Monday, December 28, 2009

After Christmas in the Temple

Keep the Spirit of Christmas alive by looking into the event eight days after Christmas.
Following the custom of the law, obedient Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to present him to the Priest (see Leviticus 12:8 with Exodus 13:2,13). My favorite Ron DiCianni painting, "Simeon's Moment," portrays what happened during their temple visit beautifully.

(To see the painting go to:

According to Luke 2:25-35 the story goes like this:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

For me, this is the absolute best part of the Christmas story. Ron Di Cianni must agree with me. About his painting he wrote:"Imagine that moment! It has to rank at the top of any Christian's list of dreams —to hold the very Son of God in your arms with the understanding of His purpose for coming. This is what Simeon had been promised, and here He is. It was the final exclamation point to fulfill his heart's desire."Because of what his eyes saw and his hands felt, Simeon was content, ready to leave and go be with his God. We can only guess (I like to do that at times) what must have raced through Simeon's mind at that moment. He didn't have long to hold him, but long enough to realize that Messiah had come."In this painting I tried to let Simeon's face tell the story. Ecstasy. I have a feeling Simeon clutched that baby like no other. He knew that he held the 'light' of the world, which I symbolized by the star emanating from the Baby. Intertwined through them both, I put a map of the world with its obvious symbolism that Christ came to impact the whole world, and not just the Jews, as most of the people would have concluded. Those lands, like North and South America, as well as others, were not even known to Simeon's world, but God knew all along that you and I would need a Saviour. Simeon's tear was put in to reflect deep joy. But the more I contemplated it, the more I realized it could symbolize that Simeon also might have known that this Baby was born to be crucified. That was why He came."

We can rejoice with Simeon! Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we can clearly see God's salvation, just like Simeon did. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Picture of Woven Christmas Hearts by NotYetTheDodo, courtesy of

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are You Worried?

I hate that right along with the Christmas season comes worry and stress, but it does. I guess it’s just a little taste of the chaos God stirred up by sending Jesus, the ultimate Christmas gift, to earth. While he was here, satanic activity peaked. Regarding the things about which we become anxious:

  • 40 percent never happen

  • 30 percent regard unchangeable deeds of the past

  • 12 percent focus on the opinions of others that cannot be controlled

  • 10 percent center on personal health, which only worsens when we worry about it

  • 8 percent concern real problems that we can influence. *

This means ninety two percent of our worries are needless! Max Lucado wrote: "Two words summarize God's opinion of worry: irrelevant and irreverent.

Let's get rid of the irrelevancies in our life by casting our anxieties on him for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and praise our worthy God. We don't ever want to be irreverent.

One way I cast my heartache and trouble on him is to pray Philippians 4:4-7, while trusting God to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Share with me some of ways you throw your cares on the Lord.

Always listen,

*Bob Russell with Rusty Russell, Jesus, Lord of Your Personality: Four Powerful Principles for Change (West Monroe: LA: Howard Publishing, 2002), 41.

Photo--"Don't Worry . . ." by Arny Johanns courtesy of

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Please share the ways you L.I.S.T.E.N. to God

Hello everyone,

I am beginning to write Bible study #3 in the the 4 Part "Listening Heart" Bible series. Book number three is "Hearts Who Listen for the Master Physician's Voice: Experiencing the Healing Power of Jesus. I would love for you to share with me the ways you listen to God. Listening to the God's magnificent voice brings healing. I would love to use your stories in my recent study. Thank you very much.

Always Listen,


Thursday, November 19, 2009

To Listen Means You . . .

When thinking about what listening to God means to me, an acrostic came to mind. To listen to God means that I:

L ive loved
I ncrease Knowledge of God
S tay Surrendered to God
T rust God
E radicate Sin
N urture Balance
Living loved is one of the most important things we do as Christians and always includes accepting Jesus' work on the cross. If we don't receive the great love he has for us daily we are unable to obey the two greatest commandments--to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus followed these commands with the statement, "All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commands." In others words, if we live loved and allow our love for God and others to permeate all that we do, things will work out for our ultimate good (see Romans 8:28 for this promise).
Increasing our knowledge does not mean we have a goal to expand our head knowledge. By increasing our knowledge, I mean to stay in the Bible continually. When we regularly spend time alone with God in his word, our listening skills are honed naturally. Book smarts are but a by-product of our time spent alone with God. The real benefit comes from the fact that the more we know about God, the more our faith grows.
Staying surrendered to God takes the most effort on our part. The sin nature that lives in us demands to be in charge. In turn, complete surrender requires a conscious decision (sometimes moment by moment) to believe God's promises and take him at his word.
Trusting God. Those two little words are a loaded statement. Talk about things that make you go, "Hmmmm." Every difficulty I face I hear God whispering in my ear, "Trust me." Will I trust God with my problems? With my life? Or will I stubbornly march on attempting to fix my kids, my alcoholic brother, my health, and so forth in my own power? Oh Lord, save me from myself. Trusting you is the only way to make it through life challenges sane.

Eradicate Sin. I like this word eradicate. It means: to tear out by the roots, uproot; to get rid of; wipe out; destroy. After many years of listening, I have learned I must get to the root of sin before I can tear it out. Even though new roots of sin grow and will continue to grow until I get to heaven and receive my new body, I destroy them as they pop up with serious prayer while asking God questions like: "Why do I do the crazy things I do?" "Why do I react to ____ (insert person or thing here) in that way?" "Why do I repeat the same actions when I know it hurts me?" God's answers bring healing as each sin is eradicated.

Nurture Balance. A state of equilibrium, balance is the result of the power and ability to decide. As a woman, I struggle with the ability to decide which causes my spiritual and emotional equilibrium to get out of whack. My most effective way back to the center comes when I meditate on 2 Corinthians 10:9. When I take the time and effort to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ I nurture balance. For instance, when I call myself stupid when I fail, I correct myself by remembering, "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen" (Jude 24-25).

Jude 24-25 says it all, doesn't it? May we continue to L-I-S-T-E-N to God and receive all that he has in store for us. Amen.

Photo by ninakupenda81 courtesy of

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Beginnings

I just finished one of the most incredible and memorable weekends ever. My family and friends gathered for the memorial of my father and to celebrate the new life in my niece, Shanna, for a baby shower. A celebration of a life lived and a life yet to be lived stirs a range of emotions from deep sadness to great joy. These last few days held lots of tears and even more laughs as we fellowshipped together and shared life's celebrations.

As I prepared the devotional to dedicate my new grandniece, Olivia, I thought of one of my favorite praying mamas in the Bible, Hannah. She came to mind first because she struggled with infertility, just like Shanna did. They both prayed and prayed for little ones of their own. God answered their prayers. And in Shanna's case, the LORD "remembered her (1 Samuel 1:19)" through the modern marvel of invitro fertilization.

