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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

one word

One word.  The thought baffles me.

Verbosity is my weakness (but you all knew that already).

I heard the challenge on the radio a couple of days ago.  Instead of writing out a list of goals and achievements; resolutions for the year, to choose one word.

One word to hold onto.  One word to inspire.  One word.  Only one.

So I started thinking.  I can do this, right?  Just one word, pshaw--that should be easy...right?

Ahem.  Until you start trying to narrow it down.

Words filled my mind.

Beloved?

Surrender?

Faith?

Purpose?

Trust?

Open?

All beautiful words...but they felt redundant to me.  Sure, I could use them.  But they didn't feel right.  So I prayed about it, and kept thinking and searching.  Then I saw it.

A beautiful word.  So simple.  Mundane, boring even.  But the thoughts that filled my mind when I read it whispered, "This is it."

Walk

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
~Micah 6:8

To place one foot in front of the other.
To get somewhere.
Swift or slow, to progress.
Steady or shaking, intrepid or heart breaking.
To hold His hand and follow Him.
To take each step.  With Him.

"Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." 
~Genesis 5:24

"I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people." 
~Leviticus 26:12

"You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." 
~Deuteronomy 6:7

"When His lamp shone over my head, And by His light I walked through darkness;"  
~Job 29:3

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." 
~Psalm  23:4

"For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth."  
~Psalm 26:3

"Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name."  
~Psalm 86:11

"for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light"  
~Ephesians 5:8

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,"  
~Colossians 2:6

"so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."  
~1 Thessalonians 2:12

"but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."  
~1 John 1:7

"the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."
~1 John 2:6

"And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;"
~Revelation 21:23-25

What do you think of this challenge--one word for the year?  
What would be a word that you would choose?

Be blessed my dear readers; Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

time is short

We near the final 24 hours of this, the year of 2013.

It's a melancholy feeling; exciting, yet a reminder of the shortness of our days.  Has another year really come and gone already?

I was reminded of the shortness of life yesterday. I was visiting with some friends, the Saint family-- the grandson of missionary, Nate Saint, Jesse Saint was telling me about his sister, Stephanie.  She was 20 years and 20 days old--twelve days older than I am today--when she died suddenly of a Cerebral hemorrhage.  No warning.  Jesse said that she had just come home from a trip the day before, feeling perfectly healthy and full of life.  The next day she was dead.

It puts things into perspective.  Any day could be our last.

Sometimes it's hard for us as young people to grasp it.  We feel like we still have our whole lifetimes ahead of us.  We still have yet to get married, have kids, watch them grow up...we have years ahead of us...right?

"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."  ~James 4:14

So what am I going to do with the remainder of my days?  Or hours?  How does one make sure that they can stand before the Father at the end and hear, "Well done..."?

Sometimes I measure the effectiveness of my life in the things I "do".  If I can do "great things for God"--build schools and hospitals (some of you may or may not get this reference, ha!), sacrifice myself as a missionary, die a martyr; if I can motivate others to great things, if I can speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have faith that can move mountains...

I look back on the year at my "accomplishments".  So I sold a few books at conferences.  So I taught a writing class.  So I acted in a play.  So I coordinated an event....but do I know Jesus better than I did the year before?

What I do in an of myself is worthless.  No matter how much zeal I put into it.  No matter how "pure" my motives.  It is worth nothing apart from Christ.

What Jesus did is priceless.

Paul wrote this in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 3):

"...although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."

Paul had everything going for him.  I'll bet his yearly Christmas letter was immaculate; lengthy with all of his amazing accomplishments! (Sorry, Momma--I had to throw that one out there :P) In the world's eyes he had it all; fame, fortune, passion, zeal for God.  He was one of those guys that mothers probably pointed out to their kids, encouraging them to grow up and be like him.

But he later realized that it was all worthless.

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Here, Paul lists his great accomplishments--his reasons that he might boast in the world's eyes.  Then he discounts it all.  He throws it all away, burns it.  It's worthless compared to that which he now desires.

Righteousness in Jesus.

Knowing Jesus.

His resurrection.

His sufferings.

Dying with Him, so that he might live.  Really live.

But then, it comes to my favorite part:

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

First of all, it does not appear that Paul buys into to the popular idea of being completely unshakable, 100% positive, so-confident-that-nothing-can-get-in-the-way of one's salvation (the so-called "freedom in Christ" that allows Christians to continue their lives as they were prior to their salvation--but because they "said the prayer" they're going to heaven no matter what).  Instead, he admits his weakness.  And even his seeming doubt of his own faith.  "I don't consider myself as 'arrived'!" he cries.  He's human too--he knows that he's worthless in and of himself.  Without Jesus, everything that he has done is worthless.  But he has a part to play too.  He knows that faith is more than just saying a prayer.  His prize and life's goal is to pursue Jesus.  Relentlessly follow, to die, to carry a cross.  Every day.

So what does he do?

He looks toward heaven.  He lifts his hands, and opens them to the sky.

He lets go of his own ambitions.  His accomplishments.  His reputation.  His self-derived righteousness.

And he runs.  He runs with open, empty hands, yearning to fill them with Jesus.

May our ambition every year be to live every day to that end; we are ready at any moment to stand before His throne.  To be emptied of our own motives, desires, accomplishments, and to be filled with Jesus.  To run, to pursue Him.  His love.  His rest.  His voice.

