Friday, January 28, 2011

What Lingers When You're Gone?

"For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."  2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV)

Is it skunk season or what???  As I drove last weekend from Charlotte (and spending the weekend with my Daddy recovering nicely), I was overcome with the putrid smell of not just one, but two dead skunks...miles apart... that met their demise on those byways.  I had to drive for several minutes with my windows down...on a very cold get that odor out of my car and my nostrils!  Phew!  They surely left their "mark" and got the last word!

That experience did cause me to ponder.  What mark do we leave?  If we get the last word, what is it?  What aroma is left behind when we leave a room...and even more so when we leave this world?

Is it a beautiful mark...a visual sign of God's grace in our lives?  Are they encouraging, kind words...that come from a heart that overflows with His love?  Do we leave a pleasing that proves that we've spent time in the presence of the Lord?   Let's strive to be the fresh air that blows off the stench that this world often spews forth.

Father, help us to be the aroma of Christ...the pleasant scent of joy, encouragement, hope...the bearers of kind words, and a testament to your power in our lives.  Let the fragrance that lingers be Yours.  We love You!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

God Did It....He Took the Pain

"Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering....He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed."  Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)

I could hear him groaning over the phone as I talked with my Mother.  When I arrived at the hospital, the furrowed brow and body flinching with each movement broke my heart.


As I looked at him laying in that hospital bed, I remember thinking, "I wish it was me.  I wish I could bear his pain.  I would gladly take it if I could."  And I know that if the roles were reversed he would have exactly the same thoughts.

That's love.  Deep love.

As I pondered that pain...and that love, God impressed something deeply into my heart and mind. 

He took the pain.  He looked down from His heavenly throne and saw His children suffering in their sin.  He had the same thought.  "I wish it was me.  I wish I could bear that pain.  I would gladly take it if I could."  And He could.  And He did.

The love of a Father...our Abba, Daddy...sent His own Son to take our pain...not temporary, earthly pain...but hellish, eternal pain. A perfect, sinless Being bore the wrath of our sin, our disobedience. Every bitter thought...every evil deed. He took it all upon Himself because of His love for us.

Because of His love...because of His pain, we have hope...even in the midst of our pain...hope for healing...hope for freedom...hope for eternity.

Abba, words can't begin to express our thankfulness for the pain that You took for us.  In our earthly sufferings, it only allows us a tiny glimpse of the pain You endured on our behalf...because of Your love...a love that defies comprehension.  Help us through our days on this earth, in these temporary tents that we occupy, to persevere in the hope that comes from You!  We love You!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fake is Not Free

"This is what the LORD says:  'In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, 'Come out,' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'"  Isaiah 49:8-9a (NIV)

Okay.  I admit it.  There are things about me that are fake.

First of all, there's my haircolor.  It is my original color, but not the one that is currently sprouting naturally.  I'm just not ready to be totally gray...although many people look very lovely that I frequent the haircolor aisle at the nearest Target or CVS.

This one is harder for me to admit.  My nails are fake.  I never dreamed that fake nails would appeal to me or be something that I would even consider a valid part of my budget.  I don't think of myself as the kind of girl that has fake nails.  But when my own nails were faring miserably, I reconsidered.  And I love them...not in an idolatrous way.  I could give them up at any time.  But they make me feel better about how my hands look...and for a children's author and teacher whose hands are frequently holding up picture books before an audience, I can justify the cost.

Aaahh..the cost. 

The cost of my haircolor isn't so bad, since I do it myself.  But it does involve the cost of my time...frequently.  Pretty nails hit my wallet a little harder...even more frequently...and also take a chunk of my time.

So my fake-ness is not free.

I'm fake in other ways too.  Sometimes I look happy when I'm not...wearing a mask that conceals what's really going on inside.  At times I may appear to "have it all together"...when portions of my life are in total disarray.  I may seem to be at home in a crowd...but I can be quite insecure...and am a homebody who loves being alone.  I try to act lovingly...but sometimes I don't feel love...and sometimes my actions show that.  I believe that "All things work together for good..." but find myself frequently begging God to "Help me in my unbelief."

