. Daily Bible reading is a habit worth developing and for every word you can’t pronounce or verse you can’t understand, there are a hundred that will make you say, “Wow” and change your day or even your life.
    4. Don’t quit. This is the most important tip I can give you. Do. Not. Quit. If you miss a day for whatever reason, let it go! Pick up with the current day’s reading only. Don’t try to catch up. Every day is a new day to read God’s Word and be transformed by it. If you skip a week or even a month, start there and finish strong. God’s Word is alive and active and powerful. He gave it to us as a love letter to cherish, not a ball and chain to drag around.
    5. Change your goal. I tend to set too many goals, unachievable goals, burdensome goals. My all-or-nothing-thinking gets me in the ditch sometimes a lot. I’m learning to be as kind to myself as I am to others—to rest in grace when my harsh, finger pointing ways wound me. Will you do the same? If you get a week or a month into your goal and it’s too heavy, will you please lay it down? Kick it to the curb if you need to. Find a new Bible reading goal that suits you better in this season of life. Maybe you need to commit to a verse a day, the New Testament in a year, or reading a Proverb a month. I can help you with that. Don’t be afraid to say, “I need to try something different.” God’s Word is life-changing. Period. Every verse. Every chapter. Every book. You need not read it cover to cover to be changed by it.

So let’s do this! If you’d like to join me in Reading Through the Bible this year start here. If you’d like to commit to reading the Bible every day but want to explore a different plan, I want to help you. Leave a comment or contact me via email or Facebook.

The Bible: For every word you can’t pronounce or verse you don’t understand, a 100 more will wow you and change your life. Tweet this

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5

 

January

January 17

Genesis 40-41— In this passage, we learn that after Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream he never gave Joseph another thought; he forgot all about him. Two whole years passed. Then Pharaoh has a dream that no one can interpret and the cupbearer suddenly remembers! I know guy!

To the one reading this today who feels “everyone” has forgotten you: Maybe they have. Maybe it just seems that way. Either way, here’s the truth. God has not forgotten you. He sees you there in your prison of pain and injustice and disappointment; waiting to be remembered and rescued. Over and over again we see in the Word that God has a plan, THE best plan, and He is watching and waiting and working in your life according to His plan.

Finally, the cupbearer remembered and Joseph was summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. He quickly points them to God as the interpreter of dreams. Coincidentally (ha-ha), we then read in Matthew 12:33-37 these words of Jesus: (I love how The Message translation speaks here:) “How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary that gives meaning to your words. . . Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

Wow. We see that vividly in the story of Joseph. During all those years in prison, he had a human guarding him no doubt; but, he chose to guard his heart and mind. At last he had an opportunity to speak! The unjustly imprisoned and forgotten Joseph had only praise for his God. The words he spoke and the interpretation he gave became a literal salvation for him, Pharaoh, and the nation of Egypt (as we’ll see later).

Wherever you are today God is at work. He sees, He cares, and He is acting. He was preparing Joseph through all his trials to lead and serve with wisdom and compassion. He is preparing you for what He has prepared for you, too.

Day 13

Genesis 31-33—Today’s reading, especially chapters 31 and 32, challenged me to ask myself:

  1. When might I be overly and unnecessarily concerned with fairness (Jacob) as it concerns how I am being treated? Listen to that voice that says, “What about me?”
  2. When might I be selfish and controlling (Laban) in my personal or business affairs? Listen to that voice that says, “That’s mine.”

Both behaviors fail to take into account the sovereignty of God. His plans cannot be thwarted by unfairness or self-centeredness.

We must take care not to justify our sinful behaviors which are often thinly veiled with “good intentions”.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)

Amen?

Day 11

Genesis 27 & 28—“Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!” he begged. “Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?”

Heartbreaking words. What a tragic scene this must have been? In the Old Testament, before the father died, he performed a ceremony of blessing in which he officially handed over the birthright to the rightful heir. The firstborn was entitled to the inheritance but it was not his until the blessing was pronounced. Once it was given, the person’s word was binding like a written contract today. Isaac’s blessing of Jacob was irrevocable.