The times in which Hannah lived are much like our own today, when everyone does as they see fit. During the period of the Judges, the Israelites were in dire straits because they lacked leadership. The priesthood was defiled, and in those days the word of the LORD was rare; there was no sustained prophetic message from the Lord (1 Samuel 3:1), and the law of Moses was being ignored throughout the land. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?)

As he often did in Israel's history, God began to solve the problem by sending a baby. Babies are God's announcement that he knows the need, cares about his people, and is at work on their behalf. (Praise the LORD!) The arrival of a baby ushers in new life and a new beginning. Babies are sign posts to the future, and their conception and birth is a miracle only God can do, even if it's done in a petri dish.

To make the event seem even greater, God sometimes selects barren women to be the mothers, as when he sent Isaac to Sarah, Jacob and Esau to Rebekah, Joseph to Rachel, and Olivia to Shanna. It's an awesome fact that humanly speaking, the future of our nation, rests with the prayers of Godly women. And yet when you think about it, how much in history depends on the prayers of suffering and sacrificing people, especially mothers.

Let's pray together for new beginnings while focusing on our children, in whom our future rests, asking God to intervene and then allow him to work in our lives by surrendering all to him. Our future is secure in His strong hands. Amen!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Losing My Father

I have heard the process of grieving compared to a newborn baby. You start out crying and needing to take naps all of the time, and then you move on to the toddler tantrum stage (this must be when you get angry), then you move on to the immature adolescent (not quite comprehending reality), and onto maturity (acceptance). I have missed blogging, but I have been crying and napping a lot and not focused enough to accomplish much beyond the necessities.

My poor dad had congestive heart failure. He only had a low percentage of his heart function left so when he had a heart attack on Friday, October 2, he never recovered and passed away on Sunday, October 4. He was terribly lonely without my mom and there at the end cried out for rest from dealing with the chaos created by an alcoholic son.

Those of you who have shared my journey with me know I lost my mom last year in February. Because I was only 3 weeks post-op from a hysterectomy, I don't believe I ever made it past the shock to properly grieve over her, but now that I have lost both parents, the grief has come tumbling down on me full force.

I feel overwhelmed and depressed, yet at the same time my mind is going a mile a minute thinking about the many things that have to be done when someone dies and their stuff has to be taken care of. But my Jesus speaks to my heart and reminds me of Lamentations 3:21-26

. . . Yet this I call to mind

and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him."

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

It is good to wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.

My hope is in him and I am seeking him as feeble as my efforts are lately. I will wait quietly for his salvation from this process of grief and pray to reach the mature stages soon. He is good all of the time. Praise Jesus!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hidden Treasures

Going through letters and cards my mom kept in a little box, I found some treasures. One in particular, a small, green piece of aged paper with a list of things to do to make the world a little easier to live in. God prompted me to share this list with you:
On this day--
Mend a quarrel.
Search out a forgotten friend (we have an easy way to do that one now with facebook).
Dismiss a suspicion and replace it with trust.
Write a letter (text or e-mail) to someone who misses you.
Encourage a youth who has lost faith.
Keep a promise.
Forget an old grudge.
Examine your demands on others and vow to reduce them.
Fight for a principle.
Express your gratitude.
Overcome an old fear.
Take two minutes to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Tell someone you love him. The him again, and again, and again.

The simplest things change the world in profound ways.

Always Listen.
Photo by: Mark L. Edwards, courtesy of

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Part Two of my last blog entry: God speak's to his children

I am still pondering the wonder of hiding God's word in my heart--how it brings power and encouragement to me and those around me. I decided to go ahead and use my recitation of Isaiah 55 as part of my speaking project in Toastmasters.* The morning of my speech God spoke to me through a flip calendar. Yes, he even speaks through paper calendars. The quote of the day by Oswald Chambers said, "Let memory have its way. It is a minister of God.

I am almost positive Oswald was probably thinking about the memory of our pasts not Scripture memorization, but isn't it perfect the way this quote worked to speak encouragement straight from God's mouth and into my listening heart? The message God spoke to my heart through Oswald's quote went something like this: "Go ahead and share Isaiah 55 in your speech at Toastmasters. It will be used to minister to the people there." I love when God steps in and cheers me on.

Dear Jesus, May we all slow down enough to pick up the little ways you speak to us. We don't ever want to miss a word. We so need your encouragement every day. I love you, Lord, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.

*Toastmasters is an international organization that I joined to improve my speaking skills. Their mission is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth. For more information visit

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Powerful Affect of Hearing God's Word

A big part of my testimony includes what I consider one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible--Isaiah 55. This chapter represents an invitation from the King of the Universe to spend time alone with him, listening, so he can feed you the finest spiritual food and shower you with his many gifts. When I recite this chapter from memory during my presentations, indescribable power comes down from heaven. Lives are changed (including mine) and God's people are encouraged. It is exciting to experience.

If you check out this chapter in your Bible, you will notice that most of this passage is in quotation marks. Through Isaiah 55 King Jesus is speaking directly to you, otherwise he would not have put you and your in this passage 18 times! In these few verses, he promises wonderful things. Are you listening?

Special Note: In my Bible Study, I teach an easy-to-conquer method of memorization. If I can do it, anyone can. If you are interested in finding out more about it, please contact me.

photo by zixeslew courtesy of

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"You don't have to go to church to get to heaven."

The statement in my title today really bugs me. It hits a nerve because the people who think and say it are usually looking for some rationale for their disobedience. The thief on the cross proves this statement to be true (Luke 23:39-43). But as I listen to God through his word, I am convinced he never intended for these beautiful words, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise," to be used as an excuse to disobey God. I believe Jesus was giving yet another awesome promise that he can and will save a repentant soul at any point in his life, no matter how much sin is involved.

There are five main things the thief of the cross could not do for God:

1. He could never study his Bible.

2. He could never be baptized.

3. He could never join or attend church.

4. He could never tithe.

5. He could never perform any service for God.

Because the thief on the cross died before he could do any of the normal activities of a Christian, does that mean we who are able are off the hook? The thief was physically incapable of accomplishing one thing for God. Did this keep him from being with God eternally in paradise? If it did, then our great God is a liar. Yet there are many religious leaders who convince their listeners that if they do not do certain things, they will not make it to heaven.

I pray that as we listen and learn from the words of our Savior that we would allow him to convince us of the great love and grace he has for us. And when we do the the things Christians do, like tithing and serving God, we would do them with as much gratitude as the thief on the cross would have, if he were cut down from his cross and set free.

