Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 36 of My Lenten Journey

36.  Ungratefulness

Another word for ungratefulness is ingratitude and the opposite is being thankful.  I must confess--
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not Christmas.  (Easter is a close 2nd).  I feel like I am pretty good at thanking God, but I can always do more!  There are times, I am sure that I have not acknowledged and been ungrateful to God in a situation!

Jesus notices the ungratefulness of 9 lepers in the story from Luke 17:11-19. After telling the lepers to, "Go show yourselves to the priests," they were cleansed.  Only one of them came back, praising God and throwing himself at Jesus' feet thanking him.  Jesus then asks,

"Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other 9?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except for this foreigner?  Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."  Luke 17:17-19

We are ungrateful people by nature.  We come from a long line of ungrateful people.  Take a look at the Israelites making their way out of Egypt.  How many times does the Bible record that they not only didn't thank God, but they grumbled about their circumstance?  At least 5 times!  Even though it seems they are complaining to Moses, they are ultimately complaining about God's provision for them.

Moses also said, " You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.  Who are we?  You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord."  Exodus 16:8

This ungratefulness stems from another sin that I'll discuss for tomorrow, so stay tuned....

How do we fix this problem of ingratitude? By thanking God through prayer on a daily/hourly basis. It's not hard; it just takes discipline to stop and remember to just do it, like before a meal.  Am I the best at doing it constantly?  Do I forget?  Yes!  But, I ask God to help me do better.

When I pray, especially with the kids, we use a formula to help us remember how to pray and be thankful.  We do this out loud in the car as we go to school in the morning, each of us taking turns in each "category."  Sometimes we do it at night as a family.  But, this formula also helps us all stay on track and not wander around lost, not knowing what to say.

First, we praise God for his attributes--who he is, what he has done.  This usually sounds like "We praise you because you are ____________ (the King of kings, forgiving, our Comforter, Omniscient, Our Shepherd and Savior, painter of the skies!  You get the idea.) Or it could be "You are ________."

Second, we thank you for ____________.  It can literally be anything.  Go ahead try it!  It can be tiny or huge.  It can seem insignificant or silly to God, but I bet it's actually not.  Sometimes we thank God for hot air balloons as we see them on our drive to school.  The key:  just thank him!

Third, we ask for help, forgiveness and blessing.  It's sometimes help for a test, or wisdom for decisions for Dad at the office, or healing for a family member, or joy in teaching for the kid's teachers. Sometimes it's me saying, "Please forgive me for yelling at the kids as we got in the car today."

Sometimes it is hard to be thankful, especially when I need to humble myself to be forgiven.  Lasts when I need to be thankful the most!  But usually when I just put forth any inkling of effort, I tend to feel better.  God asks us to be thankful in ALL circumstances.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Either way, God just wants to hear from us and the Bible says a ton about being thankful.  It's easy!
Try it!  And, the best thing to be thankful for is what he did for us this coming Friday on the cross.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  1 Chronicles 16:34

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 35 of My Lenten Journey

35.  Envy

Envy is coveting. Covet is number 10 of the 10 Commandments.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house.  You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male of female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  Exodus 20:17

God has blessed us far more than what we deserve and beyond measure.  Therefore, physically, I have very little envy for "things."  My envy comes in the form of emotional desires.  For example, when I notice that some one who has a zeal for God that is more than my own, I become envious. Or, maybe God has blessed someone with a gift of humor and I think, "I wish I was funnier and wittier...."

At envy's core it is not being content and satisfied with what God has given me.  God made me who I am and gave me a special purpose.  He doesn't want me to be like someone else, but to just be satisfied with the way he made ME!

You desire but do not have, so you kill.  You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  James 4:2

In beating down the sin of envy in our hearts, we need God's help.  He even tells us to ask him! Through prayer and petition, I can overcome and be content with the way he made me.

