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 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.


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...


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?


Stillness of spirit.

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