Picture courtesy of Saints Peter and Paul Church by The Lone Cypress

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Benefits of Listening

As I prepare for leading my "Listening for God's Magnificent Voice Retreat" at Little Hope Baptist Church in Clarksville, TN this weekend, I am reminded of some of my favorite verses on listening. One of them is found in the first chapter of Proverbs:

" . . . Whoever listens to me will live in safety

and be at ease, without fear of harm."

Proverbs 1:33

Our God is simple, clear, and straightforward with his promises. Listening to him brings protection. We are like ships at sea, often tossed to and fro by the turbulent weather of living in this crazy, upside down world. To seek safe harbor we have to steer ourselves into our prayer closets, spending quality time alone with him and his word. He is our place of refuge, retreat, and freedom from harm.

Thank you Jesus for being my safe harbor. For when I ignore your advice disaster is around the corner and calamity overtakes me like a storm (Proverbs 1:20-32) but when I listen to you I live at ease and secure. Thank you for speaking your life-giving words into my life and for the privilege of resting in you. Amen.
Picture, Safety Harbor, byfsudaft, courtesy of

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Distressed, but God Gave Me His Peace

This morning I answered the phone without looking at the caller ID. The number, an out of town, unknown number was from my alcoholic brother. If I had looked I would not have answered, but for some reason I did. Calling for help for the millionth time, I had to tell him "no," which is extremely difficult. As I told him I could not help him, I felt a rush of nervous anxiety run through my body. It made me sick to my stomach.

God has had me working on peacemaking in my family, which is torn to shreds over my brother's alcoholism. I didn't go into details in my last blog entry, but my broken family has remained on my heart as I prayed over the Scripture, "Blessed are the peacemakers." God has shown me that when someone struggles over and over with the same issues and refuses to go for the proper help--rehab, counseling, meetings, and so forth, there comes a point when help hinders and you must say, "No, I can't help you anymore." God is showing me this is his way of peacemaking, because it leads to health and wholeness. Human peacemaking is manipulative and causes us to work incessantly on smoothing things over, enabling, trying to make everyone happy (in my case, not saying anything, when I really want to scream), which leads to insanity, illness and more brokenness.

After hanging up the phone, I went to my Bible asking God to speak his peace into my life. A piece of note paper fell out with a grouping of Scriptures on it: Romans 15:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11, and Hebrews 13:20. I had to look them up and could not believe what I found. (Well, I really could believe it because we have an awesome God!) God spoke his words of healing immediately to my heart by saying:

The God of peace be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:33

Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

Isn't God voice magnificent? His peace flooded my soul and I knew I had made the right decision.

Great Shepherd of the Sheep,

I love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Please continue speaking your peace into my heart. In your precious name. Amen

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What does Jesus say about peacemakers?

God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

About this verse Calvin Miller wrote: "There is a danger in separating quarrelling dogs. When hate rages, peacemakers face injury. Peacemaking is what the cross is all about. At Calvary, God and humankind were at odds. It was as though humanity was at war with the Creator."

So Jesus came as the reconciler. Although we all were at one time hostile toward God and alienated from him, We are now forgiven and have been brought into an intimate relationship with him (Colossians 1:21-22). Because we are now reconciled, we must be about the business of peacemaking, which costs us something. It is not easy dealing with angry souls. While reaching out to them with the love of God there are times we feel the bite of their rage. But wherever enemies dissolve, sons in God's Kingdom are born.

Lord, Help me to be a peacemaker every day, despite the cost. Fill me with your mercy, grace, and love so my actions will bid all earthly hatred to cease. In your powerful name above all other names I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trusting God's Sovereignty

“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace;
they find rest as
they lie in death.” Isaiah 57:1-2

I recently found the sham of a report issued by the Navy with regard to my brother, John's, murder in my mother’s things. As most of you know my mom passed away last year. Now I understand even more why my parents kept me and my siblings from reading it. The inconsistencies throughout this ridiculous report scream injustice, but my parents were powerless to change things. For me to read the report now, 30 years later, God must be up to something. My mind is going a mile a minute, thinking the time is now to re-investigate and write about what I find. Please pray for me.

After my brother’s murder, the verses above were given to my mother by a friend. As I ponder this passage from Isaiah, my mind takes me back to the first brothers, Cain and Able. I attempt to comprehend how hatred towards someone who does things right could escalate to killing them. Even though it is hard to understand, it is still happening today. As I examine my brother Johnny’s life, a model citizen, friend, and brother I have come to the conclusion that his goodness brought out murderous hatred in someone, somewhere in Jacksonville, Florida back in February of 1979.

Thank God for his promises. Thank his Son, Jesus, for rising from the dead, after dying to save all people, even those who hated him for being good, to give us life everlasting. And thank you Holy Spirit for surrounding us with special people who you prompt to remind us of God's great and precious promises in the middle of heartache and tragedy. When my mom's friend gave us Isaiah 57:1-2, I'm sure her intent was to comfort and console my mom and all of us family members. God’s powerful word did just that. My brother has entered into peace and found rest and we know, at least in part, the answer to, “Why?”

Dearest Lord Jesus,
I trust your sovereignty in my life, even when the why question is not answered completely. My time to be “taken away” is in your hands. Living in this broken world confuses me, so please help me to remain fully surrendered to your will and way, because there I can see and hear you and live your promised abundant life. I want to obey, by going where you lead and doing what you guide me to do-in your strength, not mine. You are the way, the truth, and the life. I love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Picture of John Arthur Browning, 1965, age 12.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Has your ear grown dull through grief?

God often gets blamed for the horrible things that happen in our lives. As a young woman, I was angry at him for years for allowing my brother to be murdered, that is until my twisted views of of my Father in heaven were straightened out. I am not alone in the blame game. I heard about a woman who accidentally ran over her two year old. At the young child's funeral the preacher said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." She never went to church again.

Great sorrow stuns us. It even makes us forget the best source of our consolation. I don't understand it, but that is the way it happened for me. Grief dulled my ears to his voice. For years I ran my own life without any real need for Jesus. But then something happened at the birth of my first child. I became desperate for God. I knew that I had a huge job ahead of me and felt quite ill-equipped.

I started to devour the word of God and found out that I loved to write about all I learned. As I began to write, however, God began to stir up all of the hurtful memories of my brother’s death, prompting me to deal with my long buried anger issues. Writing is known to be cathartic.

One day while attempting to record the story of my brother’s murder, I became so distraught that I had to push away from the computer. Later on, during my prayer and Bible study in Matthew 9, a flurry of emotions and tears erupted again. Even though I was reading something that Jesus had said to a woman with an issue of blood long ago, I heard the voice of my Savior speak directly to my heart and say, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” I knew without a doubt that Jesus had healed my soul from the bitterness and pain of my past. During that restoration experience I peeked into the heart of my loving Savior. He desires to heal all of his children, if only they will come to him and listen, hear him that their souls may live (Isaiah 55:3).

