Saturday, December 31, 2011

day 38 - resolutions

Yes, I have a few.

The normal ones...lose weight, be more organized, don't take on more than is possible, read more, love my family, yada, yada...

But today, on this first day of the year, I am challenging YOU with one:

Resolve this day that you will read the Bible -- first thing -- every single day of this year.

It can be as little as you want or as much as you want.

It can be from any book of the Bible.

But if you truly want your life to change, connect with the Logos--the Word--the Voice--first. Every single morning. Every single day this year.

And, periodically, journal your thoughts or what you feel God has spoken to you.  That can be every day or once a week or whatever. Just regularly.

Then, on December 31, 2012, take a look back at the year and see how your life has changed.

I PROMISE you it will.

Are you up for it?

© 2009-2011 by Melani Brady Shock

Friday, December 30, 2011

day 37 - the perfections of God

Allow me to break away from originality and share some of A. W. Tozer's thoughts on this next to last day of 2011. . .

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalm 29:2


I hope that if I am remembered at all, it will be for this reason: I have spent my efforts and my energies trying to turn the direction of the people away from the external elements of religion to those that are internal and spiritual.


I have tried to take away some of the clouds in the hope that men and women would be able to view God in His glory. I would like to see this sense of glory recaptured throughout the church--too many Christians do not expect to experience any of the glory until they see Him face-to-face!


Within our Christian fellowship and worship, we must recapture the Bible concepts of the perfection of our God Most High! We have lost the sense and the wonder of His awe-fullness, His perfection, His beauty.


Oh, I feel that we should preach it, sing it, write about it, talk about it and tell it until we have recaptured the concept of the Majesty of God!


Only that can be beautiful ultimately which is holy--and we who belong to Jesus Christ should know the true delight of worshiping God in the beauty of His holiness!


Dear Lord, on the last day of this year, I pray for Your Church in the coming New Year, that it will be biblically faithful, Christ-centered and proactive in its fight against the forces of evil. May the name of the Lord Jesus Christ be praised in every nation!

© 2009-2011 by Melani Brady Shock

Friday, December 16, 2011

day 23 - home for Christmas

Well, she made it.

Hannah's Nana made it home in time for Christmas.

Technically, she's her grandmother, but she raised Hannah and her sister and is Hannah's mom.  Hannah's sister passed away in 2005 and her grandfather passed away in 2009.  She found out about the cancer on November 16 -- one month ago today -- and by then it was too late--it was everywhere.

Hannah was devastated because Nana was all she had left down here.  And that can be pretty daunting when you're only 23 and are still working hard to make it through college.

But several years ago, Hannah was introduced to the power of God and His love and so now, she knew that the most important thing in this whole situation wasn't the fact that she would be left alone, but the fact that her Nana didn't know Jesus.  And she wasn't even sure she would even talk about it.

We joined together and began praying.  I entered the urgent request in my journal on November 22 where I asked God to heal her, but most of all to save her. Our family prayed together and talked about it quite a bit.

I got word from Hannah on December 7 that her pastors were coming to talk to her Nana the next day about salvation and for us to pray that she would be open to them.  We gathered with the Oil at the Ottoman as a family and asked God to soften her heart and save her. On December 8, her Nana agreed to be baptized the next day. My journal entry the morning of December 9 was for God to fill her with the Holy Ghost as she came out of the water.

She wasn't able to make it up the stairs at the church to the baptistry, so they baptized her in the bathtub.  She came up out of the water speaking in tongues! At 8:30 pm the night of December 9, Hannah's tweet was that her Nana had been baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost!  (That was also the anniversary of the day that Hannah received the Holy Ghost!) We all rejoiced.

They got her back home and in bed and physically, it was down hill from there.  But spiritually, it was a mountaintop! She told Hannah that there was something empty in her all of her life and that it had finally been filled.  She told her she had never been so happy.

Last night around midnight, she breathed her last down here.  But because of Christmas, she breathed her first heavenly air! Because HE was born...and lived...and died...she was re-born into eternal life!

Hannah grieves today because she is alone. But her heart sings because her Nana lives!

The gift of myrrh was unwrapped and displayed and the greatest gift of all came to Hannah's house.

What a wonderful Christmas gift.  We love you, Hannah!

© 2009-2011 by Melani Brady Shock

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

day 21 - you gotta sing!

What can I say?

Thank you, Marie (a co-worker of an acquaintance) for providing us a generous dose of Joy to the World!



© 2009-2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

day 20 - don't miss it

It was a cold morning the twelfth of January 2007 when a man placed a violin case on the icy floor of a Washington DC Metro train station, opened it and removed the violin inside and began to play.

He played six Bach pieces for about forty five minutes and during that time since it was rush hour it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later the violinist received his first dollar tip.

A woman threw the money in the till and, without stopping, continued to walk.

A few minutes later someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again because clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid it the most attention was a three year old boy. His mother tugged him along in such a hurry, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist and finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time.

This action was repeated by several other children and all the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the forty five minutes the musician played, only six people stopped and stayed for awhile. About twenty gave him money but continued to walk.  He collected $32.

When he finished playing and silence took over nobody noticed it, nobody applauded.  There was no recognition.  No one knew that the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the entire world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100 each.


This is a true story.  Joshua Bell played incognito in the metro station and it was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception and priorities of people.

They wondered if humanity intricately perceives people’s beauty, or if it is something dictated to them by peers and media.

They wondered if calendars and clocks were more important to thousands of people then what has been defined as some of the best music in the world.

They wondered if people are so caught up in their own preoccupations, their problems, and their pursuits that they don’t even know when they step into the sphere of the uncommon.  