And finally on that day, to hear His whisper, "Well done, good and faithful servant..." 

My dear readers, time is short.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."  Matthew 16:24

We don't know how much time we have left.

May we fill our years, days, hours--moments with thoughts of Him.
May the foundation of all works be love for Him.
My our every desire pour from our hearts for Him.
May He be our everything; the bedrock on which every ambition and accomplishment stands.

May our ambition be to know His love.  Our passion to obey Him.  Our prize to hear His voice on that day.

When I kneel down that day
Looking upon His holy face
I will remember with trembling
Every single moment, every memory

Who was I and where was I going
What kind of fruit were my actions growing
Staring at the pages
He’ll be staring at the pages of my life
Was my passion just to know Him
Did I really let it out and show Him
Staring at the pages
He’ll be staring at the pages of my life

~Pages, by Leeland

It's all about Jesus.
Not what you have done for Him.
But what He did, and how you thanked Him.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

book review: Clear Winter Nights

Chris thought he had it all going for him.  Freshly graduated from college, a beautiful fiancee, a position of leadership in a budding church plant waiting for him...  But when he discovers new truths about his father, an anxiety begins to take root.  A blackness seeps into his heart; he is too embarrassed to talk about it.  Doubt. About God, his faith, and everything he has ever known.

As his feeble grandfather, a retired pastor, recovers from a stroke, Chris goes to spend the weekend with him.  As the winter closes in, Chris and his grandfather talk.  Armed with his intellectual debates and new fashioned ideas about Christianity, bitterness fuels Chris' arguments.  But try as he might, nothing that he says can baffle the elderly, yet sharp mind of the long-time Jesus lover.

Clear Winter Nights is a story about faith and forgiveness--and what sets Jesus apart from the religions of the world.   The subtitle "Theology in Story" is an excellent description of the words that are penned within the pages of this little book.  Tough subjects even down to homosexuality are handled with grace and the solid foundation of the scriptures.

I truly enjoyed this book--I actually picked it up for the first time and finished reading it all within 24 hours!  I expected this to be one of the books that are harder to review--based on the "Theology in Story" title.  Some books that I have read do not stay true to the fictional format in which they are perceived and go into something more like a rampage of rhetoric instead of focusing on the story.  This I found was totally not the case with Clear Winter Nights.  In fact, the symbolism sprinkled throughout the book that tied into the theological discussions was absolutely beautiful; the story moved along at the perfect pace.

I was a little disappointed in the lack of the actual scriptural text presented.  Now I understood everything to be built on the scriptural foundation, Biblical principles and worldview-- and the book was obvious in pointing pack to the Bible in general, but it would have been nice if there was more tying directly back to the exact references.

Because of the topics of sex and homosexuality, I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 16.

All in all, I loved this book!  Easy read, yet solid lessons and beautiful symbolism.  I would recommend this to anyone (saved or unsaved) aged 16 and up.  I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Want to learn more?




  • Author's Site
  • Podcast
  • More Info
  • Author Bio


  • I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.

    Friday, December 27, 2013

    book review: The Aquifer

    A futuristic novel set in the year 2250, The Aquifer is a story about 16-year-old Luca and his rather unprecedented quest for truth. Luca is the last in the line of the Deliverers, a family instituted to go underground every year to negotiate with the legendary "Rats" for the world's rationed fresh water. Peace has reigned over the world; emotions are monitored and controlled. No one wonders, no one thinks, no one questions.  All is peace...or so they think.

    When Luca's father goes missing, Luca is forced underground.   He soon discovers the secrets that have been buried, the lives that have been corrupted, the lies that have spread.  In his absence the world changes; when he again reaches the surface he soon realizes that nothing will ever again be the same...nor would he wish it to be.

    I found this book to be very interesting, the characters compelling, the mysterious twists kept me turning pages.  There was an element of romance, but I highly appreciated the fact that it was very subtle.  There was a kiss or two, but again, subtle and not overly glorified.  The portrayal of family loyalty was great--I enjoyed Luca's admiration for both of his parents and the other relatives mentioned in the story.  

    I'm not sure if maybe it was just me, but I was disappointed in some of the communication of some of the story points and plot. Also, sometimes there were little pieces of dialogue that I did not really know to whom it belonged, and a couple of scenes in which the characters would do something and I had a hard time of understanding why.

    The spiritual symbolism in the book was okay--but also, again, confusing.  I was disappointed that the author did not mention Jesus, or even God.  There was a "Voice" that spoke to Luca--but then, Luca was not a Christian. There is mention of "Wishers" that you assume are Christians because they pray--but that is unclear; many religions pray...to false gods. 

    All in all, it was a very interesting book--beautiful prose, the characters were real, the plot was fascinating.  But still a bit confusing and fuzzy on the meaning and lessons being portrayed.  I would hesitate to recommend this book to just anyone, but I would still let my siblings that are strong in the faith read it as I know they would enjoy the story.  I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

    Find out more about the book HERE!

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

    Monday, December 23, 2013

    surrender

    Can you imagine an angel appearing before you?  Blinding light, exploding presence, maybe booming voice; who could stand?

    Then, can you imagine telling him, yes?

    I previously posted an imagination piece about Gabriel's visitation to Mary.  I love reading and writing fictional renderings of biblical stories because it helps me to put the story that I may have read over and over into a different perspective.  It helps me to connect with the characters of history as the real people that they were; with feelings, hopes, dreams, passions just like us.