At that time, I finally realized how many times Jesus had called me to come to him so he could comfort and carry me through all of my troubles. I then understood the affects of sin on the world. It has broken God's perfect creation and ruins our fellowship with him. But because God is love, full of mercy and grace, he wants to help us through all that we face. May I be my Master's messenger? Let me remind you that you still belong to him. All of his promises stand firm forever, for he says:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2

I now echo Jeremiahs sentiments from Lamentations 3:19-26 in my own life and you can, too.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

May we all keep our ears open to the healing voice of our magnificent God and Savior. Amen!
picture by gballa86: "The Falls at Rushing River" courtesy of

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summertime--When the Living is Easy?

One of my favorite places to go is where I sit and bake in the sun. I don’t have to think about a thing, if I don’t want to, except for sinking my toes into the warm sand, smelling the salty air, feeling a fresh breeze dry the seawater on my skin, hearing the waves crash and seagulls squawk, and watching people of all different sizes and shapes. Relaxing on the beach epitomizes living easy to me, but my ocean-side vacation is not planned until September. For now, my easy living means non-stop action.

I’ve been living out of a bag for two weeks, visiting 3 states, not counting the ones I flew over. First, I was off to Chicago to the Write-to-Publish (WTP) Conference and then a weekend trip to Alabama to visit family, cruising through Tennessee on the way home. In between the two trips I had two proposals for my Listening Heart Bible study and articles to send off to interested publishers. I know schedules get out of whack over the summer, but whether you are having lazy days or not, won’t you follow me, and stay in the word, listening all summer? I have so needed his guidance and strength to stay on track.

Now that I’m back home and in the real world, there’s cooking and caring for my crew and doing things like sending my teenager off to camp and preparing for my first women’s retreat. I don’t want to forget all of the great stuff that I came away with at the WTP Conference. I was filled to capacity with valuable information while connecting with editors, and making great new friends and writing partners. To help me retain all that I absorbed during that week in Chicago and enjoy my full summer so far, I plan to follow Paul's advice who said:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I will say it again: Rejoice!

Let your gentleness be evident to all.

The Lord is near. (Hallelujah!)

Do not be anxious about anything.

but in everything by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

So come, let’s pray together, to make living easier. God's loving presence is like a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day--refreshment for the body, soul, and spirit.
photo "My Favorite Beaches" by Omnia, courtesy of

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And a Little Child Will Lead Them

It may be, my fellow listening hearts, that some of you are in trouble. If you are, I pray you turn to the Lord when he afflicts you, instead of away from him.
The royal official in John 4:46-53 is one who turned toward God while experiencing heartache--Once more Jesus visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live."
Like this royal official, I too sought Jesus when my child was ill. Our stories are similar, but different. While living as a prodigal daughter, my firstborn son, D.J., came into the world with some medical problems. Before anyone knew exactly what was going on, the doctor chose to give my husband and me the worst case scenario. After 18 hours of hard labor, I could hardly stand under the weight of the bad news. I started praying on behalf of my newborn son like never before. The Lord graciously answered me, even though I had ignored him for years. Much less severe than the doctor’s initial diagnosis, D.J.’s condition was easily treated with surgery with success.

The first real pouring out of my heart to God was brought on by grief over my precious little one. Is it not written, "a little child will lead them" (Isaiah 11:6)? Both of us were led by our little children to Jesus whose mercy is neverending. Won't you allow the troubles in your life to lead you closer to Jesus than ever before?

Picture of the Sculpture "And a Little Child Will Lead Them" at the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta, GA by: R. P.-ND burbs courtesy of

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Bonus for Today

After I blogged today I found this quote by Charles H. Spurgeon:

"He who sees even the most of this world has but the same sort of eyes that birds and beasts have -- but he who knows his Bible to be true and who realizes the truth of it in his soul -- has another set of eyes that can peer into another realm altogether. He sees spiritual things and around him there shines a Light which is, indeed, marvelous!"

Be encouraged!

Praying for Balance in an Unstable World.

The economy is unstable. People are losing their jobs. Things are going wrong, or so we think. Does it mean we to give up our big house and move into small rooms? Expenses must be cut. Some of us don't even know how we are going to support those we love.

Pray! Pray! And pray some more! Dig up some promises and hold on tight and don't let go like the ones in Psalm 119:116-117: "Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Uphold me, and I will be delivered."

You can also go to the sayings of Agur in Proverbs 30. He prayed specifically for balance when he asked the Lord for two things:

"Two things I ask of you, O LORD;

do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,

but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, 'Who is the LORD?'

Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonor the name of my God."

David wrote: "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). He has always taken care of us and always will. He is able and will do it.

I have discovered that praying for balance brings contentment in whatever situation I find myself in. I want to trust God's faithfulness today and listen for his promises. In them I find life. Won't you join me?
"Balance" photo by hickoree, courtesy of

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Living Without Regrets

One of those memorable sayings keeps falling on my ears: "Don't die with the music still in you."

What do you think Jesus meant when he said to a scruffy group of fishermen, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?" When I open my listening heart, I believe his offer still stands open for you and me. Through his invitation, he is telling us, "Follow me, and you will live without regret. Follow me, and you will live hearing my life-giving music and want to tell others how to hear it too.

Jesus is in the life-changing business, but it doesn't happen by accident. We have to make a conscious decision to apply his promises to our every day life, not just talk about them and believe them intellectually. Why would unbelievers want to follow us, if we are living the same way they do? Where is the hope in that?

Listening to God gives us the rhyme and reason we need to live triumphantly. And how can we hear the music if we don't spend time in our HIM book, the Holy Bible? Surrender to God today and truly live all the music inside.
Dearest Lord Jesus,
You came to earth, died on a cruel cross, and rose again on the third day to make your song of salvation available to all of your creation. In other words, you did not die with the music still in you. Help me to the same. In your precious name. Amen.
Photo by ArtsySF courtesy of

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Helper of the Pilgrims

I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2
Having an alcoholic in the family brings great challenges. My brother, Jeff, who lives with my dad across the street from me, disappeared with his (heroin-addict) girlfriend, Kelly, on Saturday April 18, 2009, after stealing $30.00 and my dad's cell phone. My dad does not have a land line so this left a 79 year old man without 911.
By Monday I was praying about whether or not to report them as missing. Instead of reporting them I started praying over my brother's 21 page Verizon bill and asked God to give me Kelly's mom's phone number. I just had a feeling she would know her daughter's whereabouts. I want you to know the very first number I dialed out of hundreds of calls was Kelly's mom's phone number (my brother and his girlfriend are obviously phone-a-holics, too). God is amazing! Sure enough, I found out that they were arrested downtown, Saturday night on heroin possession and this when they were supposed to attend Kelly's 8 year old daughter's baptism at church the next morning. (Her mother has custody of her daughter)
God really performed some fancy work to answer my prayers and help this pilgrim work on stopping the chaos in my father's home. It's not over by any means, but I will continue to lift up my eyes to the hills, where my LORD comes from. He helps me with every problem I face. Praise the Maker of heaven and earth, the helper of the pilgrims!
Photo, Dunnigan Hills, by encourager, courtesy of

Friday, May 1, 2009

The "Yes" Principle

In the recent movie release, Yes Man*, Jim Carrey’s character, Carl, signs up for a self-help program based on one simple principle: say yes to everything and anything. At first, unleashing the power of “yes” transforms his life in amazing and unexpected ways, but he soon discovers that opening up his life to endless possibilities can have its drawbacks.