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post initiated the experiment and the article describing the event won a Pulitzer prize.  But even more impacting then the Pulitzer prize is the question that Weingarten asked his readers,

“If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

© 2009-2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

day 19 - be not weary

I have borne two children. Although they are now 21 and 15, the passing of the years has not diminished the memory of those experiences.

I was not the expectant mom with the "glow." At least, not the glow you expect. My glow had a greenish tint to it for about nine months per child. . .

I remember the perpetual sickness. I remember the fainting spells. I remember the hypoglycemia issues, the blood pressure issues, the heart monitors.

But more than any of that, I remember the fatigue. That mind-numbing, almost paralyzing bone-tired feeling. Counting the days until the baby would be delivered. And then, coming to grips with the fact that the baby HAD been delivered and there wasn't a due date on when I would ever get a full night's rest again!

If I live to be 100, I don't think I will ever forget the weariness of those times.

I cannot even fathom adding a journey of 100 miles on the back of a donkey to that. Only to find there was no shelter, no lodging, no relief for the pain, no respite for the weariness.

The natural progression of life dictates that couples go through those seasons while their bodies are young enough to withstand the onslaught of the physical assault and still be able to recover. But, I have not found that to hold true in the spiritual realm.

The seasons of life seem to come with amazing regularity, regardless of our age. And, the older we get, the harder these Birth Seasons seem to get.

Maybe you can relate to me. Maybe you are in a Birth Season as well. Maybe you are experiencing the discomfort of everything around you and inside you shifting and changing. Maybe you are also feeling the nauseating sensation of life coming at you fast and furious and in a totally unfamiliar way. Maybe you are as unsure as I am of what new challenges tomorrow will bring--or maybe even this afternoon.

And maybe you are just mind-numbingly, tired-to-the-bone, weary of it all. Past the point of functioning or trying or caring.

May I speak to your spirit this morning?

Please don't stop.

Don't give up. Don't quit now. Don't lose your burden, your vision, your want-to.

Formation is never easy, birth is never pain-free.

You are carrying somebody's salvation.

It matters.

And let us not be weary in well doing: 
for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
~Galatians 6:9

© 2009-2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

day 14 - personal celebration

My boy is 15 today.

The birth was traumatic. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck--twice--and tied in a double knot. We knew there was an issue when the doctor started exclaiming, "Whoa--WHOA!!!!" and the nurse attending the birth (a member of our church) had tears flowing down her cheeks. We didn't realize how much of an issue until much later when they told us that only one other baby had ever survived that in the long history of that hospital.

Then, when he was four years old, the diagnosis of IgA Immune Deficiency brought home the fact once again that God had gifted us with a miracle. The diagnosis changed the course of our home as we made the adjustments necessary to provide him with a safe environment.

He's doing great. He's healthy, he's fun, he's smart, he's talented. He thinks, he processes, he loves God, he's responsible.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't thank God for him and for delivering him to our home. My love for him is indescribable and I would fall in front of a moving train if I thought it would spare him from illness, or heartache, or pain, or suffering.

And because his birthday is so close to Christmas, there is not a birthday that goes by that I don't think of Mary. What she must have suffered in her mother-heart as she looked at her 15-year-old boy.

The pondering that the Word says she did...how much of that was agonized pondering?

The sword must have begun piercing her own soul long before it pierced his side. The helpless agony she must have endured in her knowing--her awareness--her intense love.

I am a mama bear when it comes to my boy. Don't mess with him--don't fool with him! or I'll have to deal with you. I will move heaven and earth to help him when he's sick. I'll sacrifice whatever it takes to make sure he has what he needs.

How helpless Mary must have felt knowing that her boy's suffering was out of her control. It was beyond her limits of nurturing. It was beyond her ability, her realm of caring.

Sometimes it is agonizing to be chosen.

Sometimes it is a heavy weight to say "Be it unto me according to thy Word."

Sometimes it is unbelievably hard to trust, to walk the road alone, to ponder silently.

So, as I celebrate my miracle boy's birthday today, I am also giving thanks for Mary's suffering. Her sacrificial love. Her very human heart parenting divinity. Her willingness to give her first-born in order that eternal destiny may be fulfilled.

I can't even imagine what it must have been like.

© 2009-2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

day 13 - silence

The day that got away.

The day when inspiration was still and quiet.

That day was today.

Never force words when words want to hide.

Embracing the silence...

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

© 2009-2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

day 12 - the gift of myrrh

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh...the three gifts of Christmas.

No surprise to find gold as the first gift. A gift that transcends time and culture, it represents the fact that what is needed will be supplied.

Frankincense was also brought. It contains medicinal properties for healing as well as for treating depression. Also, transcending time and culture, it brings hope to the hurting.

But myrrh? Really? An embalming ointment? A gift representing death? I wonder what Jeff and Bridget Powell would think if I brought them a jar of myrrh to the hospital today as they are there celebrating the birth of their baby boy. A polite smile perhaps, with a question mark and maybe a pinch of indignant offense...

We've all heard the sermons and the wonderful discourses explaining how the gift of myrrh was given to represent the death on the cross that was to come for the babe in the manger. All of it true and so beautiful...the beautiful pageantry surrounding the dramatization of the giving of those gifts on screen and in plays always moves me.

But this morning, I'm not watching a movie about the three wise men, nor am I watching a play.

I'm in my prayer chair wearing a cloak of sadness and heaviness.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for the Melder family, whose mom crossed Jordan yesterday at home while their dad, who is in the hospital, is expected to cross at any time.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Mikie Boudreaux.  He's only 30 years old and has already lived a week past what the doctors said he would. His cancer has spread and now obstructs the flow of food. Although weak and emaciated, yesterday was his first time to miss church--he was too weak to come.  If you would like to see him and hear him, here is an telephone conversation he had with Toby Mac just a few days ago.  Mikie is one more awesome individual...



