Monday, March 23, 2009

Considering "Packin' Some Heat"!

"You armed me with strength for battle...." Psalm 18:39

Our neighbors are probably having the time of their lives watching us! It's really quite comical. As I mentioned in a prior post, my sweet man bought me an amazing bird feeder for Valentine's day. We all thoroughly enjoy the great variety of birds that visit. We keep our bird guide and binoculars handy. At first, I was not really bothered by the squirrels that quickly devised a way to indulge in the smorgasbord (that was not intended for them.) I even heckled John for discriminating against the poor creatures, saying that they needed to eat too....That was until, in Disney-like fashion, they seem to have summoned all of their friends to come to the Butler Backyard Buffet!!! It didn't take long for me to join him in crazy antics (that would surely be grand prize winners on America's Funniest Home Videos!!) to chase those varmints away! Melea has even joined the brigade...wielding a banana in one hand and a stick in the other!! It's really quite hilarious!

In spite of the hilarity, I've decided that it might just be time for us to take some real action! I'm thinking about heading to the WalMart and buying a BB Gun! That bird food is just too expensive for the squirrel's greediness and voracious appetites. I've always been a little intrigued by BB Guns. (I tried shooting one before, and must admit that there was some satisfaction that came from hitting the tin can that was out in the field.)

We've had some interesting discussions. Melea said, "Mom, just what is a BB?...Will it kill the squirrels?" I said, "No, I don't think so. It would just scare them off." She said, "Good. I don't think we want a backyard full of dead squirrels." I'll let you know what we decide.

You see, I realize that while we are at home we might be attentive to the plunder that is going on and be able to take action. However, when we are away, I feel pretty sure they will come right back. I believe it. I've watched their little squirrely eyes...observed their sneaky little moves...seen them sizing up the situation.

We, as Christ followers, have an enemy...much more serious than a rodent. God's Word tells us that we have to "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1Peter 5:8) He is out to gorge himself on the fruit of our lives. He wants to steal all of our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal.5:22-23b) He watches for any moment that he can catch us off-guard...any opportunity to subtly control our thoughts and actions. We have to realize that we must keep our own defenses strong...put on our full armor (Read Ephesians 6.)

We also must remember that we have a God that never sleeps...that never takes His eyes off of us. In Isaiah 27, as God spoke on behalf of His chosen people (which applies to us), He says, "I, the LORD, watch over [you]....I guard [you] day and night...." He is our constant shield, our defender, the One who is victorious over the enemy!

LORD, we are so thankful that You are our "ever present" help. (Psalm 46:1) Thank you for your watch care day and night. Please guard us and protect us from the one who seeks to destroy our testimony and our passion...the one who wants to leave us empty and hungry. We know that our hope is in You and You alone!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wantin' to Hear From My Babies!

"May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." Psalm 141:2 (NIV)

Three of our four "babies" have left the nest. Oh, how I miss having them here with me. And, oh, how I love to hear from them. I love the phone calls and the emails. I just love to talk to them! I want to hear the great things that are happening in their lives. I want to hear their struggles, too, so that I can pray for them and encourage them. Sometimes it requires tremendous self-control in refraining from calling them constantly...wanting to know all the details!!

Like this morning, I watched the clock waiting for the hour that I thought my daughter, Evie, would be awake. I knew that she had a "coffee date" last night with a really handsome, really tall, really nice young man. I just couldn't wait to hear all about it!!! I wanted details!!!!!!!!!! (I really wanted for her to be here, so that we could snuggle up in my bed and giggle like schoolgirls!)

As I "whiled away the hours," I could almost hear God whispering, "You know, I feel the same way about you." And He does! How could He help but feel that way!?! In Ephesians 1:4-5 the Word says, "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world....In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will."

We are so blessed to have an adopted daughter! And you know what? We love her every bit as much as we love our biological children!!! That speaks volumes to me about God's feelings toward us. He adopted us! We are "co-heirs" with Christ! (Romans 8) He loves us as His own!! He loves us so much that He even let Jesus die for us!!! We are His children...His sons and daughters!! He wants us to pour out our hearts to allow Him to share in our joys and our that He can, in return, "lavish on us" His love...and "all wisdom and understanding." (Eph 1:8)

He wants to hear from us. He waits. I know He doesn't have a clock, but if He did, I know He'd be watching it...wondering when we're going to "call," to talk to Him. A very familiar verse, Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." But I love the verse that comes next!!! "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (Jer. 29:12) He wants to listen to us!! He wants to answer. Let's don't make Him wait in vain.

Let us "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer"!! (Romans 12:12 NIV)

Lord, so often I think we forget what prayer really is...communing with you. Help us not to get so caught up with a "formula for prayer" or with lists for intercession, but to really talk with you, our Abba Father...our Creator...the One who loves us beyond measure...Who cares about every detail...Who has the plan for our lives and all of the answers we need along the way. Thank you, Abba, for listening...and for the many ways that You speak back. We love you!