This “yes” principle has stuck in my mind because I realize it works the same way for Christians. This simple three-letter word can turn around our lives for the good. Saying “Yes” to God brings blessings beyond imagining and opens doors to new possibilities. But just like the character in this movie who experienced some snags at first, we need to make sure we are listening to God and allow him to guide the things we say "yes" to so things will not get out of whack.

I am praying for a balanced “yes” principle to permeate each of our lives—for each of us to be Yes Men and Yes Women. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). What can you say “Yes” to today that may change your life forever? I am asking God to open our eyes to HIS opportunities today.

*Of course, Hollywood had to ruin this great PG movie with crude sexual humor. :(
Photo by Alexis Wheeler courtesy of

Friday, April 24, 2009

Perception Equals Reality

The phrase "perception equals reality" holds true in virtually every human endeavor. I read where Psychologist have documented the fact that it is not the actual events that harm, so much as the perception of events.

In the stunning movie Life is Beautiful a father finds himself and his young son thrown in a concentration camp in Germany during World War Two. Trying to shield his son from the horror of their situation, he tells the boy that it is all a game, and the first one who gets scared, loses. Somehow he is able to continually convince the boy that none of the cruelty they are seeing is real, but only a play that is taking place. He even predicts the ending, saying at the end of the game a big tank with smiling men is going to come into the camp and declare the winner. When indeed the tank of Americans pulls into camp, the little boy runs leaping and yelling in joy to greet it: "We won! We won!" The father's change of perception shielded the child from immense mental and emotional harm.*

Isn't this exactly the kind of father we need? We have this kind of Father in heaven and most of the time don't even realize it. We look past his promises and focus on all of the destruction and turmoil in our lives. His word promises in Revelation 7:17 that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He is teaching us the same thing the father in the concentration camp taught his son: We are in a play that is going to have a happy ending no matter what it looks like today.

What seeming insurmountable problems are you facing today that have you in an uproar? How does God's promise of a happy ending help you gain a proper prospective?

Dearest Lord Jesus,
I know you will never leave me nor forsake me. You stay by my side through thick and thin. Please correct my perspective when I take my eyes of you and put them on my problems. And please help me to remember that my life is going to have a happy ending. You have said it and I believe it. In your precious name I pray. Amen.

*As told in Jesus Life Coach, by Laurie Beth Jones

Thursday, April 16, 2009


While reading a framed picture of “Secrets to Happiness” on my mother-in-law’s bathroom wall, I was bothered by the fact that hardly any of them had to do with seeking God. This prompted me to make my own list of keys to happiness because without God, I can’t even imagine how anyone could ever be truly happy. May you take each one and use them to open the way to the joyous, adventurous life God went to extreme measures for you to have. These keys have kept me splashing on the beach of life, totally protected, despite the fact that our enemy lurks in the water like “Jaws” attempting to steal, kill, and destroy. But when I spot that dorsel fin sticking out of the water, heading my way, I hit him in the nose with the truth of God’s word. He swims away.

The Listening Heart’s 10 Keys to Happiness:

1. Spend time alone with Jesus listening through his Word—Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live (Isaiah 55:3).
2. Get up early and spend time praying in nature—Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35).
3. Feel the power of praying with others—For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).
4. Remember you will never be left alone or forgotten—because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
5. Practice forgiveness (even on yourself), God’s gift for keeping your soul healthy—Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22).
6. Confess your sins; doing so will lead you in the right direction—Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).
7. Remain accountable to fellow believers at all times—But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13).
8. Give something away without wanting anything in return—It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
9. Demonstrate random acts of kindness—Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).
10. Study and live out the believer’s blueprint for victory found in 2 Timothy 2:1-26 and become a vessel of noble purposes—In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
A happy Christian is not a person without adversity, but he or she stays with the winning coach on the winning team, permanently. This knowledge will remain our source of joy and peace forever.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thoughts on Easter

When I encounter writings on religion apart from true Christianity I notice a repeated theme--an idea that the resurrection is not needed to save us or attempts to disprove the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on Friday, was buried, and rose to life on Easter Sunday. Paul gives us some deep thoughts on Easter in 1 Corinthians 15:

Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there's no resurrection, there's no living Christ. And face it—if there's no resurrection for Christ, everything we've told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you've staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there's no resurrection.

If corpses can't be raised, then Christ wasn't, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren't raised, then all you're doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It's even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they're already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19-The Message)

Since I have become a believer, I'm not nor have I ever been a "sorry lot." Only when I surrendered to Jesus did I begin to discover genuine fulfillment in every way--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. No one can take that away from me-no intellectual who claims to know more than I do about life or even a person who does not believe the truth, not even my own father.

I pray all of you will cherish the old rugged cross with me and HAVE A VERY HAPPY EASTER!


George Bennard


On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.


In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
Such a wonderful beauty I see;
For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Have you thrown away your confidence?

So do not throw away your confidence;

it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere

so that when you have done the will of God,

you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-36

God is calling us to persevere. I hear his call when I read this verse and I heard it this morning while listening to a speech on perseverance. The speaker told the story of three women who persevered through physical, mental, and financial disabilities. April Holmes, a track and field star had her leg amputated in a commuter train accident. She went on after lots of therapy and training with a prosthesis to set records in the 100, 200, and 400 meter sprints. The other, Anne Sullivan, was put under the care of a loving nurse in a mental hospital who never gave up on her, even when everyone else did. She responded to the nurse's care and improved. Completely healed, she later dedicated her life to caring for people like herself. She ended up coaching Helen Keller through her disabilities. If it had not been for Anne Sullivan's loving and godly nurse, the name of Helen Keller would have remained unknown. The names of these first two ladies remain virtually unknown, but the last one has become a household name. The third person she spoke of who never gave up was Paula Deen. She started out as a divorced mom of two young sons with $200.00 in her bank account. Today she is a multi-millionaire doing what she loves--cooking.