The challenge I also have before me is raising my children to understand how blessed they are and that they must work for what they desire.  And, we haven't always had plenty.  I find myself holding things back from my boys things that other kids might get automatically so that they learn to either work hard or be content with what they have.  I grew up in a family that had enough, but not plenty. There were some hard times, but we were content.  When Stephen and I were newly married and I was putting him through dental school, we ate Pasta Roni all the time and penny-pinched.  No matter where we are, I want my kids to understand--either be content or ask God and work hard.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Philippians 4:12

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.  Proverbs 14:30

Thank you, God for blessing us with plenty and being able to give back to you generously.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

I don't normally post on Sundays but this morning was just too great.  The song we sang this morning for the anthem is one that I have heard my entire life.  In fact, as a child, I heard it so often sometimes paired with so many of the pieces from Handel's Messiah that I thought surely this piece was also written by a master composer. Well, in fact, she is, but just not as old as I once thought.   The piece we sang was "My Eternal King" by Jane Marshall.  (Link is not the greatest in quality or vocal superiority but there are so many variations in terms of interpretations at the end, that this one comes closest to mine.) A few years ago, I had the pleasure meeting her and telling her that I had placed her in the same category as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.  She got a real kick out of that!

What struck me today were the words.  It is poetry at its finest with the greatest message.  But, put the last section with the music and contrast it to the tone of the rest of the piece is genius, gorgeous and spirit driven.  I just had to share.

My God, I love thee.
Not because I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, and spear, and manifold disgrace.

Why, then why,
O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Nor for the hope of winning heaven
Or of escaping hell;
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as thyself has loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!

Even so I love thee, and will love
And in thy praise will sing;
Solely because thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

He is my Eternal King and it's not just because of my hope for heaven or because I want to escape hell.  I pray he is yours too.

Click here for a really great article with quotes from people close to me about Jane and her anthem.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 34 of My Lenten Journey

34.  Small View of God

I don't really picture or think about "my view" of God on a regular basis.  When I do think about my view of God here is what I am looking at.
He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name. He covers the heavens with clouds,

    provides rain for the earth,
    and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.
He gives food to the wild animals
    and feeds the young ravens when they cry.
10 He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
    or in human might.
11 No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
    those who put their hope in his unfailing love.  Psalm 147:4, 8-11
He sends the snow like white wool;
    he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes.
17 He hurls the hail like stones.[a]
    Who can stand against his freezing cold?
18 Then, at his command, it all melts.
    He sends his winds, and the ice thaws. Psalm 147:16-18

You rule over the surging sea;
    when its waves mount up, you still them.  Psalm 89:9

I also think of God when I see these things. 
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds:the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. Genesis 1:24

So, I think my view of God is pretty big.  He is way bigger than me and I praise him for being omniscient and omnipotent.  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 33 of My Lenten Journey

33. Pride

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and something God utterly detests.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Proverbs 8:13

I think the place where I have the

biggest problem in pride and arrogance is musically. After having some success in my very early years, I became prideful thinking, "I did it!" I didn't give much credit to God for any part of it: the gift of my talent, the work put in, the people or the performance.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

How can I take credit for a talent and gift God has given me? As I have grown older and had more experience, I now realize that I was completely full of self-righteousness. I did not do any of it on my own. I have learned to be a bit more humble and my usual comeback when someone says what a great job I did is, "the choir did a great job! God just gave me the gift of waving my arms!"

Every now and then I will still
have an arrogant musical moment. It's usually when I'm bored or frustrated. This is where I need more patience and help to be better before I fall in a bad way.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

It's not what we say about ourselves that matters, it's what we say about God and his glory that is the big deal.

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:18

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 32 of My Lenten Journey

32.  Resisting Change

It's inevitable: death and taxes.  I would add to that list--change.  It happens in our lives on a semi-regular basis.  It's not something that we can avoid, yet it is something that is extremely hard for our habitual human nature.  Yet, there is a time for everything.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
  a time to be born and a time to die,
  a time to plant and a time to uproot,
  a time to kill and a time to heal,
  a time to tear down and a time to build,
  a time to weep and a time to laugh,
  a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, 
  a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
  a time to search and a time to give up, 
  a time to keep and a time to throw away,
  a time to tear and a time to mend, 
  a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
  a time to love and a time to hate,
  a time for war and a time for peace.  
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 I was blessed by a gift from Stephen through Taylor Davis (click his name to listen) with a musical setting of this passage which was sung at Cavett's baptism.  I was also blessed by Leah King who so beautifully cross-stitched the lyrics and now hangs in my kitchen as a daily reminder.

This scripture has helped me cope with and not resist my life changes over the past 11 years.

When Dadoo passed away and the healing of Mom.

