Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cookies for Breakfast

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."  Psalm 90:14 (NIV)

A couple of weeks ago, all of my girls gathered for a traditional Christmas cookie baking day.  For hours we laughed, reminisced, quoted family favorite movies, measured, mixed, rolled, iced, sprinkled, dipped, and nibbled!  We filled canisters with white chocolate covered pretzels, Ritz bitz, and Oreos for each of our homes...and some to share.  We loaded one baking sheet after another with Toll House cookies...definitely unable to resist eating a few hot ones.  We iced sugar cookie stars, candy canes, gingerbread shaped boys and girls, in a rainbow of colors.  Mmmmm...sweet treats and sweet memories.

Ever since then, I think that I have had cookies for breakfast everyday...usually chocolate chip, occasionally sugar cookies.  They are just the perfect match for a good cup of coffee.  This is a little ironic, as I'm the mom and teacher that frequently quotes, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."   Uh, yes, I feel a little convicted.

This morning as I ate my chocolate chip cookie, as He so often does, God whispered a little something in my spiritual ear.  I was challenged to ponder how much more important...even than a good proper nourishment from His Word to get my day off to the right start.  We surely need to satisfy that spiritual hunger to help us be the vessels He needs for us to be each day.  And believe it or not, that's way better than chocolate chip cookies...and way better for us!!!  Psalm 119:103 reminds us, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth."  And Proverbs 24:14 informs us that not only does His Word bring us pleasure, but it has tangible benefits, as we "Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."  Where does wisdom come from?  It comes from the Lord...revealed in His Word.

Proverbs 2:1-10 (NIV) offers great counsel!  We read "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....For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul."

Oh, I want to get my day off to the right start...physically (mmmm, well after the cookies are finished up)...and definitely spiritually so that I'm equipped to handle whatever the day may bring.  Is your soul rumbling with hunger.  Fill it with pleasure and delight in His Word.

Lord, we yearn for satisfaction...for our hunger to be filled...physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Nourish us with Your Word...Your love...Your grace.  Help us to be mindful during this busy time of year to spend time with You...remembering that Your lavish love is the reason we celebrate.  Thank you for Jesus.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hope for the Hopeless

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

It seems like every time I walk in a store, turn on the TV, or get in my car, the same song is playing…touting that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…[that] everyone’s telling you be of good cheer….[and that] it’s the hap-happiest season of all.” Some years I have danced and twirled around my kitchen, as I baked Christmas goodies, singing right along. Other times I’ve questioned the sentiment.

I spent one Christmas battling flu and pneumonia, missing every Christmas program that my children were in, every special event at our church, and every party. That didn’t exactly feel “wonderful”. One year I found myself in a fierce battle with depression. Somehow everyone telling me to “be of good cheer” only threatened to push me deeper into the pit.

This year our family is experiencing grief. My Granddaddy passed away the week before Thanksgiving. He is spending his best Christmas ever…with Jesus. And we’re thankful that God was merciful and took Him Home, as he suffered so in the days before his death. We know that his hope was realized! But for those of us left here, there’s an empty chair at the table. There’s a little less laughter. We’re not being “patted” or getting smooshy, wet kisses on our foreheads. He left behind his “little sweetie” my Grandmother, who is feeble and has dementia…unable to process the fact that he’s not coming back. We have hope…but there are surely days that we don’t feel our hap-happiest.

As I looked through the obituaries during the days following his death, my heart broke for the many families that are walking through grief this holiday season…those that have lost mothers and daddies, sons and daughters…some far too soon in our eyes. Just this week, I saw on TV a memorial service for a large group of young marines that lost their lives on behalf of our country…leaving young wives and children and parents.

For others, their grief takes a different form. It might come from despair over wayward children, families shattered by divorce, loved ones fighting addictions. Cancer and serious illness fills hospitals around the world. Many are in dire straits because of financial difficulties. Some are homeless. Some are just alone.

But as the words to another Christmas tune ring, “Hope for the hopeless was born on that night…let there be light.” Yes, light in a world that can often be filled with darkness! There is hope for those who trust in the Savior! And opportunities for us to minister to those who don’t.

