An Angel Appears

I’m trying to imagine being a shepherd and seeing this angel. We don’t have a lot of information but I think they must have been some of the faithful who were waiting on the coming of the Messiah; that’s why the angel came to them—they were faithful. Humble, waiting on the God they believed in to send someone they couldn’t quite imagine. Perhaps they had talked among themselves about it, through those dark starry nights. Maybe they wondered together: What will he look like? Where will he live?
The angel was bright, shocking, but got right to the point. They were afraid but they got over it. Then they saw an entire host (a group) of angels singing praises to God. Because they were faithful and trusting they saw more.

FearNot

 

Once they recovered from the shock of seeing the angel, the shepherds raced to Bethlehem to see for themselves. They saw

 

Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Then they spread the word!
Much like the shepherds, we are called to spread the word, the good news of our Messiah. He is our Savior, and becauseof Him we have

  • Peace
  • Eternal life
  • A Relationship with God

You aren’t a speaker or an evangelist, you say? Well these shepherds were simply farmers, if you think about it. They weren’t particularly educated or eloquent. They simply told what they knew: The Savior has come.
This season, go and tell!

Through the New Testament in 90 Days

You know how people always pledge to read the Bible for the New Year, and then they don’t? Well – I have a plan that I hope is fail-proof. Let’s read only the New Testament, and let’s do it in 90 days. That way you have a fast-forward overview, but its only 90 days so you won’t want to wimp out or stall along the way.

Right? Cause it’s only 90 days. Join us by commenting below.

More information — my zone is always a guilt-free zone. We start on Jan. 1, and I will give you the daily reading each day (or the whole file, if you prefer). But if you get behind, don’t fret. The Bible says fret not! 🙂 Just move on to the next day’s reading, or if you can double up and do 2 at once. We read the Bible through in a year with a class a couple years ago, and most members found it was better just to skip forward to the right date and start there. No worries– do what works best for you.

I’ll ask only a couple of questions each day, for the purpose of discussion. Please discuss freely with your fellow readers, and play nice! If you feel this needs to be a “closed” group in order to have discussion, let me know. For now, I like it being open so that more people feel free to drop in as they are able.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page. Or if you prefer, go to my Facebook page and sign up there (under this picture).

ReadWithMe copy

To print any post in this blog, click its title. You will then see a printer icon with the printer friendly version.

God, a Dog, and Decisions

From iphone 024 (640x480)I knew it was only a matter of time until Fella, my 14-year-old Corgi, would pass. He has been unsteady on his back legs for some time. And yes I know they make those wheelie carts for long dogs who lose mobility, but those are not for him…he was afraid of loud noises, and it would’ve scared him to death, among other things.

So this week he went downhill fast. He had a yucky discharge from the nose, he has battled some sort of infection all around his lips for a year, he started dragging himself around by his front legs, refusing to even try the back ones any more. He was also losing control of his bladder. He’d seen vets in TN twice and FL twice, and I was dosing and applying and all the things you do when your dog is a senior citizen. I was even carrying him outside and holding up the back end for him to potty. It wasn’t working.

My husband went out of town and I sorta knew I’d be the one left with the duty of watching him die, or worse having him PTS. I hate putting pets to sleep. It seems like I’m playing God, making decisions that may or may not be the right ones. But I’d been praying that he wouldn’t have to suffer (the dog, that is) and yesterday and today he was suffering.

Speaking of God, you know that for me He’s always right in the middle of what I’m doing and today was no different. All night Fella dragged himself this way and that, trying to get comfortable. During the night I got up and tried to take him potty, which he refused, and served up 2 whole bowls of water, which he gulped from a lying-down position. I awoke with a start at 8:15 and started to call the vet when that still, small voice said wait until 9:00.

So I sat on the edge of the bed and waited. Watching Fella try to breathe, I thought he was going to die about then. I texted my husband: Fella’s all but gone.

During the wait, the Lord spoke to me about these decisions we must make for those who can’t do it themselves, and how it is best that little dogs not suffer, and it’s up to me to keep him from it.