The birth of our kids and the dying of Stephen's dad and my maternal grandparents within 3 months.

Uprooting from Houston to re-plant in Allen.

Mourning my Dadoo but watching my Mom dance with her new husband.

Throwing my resume out and seeing how it stuck and how I'm being gathered in to teaching now.

Maybe the office is next?  Tearing down and building?

The point is God has used all these experiences to guide, stretch and grow me in my relationship with Him.  Each situation is an opportunity for growth and to point to His glory in my situation.  This kind of change is desirable as we know that God is making us new and refining us to be more like Him.

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being
renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on my name and I will answer them;  I will say, "They are my people,"  and they will say, "The Lord is our God."  Zechariah 13:9

So, in our human nature in resisting change, we need to remember that this, too shall pass.  It is for our benefit and the glory of God.  Don't resist change; embrace it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

And, wouldn't it be boring if everything was the same all the time?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 31 of My Lenten Journey

31.  Idolatry

When people hear idolatry these days, they immediately think of things like "American Idol"  or the
Kardashians or some other famous person.  This is not at all what I think of.  I also, don't think about statues of some religious symbol that I bow down and worship.

In the time of the Old Testament, idols were a rampant problem.  People would put faith in a piece of wood, stone or metal and hope that it could do  something for them.  It replaced the one true, holy and powerful God.  And, from the get go God pronounced any worship of idol was wrong.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to then or worship them.  Exodus 20:4-5

We are sinful people and the Israelites were no different.  They were constantly lead astray.  Moses came down from getting the 10 Commandments and there they were breaking rule number 2!  The book of Hosea even uses imagery of adulterous behavior to represent the Israelites problem with idolatry.  Even today there are religions that bow down to statues and think they hold some power on their lives.  Idolatry is different for me, but no less troublesome.

They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.  Psalm 106:36

For me, idolatry is anything that comes before God and receives more importance first in my life than Him. Idols are anything in my life that make me forget the Lord or make me want to spend less time with God.

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them.  Jonah 2:8

What is that in my life today that is an idol?  I would definitely say my iPhone and the internet.  They
can be useful tools and they can help me and others study the Word of God.  There are tons of apps for that, including my favorite, Bible Gateway.  But, it can be a problem if not left in check.  How many times do I wake up in the morning and check Facebook, my email or the weather before I pray? All too often.  It gets in the way sometimes of my relationship with God and therefore, I consider it an idol.

So, here I am confessing my sin in idolatry.  My plan is to change my pattern and make sure to start my day off with God first and check my phone later.  Will I sometimes fail?  Yes, but God is merciful and he always forgave the Israelites when they confessed as well.  The point is, we do our best asking for his help and trust God for the rest.

Dear children, keep yourself from idols.  1 John 5:21

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 30 of my Lenten Journey

30. Worry

See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Matthew 6:28
I feel like I have come to grips with this one.  Worry and anxiety are some things that a ton of people struggle with, people near and dear to my heart.  Don't get me wrong, I do have quickly fleeting thoughts filled with worry, but I have learned to give this one to God pretty quickly.

When Dadoo passed away 12 years ago, my life was turned upside down.  I knew I was not in control. There was no way that I could change anything.  I had to trust God and let him worry about it all.  I just couldn't deal with it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   Romans 8:28

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

Worrying accomplishes nothing except to give you stress.  There is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging your problems and thinking of solutions, but many times there is no solution other than trusting God.  For example, when Stephen began to take flying lessons, I wasn't going to stop him from doing it.  He made his choice to go up in the air in a tiny plane with one propeller.  I had 2 choices:  worry about him and his safety, or commit to prayer and give his safety over to the Lord.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  Matthew 6:27

When I do have something that is troubling me, the first thing I do is pray.  That is all I can do.   Nothing is too big or too small for Him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6

When we give Him our problems, he, in turn, give us his peace.  The peace of God that passes all understanding.  Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.  That only comes from the Lord.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

Maybe it is because I committed many of theses verses to memory long, long ago as a child or maybe it is that I just really feel I have His peace now.  Either way, I will thank God, the Prince of Peace, every day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 29 of My Lenten Journey

29.  The Quick Fix

My most common desire of a quick fix is usually associated with my weight.  I LOVE to eat and drink.  But it is a daily struggle of watching what I eat and working out.  It takes hard work and time, but when my weight does go up, I want it gone.  And, I want it gone fast. Some remedies (cleanses, extreme diets, etc.) work for short amount of time.   But, it can't be sustained.  It's just a temporary, quick fix without lasting results.   Rarely does true transformation happen in 21 days or even overnight.   It takes discipline, which at its root word means to learn.