And that type of fake comes at a cost as well.  A cost that causes me to suffer...and those around me as well.

I suffer because I try to bear those burdens alone.  Other people suffer because they are carrying their own burdens and feeling alone in their situations.

That's where I think we need to "Get Real."  I don't mean wearing your heart on your sleeve.  Or walking around like a "sad sack."  Or spewing details with everyone you meet.  But rather, praying for discernment in finding friends that you can trust...that you can share honestly with...and for the ear to hear when there are those that need to hear your struggles and receive ministry from the knowledge that they are not receive encouragement and prayer support...and hope for the future.  And freedom.

Jesus, we know that You came to set the captives free.  We know that You created us to love and to share Your love.  Help us to find freedom in that love.  Lord, help us not to fall victim to the lies of the enemy...who wants us to feel alone and inadequate, who uses deception to keep us in bondage.  We know that You are greater than he who is in the world...You reign over the enemy.  Help us to cling to You...and to build those relationships that encourage us and spur us on toward You.  Thank You for Your love that is REAL...and unfathomable...and merciful...and forgiving.  We praise You and love You. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"A Story Pops Up"!

God has plans that often amaze us.  He uses matter how ill-equipped we believe we are.

You've got to see my precious Daddy in the Charlotte an article about our books!  (My Mommy is wonderful too...even though she's not pictured!)
See him here!

Thanks be to God...and His plans...even involving groundhogs!

Thanks, Daddy...what a treasure we've shared!

Thanks to Yonat Shimron and the Charlotte Observer (& News and Observer) for sharing our story!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fresh Resolve...Fresh Failure

"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 (NIV)

I think that God tried to stop me.  I didn't let Him.  I plunged right on in to failure.

My husband and I have resolved to work toward reaching a healthy weight in this new year.  I must confess that our start date was a bit delayed.  We were on vacation on January 1st...and the day after...and the day after.  It's a rule to eat what you want on vacation...isn't it??  So today was Day 1.  I did well at breakfast...Special K.  I did well at lunch...spinach salad.  Then as I headed out the door to pick up my daughter at school, my tummy was a little rumbly.  I thought, "I'll never make it till dinner.  Maybe I'll have a spoon of peanut butter...a little protein."  Now, all you weight watchers out there, don't even think about telling me what a no-no that is!  And don't worry.  I didn't eat it.  God stopped me.  It was a new jar...complete with vacuum sealed protective covering under that lid.  And I couldn't get it off.  I remember thinking, "God, you're helping me out, aren't you?"  I put the peanut butter back on the shelf. 

And then I saw them.  A box of Godiva truffles that one of my students gave me for Christmas.  I pulled back the decorative elastic band wrapped around the box.  I lifted the lid.  God tried to stop me again, knowing that I needed to get on out the door and to the school carline.  Yes, those four delectable delights were wrapped in cellophane.  I thought, "God, I didn't know you cared so much about my weight!  You really are an ever-present help in time of trouble!"

But...with a quick little swipe with my kitchen scissors, I pulled that dark chocolate luscious creamy filled treat from the box and took a bite.  (It  was DARK chocolate.  That makes it a little healthier...right???)  I finished it off on my way to the school...the feeling of failure washing over me.

I could have sunk into my recliner and chosen to admit the failure of today...and try again tomorrow.  But I decided to act.  I put on my coat and scarf and took a brisk walk.

Over the years I've made many resolutions.  I've broken many of exercise read my Bible write love more.  But it would be so sad if with each failure that I faced I'd just plopped down and given up.  We can't!  We've got to pull up our bootstraps and press on...keep trying...over and over.  "At the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!"

Lord, help us to resist the "chocolate truffles" in our lives...the things that deter from our pursuit of what's best.  Help us not to grow weary in doing persevere...and not to give up.  Help us to yield our bodies, our hearts, and our minds to You and Your plans for us.  Thank You for loving us...even when we fail.  We love you!