At 9:00 Fella was still hanging on with labored breathing and my husband texted me. I’ll be praying for you. So that was what I waited for—someone to pray on my behalf, as I certainly couldn’t do it on my own. Someone to care what I was going through all alone. I called the vet.

At the Corgi Picnic, 2005 I think
At the Corgi Picnic, 2005 I think

I noticed then it was raining, which is important to the next part I’m going to tell you. I put up the top on the convertible and put a towel on the seat for Fella so he wouldn’t slide. Then I carried him to the car and turned it on. “We’re going to listen to ‘Praise you In This Storm’ by Casting Crowns,” the radio announcer said.

Not only is that one of my favorite songs, but the words were so appropriate I knew that it was the Spirit once again reaching to my heart. Here’s what I heard as I backed out of the drive: I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

(The last line as I tried to find the windshield wiper button on my new-to-me car.) The song was exactly what I needed in that moment. The rest of the song is printed below, as well as a link to the video. Even in the horrid grief of what I was about to do I knew I could lift my hands because God is God and He is on His throne. Oh, except I didn’t lift my hands since I was driving. I so appreciate that God cares for the sparrow and even for my ailing, aged dog. I wish I had a better word to describe how much His goodness means to me–appreciate sounds so small.

The vet’s office is very good to whisk you right in, so I put him on the table but he scooted over against me and stuffed his head under my arm. A tech came and held him tight as he struggled—now I wish I had been the one to hold him—and they administered that last painful shot.

It is a blessing that we have this kind of service, that we are able to make decisions for our pets and give them comfort instead of pain. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t bawling my eyes out through the entire thing. I came home and flopped on the floor and cried like never before. Noelle the Honorary Corgi rolled around on me and tried to comfort me; mostly she covered me in hair. I thought only Fella understood my feelings but maybe Noelle pays attention too. Piper, a Maltese, licked crazily like she does every time I come through the door.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Fella won’t be back,” I told them, and burst into tears again. Fella, my heart dog. They say you only have one like that. One of my friends told me dogs are angels wrapped in fur. I want that to be true. But mostly I want him to be in the living room tossing a toy up in the air and catching it just to make me laugh.

“Praise You In This Storm”

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

[Chorus:]
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

[Chorus]

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Casting Crowns Praise you in this Storm

To print any post in this blog, click its title. You will then see a printer icon with the printer friendly version.

5 Steps to a Great Bible Study

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
—James 1:12

It’s 10 pm, and I literally just walked in from one of the best Bibles study classes I’ve ever led, though it had nothing to do with me leading. Everyone opened up and shared from the heart. We had several new faces, and they were happy to talk about what was on their minds as well.
The topic is being loved by the Savior this week, plus we did discuss (briefly) being in a Valley, a time of sadness or grief, because somebody could be there right now and also EVERYBODY identifies with it. There’s no one who hasn’t had a hard time. Here’s a quote from the chapter:

When you feel like you’re in the bottom of the valley, it is important to remember that it’s only a passageway, not a destination. You aren’t going to stay there forever unless it’s by your own choice. Psalm 23:4 says, “I walk through the darkest valley.” It doesn’t say “I sit in the valley for months a time . . . holding pity parties . . . woe is me!” *page 62, Come Back to Jesus—and Don’t Bring your Blackberry.

I’d like to add– as you are moving in this Valley experience, pray through it. Literally pray your way from start to finish, until you are out, until the sadness and grief are gone and the bad thoughts that are like cobwebs in your brain go away.
When we got in the car to go home, my husband said, “That was one of the best classes I’ve ever been to.”
Excited, I wanted to pick apart the reason. I wanted to know! When something is “right” in God’s house, you want to keep doing it right over and over.
“Why?” I asked.
“I guess because I contributed,” he replied.
Oh, burst my bubble. I wasn’t expecting him to say it was about me, but I wanted to KNOW! What made it a good meeting?
So I’ll take a stab at it — here’s what I think (emphasize think) it takes to make a “good” Bible study class.
1. I had prayed a lot earlier in the day, and in fact had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, which I’ll tell you about sometime when it isn’t 10 pm.
2. I prayed over each chair around our table for the person who would be sitting in it. The Spirit actually gave me a couple of words to use, including ‘healing’ in one spot…I’d love to know about the need for healing but it’s none of my business!
3. The pastor always prays for me before we start, asking for anointing. I think this helps get God in the flow and me out of the way. I love it.
4. Everyone shared. They had a lot to say. This is week 4, and they’re getting comfortable with each other. They’re also becoming used to the way I blurt out whatever comes to mind. The pastor just shakes his head…he’s never heard somebody be as blunt as I am. 🙂
5. God showed up. This is the real crux of the matter, when we ALLOW the Lord’s presence among us and invite Him to work on our hearts He is there. This is a class of dedicated God-seekers. They care. He matters to them. It’s beautiful.