I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Buddy Lucas--Gale's husband--she's my first cousin, and the closest thing to a sister that I have. He's young -- early 60s -- and he just got the news last week that he has a malignant mass in his lung.  The fight has begun.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Delisa Cox, my friend. Only 50, she has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. My heart breaks.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Jeff Mallory. Pastor of a church on Maui, he is fighting cancer in the Washington, DC area while his children are here. Only 45 years old...too young to fight such a cruel disease.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Steve Willoughby. Valiant missionary, stalwart servant...he said goodby to Barb, his wife, two years ago as cancer took her. Now he fights as brain cancer is taking his vitality, his strength, his life.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Robert Trapani, our friend. A wise, gentle soul who fights for his life today.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Gary Slaydon. People like Gary are God's gift to churches and pastors.  Only in his 50's, he is fighting hard against his recent diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Mae Tate. Years of sewing up Messiah costumes, head pieces and clothing for Tupelo Children's Mansion. Fighting cancer.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Hannah's Nana today. Her body is filled with cancer and the doctors say treatment would be ineffective. She's all that Hannah has left and she is praying for her salvation even more than her healing. Will you join me in helping me pray for Hannah's Nana?

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Geneva Carmouche. Gracious hostess at the POA, beautiful person inside and out. Early 60s. Way too young to begin a cancer fight.

I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh.

I'm praying for Roxie Ebare. Lifelong member of POA who has been a precious, faithful saint. She's in the cancer fight, also.

The gift of myrrh.

It transcends time and cultures, also. The death it represents comes unwanted into every home, every life, every circle.

But, because of the gift of myrrh, I have hope!

In Jesus' day, myrrh was used as an embalming substance.  It preserves and protects, it keeps and it sustains.  Death cannot destroy us, because we received the gift of myrrh when Christmas came!

When myrrh is burned, it puts forth a sweet savor. It was burned at funerals by those who could afford it because it masks the smell of death. It covered the smell of death with sweetness, with a beautiful fragrance full of love and hope.  Our lives are sweeter because we received the gift of myrrh when Christmas came!

So, I'm wrapping the gift of myrrh for so many today.

And thanking God that He saw beyond where we are into our tomorrow...and provided myrrh for our Christmas gift.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

day 11 - "how" has two sides

"But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zechariah: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John."
Luke 1:13

"And Zechariah said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years."
Luke 1:18

"And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season."
Luke 1:20

"And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.  And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS."
Luke 1:30-31

"And said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"
Luke 1:34

"And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.  And the angel departed from her."
Luke 1:38

Two people--a man and a woman.

Two separate visits foretelling miraculous births.

One angel sent for two announcements.

Two questions regarding "how."

Two results: one a punishment, the other a Presence.

What was the difference?

The spirit of the question determined the outcome.

Are you questioning the ability of God or merely the method by which He wants to work?

The Lord doesn't mind questions. But he does care about the spirit from which the questions originate.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

day 10 - baking day!

What would Christmas be without baked goodies?

The dessert table is set up for the month by the tree, the fire is lit in the fireplace, and it's looking like a cold, rainy day is in the works (Louisiana's snow season!)  So, it's time to turn the oven to 350 degrees and drag out the traditional pans...

We will begin today by sharing one of our favorite recipes of the Season.  If you have some special favorites, it would be so kind of you to share them with us in the comment section below. We will also be sharing more recipes as the Season progresses.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/3 cups molasses
2 eggs
5 1/2 cups flour
5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
cookie cutters (gingerbread men, Christmas trees, etc.)

1.  Using an electric mixer, cream together brown sugar, shortening, and molasses.

2.  Beat in eggs one at a time.

3.  Slowly mix in remaining ingredients.

4.  Gather dough into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

5.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.

6.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut into shapes with cookie cutters.  Place one inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 7 - 8 minutes.

7.  In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar and water.  Add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until icing is of a consistency that spreads easily.

8.  Decorate cookies with icing and candy.

(taken from The Christmas Vault)

Friday, December 2, 2011

day 9 - frenetic friday

Where I live, we celebrate Christmas BIG. Like, REALLY big!

All the different departments of the church start jostling early for a spot on the December calendar in which to have a Christmas party for their staff. I come from quite a large extended family, and several different branches of that family always try to find a way to connect for a night during the Christmas season. Then there are the different individual events to which we are invited and where we can connect to individuals that we don't get to see much during the year.

The days are filled with December deadlines for big January conferences and action steps for a big New Year's kick-off.  The nights are filled with people and parties.

Fridays are usually the busiest with last-minute prep for Sunday, wrap-up of the week's (un)finished work, tired plodding through unfinished duties that must be done, and anticipation of the evening's "party of the week."

Do we dare combat that this year?

Do we dare turn aside for one evening of reflection? Unplugged from busyness and connection? A few hours to be and not do?



Yes! We dare!

Challenge: Escape for a few minutes and allow Him to schedule your Friday. Stuff the frantic, busy, madness into a big Santa bag and throw it down the chimney. Lay your calendar on your altar and ask Him to show you where to fill in the blanks.

Frenetic Friday just might become a pocket of peace in your week...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

day 8 - pondering

We're off! We began with Thanksgiving and praise. The laughter and rest have faded, the food is gone, the music is playing and the greens have been hung. Purpose has been established and we are settled solidly into the Season. Now we are wondering how to fit it all in--the parties, the endless Dirty Santa games, the shopping, the baking, the cleaning, the juggling...