    So what about Mary?

    How would you have responded to the angel's message?

    In Mary's day, pregnancy while being unmarried was met with stoning.  If someone noticed that she was pregnant before she was married, she would be as good as dead.

    How do you think her family responded?  What about Joseph?  What about her dreams of being his wife, carrying his children, and making his home?  What if he did not believe her?  Would he condemn her?  Would he divorce her?

    Mary had the odds stacked against her.  And yet...

    She fell to her knees and declared herself, "...the bondslave of the Lord;"

    She opened herself up to be used by God, in spite of the world.

    She said yes, in spite of what they might say.

    She gave her hands to receive, no matter what the cost.

    She surrendered all,  and believed that God's promise would overcome.

    Mary believed the angel, she believed that the seed growing in her womb was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  She believed that He was the Promised One.  Immanuel.  God with us.  God with her.

    What about you?

    God has called each of us as His children to carry Himself for the world.  To surrender ourselves so that His presence might indwell within us.  To die to ourselves, that we might receive new life within.  To carry Him, to spread His presence, the news of His love, to make disciples.

    Are you ready to surrender everything, to give up your dreams and desires; open yourself to carry Jesus?

    Immanuel.  God with us.  God with you.

    He promises to never leave you or forsake you.  He promises to give you the desires of your heart, if you will but delight in Him.  Do you trust Him?

    God used a heart surrendered of a lowly teenage girl from the tiny country of Israel to bless the entire world with His Promised One.  If you surrender your heart, your passions, your desires, you follow in her footsteps; to carry Jesus and bless the world.

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    the angel's message

    Her hands were sweaty.  She could feel her stomach quivering, her heart racing, as she knelt, the shining being before her. Favor with God?  A baby?  The Son of God?  God, as a baby--in my womb?

    The thought thrilled and terrified her all at the same time.  "The Lord is with you."

    Then, like a punch in the stomach, her thoughts came back to earth, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"  Surely the angel must have made a mistake.  She could not have a child.  She was not married!  She sighed.  It had been a beautiful thought, it would have been nice if it were true.

    But the angel's face did not cloud in confusion.  He did not turn away from her.  No, instead, his face seemed to beam brighter.  A full smile lit across his face as though he was expecting the question.  "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God...For nothing will be impossible with God."

    Goosebumps ran up her neck.  The hair on her arms stood straight up.  Her legs felt weak.

    The sign!  Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

    God with us.

    God with us.

    God with us.

    The God of Noah, that in His righteous anger, covered the entire earth with water, destroying all life but that in the tiny rescue ship.

    The God of Moses, that, struck the Egyptians with plagues, delivered the children of Israel with a mighty hand and outstretched arm.

    The God of Elijah, throwing fire down from heaven, consuming the offering before the prophets of Baal.

    The God of the mighty warrior David.  

    The God that delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the flames.

    The God that held the lions mouths shut for Daniel.

    The God that gave Esther, the beautiful Persian queen, the courage to save her people, and protected her from harm.

    That God.  That God of judgment.  That God of power.  Strength.  Majesty.  Mercy.  Kindness.

    With us.

    In her womb.

    She put her hands to her stomach, her mind racing.  Me?  I am the virgin?  Me?  My son, God?  The Messiah?

    God is come to save us!

    Jesus.  That was the name the angel said to call Him.  Jesus.  Her Son's name.  A smile touched her lips. It was so sweet on her tongue.

    A flash filled her sight.  A vision knocked her.  Blood running down.  Cold stone.  Violent quaking.  The smell of fear.  Sweat.  Blood.  The sounds of anger.  Yelling, screaming, "Harlot!  Adulteress!"  And blackness.  Death.  The ache filled her chest and escalated into a raging fire.  Anxiety ravaged her body.

    What about Joseph, her betrothed?  When he discovers that she is with child, will he believe her that the Child is God?  That she is with child by the Holy Spirit?  Her throat burned.  Or would he order her to be stoned for adultery?

    Immanuel.  God with us.  God with her. She was called Favored One... He would protect her.  He was always faithful.  Just like He was with Noah.  With Moses.  With David.  He was with her.

    Her voice quivered, felt small, 

    "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

    The angel was gone.

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    waiting

    Waiting is so hard.  It could be be waiting for that adorable dress to go on sale, it could be waiting for that avocado to ripen (guacamole, anyone?),  it could be waiting for that phone call, a difficult relationship that you’ve been working hard to reconcile, it could be a dream you’ve held forever…whatever it is, no level of waiting is easier than another.

    I’m stubborn.  I’m a hard nose.  I’m willing to work hard for what I want–even if it kills me.  I don’t care.  I want it, I’m willing to do what it takes to get it.  I don’t care about the pain.  The blood.  The sweat.  The tears.  Bring it on–as long as I get what I want in the end.

    But that’s not the way that God always works.

    He does not ask me to practically kill myself for what I want.  He doesn’t want sacrifice, it doesn’t matter how much blood, sweat, or tears I shed–trying to show Him how badly I want something.  He wants obedience.

    “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,”
    ~from 1 Samuel 15:22

    Sometimes I forget that what want is not necessarily what God wants for me.  Or, if it is something that I believe is within His will, I forget that He is not always working within the time schedule that I want things to occur.