Something occurred to me as I pondered these things. Do you think that just for a brief moment…right before God sent Jesus on His way to earth…that He felt just an inkling of hopelessness? He knew ahead of time the odds that were stacked against His one and only…the hatred and rejection He would face…the human hurts that He would experience…the ultimate agony in death. Yet, He allowed it…because He loved us so much. He knew the hope to come! He sacrificed His only Son to bring hope to the hopeless. Let’s remember that prophecy fulfilled…“to us a child is born, to us a Son is given….And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) He is our Emmanuel…God with us…our hope.

Everlasting Father, wrap us in your comfort this Christmas. Help us to see the hope that is in You. Cause Your Holy Spirit to fill us with that hope. Help us to see Your light in the darkness. Lord, help us to extend Your love to those around us that are in need. Help us to be Your arms and feet in a world in desperate need of a Savior…and a hope.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Must Have Smelled Pretty That Hedgehog!

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

The morning started off great in my transitional kindergarten class on Wednesday.  We were busy doing all kinds of Christmas-y things, carols playing in the background.  As I walked across the room, I happened to notice that one of our hedgehogs was awake and heading to his drinking unusual sighting, as they are nocturnal and we rarely get to see them engaging in any type of activity during the day.  I called the students over, and then decided, "Hmmm, it just might be a great time to wake them up and get them out for the children to observe...and carefully pet a little bit."  So I opened the cage and got Bubbles and Rolo out.  Bubbles is not very into being petted...puffing up in a prickly ball and making hissing noises, but Rolo is more friendly.  A few times we have been delighted when Rolo would extend his little sweet tongue out from under that adorable little nose to gently lick the fingers of the students or myself.  Well, Rolo was very adventurous (and apparently hungry) this particular morning, as he actually started to use those darling little paws to crawl right up in my hand.  We were all delighted.  We were all just so tickled to see him licking my wrist so lovingly.  We decided that he must really like my perfume.  And yes, it was much that quite out of the blue he chomped down!  Now this was not a gentle little nibble, it was a death grip!  You know how you hear that snapping turtles won't let go when they bite until there's lightning???  Well, I was just wishing for a thunderstorm!!!  Fortunately my faithful assistant (who doesn't particularly care for any animals...much less hedgehogs...and who had finally been brave enough to "pet" Rolo for the first time that day) smacked Rolo...and he let go.  It's really quite comical to think about it.  I wish we had it on video!  I'm sure we could win America's Funniest!!!  I'm okay.  Amazingly there was no blood...thankfully since the bite was right at the main vein in my wrist.  All is well...except for the soreness that is right where my wrist rests on the computer when I type.  Whew!  A teacher's life is never boring!

Okay, so I have to admit that I said to my assistant, "Now how am I going to fit this into a blog post with some spiritual correlation???"  Only a God like ours!!!  Here goes.

I have to start with another little story before I get to the point...the beauty of's mine and I can do whatever I want.  :)  On our way home from school each day, there is a homeless woman with a sign asking for help.  A couple of days when I went past I gave her a couple of dollars.  I wasn't sure that was best...not knowing what she would spend it on.  However, I really felt God leading me to do something.  And you know that He is "in the details."  I had just purchased the book Gideon's Gift by Karen Kingsbury for some Christmas reading.  It tells the story of a homeless man...a sick little girl...a pair of red gloves...and Christmas miracles.  That book prompted me to look to the practical.  I bought some red gloves, some socks, and a hat.  My daughter and I found such great delight in giving Patricia a gift a day.  Then I thought..what next??  I made some cookies one day and took them to her...warm.  As I rode in my car, the aroma was so delightful.  Aaaaaah, the smell of freshly baked cookies.  You know, you can buy that scent in candles...which I seem to be allergic to...but there's nothing like the real thing!  Plus, with the real thing, you also get to taste them!!!

Just like those candles, we can find some pleasure from "aromas" that the world has to offer.  But we won't find true satisfaction...true joy except in Jesus Christ.  Oh that we would "Taste and see that the LORD is good"!  (Psalm 34:8)  And once that we are satisfied in Him, we can share His love with others and be the aroma of Christ.

And friends, like my little hedgehog friend, after we take that bite, let's hold on!  Let's cling to the one who is our provider, our refuge, our strength, our help, our peace, our joy, our hope!  He is able to be all that we need!

Lord, thank you for hedgehogs and cookies and stories that teach us how to be better people.  Thank you for dwelling in us.  Help us to indeed have the aroma of Christ that others may be drawn to you!