While we don’t have a ceremony of blessing to hand over a birthright we all thirst for the very thing both Esau and Isaac really wanted—parental acceptance. Children of all ages long to have their worth reinforced by their mother and father. The gift of affirmation and encouragement can be a life-giving, life-changing experience. Have you received the blessing? That question may elicit a wave of emotion. Will you consider this?:

  1. We have no control over whether or not our parents bless us in the way we need to be blessed. If you received the blessing, be thankful. Pass it on. If you did not, let it go, forgive them. Accept that your parents may not have received the blessing either.
  2. God has blessed us. Each and every one of us. He has more than enough blessing (affirmation) to go around! He is pursuing you, reinforcing your worth to Him, affirming and encouraging you as His special creation. Move a little closer to Him. Kneel down before Him. Receive the blessing, your blessing, the one He has just for you. Allow His ceremony of blessing to be a daily life-giving, life-changing experience for you. Don’t you see it in the words that you read? The Bible is His love letter to you. Today, ask God to show you in His Word His blessing for you. When He speaks a blessing to your heart as you read through His Word, write it down. Frame it, even.
  3. If you are a parent, know that it is never, ever too late to bless your child. Ever. Really. Imagine the blessing that you would love to hear right now from your parent(s). Give that to each of your children, in private. If you’re interested in learning more about The Blessing I’d like to recommend a book by that title by John Trent and Gary Smalley. If you click here, The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance, it will take you to the link where you can order the book.

Day 7

Genesis 18-19—These chapters are hard to read; they make me sick and sad. Chapter 19 has material fit for an R-rated movie! WOW! I am reminded of two things as I read it. First, there is nothing new under the sun. The ugly, sinful side of humanity, what we see on the news and in the movies, has been happening for centuries. Thankfully, “while we were ALL yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Second, one of the themes of this chapter is what I’ll call, “Hey God, I’ve got a better idea!” God’s plan is always the best plan. Spare yourself and your loved ones the pain of disobedience and live life God’s way.

Matthew 6:1-18— I’d lived in this city for 11 years before I took the short drive up 10th street to Jacksonville Mountain and the area created as an overlook of the city. I was stunned. Jacksonville is a quaint little University town at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain range; but, my view from that “mountain” the first time left me speechless. I could see the JSU campus, whole neighborhoods, hay fields, and miles of mountain ranges on the horizon from where I was standing. In Matthew 6: 9 Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father in Heaven”—this phrase reminds me that when I talk to God (pray) I am talking to the One who has a very different perspective on my life. He sees it all, from beginning to end. There are so many concerns and requests I have when I go to Him in prayer. What a great reminder that Our Father is in heaven and our prayers fall on the ears of a God who sees and cares and acts on our behalf from His loving perspective on our life.

Day 6

Genesis 15-17—In Genesis 15:8, after God makes His covenant with Abraham, Abraham asks God a question. “How can I be sure?” “How can I know?” How many times have you and I asked that same question about an issue in our own life? As believers we want to know that we are being obedient to God and following His will and plan for our life. We can be sure of our steps and decisions if we do what the Bible says. In order to do what the Bible says, we must know what the Bible says. In order to know what the Bible says, we must read the Bible. God’s Word is His loving instruction and guidebook on how to live this life. While many of the specific situations we need answers to are not mentioned in the Bible there are many principles and promises that are given to guide us. God’s revelation through His Word and the instruction of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds are the 2 most important components to confidently walking in obedience.

Matthew 5:21-48—These verses explain the kind of “better” righteousness that Jesus is referring to in verse 20. The righteousness of the Pharisees was focused on keeping the rules (of the Old Testament) for the sake of the rules. Jesus was illustrating that the Law (OT) was much more than a set of rules to follow; it was a matter of the heart (God’s and ours). We must look beyond the letter of the law and see God’s desire to be in relationship with us. Obedience is the result of love for God and faith in His promises.