PS The "coffee date" went very nicely! :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shrinking Sweater Vests and Sin

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (NIV)

I was trying to do the right thing. My intentions were so good. My sweet hubby was preparing to go on a trip. I wanted to make sure that he had everything that he needed...that all his laundry was clean. I noticed that the sweater vest he had on had a little spot on, my man loves his sweater vests...and this was one of his nicest. I threw it in the wash and went about my other "busy-ness." It was bedtime when I headed to put the load in the dryer. I didn't even think about checking to see if any needed to be hung up to dry. I fluffed the clothes this morning...wanting to put them on his suitcase so he didn't forget them. I got them out to fold them. The first item I picked up was the vest. It was pretty small. :( Now, my man has lost a lot of weight, but I don't think he's lost any height. I am grieving over that sweater vest. I dread telling him. But, you know what? He'll hug me. He'll forgive me. I know that I'm much more important to him than an item of clothing.

As I agonized over my carelessness...even to the point of feeling a little sick in my tummy, I was convicted of something. How often do I grieve over my mistakes in my Christian carelessness with my responsibilities as "Christ's ambassador"? How often do I pray, "Forgive me for my sins" without regard to the pain that sin caused my Savior?

I want to do the right honor Christ, to serve Him, to obey. My intentions are good...but I often fail. It may be outright sin (sins of commission)...gossip, wrong thinking, jealousy, unforgiveness, selfishness...or less easily observed sin (sins of omission)...times that I just don't obey and do something that God has clearly called me to do. I need to be more cognizant of the price that was paid...and be more intentional in my confession. What Amazing Grace has been shown...grace that "saved a wretch like me."

And what freedom is found in the realization that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 (NIV) Yes, our Abba, Father will wrap His arms around us. He has already proved the depth of His love for us.

It is my prayer to forego the grief...on my part and His...and to "not let [His] Book of the Law depart from [my] mouth; [to] meditate on it day and night, so that [I] may be careful to do everything written in it. Then [I] will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8 (NIV) And that prosperity and success are not in regard to money or fame...but as His ambassador...His chosen one. He is the one who "bestow[s]...a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." I want to "be called [an] oak of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

Lord, thank you for grace that is greater than all my sin! Lord, stop me in my tracks when I disobey! Convict me and draw me to Your throne for forgiveness. Don't let me be complacent in regard to my sin. Help me to keep Your Word on my my mind...on my heart. Help me to be careful in my obedience to you. Thank you for Your love that never fails...even when I do.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Little Crazy & Quirky...A Lot Loved & Inspired!

"My [daughter], if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:1-6 (NIV)

Well, as they say, "All good things must come to an end." We loved every minute of the amazing weather in the mountains and didn't see a single bear! We rested. We played. We explored. (Melea even built a little dam in a mountain stream!) We hiked. (Okay, to be honest, I don't really know that you can call the walking I did hiking...but it sounds more adventurous!) We watched movies. We ate...a lot! We enjoyed breathtaking sunsets over the mountains. We window-shopped. We read. We laughed...a lot! What precious memories were made! There was just one thing missing for me.

I couldn't believe that we were in the mountains, the weather was nice and warm, we're nearing the official start of spring...and I hadn't seen a groundhog. Here's where my craziness and quirkiness comes in. I have a little of an obsession with groundhogs. What's really crazy is that if you "Google" the word marmotophile (one who loves groundhogs), I'm the second & third search "results" on the from a comment on my friend Tracie Miles blog, and the other from my "About Me" section here on my blog. Kind of scary, huh? I bet Tracie's pretty frightened that you can find her there! Sorry, Tracie!

Well, we were about to head back home. My oldest daughter offered to drive. I'm a little ashamed to admit that one of my first thoughts was, "Now I won't have to concentrate on the driving, I can look for groundhogs!" I didn't mention it to my girls...even though they humor me greatly in my affections for the little critters. We had ridden about 45 minutes or so and I shouted, "Look!! Two groundhogs!!!" Carrie said, "Yiiiiiiii! Mom, you nearly scared me to death!" They were all a little startled. Evie said, "Mom, you're crazy...but I love you." I said, "God loves me. I knew He would show me. Now I just know that I'll see one more. God always shows me signs of His love in threes!" Sure enough, miles down the road, there was one more bushy groundhog nibbling grasses along the roadside. Ain't God good?

Then I got to thinking about how much time I had spent scouting the roadside, searching for those goofy little "signs of God's love." Immediately God brought to my mind the Scripture from Proverbs 2 (written above) that speaks so richly of searching for "treasures"... and finding ones that we should all be seeking...wisdom, insight, knowledge, and understanding of God, Himself, of His Word, and of His unfathomable love for us. We must spend time. We must look and search...and He will keep His promise. Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV) says that " seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Lord, I pray that my life will show evidence of my search for true treasure...knowledge of You and Your Word. Help me to use my time to seek you with all of my heart and all of my soul! Thank You for Your great love...a love so personal... that brings even silly little delights. Thank You for Your creation and for the boundless joy that we receive because of it. Thank You for mountains and sunsets and spring blossoms and songbirds...and yes, even groundhogs. Thank You for family and laughter and love. Fill us to overflowing with Your love that it may be shared with those You place in our that they may be drawn to the Treasure of You.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Oh Me of Little Faith

"And He wondered at their unbelief." Mark 6:6 (NAS)

It saddens me to think of how often Jesus "wonders" or is "amazed" (Mark 6:6 NIV) at my big things and in small things.