STOP IT!

That's where it all breaks down.

That's where we lose our focus.

That's how a Holy Day becomes a Holiday.

Do you really want this time to be different?  Do you really want to reflect the joy of His coming this Season?

Consider what Mary did.

She received news of the impending birth, she made the journey to Bethlehem, she gave birth, then the busyness started. The care of the new baby, adjusting to a new home and life away from her family, no help from the female clan who had sheltered her, the shepherds and all the visitors coming...I would imagine she could have easily been overwhelmed.

But Luke says that she took in all of the newness and "pondered." She reflected. She brought it all into her heart and sorted through it in stillness and quiet. Oh, she may have been washing or cooking or changing the swaddling clothes, but she was still and quiet in her spirit. She was focused.

That's the secret. Pondering. Asking the hard questions. Why do we do this? What does He want from me? How can I celebrate Him fully for His birthday? Who can I introduce to Him? Does He really have first place in my day, my mind, my actions, my life?

Pondering.

Stillness of spirit.

"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."
~Luke 2:19

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

day 7 - a partridge? really?

One of my favorite Christmas carols of all time: "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

I've sung it all kinds of ways--at all kinds of parties--for all kinds of ice-breakers--on hay-rides and at front doors and in the car riding down the highway to pass the time.

It never has made sense to me. I was always confused by the end of the first line and it continued from there: "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree."


'Scuse me?  THAT would be a dud gift in the game of Dirty Santa, for sure!

A few years ago, however, I came across some information that explained the song. Some people say there is no evidence to support this information, but the consensus is that it is accurate.

In England in the Middle Ages, there was much persecution of Christians going on during the so-called "religious wars." So, in order to teach their children basic principals of their faith, this Christmas song was written which had a very different meaning from the actual words. Basically, it was written "in code."

According to history, there was a meaning behind each of the gifts.  Read on...

Day 1: A partridge in a pear tree symbolized the gift of Jesus Christ to the world (Luke 13:34)

Day 2: Two turtle doves represented the Old and New Testaments

Day 3: Three French hens represented faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Day 4: Four calling birds symbolized the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Day 5: Five gold rings were the five books of the Penteteuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Day 6: Six geese a-laying represented the six days of creation in Genesis 1

Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming symbolized the seven gifts of the Spirit:

Day 8: Eight maids-a-milking represented the eight Beatitudes in Matthew 5

Day 9: Nine ladies dancing symbolized the nine parts of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5

Day 10: Ten lords-a-leaping recalled the ten commandments in Exodus 20

Day 11: Eleven pipers piping symbolized the eleven faithful disciples in Luke 6

Day 12: Twelve drummers drumming helped them remember the twelve points of the Apostle's Creed of the Church.

It sort of makes me pause and think of the persecution involved in the creation of the song that I have ridiculed more than any other at Christmas.

And I sing it with just a little bit more appreciation for the partridge...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

day 6 - sing!



"And the angel of the Lord said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people!"
~Luke 2:10

Monday, November 28, 2011

day 5 - the hanging of the greens

"I'm just not going to fool with decorating this year."

"We only decorate for the kids. Now that they are gone, I'm not going to do it."

"The grandkids won't be in this year, so we aren't going to decorate. It's just too much trouble."

"It's just me left at home now. Why fool with all of that?"

You have heard it said and so have I.  You may have even agreed with the one who said it.  (For the record, I may have kept silent, but I NEVER agreed.) You may have even said it yourself. You may even be one who doesn't decorate.

We have probably all heard those who love to talk about how Christmas is really a pagan holiday and it really isn't Jesus' actual birthday anyway, and we are really worshipping trees, and Christmas is just too commercialized now anyway and a true Christian doesn't need decorations--they just need to celebrate the love of God all year round, and on and on it goes.

I find it easy to dismiss all of the above nit-pickiness since I love the atmosphere of the Season.  Anything that brings more of a God-awareness to our homes and society is a good thing.  I know it probably isn't Jesus' actual birthday, but is that really the point?  I know I'm not worshipping the tree, and I know I don't need decorations to celebrate the love of God, so whatever floats your boat, right?

I even felt this way regarding any kind of Christmas decorating.  For years, I was of the opinion that it was everybody's individual choice. Whatever they wanted to do--to each his own. I certainly didn't agree, because I simply love Christmas decorations and twinkling lights, but that was my personal preference and I certainly wasn't going to foist it on anybody

However, in the past few years, I have been re-considering.

Because of the fact that festivals were instituted by God himself (see the book of Leviticus and research Old Testament feasts) it is definitely Biblical that we celebrate an event of such importance.  Because of the fact that the order and agenda of the festivals were instituted by God himself (again, see the book of Leviticus and research Old Testament feasts) I also feel it is Biblical that we eat, laugh, take off work, and enjoy a few hours/days of special love and bonding in His Name.  And, because of the fact that God was even present in the decorating details (see scripture listed at the bottom of this post) I feel that it is probably Biblical that we decorate.

In some fashion. Probably with greens of some sort. Even if you live alone or the grandkids aren't coming home this year. Even if it seems to be a little extra trouble. Even if you aren't very good at it and it turns out to be a little bit tacky.

Not to honor a pagan practice. Not to draw attention to a selfish pursuit. Not to commercialize a sacred, holy event.

But to let Him know that we are celebrating the fact He came. It's His birthday, and we love Him.

I'm not suggesting that anybody make a doctrine out of this post.

I'm just offering my take on an aspect of Christmas that is normally overlooked...

"And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days."
~Leviticus 23:40

Sunday, November 27, 2011

day 4 - come. let us go...