Day 5

Genesis 12-14

Matthew 5:1-20

Day 4

Genesis 9-11—In 9:20-23, Noah got drunk. Drunkeness is addressed other places in Scripture but not here. The focus here is the son’s lack of respect for his father and the curse on his life as a result. While I don’t understand everything about this passage, I was reminded of the command to honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Regardless of our age, our parent’s age, or their behavior we should never treat them or speak of them in a mocking way. Every person is created in the image of God and we are to treat them with respect.

Matthew 4—As Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he used (misused) Scripture. As we read and study the whole counsel of God’s Word we are better equipped to recognize errors such as verses are used out of context or twisted to mean something other than what God intended. We also are equipped with truth and wisdom as we face times of testing and temptation.

Day 3

Genesis 6-8—Noah’s to-do list is staggering. Build a boat the length of 1 ½ football fields and as high as a four-story building. Gather at least 2 of every kind of animal and enough food to feed them and your family for a year and half. As we read Genesis 6-8, we see evidence of the persistent 100 year-long obedience of a man focused on one thing—God’s to-do list for him. I think the mistake I often make is attempting, worrying about, planning for, trying to fix, and trying to figure out many, many things that are not on the list God has given me today or in this season of my life. I waste a lot of precious time, energy, and resources when I choose to focus on things that are beyond my control. Today I choose to concentrate on what God has given me to do and leave the rest to him.

Matthew 3—I couldn’t help but think of the Duck Dynasty men as I read the description of John the Baptist. He was certainly a character; “rough as a cob” as Eric would say. But people from all over Judea and the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear him. When they encountered John they were sure to notice his clothes and his diet; he also made sure he pointed them to Jesus.

What attracts people to you? Your sense of humor? Your knowledge of sports? Your sense of style? Your listening ear? Your willingness to help? Your good looks? Your quirkiness? Whatever it is that’s your hook! Use that thing that makes you YOU, and point people to Jesus.

Day 2

Genesis 3-5—I am reminded today of the care we must take in how we interpret and respond to the enemy’s ways. In 3:1 we see his cunning approach to deceive. There is rarely, if ever, a straight denial or direct temptation we must resist. Rather, he knows just the right amount of skepticism to offer. To Eve he said, “Did God really say you must not eat of the fruit from any of the trees of the garden?” To us he says “Does God really expect you to put up with that?” or “Does God really think you don’t deserve some happiness?” You can hear the implication: God is holding out on you. He’s spoiling the fun. He’s messing with you. Not only does he exaggerate God’s intent, he sneakily implies that we have the ability and the right to stand in judgment of God. The first sin did not occur when Eve took a bite of the fruit but rather with her expression against the goodness of God. “We must not even touch it,” she tells the serpent. Perhaps she had already considered the one-tree restriction and the nudge by the serpent was the trigger. How the enemy must have gloated as her pride demanded she offer her own exaggeration of the command; and how her Creator must have grieved.

As children of the Most High God we cannot afford to flirt with the possibility that God is limiting our pleasure in this life. We must take captive every thought (and temptation) to question God’s goodness toward us.

God knows exactly what he is doing. He knows what is best and you and I can trust him in all things.

Matthew 2—In verse 13 the Lord instructed Joseph in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. In verse 14 we read: “That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary.” The trip was 400 miles as the crow flies, on foot, with a two-year old little boy. But Joseph’s obedience was immediate. We miss the blessing of obedience when we hesitate to do what God asks of us. It may not always make sense to us or to others. It may be difficult or inconvenient or costly.

God knows exactly what he is doing. He knows what is best and you and I can trust him in all things. Sound familiar?

From Genesis to Revelation, the names and stories change but God is the same Trustworthy, Faithful, and Loving God.