What do you think makes a great class?

As we neared the house, my husband patted my hand. “I feel blessed to even be a part of your ministry, even if it’s just a supporting role.”
OK so he kinda made up for the other statement. And he is my support! I couldn’t do it without his presence, his help…he’s the wind beneath my wings.
Want a copy of 5 Steps to a Great Bible Study? Click here for a pdf.

Book Review: Faith Dare

I finished `The Faith Dare: 30 Days to Live Your Life to the Fullest’ by Debbie Alsdorf only a couple of days late. Not bad for me, I usually fall way behind. This was supposed to be read Aug. 1-30 and I finished Sept. 2.

Here is a slightly-longer-than-usual review of the book:

What Would Happen If You Lived Out Your Faith Every Day, In Every Situation? Jesus came to give us abundant life, to give us freedom from worry, fear, and the constant search for significance.

In the Introduction, the author says,

“Trusting God is a spiritual lifestyle to be learned. Walking out that faith takes a lifetime of baby steps in the direction of spiritual trust. As we grow, we learn how to trust God. We develop new habits of looking to him, new habits of processing and digesting the Word of God, new habits of living our faith, and new habits of relating to other people in our lives. New habits don’t happen overnight; they happen over time.” (p. 10)

So creating or rebuilding these new habits usually involves overcoming deeply ingrained wrong habits and beliefs. Most of us put our faith in human wisdom/human understanding. We’ve allowed the world to infiltrate our thought patterns, living habits—to a point that we miss out on God’s best for us. This author is trying to get us away from our worldly selves and into a godly thinking frame of mind.

After a lengthy introduction, we get down to business with 3 sections of ten days each. Each day’s reading is about 5 pages. Each day includes Today’s Praise/Prayer, Today’s Truth, Today’s Dare, a Journal section, Today’s Prayer, and Today I Believe. (It’s not as much as it sounds like! You can do this in maybe 15 minutes)
The sections are:
* Live Up! In Relationship to God
* Live In! In Surrender of Self
* Live Out! In Relationship to Others

Day 10, which I already blogged about here, spoke to me more than any other. Near the end of the book it seemed as if the author had run out of dares; somehow the words felt more hurried.
From the conclusion:

“Your life is no longer your own. Your life is not random. It is hidden in Christ. You are protected, shielded, care for, provided for…by Christ. You are covered by his faithfulness and power. To look up, focus your attention on what is biblically true rather than on what you are feeling.” (p. 228)

The book was a pleasure to read with my online Bible study friends. We discussed it once a week, pushing one another for deeper meaning and insight. Personally, I wished that the dares could have had more than one day, more time to soak in and live in them and ruminate on them. But of course, we can’t have a 30-week dare, can we? 4 stars.

Book Review The Merchant’s Daughter

The Merchant's DaughterThe Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! The Merchant’s Daughter is a new take on an old story, Beauty and the Beast. However it’s set in the 1300s. Annabel is the daughter of a wealthy merchant, but due to unthinkable circumstances she becomes an indentured servant to Lord Ranulf. He’s been injured in an accident and carries his scarred left hand against his body; his scarred face wears an eye patch. His manner is gruff and frightening to those beneath him.
Yet Annabel sees only the good in him….
I won’t give away the rest, but this was a pleasurable read. The best part is, although this is a Christianity-based story, the faith was skillfully woven in. It never feels forced or pushed upon the reader the way many Christian novels do. Part of that is the setting, a time when faith and life went hand-in-hand; much of it, though, is the skill of the author.
I will be looking for more books from Melanie Dickerson. 🙂

View all my reviews

Christian Mind Management

Psalm 3418 copy

 

Day 10 of Faith Dare #FaithDare really spoke to me. It’s titled “Mind Management,” and I suspect it’s relevant to the majority of American Christian women. We bought into the women’s lib, do-it-all have-it-all lie and then we believed that we all had to emulate that annoying Proverbs 31 woman, and what we ended up with was a message: We have to do it all and we have to be perfect.