The Holiday season is just beginning. The Season has just started. The anticipation of the coming event has just begun.

So come, let us go and worship.

Still basking in the glow of thankfulness, senses still heightened to the blessings of the year, our focus has now begun to shift a bit to the "to-do" list. We wake in the night to add to it. We work hard to shut off the thoughts of it during pre-dawn conversations with Him. We struggle to retain the focus of the reason for the season.

Isn't that the biggest struggle of the entire event? The fight to resist the expectations, the commercialism, the busyness?

This 4th day is our center. Our balance beam. Our stabilizing bar of the up and the down.

Come, let us go and worship.

We will enter with thanksgiving and praise. We will remember the ultimate gift. And we will allow Him to speak softly to us as He directs us to the hurting hearts in our world, rendered vulnerable by the Season.

Come, let us go and worship.

Let us bring our offering to him as a collective body--our chosen ecclesia--and offer him our unified commitment to keep Him at the forefront of the coming weeks. Power down the smartphone, close the computer, take out the headphones. Lay aside the pad and pen, forget about the budget, re-visit forgiveness. Let us remember Mary's loneliness, focus on Josephs's unselfishness, and pray to obtain the blind trust of the wise men.

Come, let us go and worship.

"We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool."
~Psalm 132:7

Saturday, November 26, 2011

day 3 - settling in

It's inevitable. Tiny snippets of routine are creeping quietly back into the day. Putting the coffeepot back in its spot by the sink. Picking up clothes thrown over the backs of chairs. Sweeping by the back door.

Sunday comes again in a few hours which means Full Court Press in a parson's house.

But the "something" is still in the atmosphere. The awareness of the fact The Season is here. It's routine, but not. It's familiar, but not. It's normal, but not.

The fire is just a little cozier on this rainy Saturday. Enough slowness remains for deeper reflection and communion in the early morning God-talk. Intentional naming of Blessing #3 of the Year makes the me-focus just a little bit blurrier than normal. Family cords feel tighter, friendships feel stronger, and "it's gonna be alright after all" is persistently creeping in through the cracks.

Personal epiphany: this is His party--His festival--and He is happier than any of us that it is happening! He says, "Rest. Think. Dream. Thank. Eat. Laugh. Enjoy. And let Me take part with you..."

I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and has pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.
~ 1 Chronicles 29:17

Friday, November 25, 2011

day 2 - airports, football, and dirty dishes


Well, of COURSE I'm an LSU fan! I'm a TIGER! What in the world did you expect???

And I KNOW this is about 40 days of celebration of the Christmas season.  

Do you think I'm really thinking it's about FOOTBALL?  

The Arkansas Razorback Shocks and the LSU Tiger Shocks (and all others!) face off -- one in their red, the other in their purple and gold. Talking smack, one-upping, superiority dripping. Laughter, fun, friendship. Condolences to the Hog fans after a DEMORALIZING loss (41-17!) Oh well, there's always next year.

Chips and dip, lasagna, and Coke. Trying to cut the richness of yesterday's taste with new seasonings. Smiling, chuckling, laughing uproariously. A little bit in awe of the beauty of the time together. Singing, painfully off-key, at the top of the lungs. For an hour. With music and without. Joyful noise. The puzzle this year is a hard one and Norman Rockwell just can't seem to emerge from the top of the coffee table. The men are proving their masculinity as they kneel over the table...frustrated that they can't conquer all in 30 minutes.

Airports are sad on this 2nd day of the Celebration. The visit so anticipated is over. Can we pretend it's Tuesday and we still have 3 days? But the quiet gift of early morning time by the fire as He joined the conversation about life and goals and Logos will also board the plane and linger...

The goodbyes are bittersweet with no date set for the next time. College beckons, jobs await, adventure is calling--unknown futures with concern for choices yet to be made, decisions yet to be reached. We part, but not with despair. He is why we celebrate together, He goes with each one as they go. He is in the future and He will bring us back again. 

Peace follows us to bed as we realize that because of Christmas, we are not alone.

"...Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." 
~Matthew 28:20

Thursday, November 24, 2011

day 1 - opening day of the Christmas season!

Opening Day of the Christmas Season (otherwise known as Thanksgiving)!

We aren't skipping over Thanksgiving.  Oh no, au contraire!

We are beginning the entire Season with it.

The countdown has been on for about 3 weeks.  Trees are up and twinkling with lights. The one in the front window has all the ornaments collected from Christmases past and foreign lands. The big Nativity is on the piano. The puzzle is on the coffee table. (A few pieces are being chewed by Roxy, but it's mostly intact and everybody is cool with chewed-up pieces). Chicken and cornbread dressing is melding the flavors in MaMaw Smith's dressing pan, the sweet tea is piling up in the carafe, and Kim's pumpkin pie is due through the door any second.

A deep Southern Thanksgiving meal is close to the finish line and even hearts walking through present sorrow can't help but smile with anticipation.


Cars are pulling up and parking in the grass and foil-covered dishes are walking up the driveway. Get out of the ham, stop sneaking pieces of the turkey, we'll be ready in just a minute, stay out of that bowl, get out of here, I can't get a thing done with you under my feet, get in here right now, everybody gather in the den...I'm thankful for...what I'm most thankful for...this year, I want to thank God for...even though...I'm--I'll be able to say it in a second--I--I just am so thankful...He's been so good to me...I wouldn't want to be anywhere else...I don't deserve...I wouldn't trade it for anything...

...and so, dear Lord, we come before you now to give you thanks for this year.  Thank you for the beauty and the pain, the joy and the sorrow, the bounty and the want.  We have had our share of gray, but you have even been in the gray. Bless this house and these people and all who have gathered here with us this day...bless this food and the hands that prepared it...go with us now as we celebrate your coming to us...we give you thanks...