Day 1

Genesis 1 & 2—Genesis means “beginnings” and obviously, it is a book of beginnings. From the beginning of creation to the beginning of a covenant people through Abraham we see one very important theme—God. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God…”

We’ve chosen to start this year with a commitment to read God’s Word. We’re “beginning” right! What if we invited God into all our beginnings this year? The beginning of every decision, every conversation, every activity. How might our lives be different?

Matthew 1—Matthew’s purpose of the genealogy in this chapter is to prove that Jesus is a descendant of both King David and Abraham, just as the Old Testament had predicted. Especially interesting is the names of the four women included: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. (We’ll learn more about these women later) Had we been in charge of planning Jesus’ family tree we probably wouldn’t have included them, but God did. It was part of his plan all along. He went to great lengths to prove his love for us–every single one of us. Jews. Gentiles. Women. Men. Sinners. In need of a savior. Jesus, he will save his people, his family, me and you, from their sins. God is with us!

 

 

Get Your Hopes Up

I want to share a word of encouragement with you today.

I’m a recovering, first-born, type-A, overachieving, perfectionistic, people-pleaser in desperate need of Jesus.

I tend to see the glass “half-full”—I am always-looking-on-the-bright-side.

Get Your Hopes up

As a child I was full of hope and optimism and adventure. I thought anything was possible and I lived like it. But one who loved me very much, in an effort to guard my heart, often said, “I hate to see you get your hopes up because you might be disappointed.” I understand now it was born out of her unspoken disappointments in life and her need to protect my tender heart but I couldn’t conceive of ever being disappointed. So I continued to live full of hope and optimism.

Then life happened and the stuff that comes with life—there were a lot of little things and a few really, really big ones. I soon found myself disillusioned and disappointed. I started playing it safe and put my spirit of adventure, along with my heart, in a safe box on the shelf. I lived that way for a while. hopeless

I wasn’t hopeless. I just lived with less hope.

But the Lover of My Soul, Jesus, spoke truth into my heart in the way that only He can. He showed me that my hope had been misplaced. Misappropriated. Jesus helped me see that:
• Hope in a man or a woman might lead to disappointment.
• Hope in a career or job might lead to disappointment.
• Hope in a church or a ministry might lead to disappointment.
• Hope in some achievement or success might lead to disappointment.
• Hope that life will turn out exactly as you hoped or planned might lead to disappointment.

People and organizations and plans fail and often leave us disillusioned and disappointed.

There’s someone reading this today who’s disappointed. You feel really hopeless or at the very least you’re living with less hope because it feels safer. It’s hard to see the bright side or the glass half full.

I’m here today to remind you:

Jesus is our hope, our only real hope in this life. He is the bright side of every circumstance. He is the living water that satisfies and fills us whether our glass is half-full or half-empty.

cohen 4
And can I just tell you…He never, ever disappoints.

So get your hopes up! Please get you your hopes up.

maddie hopes

The world needs the hope that we have in Christ.

Put your hope in Jesus—all of it or whatever you have left after life happens.
You’ll never be disappointed in Him.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. Psalm 71: 14-15

Will you dare to hope again?

What are your hopes for the coming year?

I’m not talking about wishful thinking. Our hope is rooted in the salvation of Christ and the fact that he is the fulfillment of all Old Testament promises. The biblical definition of hope is confident expectation—a firm assurance. The righteous that trust in God will be helped according to Psalm 28:7. They will not be confused, put to shame, or disappointed. They have this trustful hope in God, a general confidence in God’s protection and help, and are free from fear and anxiety

So let me ask you again.

What are your hopes for the coming year?

Would you be willing to write it down? Don’t edit. Don’t second guess yourself. Only you will see your list and God already knows what your hopes are. Keep adding to your list as you think of the hopes you have, especially ones you may have had for a long time. After you make this list I want you to give it to God. Find a place where you can be alone and talk to God out loud just like you would to a good friend. Tell Him what your hopes are. Of course, he already knows but like any good friend he loves hearing it from you. Be boldly honest about your hopes, the people and circumstances they involve. Then say, “Father God, I’m giving these hopes to you. You are my only hope. I trust you with my life. I trust you with these hopes. I ask you to renew my thoughts and feelings so that I hope for the right things in the right way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

As you think about your hopes for 2015 you may need to repeat this prayer again and again. When fear and doubt creep in, remind yourself, “My hope is in the Lord.”