I recently read a Beth Moore article where she states, "Any kind of compulsive behavior represents an internal need for control. Anything that continues to make us feel shame or like we are less than we are in Christ, anything that steals our dignity in Christ is a stronghold that we need to be free of."  God is not a drive through window offering up Spirit-filled lives and quick fixes and answers to problems.  

God doesn't specifically speak of being over weight in the Bible, but he does talk about how he wants me to be transformed each day to be more and more like Him in my heart.   This is not a quick fix, but a slow transformation over time.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18

We must trust God and be his disciple.  There is no magic wand or quick fix.  We need to seek his will and live with endurance in obedience to him and we will be transformed to be more like him over time.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Day 28 of My Lenten Journey

28.  Disunity

Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  2 Timothy 2:23-24

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 27 of My Lenten Journey

27.  Loneliness

Have you ever taken those Buzzfeed quizzes to see "Which character would you be in...."  or "Are you an introvert or an extrovert?"   I even found this one!  (Which, by the way, it told me I needed to join a creative/collaberative project or group.) They are fun to play with, but maybe it is a way to either laugh off or to confirm in self-loathing about what your problems are.

Loneliness is not something I complain about often.  Being a mom, I usually delight in those times in which I am physically alone.  But, being alone is different than being lonely.  It seems to be more of a state of mind or emotion where you feel separated from others or have a lack of association with people or a group.  This can bring on deep sadness and even depression.  I have been on the brink before.

God designed us to be with each other and be in community with one another.  He gave Adam a companion and wife in giving him Eve. (Genesis 2:20-24)   Acts 2:42-47 talks about the fellowship of believers and how they ate together, prayed together, had things in common, and praised God together.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

No one knew loneliness better than David in his Psalm 25:16 when he says "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted."  The deal is that David knew where to turn.  He turned to the one who is with us always-God.   Jesus too went to a "lonely place" several times to be with God his father, but it doesn't say that he was lonely.  However, Jesus has felt our pain of loneliness. On the cross he cried out to God.  He was separated from God due to taking on our sin and he felt extreme loneliness from God that we will never experience.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46

So, how do we fix this problem?  Ask for help.  Start with God, just like David did.  By reading of His Word and prayer God gives us comfort and help. He also sends people into our lives,
if we let him.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  2 Corinthians 1:4

Also, it is a 2 way street.  If we never reach out to anyone, why should they want to reach out to us? Helping others takes the focus off of ourselves.  Lifting up others lifts us up in the process as well. The question now is, who do I need to reach out to?  Who needs my care and support?  I hope that as a friend, I can be that person in a time of need.  I have definitely done my share of receiving in the past few years.  I will keep my eyes open to who God wants me to comfort now.

Special thanks to these 2 who have always comforted me!

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.  Proverbs 27:9

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 26 of My Lenten Journey

26.  Busyness

Busyness seems to go along with 2 of the ones I have already discussed:  distractions and over- commitment.   However, when I went to think on the positive side or opposite, I decided on the word "still."  Immediately, God gave me the verse. I didn't even have to look it up.  It is one that I have sung to little pre-schoolers to calm them down or get them into a transition period.

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

These days our calendars seem so full and that there are not enough hours in the day.  We are rushing from place to place, activity to activity, commitment to commitment.  How quickly we lose touch with what is truly important.  Where has all this busyness gotten me?  I am more tired and want to give up and give in at the end of the day.  When I am rushed and feeling the pressure of getting kids where they need to be and on time, getting dinner on the table so we can get to the next thing, or just a full day, I get overwhelmed and in the end I end up taking it out on those around me--my kids and my husband usually.  How fair is that?  And if my relationships around me suffer, my relationship with God will suffer too.

Daily quiet time with God is what is needed, which to me means prayer and Bible study and listening for that still quiet voice.