    “Come on, God!  It’s time for this to happen now!”  I point to my watch, tap my toe.

    Amy, are you being faithful where I have you right now? 

    But Lord, I have been!  And I keep trying, isn’t it time that everything pays off now???

    Amy, trust Me.  Wait.  Wait upon the Lord.  Remain faithful.

    I am reminded of the scene in the movie Fireproof.  Even now, as I write this post, I am blasting the song “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller through ear buds.  So good.

    Anyway, the scene with the montage showing Caleb, how while he is waiting for the Lord to work he is simply being obedient.  No matter what the outcome appears to be, he does not waver in that which he believes the Lord has called him to.  He just waits.  He keeps pressing in on the commands of the Lord.  He waits.  He remains faithful.  Even if it means forever.

    Even if it means waiting for eternity.

    “Let us not become weary in doing good,
     for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
    ~Galatians 6:9

    “At the proper time”–in God’s time.  Even if it means til eternity.

    God’s timing is always best.  He is omniscient.  He knows the desires of your heart, He will not withhold good things from you, but He will protect you.  And because He is supreme, His will comes before yours.  Is His will first and foremost in your heart?

    “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
    On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
    To deliver their soul from death
    And to keep them alive in famine.
    Our soul waits for the Lord;
    He is our help and our shield.
    For our heart rejoices in Him,
    Because we trust in His holy name.
    Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,
    According as we have hoped in You.
    ~Psalm 33:18-22

    What are you waiting for?  
    How can you serve the Lord while you wait?  
    Talk to God about the things on your heart that you are waiting for.  Are they from Him?  Give them up to Him, trust in His holy name, and bask in His peace as He carries them for you–and be faithful wherever He calls you in the meantime.

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    The Greatest Gift {Review and Giveaway}

    As we begin the beautiful month of December, I thought that I would share this beautiful Advent devotional with you...

    As you all probably already know, I adore Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  If you have not read it yet, you must get a copy and read it.  It is absolutely life changing and eye-opening.

    When I saw that Ann Voskamp had written a book for Christmas I had to read it--Christmas, Ann Voskamp, a couple of my favorite things, how could I go wrong? ;-)


    ~The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas~


    This Christmas, Ann invites readers into the rich and meaningful celebration of Christmas we all long for --- a celebration of the complete love story that's been coming for you since the very beginning.  




    In what is certain to become an instant holiday classic, Voskamp reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus -- the greatest gift --- through the majestic advent tradition of "The Jesse Tree," each day featuring its own exquisite ornament highlighting the Biblical story (free download of each of the 25 ornaments available from Voskamp's website, annvoskamp.com ).

    (Description from Amazon.com)



    Ann takes us back to the beginning--the very beginning, where humans were created in the image and likeness of God.  She unwinds the story of pain, the story of the fall.  She takes you through the dawns of evil, reveals the depths of the depravity, realizes the desperation for a Savior.


    She shows the goodness of God.  The holiness of the Maker.  The graciousness of the Father.


    I loved the way that this Advent devotional was written.  Truly beginning at the very beginning, showing the desperate need of humankind for a Savior before the miraculous event of God taking on flesh.


    The Gospel glows throughout this book.  Ann reveals and stresses through her poetic, real, and encouraging prose that Christmas was the means to usher in the true redemption.  That Jesus was born to die, to give us life.  But because He is God, the chains of death could not hold Him.  He rose again, and gave us victory.

    Christmas is beginning of the life--the promise fulfilled.  Immanuel, "God with Us".


    I highly recommend this devotional.  The sweetness of the Gospel, the holiness of such an oft commercialized event--this devotional helps it all to come into perspective.



    I adored the style of the formatting.  The graphic design, the fonts, the colors--the peaceful art appropriate to its message.


    Each devotional begins with a scriptural reading, followed by Ann's encouraging words on the particular passage.  The following remaining pages for the day feature a quote appropriate to the day's topic and a few questions for pondering with blank lines on which to write out your own thoughts.


    I am grateful to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 


    And now... the moment that you have been waiting for--a Christmas giveaway!
    For this giveaway, I have two of my favorite things for the Christmas season.  Not only am I giving away a copy of Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift devotional, but I am also giving away Chris Tomlin's Glory in the Highest CD!

    and


    One of my favorite Christmas CDs, Glory in the Highest plays like a live worship album.  The renditions of our favorite Christmas carols strike familiar, but a couple of new tunes remind us of the true reason for the season.  This album serves to usher us into the place of worship, standing in awe of God's gracious love, poured out in the form of  Himself, taking on flesh in the prone, humble form of a baby.

    Be blessed, my lovely readers--and enjoy!

    By the way, the giveaway ends Friday, December 6, 2013 at 11:59pm ET!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Saturday, November 30, 2013

    thanksgiving and the beginning of a new season

    Here I am, sitting in a chair in my bedroom, laptop on my lap, headache lingering over me, exhaustion overtaking my limbs, swell in my throat.  I'm sick.  And tired.  And sick.

    But as I have spent the last 24 hours in bed, just tossing and turning, catching bits of sleep here and there, I have had a lot of time to do, well, nothing.  In fact, my head has been hurting so badly, that it has felt as though I could not control my own thoughts.  Sigh.  But here I am, writing a blog post--two days after Thanksgiving.  I thought about writing a Thanksgiving post, my first reaction was, I feel like garbage, I can't think about being thankful right now, it hurts too badly!