One of the best ways to renew your mind is by reading God’s Word. I’d love for you to join me in a commitment to read through the Bible in a year. You can jump in anytime. For more information click here. As you read God’s Word and submit yourself in obedience to His ways, your life will be transformed.

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Change Your Life

Want to change your life in 2015?

Here’s one way: read through the Bible.

read through the bible

Nothing has had a greater impact on my life than reading God’s Word every day and I’d love to help you do it. By reading through the Bible, rather than just a verse here and there, you’ll see God’s story in a way you’ve never seen it before. I have “wow moments” every time I read it. Let’s do this together! No pressure. No writing assignments. Just life-changing Truth. If you’re willing to give it a try email me at stacya066@gmail.com and I’ll give you the details.

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I’ll take Ornithology for $1000

Ornithology is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds. If you’re ever on Jeopardy and you pick Ornithology this blog post won’t help much. But if you’re a parent or a teacher or you know some children, keep reading.

Research has also shown that most birds learn the song of their species at a very young age.

Parrot on a bench

 (Parakeets aren’t considered songbirds but isn’t he pretty!)

Those of us who are parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, know that children, too, learn the “song” (language) of their species at a very young age. We see how quickly they mimic our facial expressions and sounds. Nothing thrills us more than to hear “Momma” or “Daddy” for the first time.

Maddie with parrots

We go to great lengths to teach our children words and phrases and songs. We repeat them over and over and wait for anything that sounds like a response.

Caleb with bird

I don’t have little ones anymore and we’re well beyond the years when they’re learning how to talk. My job is done I think to myself. I check the box on my imaginary parenting to-do list and move on to the next big thing.

Songbirds

But in a study published in the Aug. 7, 2003, issue of Nature, the researchers show how songs that birds have learned to recognize, trigger responses in the bird’s brain. As birds learn to recognize certain songs, the cells in the brain become sensitive to particular sound patterns that occur in the learned songs.

The reminder that my children parrot more than the sounds of vowels and consonants is sobering as a parent. When they were two and four it was cute to hear them mimic certain words. Now I hear their words drip with meaning and belief, learned by listening to my life song.

The truth hits like a snowball to the back of the head. The season of teaching them how them to speak words has passed yet I am still blessed with the opportunity to teach them the heart language of a Christ follower. I must write my life-songs with scripture and testimony. These songs will trigger responses; sounds patterns to which their heart and mind become sensitive—a tune of faith with a chorus of praise.

This year we stand knee deep in change and dreams.

The days are full of disappointment and hope. They are listening. Waiting for my song.

3 at the zoo

The sun goes down and night comes and like the bird outside my window who sings even at night, I must sing. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know that,  “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,’ Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.…”Psalm 139:11-13

With all this talk of singing I fear I may have mislead you. No one has ever accused me of being a songbird because I don’t sing in public. But just so you know I sound just like Adele or Kari Job or Natalie Grant. Not. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I sing anyway. I sing out in church and in the car and when I run. I don’t worry too much about how I sound. I just sing.

But how my heart sings….oh that matters to me a great deal. I want my little birds who are still in the nest and still learning and refining the songs of life to hear sweet music from my heart. I want them to hear joy in the sorrow, forgiveness in the pain, hope in the hard times. And I want them to hear it over and over and over again. I want to repeat the song of praise until they know it by heart. Until its the only tune they know.

My heart is tuned to sing his praise. Every stanza and chorus has been written by the One who made me. His rhythm marks my steps. His Word is my anthem. And so I sing.

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Psalm 46:1-2

 

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