"Enter into His gates [His season, His birthday celebration, the time of joyful feasting] with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."  
~Psalms 100:4

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rick Warren's Surprising Advice to Pentecostal Churches

Interesting article.

Thanks to Raymond Woodward for passing along the link.

I have too many comments, so I will just let you read and see what you say...just click on the link below to read the article.

Rick Warren's Surprising Advice to Pentecostal Churches

it all comes down to faith...

All the questions...and confusion...and "well, I think"...and you're taking it too far...and God wants us to be happy...and grace means I don't have to respond in any way at all to God's love except to just say yes...and yada, mumbo-jumbo, blah, blah, blah...

It just all comes down to faith.

Faith that the Word of God is absolute and that Every. Single. Word. was breathed out of the mouth of God. (2 Timothy 3:16 - "All scripture is given by inspiration of God.") Inspiration comes from the Greek word "theopneustos" meaning "to breathe or blow."  It implies sound--words--vocal intonation.

If Every. Single. Word. in the Bible was breathed by the God of the universe, then I don't have much room to quibble, do I?

The final question--the bottom line--comes down to this:  Do you really believe that every single word in the Bible was breathed by God?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

is it really progress?

Okay, so I might as well face the music.  I might be getting a little older. That's not an admission, nor is it a concession.  It's just the acknowledgement of a possibility.

I have always loved, welcomed, longed-for, promoted, and embraced change. Change the den around every month just to keep things fresh.  Cook new meals even if you don't like them just so you won't get bored eating the same ole food.  Drive a new route to church.  Change hairstyles.  Re-paint.

I figured as long as I still loved change, I was still young.

So, this recent resistance to a form of progress has me a bit alarmed.  I would love to deny it and pretend I am cool as can be with it, but you would be able to tell it on my face right away.  It's hard for me to get it out, but...well...okay, I'm just going to say it...

I have a problem with one's personal Bible being on an e-reader.

There.

I said it.

Wait!  Don't write me off just yet!  I'm not saying it's a SIN or anything like that...I'm just saying I have a problem with it.

I know that our present book form is not the original form of the Holy Scriptures.  I have studied the evolution of the written word and realize that the New Testament varied greatly from the Old Testament and that the codex form of binding didn't come about until after all the New Testament writings were completed.

I understand that the book form we are familiar with has only been around for about the last 600 years or so.

So, I'm not saying that in order for the Bible to be Holy it must be in the form of a bound book.

But, I AM wondering if the e-reader form of the Scriptures is truly progress?

I'm wrestling with the following elements:

The scrolls were a linear form of reading which made it difficult or perhaps impossible to read two areas of the Word at the same time without a lot of inconvenience in locating the new passage.  In contrast, the codex form allowed a reader to actually be able to see two different passages in two different places relatively easily at one time.  It seems to me that most e-readers are returning to that linear form of reading and making multi-passage reading more difficult.

I firmly believe that one cannot study the Scriptures without writing.  If you read without writing, you are doing nothing more than perusing as you would a newspaper or your favorite novel.  But to "eat" the Scriptures as Jeremiah talked about, you must have a pen in your hand.  In the margins, in the front covers, underlining, highlighting...as He speaks you write it down and when you are done, there is an awesome conversation there that you will forever remember.

How can you do that on an e-reader?  Oh, I know you can highlight and make a note.  And a little number pops up to remind you that you made a note.  But when you are reading that same passage six months later, are you going to click on every number and see your notes?  Probably not.  You are probably going to keep reading and nothing is going to catch your eye that He said to you that time before when you had those sweet moments with Him.

That bothers me a bit.  Okay, well, maybe a lot.


And, another thing.  Codex, like the scrolls, kept the Scriptures isolated and set apart.  That's actually what the word "holy" means, isn't it?  Set apart?  Called out, consecrated, dedicated?  

Am I being unreasonably narrow to say that it bothers me a bit that the Scriptures on an e-reader are all grouped in with everything else in there?  Fiction, magazines, newspapers, damnable doctrines...all of it all together in one spot....oh gee, I really dated myself right there, didn't I.


I have had multiple conversations with men and women alike asking for help in their struggle against pornography.  Without exception, they all access it on their phones and ipads.  So, when all I see at church are people holding their phones in their hands as the Scriptures are being read and the message is going forth, I am bothered by the fact that it feels no different to them than if they are checking the LSU score or watching porn.

Okay.  Shutting up.

But try not to make too much fun of me as I lug my big, black study Bible with me to church and work and everywhere else I go.

I have all the different versions and Bible programs on my computer, my iPhone, and my iPad.



But I'm just not so sure that's really progress...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Madagascar vignettes

Several people have been requesting pictures and updates regarding our trip to Madagascar.  So, if you are one of those people, this will probably be of interest to you.

Madagascar is an island off the eastern coast of Africa.  Although it is considered part of Africa, the people there come from an Indonesian background rather than an African background.  They culture has a lot of island culture mixed in with some African culture.


  • The average wage is $1 per day
  • The average age at death is 57
  • The climate is moderate (somewhat equivalent to Alexandria, Louisiana with less humidity)
  • There is no heat nor a/c in most homes and buildings. 
  • The concrete/brick/cinderblock structures make the homes terribly cold in winter, but more pleasant in summer
  • It is in the southern hemisphere, so their winters are our summers and our summers are their winters
  • The country has not been "westernized." There are no American restaurant or hotel chains.  
  • The country has a high Christian population, but is still bound by much "dark" religious tradition

The method of carrying loads on the head just mesmerizes me.  The very young to the very old do it.  It doesn't matter what it is.  They will find a way to put it on their heads and take off marching down the road!