But the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire:  and after the fire a still small voice.  1 Kings 19:11-12

I am really bad about this.  It is so hard to really find the time to just sit still with God at the same time everyday without distractions, so mine ends up being really sporadic.   I think over the past 10 years, I have gotten so much better, but there is room to be made.  I need to ask Him what is really important and see what he wants me to change or get rid of in our daily family life.

Another important thing I try to incorporate is week night dinners as a family and then keeping the Sabbath by avoiding any activity that is not God serving on Sundays.  Does that always happen?
Nope, but I try desperately.

Honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  Exodus 20:8

The good thing is that I know I can always rest in Him, everyday.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Day 25 of My Lenten Journey

25.  Destructive Speech

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

It's a saying we heard and maybe said time and time again growing up on the playground.  But, the fact is we have all been hurt by words.  Those words come from our mouths and tongues and words DO hurt.  Maybe even more so than any other part of our bodies we could use.  The Bible even speaks of the tongues as a sword.

They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.  Psalm 64:3

Thanks to Psalty the Singing Songbook cassette tapes, one of the bible verses I remember learning early in my life was:  Keep thy tongue from evil.  Psalm 34:14. That pretty much sums it up.  If your ears were to hear it and your heart be hurt, just don't say it at all.

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:4

Think about how many words are thrown around these days compared to even just 100 years ago. We have so many more ways to communicate.  It's not just actual talking.  We have the internet, blogs, social media, and texting.  We really have to guard ourselves by asking: "Does this build up and encourage?  Is this constructive and helpful?  Or am I being destructive and harmful?"  That's a tough row to hoe every time you go to speak, but we can at least start by things we type.  I can't tell you how many times I have typed a text or a status and then deleted it knowing it was destructive or harmful.  Now, I need to work on the everyday tongue part, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Thessalonians.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.  1 Thessalonians 4:18
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 24 of My Lenten Journey

24. Mediocrity:  something that is adequate, but not that good.

I fall victim to mediocrity all the time.  You might be thinking, "Are you kidding?  Nothing Jennifer does is mediocre.  She is over the top in so many ways."   Remember we are talking about how we serve and honor God.  Yes, I am mediocre at best.  I would even go as far to say it is the majority of the time. That is part of why I challenged myself to do this blog over Lent.    I would be in His Word daily, doing my best to see what He wants me to refine in my life.  Yes, I get my BSF lesson done.  I go to church, when we are in town.  I pray.  But, am I doing the very best that I could be doing, probably not.

As I searched for the word, mediocre in the Bible, of course it came up with nothing.  However, I decided the opposite was "with all your heart."  That phrase appears at least 25 times in the NIV version with 10 of those reiterating the verse below.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  Deuteronomy 6:5

Side note:  I have decided that with most of these "things I need to give up,"  the Bible truly words them with the opposite or positive spin the majority of the time.  Of course, there are always the "don't do this or that," but usually even that is followed by the positive.

As I was researching online I came across a very good message from a church in Illinois.  It took the book of Malachi and explained why it was a book which talked about mediocrity.  The author basically sketches out a flow chart of what happens when you are mediocre in your love for God.

1.  It begins with a cynical attitude.  "God will be pleased with just enough."
2.  Therefore, we give a blemished sacrifice.  "God won't mind getting what's leftover or the hand-me-downs."
3.  We then give a compromised example.  It spills over into our lives and character.
4.  Then we end up saying no to the little things, which lead to the big things God is asking us to do.
5.  We end up with an unrefined heart and an empty life.

Of all of the minor prophets Zechariah and Malachi do have one of my favorite verses and it goes along well with the Lenten idea of letting go and letting God work in our lives.  This is my prayer today that he continues to refine me daily.

For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap.  He will sit like a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.  Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.  Malachi 3:2-3

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day 23 of My Lenten Journey

23. Giving Up

There are so many wonderful scripture that speak for themselves. So, take a few minutes to think on these.

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. 2 Chronicles 15:7

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

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

Let's just suffice it to say that God never gives up on us, so why should we give up on him and his will for our lives?

Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 22 of My Lenten Journey

22. Distraction

Distraction is huge in today's modern world. It is everywhere and it permeates our family and my life too. From cellphones, to TV, to email, to social media, we just can't seem to focus on anything of value with technology in our reach.