PS  Keep reading!  I did 2 posts today and I don't want you to miss the first!!  :)

Blessings of Obedience

"If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all His commands...All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you...." Deuteronomy 28:1-2

Right off the bat, I must confess that I have been disobedient...even in this post.  It was supposed to be up in November...National Adoption Month.  I have a "junky jotting journal" where I write all of the ideas and promptings that God gives me...usually in the the shower...while putting on my makeup and getting ready for work...but sometimes in the car...or at my daughter's piano or violin lessons...or wherever.  I jot those things down, knowing that I would forget them if I didn't.  I fully intend to get back to them when I'm at my computer and have the time.  Sometimes the time just isn't there...sometimes I just lack self-discipline...and sometimes I can't remember all that went along with the "jot."  Confession done.  Let's move on!

Every morning...and afternoon...and evening...and in between, my house is filled with the music of our nine year old daughter's choosing...either on the violin or piano.  (I have to marvel at this, as my nest could be empty now.  Our three biological children are grown and gone to build lives of their own, in another city, hours away.)  Sweet notes from the precious fingers of a child given the name "Beautiful Song" as an infant, by caregivers in a cold, damp orphanage in rural China.  How could they have known the gift of music that was such a part of her being...a gift that would be such a blessing to so many in a place so far away?

Her very being is a song...lived out before us...melodic notes of joy and beauty.  She is the blessing of obedience.

You see, at a time when we were past thoughts of a baby in our home...done with sleepless nights, baby food, safety hooks on our cabinets and potty training...when we were at such a comfortable place with our three daughters, all in or nearing middle school age, God impressed upon us His desire to fill that empty chair at our table.  It was a thought that could have easily been impractical, too difficult, or financially unreasonable.  But it was more than a passing thought.  It was a command from that He made clear to us over and over again.  We chose to walk in obedience...and the blessing of that obedience is beyond measure!

What is God calling you to do?  Minister to someone?  Forgive someone?  Accept His love that knows no bounds?  Change your lifestyle?  Change your job?  Be a witness?  Write for Him?  Adopt a child that needs a home?  Obey Him...whatever He calls you to do.  He promises His blessing.

"Look at the nations and watch-and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."  Habakkuk 1:5  Oh yes, do it Lord!!!

Lord, thank you for your love.  Thank you for the potential that you see in our much that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" ! (Romans 5:8)  Thank you for seeing fit to use us to accomplish your purposes.  Help us, Lord, to hear Your listen...and to obey.  We look to You with excitement and expectation to see Your plans for our blessing! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Great Gifts!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created."  James 1:17 (NIV)

I think that my shopping is almost done!  I'm sure that my husband hopes so!  I've "saved" him a lot of money!  Every year I say that I'm going to "cut back."  And I do try.  It's just that I want to give so much to my children!  I want to bless them with every outfit that looks so cute on them...each DVD that is the "best movie ever"...and for my youngest daughter, anything that has to do with puppies!!!  This morning as I looked at the little mountain of bags (all yet to be wrapped), I felt the glee of knowing the joy each gift will bring.

As I pondered my own satisfaction, God brought a verse to mind.  Matthew 7:11 says, "If you, then...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him."  It brings Him joy to give us "gifts."  He feels satisfaction in granting our hearts' desires.  Oh, may we recognize each gift...large and small...from the gift of life to the gift of the parking space at the mall...from the roof over our heads to the pillow under our heads.  Just like the old hymn says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your blessings, see what God has done."   And then thank Him.  He is great...and greatly to be praised!

Interestingly, Luke 11:13 begins like the Matthew passage...but sheds light on an even greater gift than we can imagine!  Look at this!  "If you, then...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him." (Italics mine)  Wow!  Now that packs a punch!!!!  That's what I want...and what came about through a tiny baby born in a humble stable...the greatest Christmas gift of all time.  Oh, how He loves us.  Oh, how He showed that love.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love.  Thank you for sending Your Son...the ultimate gift...the ultimate sacrifice...for us.  Thank you for the provision of the Holy Spirit to live in be our Emmanuel...God with us.  Thank you for Your Word...for the promises, the power.  Help us to understand the fullness of the birth...the new life that You have given us through Your Word of Truth.