Poverty looks and smells the same in every country...


Much of life revolves around the rice fields.  They bathe in them, wash their clothes in them, grow their food in them, and build their houses in the middle of them.





A good soccer game is fun regardless of the equipment or the field!


The scenes are filled with layers of stories.  Taking the produce to market...


...who needs a dryer? Just make sure you have a big back yard...


...headed home after a long, hard day that began before sunrise...


...a hard day that included making bricks from the mud from the rice fields...


...but at the end of the day, there is still beauty.

There is still color.

There are still flowers.

And at the end of the day, evidently the language of flowers is the same around the world.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Madagascar

It is a land of contrasts.

Modern vehicles bouncing up ancient cobblestone streets.

The rice field worker hand-washing clothes in a basin outside the walled entrance to a nice, modern dwelling.

Hand-pushing carts of belongings while talking on a cell phone.

Sleeping outside at the General Conference and cooking over an open fire while the speaker has flown 10,000 miles and sleeps in central air/heat.

Making $1 per day and collectively giving thousands of dollars to see the Gospel spread.

Madagascar and America: the two nations are worlds apart.

But the level ground at the foot of the Cross joins them both.

I will stand at judgment beside these people.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Nona Freeman Prayer for Night People

Kendra recently tweeted about praying the "Nona Freeman prayer" and how God took her up on it and she wasn't sure if she was glad about that or not. (Posted tongue-in-cheek, of course.) We got several questions as to what we were talking about and the explanation takes up more than the 140 characters Twitter allots.

Here is the story behind what we call "The Nona Freeman Prayer for Night People":

Nona Freeman was a veteran missionary for many years to Africa.  She told incredible stories and  probably died with more stories in her head and heart than ever came out.

She was a woman of faith and of prayer and a believer that God could and would do anything for His people...the problem was/is that we just don't ask Him enough and specifically.

She described herself as a night person.  One who was more alert in the evening, who would rather stay up late and sleep later in the morning.  She was not one who woke up early, chirping with the birds, and ready to conquer the world.  That came later in the day.  She was a night person.

However, she was a firm believer that God needed the first part of our day.  Therefore, she knew that in order to give that to Him, she must not sleep until the last minute, but must wake up earlier than necessary in order to have time with Him.  So, she prayed a prayer that went something like this:  "Lord, I know that I need to talk to you first thing in the morning.  But it is so hard for me to wake up and even though I set my alarm to get up earlier, I end up shutting it off to sleep until the last possible minute.  So Lord, I'm asking you to wake me up 30 minutes early every morning.  YOU wake me up.  Don't let me go back to sleep.  Wake up my mind and my heart so that You and I can have quality time together before our day begins.  I want to, Lord, but my flesh is weak.  So YOU help me.  YOU wake me up!"

I heard her tell this story at our church when I was just a young girl and will never forget when she said, "And the Lord has done just that.  Regardless of what time I go to bed or how little sleep I have received, He always wakes me up 30 minutes before I must begin my day."

I didn't pray that prayer for many years, because I am the ultimate Night Person and, quite honestly, didn't want God to answer it.  (Confession.) But as I matured in Him, I realized that it was absolutely vital that I spend time with him FIRST before anything else had a chance to enter my mind, my heart, and my spirit in the morning.  I realized all the scriptures in the Word that speak of spending time with Him first in the day, and was convicted.  So, I prayed the prayer.  He not only wakes me up 30 minutes early...He usually wakes me up 1 - 1 1/2 hours early!  And I'm fine with it!  I love it...there is no sweeter communion than the communion of first fruits.

I have challenged many of the young women in our church to pray that prayer.  I have tried to convey the necessity, the beauty, the love, the wonder that comes with meeting with Him first in the day.  I let them know they must mean it before they pray it, because He WILL answer it.

So, it takes them a while.  It's serious business.  And when they are finally ready to get serious about it, they pray it.  And He answers them.

It's "The Nona Freeman Prayer for Night People."

It's a prayer that will change your life if you are willing to allow your life to be changed.

Of all the things I have missed this year. . .

. . .I think I have missed blogging the most!

Time without reading and writing starves the deepest part of me.  And the schedule of this year has been one of insanity.  We have hurtled through the year.

I am just stunned that it is September 2.  How did that happen?

Although our insane travel schedule doesn't officially end until November 5, I have decided to officially end the Blog Drought!  If a spinning plate must crash to the ground in order for me to resume spinning the Blog Plate, so be it!

And thanks, Dennis, for missing me.  I miss you, too.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

and we are off once more!

Kendra and I are off again! We have a few more minutes on our brief stopover in Honolulu before boarding for Manila.

Jordan Mallory will join us there and we will travel to Baguio for three days to speak at a Women's Conference. We will then travel to Singapore to speak at another Women's Conference and also minister at Tabernacle of Joy with Pastors Lee/Willoughby on Mothers Day.

In the meantime, there is nothing like Sunday morning with the POA on Waikiki Beach (via webcast)...

Monday, March 28, 2011

21 days

And so it begins.  21 days of sacrifice.

Taking inventory.  Sorting and separating into piles.  Emotional baggage here, questions there.  A few stray relational issues never resolved, still hanging around.  Some scraps of unforgiveness, leftover anger.  Messy.

Cleaning out the junk to make space for more of Him.

Yearning, begging, beseeching...reaching, stretching, climbing...seeking, wondering, pondering...becoming vulnerable, uncomfortable scrutiny, exposing the raw...

Be near to me, O God. Search my heart. See if there be any wicked way in me.