    I can almost feel His smile over me.   Amy, is your view so small?

    I gave you hands to work.




    I gave you parents that love each other.


    I gave you siblings that love you.

    A family to belong to.

    Little brothers to make you smile.

    A name that encapsulates who you are to Me, Beloved.

    My perspective changes, my head throbs less and I smile.  Yes, Lord.  How did I not see it before?

    I wish I had more photos from Thanksgiving, but everything got pretty busy once the family began to arrive.  What a blessing that is in and of itself--that we have family that enjoys us, that wishes to spend time with us!

    So here I am, the last day of November, the first of December a mere couple of hours away.  Has the year flown by so quickly? As I look forward to this last month of 2013, December, admittedly my favorite month of the year, I grin with anticipation.  The month in which we begin the celebration of Immanuel.  God with us. 

    The month that we seize the opportunity to celebrate the fact that God put on flesh to dwell among us.

    To feel pain with us.
    To cry with us.
    To laugh with us.
    To tell us stories.
    To teach us about His kingdom.

    To die for us.
    To feel pain for us.
    To cry for us.
    To conquer death for us.
    To give us victory.

    ...and His life on earth all began as a tiny cell.  A minuscule miracle of molecules, clinging to the side of a virgin's uterus. 

    How beautiful is this?

    My dear readers, I know that I probably rambled a little, and my brain is not on the organized side, lol!  But I ask you, is it not fitting that Thanksgiving should come a mere few days before the beginning of the season in which we remember the greatest Gift that mankind has ever received?

    I gave you Jesus.

    The best Gift, the most life-changing Gift, the most earth-shattering Gift began as a tiny Gift.
    It was not fireworks. Not a grand procession.  Not a big surprise party.
    It was silent.  Small.  Precious.  Fragile.

    As we rush out of Thanksgiving, and into the month of December, I charge you--wherever you are, whatever you may be going through: you have something to be thankful for.

    Jesus.

    I love you, my dear readers, and I am grateful for you!
    I leave you now with a few photos I snapped on my phone a couple minutes ago while cuddling one of my gifts: my precious baby brother Paul as I was yanking myself out of my sickie rut and getting the guts to write a blog post... ;-)



    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    sacrifice and the impossible promise

    We all have things that we hold near and dear.  Parents, siblings, pets, dreams, desires.  Love and relationships are a part of life, they give us worth.  Dreams and desires give us drive, give us hope for the future.

    But what happens when God asks you to give them up?

    One of my mentors and I have been discussing this topic recently.  I was sharing with her how I was struggling with a passion, a dream.  I knew it was biblical.   I could testify with the Word of God that my desire was from Him, that it was something that He loves.  But I was struggling because I wasn't seeing the fulfillment of it.  It didn't make sense to me.  If it was something that I loved, and He loved it too, why would He not want to freely give it to me?

    Instead, He asked me to sacrifice it to Him.  Whaaaaaat?  God, you told me this is good!  You told me this is holy!  You promised it to me!  Why can't I have it?

    "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." (Genesis 22:2b)

    God had given Abraham a promise.  He promised that He would bless Abraham and his wife Sarah with a son in their old age; an impossible promise!  Years later, a baby boy was born.  He was named Isaac.

    The boy that was to be the father of a new nation.  The boy through whom God would come to dwell among men as a man.  Through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed.  The promised one.  The impossible dream come true.

    And God told Abraham to sacrifice the boy.

    So how did Abraham respond?

    The very next verse:
    So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:3)

    Abraham didn't flinch.  In fact, the first sentence starts with "so"... as though of course that's what he would do!  God told him to, so he did it, right?

    I can imagine myself bargaining with God, and trying to remind Him of His own promises before making any sudden moves.  "Wait a second, Lord.  Let's not be too hasty here. Remember, what You said about through him all the nations being blessed and stuff?  This kid can't be a father to anybody if he's dead!  Maybe we can strike up a deal here..."

    But Abraham didn't do any such thing.  Instead he rose early in the morning--he didn't waste any time at all. Didn't just eventually "get to it"; he went above and beyond so that at the earliest he could possibly obey (without question, I might add), he did.

    Once Abraham and Isaac make it to the top of the mountain,  Abraham binds him and lays him on the altar.  The knife is in Abraham's hand to slay his son, and the angel of the Lord calls out from heaven and stops him.

    But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”  (Genesis 22:11)

    Abraham answers humbly, he is in the process of killing his son, as a result of what God had commanded him.  His heart is in shreds.  His only son that he loves more than life itself, he is sacrificing on an altar. Because God told him to.  God didn't give an explanation.  He just told him to.  Now, knife in hand, poised above the beating heart of his impossible dream come true, how does Abraham respond?  With humility, "Here I am."

    He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Genesis 22:12)

    Can you imagine the relief that washed over Abraham's heart?  Can you imagine the joy?

    What do you think was Abraham's secret to giving Isaac up to God?  How could he bear to hold a knife to his son's chest?  How could he put the same wood on the back of his son that would be that which would burn the very flesh off his bones?

    Faith.