The story from the Bible that I am reminded of is when Jesus goes to have dinner with Mary and Martha. Martha is so distracted by preparations that she doesn't take time out to sit with Jesus and be in his company. Luke 10:38-42

How many times am I guilty of picking up my phone to look at something in my children's presence? At the dinner table? In the midst of a conversation with anyone? Guilty here.

I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. 1 Corinthians 7:35

So I am going to be better at not being distracted, especially when it comes to family time and God time. I will consciously put my phone away while at the dinner table. Nothing is more precious than my sweet family in front of me.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 21 of My Lenten Journey

21. Bitterness

I had to look up bitterness in my dictionary to really put my finger on bitterness in my life. My dictionary app had multiple meanings but these three seemed to sum it up.

1. characterized by intense antagonism or hostility: bitter hatred.

2. hard to admit or accept: a bitter lesson.

3. resentful or cynical: bitter words.

I didn't think I had any of this in my life until I looked deep down and was completely honest with myself.  But, I found it.  It's more of definition 2 or a little bit of 3, but its there.  It's even so personal that I will refrain from talking about it here.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Ephesians 4:31

Today, I give it to God, because there is nothing else I can do with it or to change the situation.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Day 20 of My Lenten Journey

20.  The pursuit of happiness

Yes, it is in the Declaration of Independence.  The pursuit of happiness is one of the 3 "unalienable rights" which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.  And, while that is all fine and good, God wants something greater and more lasting than happiness for us.  

What God truly wants for us is joy in him.  

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:11

There is a difference between the two words.  Happy is used in the Bible only a handful of times, while joy is used over 300.  So what is that difference?  

Happiness is fleeting and depending upon people and circumstances.  Joy is true internal contentment that comes from our faith in God.  It is everlasting and not dependent on circumstances or people.  No one can take your joy away.  I love this analogy by Danielle LaPorte-- "Happiness is rising bubbles-delightful & inevitably fleeting. Joy is oxygen-ever present."

Rather than fleeting happiness, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that has long lasting effects. Joy is what you have when you have hope.  You can be in the deepest, darkest place or in a difficult trial, but still have joy.  Just look at Paul who was imprisoned in Rome and still spoke of his unending joy through his trials and "thorns."  

I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.  2 Corinthians 7:4

One of my favorite "joy" verses was cross-stitched in a frame on a wall at our house on Deer Park as we grew up.  

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  3 John 1:4

I used to think Mom just wanted us to tell the truth always and not be liars.  And, as that is true, its not what is really means.  The truth is knowing Jesus is my Savior.  Jesus is why I can be joyful. Belief in him gives us joy in any circumstance.  

If you have been with me and my blog for a while, you might remember that I started out with it called "if you're happy and you know it."  I loved the idea of using a children's song title with Christian context, but it just wasn't right.  I had to change it and that is how I ended up with "i've got the joy down in my heart."  That is the difference.  Joy is deep down and it is in my heart regardless of my circumstances because I have hope in my Savior.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


No post today. I forgot that I was not posting on Sunday's! I got a day ahead. You will find day 20 on Thursday!

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Day 19 of My Lenten Journey

19.  Complaining

This one is huge in our household.  Some of us are more guilty than others.  Let's just say that we are no better than the Israelites as they were lead out of Egypt toward the Promise Land.  Even though God was taking care of them they continued to complain.  (Exodus 15, 16, 17, Numbers 11, 14, 16, 21)  God was with them leading them, feeding them, etc, but they continued to grumble.  The Israelites were blessed and could not see beyond their own noses what God was doing for them.

My how we are blessed too and how dare should we complain about a little work!

I would venture to say that the room in my house that hears the most grumbling is the laundry room. That is why you will find this sign in there.  It is our constant reminder.  I think the kids may even have it memorized too!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 18 of My Lenten Journey

18.  Going Through the Motions

This is the day that The Lord made!  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Psalm 118:24

It's easy to get stuck in the every day motions or work, school, chores, errands, etc.  But, God wants more than that for our lives.  I hate to use the phrase "carpe diem" meaning seize the day, because it has some self-serving, over indulging ideas associated with it, but God doesn't want us to waste the moments we have been given.

Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

We must be intentional.  Find god's purpose for your day.

"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 a hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Forget the past which you cannot change.

Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. Isaiah 43:18

Face the present.