I'm in the middle of one of those "small things" right now. We're in the mountains...up closer to God!! Surely we must be! His majesty and beauty surround us! We are enjoying a family getaway, with all of our children and acquired children (sons-in-laws)! In the days of anticipation of the trip, I prayed so many times for good weather...just so that we would be able to enjoy being "out and about." I wanted everyone to be able to travel safely without fear of snow or ice...even rain. I didn't pray "big," in fact very minimally. But it is so like our God "to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine"! (Eph. 3:20 NIV) We are enjoying the most spectacular weather!!! It is sunny and in the mid-70's, and has been everyday of the trip!!!

Now for the sad proof of my weak faith...I only brought one short-sleeved shirt. I had been watching the weather reports. They spoke of weather in the 70's, but I kept thinking, "That's just too good. It won't be that warm in the mountains."

I'm a list maker. So, in typical "Mommy" fashion, I sent out a packing list to my girls. I told them to plan for dressing in "layers." I told them that the weatherman was calling for warm weather, but to be prepared for less than that...sad to think, I was even sharing my lack of faith! (Now,I don't consider myself to be a pessimist...rather, a realist.) Well, our God showed me His reality!!!

Fortunately, Carrie and Evie packed enough short-sleeved shirts for everyone! Rachel wore Evie's and I've been sporting the same green shirt (Carrie's) for a couple of days! My brown shirt will carry me through till we go home. We had to make a WalMart run to get something for Melea (Yes, I packed her clothes!) and shorts for the big girls to play volleyball in. Oh well, girls always love a little something new!!

You know, it does give me a little comfort to be reminded that Jesus' very own disciples had times that their faith wasn't exactly stellar...and even in the case of weather. In Luke 8:25, after Jesus calmed the storm, He asked, "Where is your faith?" I feel that He has looked at me with that same exasperation...and I just have to join with the apostles and say, "Increase [my] faith!" (Luke 17:5 NIV)

Father, thank you for not being limited by my lack of faith and my minimalism! Thank you for the grace you bestow! And as Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus, "I pray that..Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith. And I pray that [we], being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."( Eph. 3:16-19 NIV) Thank you for your great love. Thank you for your many acts of blessing...amazing weather included!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Bears Invited!!!

"But now, this is what the LORD says...'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; You are mine.'" Isaiah 43:1

We heard slamming and banging outside the little mountain house where we were staying. We thought it was car doors and trunks closing as guests arrived for our daughter's wedding. We went to open the door and were shocked as we discovered guests that definitely had not been invited!!

Now, those two cubs (actually there were three) were really cute. However, their Mama was very large, very protective, very hungry and very determined to find food for herself and her cubs. The noise had come from Mama bear lifting and rolling and jumping on and clawing at the big plastic trash container in the parking area. The lid had been secured (at least for the time being) by sturdy bands fastened on each side. We banged some pots and pans together, pressed the car alarm buttons on our remotes, and scared the bears least until dark. We awoke the next morning to trash covering the whole parking lot!
We are headed back to the mountains this weekend...and all of us are wondering if the bears have come out of hibernation yet! They are not invited to this family get together!!! (Of course, they weren't invited to the wedding either!)
This morning as I was thinking about the bear digging through and pulling out all that trash, something just struck me. You know, that's just what the enemy does with us. He is in relentless pursuit of our very lives. We are told in 1 Peter 5:8 to "...Be alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion (even worse than a bear) looking for someone to devour." And he will dig up all the "trash" he can in an attempt to keep us discouraged, defeated, or distracted from doing what God wants us to do and living the life He wants us to live. The enemy will resurrect thoughts of past failures or sins committed in an attempt to cripple us with shame and insecurity.
However!!! We belong to the Victor over the enemy! He has "summoned [us] by name"! We are His!!! He has forgiven us our failures and washed away our sin. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12) Listen! "...This is what the Lord says...'You are precious and honored in my sight'...'I love you'....'Do not be afraid, for I am with you.'...'You are my witnesses,' declares the LORD, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know me and believe me and understand that I am He.'...'No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?'...'Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.'" (Isaiah 43)
Let's cling to the Word of Truth and refuse to even hear whispers from the father of lies. We are redeemed...summoned by name....We belong to the One who made us and forgave us. We are His!!!
Heavenly Father, wrap us in Your Truth. We pray that Your voice is the only One we hear. We thank You for Your forgiveness, Your grace, Your mercy. Your love is amazing!