    Okay, it sounds like total "church talk", but hear me out:

    By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

    Abraham had such faith, that he believed that to fulfill that which God had promised, He would raise Isaac from the dead if He had to.  Abraham knew that God does not change.  When He makes a promise, it will not be broken.  Therefore, Abraham had faith in the promises of God, that even when he was told to sacrifice his impossible dream on the altar, he knew that everything that God had promised He would bring to pass.  Abraham's was only to obey, and leave the rest up to God.

    You know, it interesting to note that, up to the point of Abraham, there hadn't been any resurrections.  No one had ever been raised from the dead (from what is recorded in the Bible).  Just like Abraham believed that God would make good on His impossible promise of Isaac's birth in his and Sarah's old age, Abraham believed that God was big enough to continue His impossible work, and do something never before done.

    Think about it.  We have heard stories in the New Testament about people being raised from the dead, and yet do we have enough faith to believe that if we were to sacrifice one of our children on the altar to God, that He would raise them from the dead?

    Abraham obeyed God and trusted that God would bring about whatever happened for His glory, and to the advancement of His kingdom.

    What about you?  What is your Isaac?  What has God called you to lay on the altar as proof of your love for Him?

    As for me, I have taken my Isaac, my own impossible dream, and I have laid it on the altar.  I have faith that God will make good on His promise, that His plan will go forth through my obedience, and that His kingdom will advance as a result of my surrender.  Do I expect to have my dream back?  No.  I can't.  It's a sacrifice. I must trust that even if it were to die, He has the power to raise it from the dead for His sake, not mine.

    It's a test.  Do I love Him enough to sacrifice my dream so that He can advance His kingdom?

    "I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. I should never say, 'Lord, this causes me such heartache.' To talk that way makes me a stumbling block. When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness."

    ~Oswald Chambers {My Utmost for His Highest}

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    song of faith

    Today was my sister Melody's 15th birthday.  Wow, I seriously can't believe she's 15 already.  Just yesterday she was 2, toddling after me in the backyard. Now, she is a young woman, blazing a trail in front of me.


    A little less than a year ago, I hacked into Mel's blog and wrote a post about her.  Here's a portion that I thought was fitting for today:

     Melody is the third child in our family-- the first child born after my mom and dad made the decision to trust God in the amount of children that they were to have.  When my mom was pregnant with her, a woman at our church at the time prophesied over her, proclaiming that the baby within would be a "Warrior for the Lord".  My mom, unknowing the baby's gender, and having had 2 girls beforehand, assumed that maybe this meant that this new baby would be a boy-- a strong boy that would grow up into a courageous man, to do great things for the Lord, to greatly advance His kingdom through dramatic, great and mighty acts.  

     Lo, and behold, on November 4, 1998, a baby girl was born.  My parents named her Melody Faith which literally means, "Song of Faith".  In faith they gave their womb to the Lord.  They knew that it wouldn't be easy, everywhere we heard about the financial and domestic difficulties in the abundance of children.  But they believed that God's word says that "children are a gift from the Lord..." (Psalm 127) and that if God is willing to give you a gift, who are you to deny it?  They took a leap of faith, and were blessed.

      Melody was a blessing of a baby.  If you ask my mom, out of the 9 of us so far, she was probably the best-- most easy going and content.

      Melody is 5 years younger than me, but she has always been my best friend.  She has always had a soft and gentle heart.  She has always loved the Lord-- I mean it.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that.  I know it sounds weird, but she has.  God has always, always had His hand on her-- from the womb.  She puts me to shame, as I watch her pray, read her Bible, her zeal, love for the Lord spills over-- contagious.  Her heart for people, missions, inspires me.  I know that God has some amazing plans for her.

    (You can read the full post here.)



    Since I wrote this post, Melody has only grown beyond what I could ever imagine.  She has since written two novels, she is Momma's "go getter girl" for our Farmer's Market business, she has been teaching herself guitar...  her hard work ethic, her passion and drive are such an encouragement and inspiration to me!

    I'm always bragging on her to my friends.  I have people that have not even met her that know how awesome she is!  I share her story of her heart for the orphans of Brazil, I share the story of her birth, and the meaning of her name... I probably annoy people with how much I talk about her, lol!


    Melody Faith,

    You inspire me daily, you keep me on my toes; I appreciate you so much!  Keep pressing forward, stay strong in the faith. I'm so excited watching you grow into the young woman that you are becoming.  I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for you next.  Keep inspiring others in their walks with Jesus!

    You are my best friend, I love you so much, girlie!

    Love,
    Amy


    I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
    ~Philippians 1:3-6

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    morning

    The suns rays have just begun to peak above the horizon.  Coffee steams in mugs.  Laundry has already begun to spin, some waiting to be folded on the dining room table.  After my shower, my mind has already begun to silently race, planning the list of things to be done for the day.  The house is quiet.  Until a small voice begins to echo down the hallway,

    "There is powah, powah!  Wonder, wonder, powah in da bwood..."  to the tune of Power in the Blood.





    Leave it to God to remind me to start the morning walking in grace...by the power of His blood--out of the mouth of the two-year-old.

    Good morning, Beloved.  


    "The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
    For His compassions never fail.
    They are new every morning;
    Great is Your faithfulness."

    ~Lamentations 3:22,23

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    arrived?