We have a mighty God on our side to help us through whatever this nasty old world throws our way. If we think the barriers are too high or the cost too great to get around the obstacles, we have thrown away our confidence and forfeited our rich rewards. How tragic. Never throw away your confidence, for in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay" (Hebrews 10:37). So listen to your Master Coach and receive what he has promised. Hold tight to your confidence and don't ever give up!!!

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."
Helen Keller, author and blind and deaf educator

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

66 Reasons I Love Jesus (Part Two--New Testament)

I love Jesus because . . .

40. He listed even the questionable women in his genealogy and adopted me, a questionable woman, as his daughter. (Matthew)
41. He gave his life as ransom for me. (Mark)
42. He blesses me and favors me highly. (Luke)
43. He teaches me about true spirituality. (John)
44. He fills me with the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts)
45. He reveals the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. (Romans)
46. He offers solutions to my problems. (1 Corinthians)
47. He made me an ambassador. (2 Corinthians)
48. He provides me with the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians)
49. He blesses me in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians)
50. He is the source of my joy. (Philippians)
51. He strengthens me with all power according to his glorious might. (Colossians)
52. He sanctifies me through and through. (1 Thessalonians)
53. He is coming again to get me. (2 Thessalonians)
54. He encourages me and instructs me. (1 Timothy)
55. He makes me into a vessel of noble purposes. (2 Timothy)
56. He guides me on how to live the good Christian life. (Titus)
57. He demonstrates his power and true Christian fellowship in my life. (Philemon)
58. He clearly presents his sufficiency and superiority. (Hebrews)
59. He gives me good and perfect gifts from above. (James)
60. He offers encouragement when I suffer. (1 Peter)
61. He helps me to grow in my Christian life. (2 Peter)
62. He assures me that I know I have eternal life. (1 John)
63. He warns me about deception. (2 John)
64. He loves me in the truth. (3 John)
65. He is able to present me before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. (Jude)
66. He is my soon and returning King. (Revelation)

Hope you enjoyed part two of the 66 reasons I love Jesus and PLEASE take them as your own. He is worthy of all of our love, honor, and praise.

Always Listen, Susan

Monday, March 16, 2009

66 Reasons I Love Jesus (Part One--Old Testament)

A listening heart learns to love God with all of her (or his) heart, soul, mind and strength. And when you study Scripture using the “listening heart”* method there is a place to list your reasons to love God more.

This morning I became inspired to list the reasons I love Jesus from each book of the Bible. Today’s blog entry will cover the Old Testament. I hope this list inspires you to get alone with Jesus and make your own list of reasons you love Him.

1. He created me in his image. (Genesis) Wow!
2. He set me free from bondage. (Exodus)
3. He is holy and made me holy. (Leviticus)
4. He is faithful, even when I fail. (Numbers)
5. He prepares me to claim my inheritance. (Deuteronomy)
6. He shows me how to claim victory and my inheritance in Christ. (Joshua)
7. He blesses my obedience, even though I live in a world where everyone does as they see fit. (Judges)
8. He redeemed me. (Ruth)
9. He speaks to me, his servant who listens. (1 Samuel)
10. He gives me examples of people like David, who mess up like I do and remain a man (woman) after God’s own heart. (2 Samuel)
11. He teaches me about leadership by sharing the contrast of good and bad leaders. (1 Kings)
12. He guides me in what not to do. (2 Kings)
13. He organizes my life. (1 Chronicles)
14. When I pray humbly, he hears me, forgives me, and heals me. (2 Chronicles)
15. He restores me when life crumbles around me. (Ezra)
16. He rebuilds walls of protection that the enemy destroys. (Nehemiah)
17. He providentially protects me at all times. (Esther)
18. He helps me understand that some questions don’t have answers. (Job)
19. He provides me with songs in the night. (Psalms)
20. He reveals the path of wisdom and life. (Proverbs)
21. He convinces me that with him, life is worth living. (Ecclesiastes)
22. His love for me is perfectly beautiful. (Song of Songs)
23. He made my scarlet sins as white as snow. (Isaiah)
24. He bid me to return so I could escape judgment. (Jeremiah)
25. His compassions never fail; they are new every morning. (Lamentations)
26. He is my glorious Lord and is worthy of reverence. (Ezekiel)
27. He directs the forces of nature, the destiny of nations, and the care of his people. (Daniel)
28. He is devoted to me despite my unfaithfulness. (Hosea)
29. He repays the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel)
30. He is my plumb line. (Amos)
31. He pays back those who harm his people. (Obadiah)
32. He disciplines those who belong to him. (Jonah)
33. His requirements are simple: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with him. (Micah)
34. He completely destroys his enemies. (Nahum)
35. He asked me to write down his revelations. (Habakkuk)
36. He quiets me with his love and rejoices over me with singing. (Zephaniah)
37. He encourages me to complete the work I start. (Haggai)
38. He reminds me, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah)
39. He listens when I talk with other sisters and brothers about him, and records it on a scroll of remembrance. (Malachi)

*If you are interested in receiving a Pure Listening Bible Study Guide, please contact me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lost Your Song?

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40:3
Are you as tired as I am of hearing about the doom and gloom of our country? It is enough to make you want to crawl into a cave and hibernate until this season passes. But if we belong to God, we can expect times of refreshing. Times when he gives us a new song to sing. Many will hear it and won't believe that it's possible to live with a song in your heart in these days and times. God's song in your life will cause people to accept his gift of salvation and trust in the LORD.
I desire to pray and thank God for the songs he has given me in the past and ask him for new ones. Only with God is it possible to live in a dark and dreary world triumphantly.
Dear Jesus,
Please place your new song in my mouth and into the mouths of my readers. We are tired of being beat down by constant bad news. Thank you for the many times you have given us songs to sing so far. Spark our passion into a flame for seeing your lost ones saved. Like you promise, use your songs as a witness to others so they may see and fear and put their trust in you. We love you Lord with all we possess. In your precious name we ask all of these things.
Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.
Psalm 40:5

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PS on March 2 Blog Entry

When I needed God's help again this morning (Isaiah 30:18), I thought about the abounding graciousness of our mighty God. Don't you just love how even a rebuke like in Isaiah 30 is full of awesome promises? Here is one more:

"How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you" (Isaiah 30:19).


Monday, March 2, 2009

How do we get from here to there?

The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice.