I shall ascend...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

blessings

Psalm 34:17-18

17 - The righteous cry, 
and the LORD heareth, 
and delivereth them 
out of all their troubles.

18 - The LORD is nigh unto them 
that are of a broken heart; 
and saveth such 
as be of a contrite spirit.




blessings
lyrics by laura story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family
Protection while we sleep

We pray for healing
For prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand
To ease our suffering

And all the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you're near
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness
We doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
Lord, that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you're near
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not
This is not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you're near
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can't satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain
The storms
The hardest nights
are your mercies in disguise. . .

Thursday, March 24, 2011

thy word have i hid...or maybe not



I am not endorsing John Piper.  I don't know enough about him to endorse him or not endorse him. 

But the above clip has convicted me beyond measure.  We are in a fierce battle largely unprotected.  God help us.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

is there a new song?

Am I the only one who feels as if I have been immersed in a beautiful movie with part of the soundtrack missing?

I love what God is doing in our lives, I love how He is walking so near to us each day.  I love the fresh vision, the fresh words, the fresh burdens that seem to have unified those in my world in the past several months.

I even love the wonderful praise and worship songs which our teams do so well.  Beautiful songs--many of them straight from the Psalms--expressions of heartfelt praise and love and adoration. They usher me into a place of worship that I love.  I love how those choruses are vertical...they leave the "me" out of it and focus on the "Him". Upbeat expressions of worship, slower melodies to hear His heartbeat...I really do love all of that.

But there is still an element missing that I long to have restored in my life.

What would be the right word for it? The "testimony" song? The "story" song? The "experience" song? The "hope" song? The song that conjures up pictures of where I've been and what I've done and His response to that?

One with a beat, a flow, a melody line that causes your soul to soar...

My soul was so refreshed several years ago when the praise and worship choruses finally understood that worship was all about Him and we learned that to enter His presence, we must take the focus off of us and put it on Him.

But in the process, I am afraid we threw out Ephesians 5:19 which says, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

That's what I miss.  I miss the "speaking to ourselves" songs.  The ones that are testimonies of where we have been, what He has brought us through, and where we are going.

Not the corny songs about Mama, either.  Nor the twangy ones that take their cue from bumper stickers.

Please don't stop doing the praise and worship stuff.

But is there a new song out there that can fill this hole in my soul?

I think I'm going to create a new label for posts in this blog and label it "Controversial."

This will be the first post that goes in it.

(I'm editing the post with this addendum:  I'm not talking about bringing back the "old" stuff, either.  I love to hear music that takes me back to another time, but that's not the new song I'm talking about.  I'm talking about a new song for now...for 2011...  I don't really know what I'm searching for, I just know that I will know when I find it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

smile without the paint!

Wonder what he looks like without all the paint?  When he's eating alone in the middle of the crowd and in the dark under all the bright lights?

Funny for a moment.  He made us all laugh.  Hahaha, life is grand.


But I wonder if he smiles without the paint?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mark of my heart

Mark and Bradyn

He's growing.  He's getting taller, and wiser, and more confident.

He's learning to handle trials and temptations God's way.

Mark's teacher and his classroom
He's learning and excelling in school.  His sweet smile offers hope to so many along the way.

His first convert.
Nellie, his guardian, is behind him.

He wants to be a pastor.  He has already started giving short messages in his church.  One of his school friends was converted and baptized as a result of that on Feb. 20, 2011.


We both hate goodbyes...
He is a miracle of God.

He reminds me of the power of one.

I love him dearly.






(For Mark's full story, follow the blog posts under the label "Mark".)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Island of the Blue Dolphins

So, I think I have mentioned before that I am returning from a long, dead period of my life where I did absolutely no reading.  An avid reader all of my life, I went through about a decade of nothing.  Wasteland.  No books, no desire for books, no growth.  That is a story within itself that is beside the point, but in January, 2010, I declared 2010 to be the "Year of the Book."  And it was! I probably shouldn't have said "year" though...I feel my soul returning and my insatiable appetite for the written word has once again taken over.

In the process, I am catching up on some old books that I missed during my desert sojourn.  So, even though you have probably read many of the ones I am just now discovering, thanks for bearing with me as I delight in uncovering even the older treasures...

Today's book is "Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell.  Based on a true story, it captivated me.  It is an easy read--one that is recommended reading in middle school.  But the tale it tells is one as old as time and should be required reading regardless of age.

It is one of survival and amazing discoveries of the true capacities for survival that lie within each of us.  Set on a deserted island in the 1800's, it details a story of resourcefulness, discovery, and hope in the face of what most of us think would destroy us.

Get it.  You can finish it in about 3 hours. It's worth it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Merry Christmas, 2010!

So, about 150 Christmas cards are still stacked by my chair, waiting to be addressed and mailed...   Sad.


Merry Christmas from The Homeplace!

(consider yourself officially greeted!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Time is not the enemy

Not that I would be so presumptuous as to think anyone has missed me, but I am the one who has suffered from my absence.  The need to write and process and progress verbally through the wonderful and challenging roads which I am being privileged to travel requires that I write. To those of you who claw your way through the process with me...well, thanks! Let's move on down the road a bit...

Having already been involved in several major events in this short year (including 15 days in the Philippines) my mind keeps returning to a sign that hangs on the door in a humble home of one of our Filipino pastors:



Indeed.

More than any other temptation in my life, the temptation to control my time is the greatest one I fight.

He knows the number of my days and the plans he has for me.

My prayer is that I may not thwart them by careening full speed ahead with what seems good to me and not asking Him if that is His plan for me.

My prayer is that I give God all the seconds of this day. He knows how to multiply them.