    Driving through my little neighborhood development, I stopped at the stop sign and looked both ways.  Oh, no.  A cop was at the stop sign the next street over, just waiting to bust somebody.  I knew it would be me...for something.  You see, I've been pulled over twice-- BOTH times in my own neighborhood.  And, you'll understand my paranoia based on the fact that the first time I was pulled over, it was because the cop thought that I wasn't wearing a seat belt...but I was.  Let's just say Little Town PD is bored.

    Anyway, so here I was, paranoid because I hadn't come to a complete stay-at-the-stop-sign-for-a-full-ten-seconds-until-the-whole-car-jerks-because-your-wheels-have-stopped-turning stop (which is no big deal in the major world of driving, but to Little Town PD could be considered a terrible offense), since I noticed the cop after I had already started turning. Ugh!  I continued to drive, making my way out to the main drag of the development (driving EXACTLY 20 mph)...and he wasn't following me.  Hmm.  Next thing I knew, he was riding my tail. (He would have to have sped to catch up with me for how far I came without him following me.  Just sayin'.)  Ugh!  No, no, no!  I was frustrated.  I can't get a ticket!  I can't afford it.  My parents can't afford our insurance going up...ugh!  I was venting my feelings at my sister in the front seat. as the cop continued to ride me without turning on his lights.  "Why doesn't he just turn his lights on and get it over with???" My sister tried to soothe me, "Amy, you didn't do anything wrong.  He's not turning his lights on because he's not going to pull you over."  (Consequently, she was in the vehicle with me both times that I got pulled over, so she knows the boredom as well as I do--but since her record and bank account weren't at risk, was not nervous or paranoid like me.)  Ah, the voice of reason.  But that didn't stop me from my frantic glances in the rear view mirror.

    All that to say, I did not get pulled over. Having committed no offense, that's not a big surprise.

    I made a prejudgment about the cop before I had any sort of interaction with him to judge how to respond.  I automatically assumed that all cops are the same, that they are all bored, waiting to bust somebody for some petty offense.  That they enjoy ticketing people, that they like to watch me squirm over nothingness.  

    I went to a Leeland concert at a church about a week ago.  Lines of kids and teens laughed loudly, pushed and shoved each other obnoxiously, waiting for the doors to be opened to get into the concert.  Some started chanting, "Let us in!  Let us in!" I just rolled my eyes and felt old.  (Yeah, almost 20--surrounded by junior highschoolers...) When I got up to the door with my conservative looking entourage we were greeted by the youth leader.

    I observed him as he informed me of the concert situation...  He had shaggy, longish hair, a beard, two nose rings, tattoos on both arms, and tight denim shorts.  And he wasn't the only one.  Everywhere I looked there were adults with piercings, and covered in tattoos...many of them Christian tattoos.  I felt awkward and out of place. (Well, until the music started :P)

    I prejudged them all.  

    Poor dears, they haven't been informed yet.  

    Oh, poor thing.  He's going to regret those tattoos once he's convicted.

    Poor girl in that miniskirt!  She hasn't arrived yet.  Doesn't she realize it's not attractive anyway?



    Wow.  Instead of seeing past the outside, instead of judging according to word and deed, I prejudged them based on their physical appearances.  And what's worse: I assumed that I had arrived.  That God had "enlightened" me, and that they had simply not "gotten there yet".  Ouch.  If that's not convicting, I don't know what is.

    I was smug and skeptical as the youth leader got up on stage and preached Jesus.  And the opening band, lead guitarist covered in tattoos, proclaimed His name.

    What was I thinking?  Anyone who preaches Christ and Christ crucified, and the cleansing power of His blood is my brother or sister--regardless of how many tattoos or piercings cover their body.  It's not my job to prejudge appearances!

    My dad reminded me, "These are people that we will be shoulder to shoulder with in heaven crying, 'Holy!'  Dare we judge them because they are different from us?"

    Sure, God has convicted my family of certain things.  We have our standards of the way that we believe that God would have us to live.  But when we get to the point where we want to throw our convictions and standards at everyone else and expect them to comply, or else they're not saved, is a dangerous position.

    "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." ~Romans 12:3

    "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."  ~Romans 14:10

    My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

    Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

    If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.  ~James 2:1-13 (NKJV)

    Do you think that James was merely talking about the monetarily rich or poor here?  Could it be that he could also be referring to the spiritually rich and poor as well?

    It is God's job to convict, it's my job to love.  Is there a time that we may need to rebuke a brother or a sister in Christ on something? Absolutely.  But each situation is to be handled carefully, correctly applying the concept of Matthew 18, and should be addressing a direct offense against the objective Word of God.

    None of us have arrived.  I will continue to be sanctified until the day that I reach the pearly gates.  I have so much yet to learn, to be convicted of, to raise the standards of, to continue to be refined in the way of holiness in Jesus Christ.  How dare I try to "fix" those around me by forcing them to comply to the little that I know, when God is already at work in them?  God has called me to love the brethren and leave the refining up to Him.

    Saturday, October 26, 2013

    grace

    Grace.

    Just when I think I have it all figured out.  Just when I think I'm beginning to understand.  That word rocks my world.

    It all started early one morning, October 27, 1996.  I thought I was destined to be the only child; the only love of my parents' life.  I had all my plans; yes, at almost 3 years old, I had it all figured out... til Grace showed up.

    At the hospital, Daddy placed the bundle of pink into my arms.  I looked down at the little face, my arms full.  "Kiss her nose."  Daddy prompted me.  I bent over and kissed her nose; how tiny, how soft it was!  Maybe this change of plans was okay, maybe this was better than my plans...hmm...