Isaiah 30:30

How to get from here to there represents a universal dilemma. We all want to know if we are doing it right, heading in the right direction, and pursuing the right purpose. But how do you really know? After struggling with this quandary for years, I have finally come to the conclusion that I don't know and never will without hearing his majestic voice. He causes me to hear him by putting me in places that are completely out of my control, like when my aging, diabetic father, who depends on me for help, remains noncompliant of doctors orders. No matter how many times I tell him (and the doctor tells him) the importance of taking medications properly and on time, he still does it his way. I get so frustrated, I just want to scream!
I then have to wave the flag of surrender and say, "Lord, I give up. I can't do this on my own. Please speak to my heart and tell me what to do next." I re-visit old promises like the one in this same chapter of Isaiah that says, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21).
But I know I can never take promises in God's word out of context. The Lord is rebuking Jerusalem in Isaiah 30. Their only hope was to repent, return to the Lord, and by faith rest only in him, but they refused to listen to his voice and obey. It works the same for me. I have to repent from my attempts to control those around me, especially my family and by faith rest only in God. I'll get there all right, as long as I come to him first, before I get aggravated.
So the Lord must wait for you to come to him
so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
Blessed are those who wait for his help.
Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who have you been with?

"When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note that that these
men had been with Jesus."
Acts 4:13
At the time Luke wrote this, Jesus had been crucified, already returned to heaven, and Pentecost was over,* yet the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law noticed that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Had Peter and John already figured out how to spend time alone with Jesus praying in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)? He hadn't been with them (physically) in a while. The answer is yes, because when we back up to verse 8 in this chapter, Acts 4, Peter answered the rulers questions filled with the Holy Spirit.
Since Pentecost 2009 years ago, praying works the same way for Peter and John as it does for us. We cannot speak in the power of the Holy Spirit without spending time alone with Jesus listening to him through his word. The only difference is that Peter, John, and others were working on writing the word of God, but we have the complete and perfect word of God in our hands between a leather cover. We have the privilege of knowing the whole story, even the end that has not happened yet.
The verse bolded above makes me ask myself--Who is taking note of me? Does how I act prove who I hang with? I hope and pray people around me can tell I spend time alone with Jesus. I have some bad days, but for the most part, I desire for those God puts in my path to have their notepads ready and jot down "Susan has been with Jesus!" Because when it comes down to it, everything good I do is his idea, anyway.
Always Listen!!
*Jesus was crucified during Passover, after he rose he stayed on earth for 40 more days (Acts 1:3). Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From Six Calamities

From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.
Job 5:19
Feeling like you are on your sixth calamity? I know my friend does. While walking across the parking lot at her grocery store, she was hit by a car. One minute she stood pushing her cart, the next, her foot was under the tire of an automobile. Ouch! She's quite beat up; with a cracked elbow, and a broken ankle.
What do you do when life knocks you down? When you are feeling uncomfortable today, try not to forget all that God has brought you through yesterday. Remember all of his past graces. And think about it. If he has brought you through six troubles, will you not trust him in the seventh?
After pleading his promises and presenting our cases to God in prayer, we usually realize that if there is any help to be found, it will come from God. For like Peter we say, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). Though we don't know how it will work out and when, we look to God. Even when we are knocked down and unable to do a thing, we look to God. Our eyes may be full of tears, but they are looking up.
I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help come from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Move Past Your Devastation; Stay Close to God

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength
of my heart and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73:21-28

We all experience times of devastation that cause us to cry out, "Why God? Why did you allow this to happen to me?" or "Why did you allow this to happen in my family?" I cried out to God in this way when my brother was murdered. And sometimes horrible things happen when we are attempting to serve God, like David. Anointed as King at 15 years of age, David did not sit on the throne until he was 30. During those 15 years of waiting, he regularly inquired of the Lord. As a result, he wanted the presence of God to be near him as he ruled over Judah (and 6 and a half years later, Israel too. 2 Samuel 5:4-5). This caused the first thing on his agenda to consist of bringing back the ark to Jerusalem, which the enemy had captured.

David put together a huge party, about 30,000 in all, to commemorate the return of the ark. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and every instrument they owned. When they made it to the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen pulling the cart stumbled. Uzzah, the man guiding the cart and oxen, reached out and took hold of the ark of God. Because of his irreverent act, God struck him down and he died on the spot. The party--instantly over. David became angry and afraid. He asked, "How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?" (story from 2 Samuel 6)

When was the last time you were angry and afraid of God? Are you still there? The Scriptures (in the Psalm 73 above and 2 Samuel 6) reveal that the man after God's own heart moved past his devastation back into the arms of his Lord. After the tragedy with Uzzah, the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months and the LORD blessed him and his entire household. David must have spent that time figuring out the proper way to carry the representation of our Holy God's presence. As soon as David heard about Obed-Edom's blessings, he mustered up enough courage to finish the task of bringing the ark to the City of David. Uninterrupted celebration and worship followed. David danced before the LORD with all his might.

Life works the same for us. When we get past our trials and heartache and truly understand that God is not harsh; GOD IS HOLY, we are prompted to return to brave obedience and do things God's way instead of our own way or the way the unsaved world works. God's ways will always surpass our thinking (Isaiah 55:8-9). Even though he is holy and mysterious at times, he remains a personal God who wants to comfort us and guide us through the ups and downs of living in a broken, sinful world. Our enemy wants us to stay devastated. What if David had held on to his anger and remained afraid to come near to God? There would be no "rest of the story." We can follow David's example by wanting the blessings of God for ourselves enough to get up and start over again. And then, we dance.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Axhead Floats

The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live."
And he said, "Go."
Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?"

"I will," Elisha replied. And he went with them.
They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. "Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!"
The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:1-7

I love this short little story tucked into the narrative of Elisha's ministry. It shows us God’s great concern for us, especially in everyday things, like cutting down trees and building a place to live.

All Elisha had to do was to cut a stick and throw it where the axhead fell in. God did the rest. Cutting and throwing a stick seem a little weird, but against all expectations, the heavy iron floated to the top of the water. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

I pray today that God opens our eyes so we can see Him working His little miracles all around us. And if he prompts one of us to cut and throw some sticks, well—“according to our faith let it be done” (Matthew 9:29). May we reach out our hands and take all God has in store for us and experience floating irons on a regular basis.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Striving for Excellence