Give us this day our daily bread.  Matthew 6:11

Do not worry for the future.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

Invest in each moment and be attentive to what God is doing and receive more.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Day 17 of My Lenten Journey

17.  Spirit of Poverty

This one was interesting to study up on and I'm only scratching the surface.  As I began I thought it was basically wants versus needs.  Maybe another way to say it is a nice word for greed of which Jesus warns.

Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.  Luke 12:15

The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in The Lord prosper.  Proverbs 28:25

As I read further, it took me to more of a mind, emotion and attitude problem rather than a money problem.  This spirit of poverty makes us focus on the minor things in fear rather than the blessings God has given to us in faith and also in return, our attitude in how we give back to God.

The first thing to remember is God is out provider and all things come from him.  Remember when Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac and Isaac asked where would they get the lamb?  Abraham's reply was that God would provided and he did!  Isaac was not killed and Abraham then named the place Yahweh-Yireh meaning the Lord will provide.  (Genesis 22)

So, do not worry about what to eat, or drink to what to wear.  These thoughts dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously and he will give you everything you need.  Matthew 6:32-33

Another point is that God knows what you need even before you ask!  Matthew 6:8

Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name...ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.  John 16:23-24

The third thing is that God wants to bless us because he loves us so much.  And, truly I feel his blessing every single day.  Living in the suburbs of Dallas, it's almost embarraing how blessed be are compared to other regions of our county, state, country and world.  I must remember to thank him daily for his blessings.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.  James 1:17

Here's where I am going to leave this because I don't want to be like the hypocrites in the rest of Matthew 6.  There are pockets of the spirit of poverty in my life.  I can do better and with Stephen we are seeking the Lord's direction in what he has blessed us with to bless others for his glory.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;  and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  Luke 12:48

God will always provide enough and what is needed.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Day 16 of My Lenten Journey

16.  Negativity

In general, I am typically a "glass is half full" type of person.  However, I a definitely not a Pollyanna all the time.  There is definitely room for growth and places where I need to rid myself of negativity.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violent intentions. Proverbs 10:11

Due to the fall of man, we have a tendency to lean toward the negative side.  I definitely didn't teach my kids to be negative, but it has come naturally in some situations.  Many times we tend to believe the worst or not have confidence in something or someone.  But, we have a chance to choose our attitude in all situations.

James 3 talks about how words of negativity, can corrupt the whole body.  In one moment we use our words to praise God, but then curse man.  His analogy is "can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?"   We must choose whether we speak positivity or negativity.

Negativity reflects what is going on inside a person.  If you want to know what is in your heart, listen to what is coming out of your mouth.  

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  Matthew 12:33

Negativity breeds negativity.  Ever heard, "birds of a feather flock together?'  Hang around negative people and you too will sway that way.  Instead, fill your circle of friends with people who see the glass half full.

He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.  Proverbs 13:20

And in the end, always go back to what Mrs. Rabbit said to Thumper in the movie, Bambi.   "If you can't say anything nice (or that is constructive), don't say anything at all."  Know when to hold your tongue and when your words would be constructive instead.  Look for the best in people and stay away from the negativity and toxic.  And, always look on the bright side of life!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ski Trip Day 1

This morning began a little too early as the boys were excited and still in Central time. That means 5:45! After countless "how much longers" we finally got out the door about 8:00 to get our tickets.

This condo is the closest ski in-ski out besides the other Breckenridge condo we were at 15 years ago, at Ski Watch off of the base of Peak 8. These type of places are key with kiddos and heavy ski gear.

The first hour was full of adjustments and trying to get used to the "feeling" of it all again. This is usually the worst hour of the trip.

By 9:30 we had found our happy place and we were in the groove. It was a gorgeous day with bright sunshine and semi-fresh powder. Kendrick was really getting daring and bobbing and weaving through the sides of runs through the trees. It was beginning to scare me.

Of course, the inevitable happens and his knee hits a tree. I really thought the trip could have been over, but we were blessed by God's protection. He was able to get up and continued skiing. He was a cautious skier for the next few hours but by 2:00, all bets were off and he had forgotten the incident.

The other unusual thing this trip was that normally I am in the lead, kids in the middle and Stephen brings up the rear. Today was the first time we let the kids lead, make that Kendrick. Unfortunately, we nearly lost him once as he turned to the left off a lift and the rest of us went right. Luckily, crisis was averted and Stephen caught him.