    As the years went by, she moved into my room, she learned to walk, she learned to talk, she giggled, she played.  I, being 3 years the elder, we weren't ever in the same stage of childhood.  While she was still toddling, I was reading chapter books.  When she was learning to read, I was baking in the kitchen.  

    For a while, we were distant; we had a bit of hard time connecting.  It may have also had something to do with the fact that we're opposites.  She did her thing, I did mine.   I'd color in the lines, she'd create a whole creative new picture by coloring oustside the lines.  I'd be reading, she'd be playing outside.  I'd be writing, she'd be drawing.  I'd want to watch Cinderella, she wanted Feival Goes West. But as we grew older, time drew us closer.  We became best friends.  And, because of our differences, she began to teach me about her name, even though she didn't realize it. 

    She taught me to laugh at myself; to not take everything so seriously.


    She taught me that it's okay to talk about it.



    She taught me that it's okay to be your own self; to think outside the box.



    She taught me to make friends anywhere.

    His plans are always better than mine.

    Grace. The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. (As defined by the infamous Google)

    As my binary and type A personality cannot fathom, grace is unmerited, free, and freeing.  Liberty in Jesus, no longer a slave to the traditions, the expectations of men.  No longer under the law, no longer under bondage to sin.  Freedom!  To laugh.  To cry.  To talk about it.  To be the person God created me to be, not who the world expects me to be.  To tell others about this gift.

    Just when I think I have it figured out.  When I think I know what I have to do.  Grace shows up, and He just smiles.


    (Yes, note the tiara, ladies and gentlemen.)

    Hannah Grace,

    You are my best friend.  Don't let anybody tell you otherwise; you are my bestie.  Thank you for being born on this day, October 26, 17 years ago.  Thank you for everything that you have taught me over the years.  Thank you for listening to my ramblings, for sympathizing with my tears, for dealing with my petty emotions, for just being there when I need somebody to talk to.  You have taught me about grace, God's most mind-blowing gift to mankind.  I love you, Princess.  Happy Birthday ;)

    ~Amy

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    a kiss

    4am.  I wake to Tenth Avenue North, rocking next to my bed through my cell phone speaker.  Slide my finger across the screen to silence the music, and stumble...er, roll, rather, out of the bottom bed of the triple bunk.  Stumble to the kitchen; mindlessly start the coffee, and as that precious liquid starts to brew I step out into the garage and rev the engine of the grainmill.  Thus starts a typical Thursday, the day of the Farmer's Market.

    So why am I writing about it?  If it has been such a typical morning, why would I bother to draw any attention to it?

    I was adding flour to a batch of cinnamon swirl; the bosch mixer going round and round...that's when I felt it.  A kiss.  It came in the form of a subtle, gentle, and cool breeze.  It brushed my cheeks, caressed my forehead, kissed my lips.  I looked up.  Where did that come from?  From inside the house?!?  Then I saw.  My dad had just opened the front door. 

    Here I am now.  Still in my pajamas, I confess, but I didn't want to lose my excitement befrore writing it out.  It's been in the upper 80s and 90s here; humid, stifling...  But as I write this out, I am sitting in the lazy boy next to the open sliding glass door.  I feet the warmth of the sun's beams on my feet, the cool breeze on my face.  Since we moved down south when I was about eleven, I miss more of the cool weather--my memories of fall are my fondest.  Raking Leaves, jumping into piles.  Collecting leaves, marveling at the color.

    This morning, when that drift kissed my face, it all came back.

    That first breeze of fall brought a gentle whisper,

    Do you love it, Beloved?

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    great is Thy faithfulness

    My head is bowed.  What next, Lord?

    I see His hand, stretched out.  "Trust Me."

    God, it's so hard!  I'm afraid.

    "Trust Me." The hand does not waver.

    I look up and see love personified.

    "I will never leave You.  I love you."

    My hand quivers...until it comes to rest in His.

    You have always done as You have promised.

    You have always been there; You've never left me.

    You are faithful.

    Jesus, I'll trust You.



    Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
    there is no shadow of turning with thee;
    thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
    as thou hast been thou forever will be.

    Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
    Morning by morning new mercies I see;
    all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
    great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

    Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
    sun, moon and stars in their courses above
    join with all nature in manifold witness
    to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. 

    Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
    thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
    strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
    blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! 

    I have been listening to this song recently, my favorite rendition by Chris Rice; pure guitar, violin and vocals, peaceful and worshipful.  It is such a beautiful reminder to me, as I navigate these treacherous waters of life that He is faithful.  When I am tempted to take control, to try to manipulate situations, relationships, decisions or whatever, I am reminded that He has promised that He will take care of me.  And He always does what He promises.  He is faithful; He promises that He will make my path straight if I trust in Him.  He will give me the desires of my heart IF I delight myself in Him.  If I commit my way to Him, my plans will be established.

    Many times I find that by trusting in Him, delighting in Him, and committing my way to Him, I begin to focus on His way, His desires--and they in turn become my own.  Sometimes, though, it's hard to let go.  But that's when I remind myself of His promises, and that He is faithful to do that which He has promised.  That He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it...even if it hurts, I know that He knows what is best for me, and best for His kingdom; I will rest in that.