We are all so busy being good;
we have no time to be excellent.
Charles Jarvis
In recent months, God has impressed upon my heart the importance of using our God-given talents to serve Him with excellence. It's a good thing that God always manages to find ways to teach and encourage us, because with the ideas he puts into our minds comes a desire to follow through. Soon after God kept repeating the theme of excellence during our time alone, I came across Mr. Jarvis' quote (above) in a perpetual flip calendar on my desk. This statement rings true in most church-members. We love doing good, but sometimes we get so busy at it, we fail to follow God into the best he has in store for us.
I then ran across this story on the Jews for Jesus website: that I want to share with you. It is a little longer than most of my blog entries, but well worth it. This story written by the founder of Jews for Jesus, Moishe Rosen, tells the tale of a person who got so busy he had no time for excellence. I pray that as you read this story you understand that you are a man or woman of destiny. You have a call. Don't ever settle for anything less than God's best. Strive for Christian excellence in all you do.
He was a wise young man—a coal miner who became a lawyer by studying at night school. First he learned shorthand. Then he found work in a law office. Later, when his shorthand improved, he became a court reporter. He attended law school at night and passed his bar exams. Then he received a call from God for missionary service. He even knew the place—Burma.
She was the most popular girl in her class, but never took any of her suitors seriously. She too, had received a call from God. After high school she enrolled at a newly-founded missionary college in preparation for answering that call.
Each of them might well have been named "Most Likely to Succeed" by society's standards, but they both had other standards in mind. They wanted to serve God above anything else. They met at that missionary college. It was inevitable that they should decide to marry. Together they prayed and looked forward to their missionary service. They were married the day after graduation.
Before their appointment to Burma came through, there was a small complication. He weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces and was 20 inches long. When finally the appointment was made, her need to recuperate from an extremely difficult labor prompted them to postpone their acceptance for a year. But the next year brought a flu epidemic. It nearly took his life and did claim the life of their little son. The overwhelming medical bills caused another delay. To get out of debt, he became very much involved in his law practice.
The third year brought another baby. The new father, now a successful lawyer, was in the midst of a contested probate where a godly widow had left a huge sum of money to missions. Her ungodly children were using all kinds of legal maneuvers to keep that mission from receiving the funds. He felt he could not leave for Burma until the case was settled. He rationalized that he was fulfilling his call by serving as an attorney for God's work, and that the delay in going to Burma must have been God's will. That case took four years to resolve.
Once again he applied as a missionary, but this time only half-heartedly. He now had three small children, and with relief he accepted the mission board's notification: they could not use him in the field. Burma had been closed to missionaries.
His law practice continued to flourish. His monthly donations supported several missionaries. He served on the board of directors for several missions, and through his generosity several churches were started. I attended their 45th wedding anniversary celebration and heard that very attractive older couple declare their happiness and sense of fulfillment and their love for the Lord and one another. They were never to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. She passed on and he became frail in health.
At that time I was a young missionary and greatly discouraged in my ministry, thinking that I might better serve the Lord in some other way. I considered "tentmaking" as Paul had done. The idea had always appealed to me. Because there is an onus on being a missionary to the Jews, it would be so much easier if I could continue to witness but say that I was a shoe salesman or a teacher—anything respectable—anything but a missionary to the Jews, which was not at all "respectable"!
I shared my burden with the elderly lawyer because I knew and respected him greatly. That was when he told me a shocking secret—one he had kept from even his closest associates. He confided it to me because I needed to hear it, and I have never forgotten it. He said,
"I've had a happy life, but not a joyous one. I've made and given away a fortune. I have the love and respect of many, but I did not fulfill my destiny. It's easy to excuse myself by saying that circumstances dictated another call, but only in the last year of my wife's life could we admit to one another that we had chosen to do the second best. I am not unhappy, but I am not fulfilled."
Then he added something that helped me overcome my discouragement. He said, "I recognize that you are a man of destiny. You have a call from God. Don't do anything less than what He has called you to do."
He died shortly after that. He was a man who taught me many things. He was certainly a godly man. I can testify to that. He was happy and successful, but by his own admission, he had not fulfilled his destiny.
Some time back, I read Christian Excellence: Alternative to Success by Dr. Jon Johnston, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Discussing our success-oriented evangelical society, Dr. Johnston made a distinction between success and excellence. He described his own efforts to be a super-person, and how he had continually failed and concealed his failings. Then he had read a highly recommended secular book, In Search of Excellence. The book dealt with companies that did things right and made it big. As he read that book, Dr. Johnston realized that it was not describing excellence, but success.
He pointed out the differences. He said that success is cheap. Success might mean enjoying the acclaim of the crowd, having the keys to the executive bathroom and driving a Mercedes, but success does not necessarily last. Excellence, on the other hand, does. Excellence does not gain the applause of the crowd. Excellence does not produce popularity. Excellence demands more than success. Striving toward excellence requires striving to change one's character.
After reading that, I wondered if Dr. Johnston was not just playing word games. Wasn't excellence implied in success? If a person did an excellent job, then didn't he or she succeed? If a person received recognition for being successful, wasn't that success due to excellence? In our society that seems to be the case. Excellence, success and recognition seem to go hand-in-hand.
Then I realized what Dr. Johnston was saying, and it was an important lesson to me: in the Christian sense, excellence in serving the Lord is quite different. Christian excellence is motivated by a desire to please the Lord and to fulfill His purposes. Such endeavor is an act of worship, not to be applauded by human hands. Christian excellence entails offering one's best to God. It cannot be snatched away by lack of human praise or augmented by human recognition or earthly reward. It seeks only the Master's affirmation: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
I know from personal experience that Christian excellence can exist without "success" and without applause or fanfare. If you want to see excellence and godliness, come and sit at our Jews for Jesus mail table and read some of the mail we receive from friends and supporters. Sometimes the spelling isn't correct; sometimes the handwriting is scrawled and shaky and almost illegible. But I look at those pages and see the reflections of godly people. I see hearts of love and praise to God. I see overcoming strength and victory in the midst of illness; trust in the midst of poverty. That is Christian excellence.
Excellence is better than success. It entails pleasing God—fulfilling one's destiny as His child—godliness. Godliness does not lead us to strive for success, but to strive for excellence—to strive to accomplish God's purposes, thus fulfilling our highest calling as His redeemed ones. How we love to quote Romans 8:28: "…all things work together for good.…" But we must be careful to remember the rest of the verse: "…to those who are the called according to His purpose." And if you read the rest of that passage, you find that God calls us to be conformed to the image of His Son. We are not all called to be professional missionaries. We are not all called to be preachers. But we are all called to fill and fulfill a definite role within the Body of Christ. As those who have received the Spirit of Christ, we know what God asks of us, and we know when we settle for doing—for giving Him—something less.
That godly lawyer knew. He told me, "You are a man of destiny. You have a call." He didn't want me to settle for anything less. He exhorted me as one who had not fulfilled his own destiny. I, in turn, want to say to all blood-bought believers in Christ: You too have a destiny because you have a call, as does every believer in Christ. Your call is to do your part in accomplishing the purposes of our Heavenly Father. Once you realize this, you have the potential of excelling in the fulfillment of your destiny. And fulfilling your destiny will bring unmatched and lasting joy.