All in all it was a good day. You know you are busy skiing when you don't have many "on mountain" pics!

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Day 15 of My Lenten Journey

15.  Hatred

Hatred stirs up conflict but love covers all wrongs.  Proverbs 10:12

The opposite of hatred is love.

A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

After 40 circles around the sun, I feel like I have learned to love everyone.  However, that doesn't make it easy to love everyone.  Some are harder than others, Sometimes you just don't feel like loving. Looking deep within my heart, I still have to remember that it is usually the action that I hate about a person and not the actual person.  I must remember that every person on this earth is a child of God, even if they are misguided and blinded by the Muslim extremist ideology, for example.   Or sometimes it is just a kid in my class that is driving me crazy, but they are ALL children of God.

I think Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well when he said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

God is love and we love because God first loved us.  (1 John 4:16, 19)  And it's easy to love those who love me, but what credit do we get for that?  We are called to do the hard thing--love everyone all the time.

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.  We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ.  1 John 5;19-20 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Day 14 of My Lenten Journey

14.  Apathy

The word apathy, per se, is not used in the Bible.  It uses many other varieties though.

Hardened heart is used so many times in the Old Testament in reference to Pharaoh and the Israelites as they wandered in the desert.  Both Pharaoh and the Israelites saw first hand God's might acts and still chose not to believe or just grumble and complain against him.  This is a form of apathy.  They had knowledge of God and his power but didn't care.

Lukewarm is another term used by Jesus in the letter to the church of Laodicea.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot or cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth!  Revelation 3:15-16

Being lukewarm is a lack of forward movement, complacency, lackadaisical.  There is no action being taken for one reason or another, but it is seen as apathetic.  When you are apathetic as a Christian, you aren't growing and bearing fruit.  In John 15, Jesus pleads for us to remain in him, so that he will be in use growing so that we bear fruit.  He will even prune us so we bear more fruit and become better and better.  We do not want to be the apathetic vine that withers and is cut off to be thrown in the fire to burn.

Am I always bearing fruit?  Definitely, not.  I do go through seasons and I feel it in my heart when Jesus begins tugging on that branch saying it might be time to prune you, Jennifer!

We must heed the warning, wake up and take action!

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out.  Wake up for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  Romans 13:11

Arise!  Shine, for your light has come and the glory of The Lord has risen upon you.  Isaiah 60:1

 As I see it, the opposite of apathy in Christ is enthusiasm.  The Bible has much to say on this subject!

Never be lazy, but work hard and serve The Lord enthusiastically.  Romans 12:11

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.  Ecclesiastes 9:10.  

Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for The Lord rather than for people.  Ephesians 6:7

If you do not serve The Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies.  Deuteronomy 28:47

What is the fix for apathy in The Lord?  Be in his word.  Pray.  Focus on Christ and have a servant's heart.  If we are filled with his love and joy, there is no room for apathy.

Rejoice in The Lord always and again I say rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

Rejoice always.  Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Jesus Christ.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Day 13 of My Lenten Journey

13.  Entitlement

These days we are bombarded with relentless advertisements telling us, "you deserve... Or you owe it to yourself...."  This is the entitlement attitude and it is self-seeking and centered.   The entitlement attitude is is pursuing our own agenda without thinking of others or God, or just thinking that God owes me something.

God owes me nothing.

In fact, what we deserve from God is death and hell!

The wages of sin are death.  Romans 6:23

God doesn't owe us comfort, abundance, or a perfect life without problems.  He gives because he wants to, not because he has to.  He is the center and all things exist for his pleasure.   What he gives is grace through his unconditional love.  In John 1:12, it says the only thing we ARE entitled to through faith in Jesus to forgive and save us, is to be called children of God.  Wow!  Think about it--he claims me--little ol' me.  But, it's what we do with that one entitlement that determines whether we have an entitlement attitude or a servant's heart.

So, our response should be "Here I am, Lord, your servant is listening," just as Samuel replied.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death
        even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:3-8

The bottom line?  Trust God with your needs.  He owes you nothing.  Thank him for what he has provided for you, for all of it comes from him.  Ask where you can serve him instead.  

God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19