As a result, we talk unkindly to ourselves. We speak to Self in a way we would never, ever speak to our family or our best friend. We use an ugly tone of voice — try saying out loud sometime what you say to yourself in your head! Doesn’t it sound awful?

So, Day 10 likens our negative self-talk to flies: They are “disgusting, annoying, and downright frustrating,” author Debbie Alsdorf says. She mentions how they return again and again, and even become an overwhelming swarm. Has this woman been inside my head, or what?

If you have this sort of problem, what’s the answer? Focus, says Alsdorf. Handing over these thoughts to God, interrupting the lie with a Truth will stop it in its tracks. I never thought of this as a spiritual practice. I never thought of managing my mind just like I manage my household, spiritual life, relationships, and, errmm, my desk. Please don’t look at my desk.

It’s simple, but I’ve already put it to work and it is successful. Whenever you have a bad thought, look for the good of the situation. If your husband is driving you crazy, stop and think about the positive: He is a good provider, he is great with the kids, he helps with housework. He loves you. Or whatever you can find that’s good about your hubby. 🙂
Once you’ve replaced the bad thoughts, focus on the new, positive thoughts. This is mind management.

If the thought is too stubborn to leave, take it up a notch: Use Scripture. Yes, take out God’s Word and read it silently or aloud to shoo away those lie-flies. Better yet if you have memorized Scripture, you can quote it.

This works because you are able to take charge, you are able to stop the negativism and call on the Lord to help straighten out the oft-blurred line between truth and fiction. Only 4% of women in the US consider themselves beautiful, according to Dove, the “Real Women” proponents. We spend our days thinking, my thighs are fat, I need more makeup, don’t take my picture… Whew! We wear ourselves out just thinking.

As soon as I tried replacing the negative with positive and realized I could push these thoughts aside and make them never return—I felt more in control. I felt like I had found a special key and unlocked a secret door. Because I tend toward depression (part of the fun of having fibromyalgia) I find this especially helpful. I called my daughter, another fibro sufferer, and she was excited over it, too. “It’s not one of those just-get-over-it things, is it?” she asked.

No it’s not. This is reach up to God to reach the tools we need to get through this life. This is how to live on earth happily, how to simplify our own minds. Beautiful!

Philippians 4:8 ~ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. [NASB]

What’s Heaven Like, and Who Will Be There?

My latest video, based on a thought from yesterday’s church service: what is heaven like?
Please let me know what YOU think it’s like!

Very short, and no verses to look up. 😀

I’m Not Behind, I Promise!

So I started the new Bible study two days ago, and I didn’t post yesterday. Here’s why: I went to the beach all day, and the group meeting wasn’t until 8 p.m. So I knew I’d prolly be too tired to blog afterward. It was a planned absence.
The group meeting went *so well* and it’s a group of people just like me— people who are passionate about the Lord, about following Him, about doing what we should and not what we could.
At the end of the group meeting, somebody said “can we partner up?” and suddenly we just were. I went to a new friend’s Facebook page to see if she would partner with me, and before I could type it she popped up on chat: “So nice to get to know you! Want to partner?”
Then we found out we had so much in common….and more…and finally she said “are you left handed?” and I burst out laughing, typing back YES. God has such a sense of humor. He put us together, and we fit like 2 peas in the proverbial (pun intended) pod.
Between the excitement of my new, much-like-me partner and the joy of my renewed faith that God will let me know what my ministry is–SOON– I thought I would never go to sleep.
I did find out that I was supposed to read the first 2 chapters first, and start with Day 1 on Aug. 1. So there will be a small delay here as I catch up. Maybe I will make a new video. 🙂
Be blessed!