Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Christ, I am...

a child of God (John 1:12)
chosen and dearly loved (John 15:16)
a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
a joint heir with Jesus (Romans 8:14)
a saint (Ephesians 1:1)
righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24)
dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
completely forgiven (1 John 1:9)
totally free (John 8:36)
uniquely designed (Psalm 139:14)

What are you?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Last night I was tired. Weary in body, mind, and spirit. I was done. It was one of those times that I knew that if anyone, it didn't matter who, was nice to me and asked how I was doing, I was going to lose it. And I did.

It had been a long week. I can't even remember last Sunday, but Monday I went to work, had my meeting with Anne, and knew that I had to go home and try to talk to RM about money. Money is never a fun topic for me, mostly because I never really have any. I live paycheck to paycheck now adays and not very well. But God always Always ALWAYS provides for me, not a moment too soon or too late. Anyway, the RM and I "talked" about it, which means we left each other notes and facebook messages. It didn't turn out well and added A LOT of stress to my week. I'm very non-confrontational and I hate fighting over things and would rather take the loss of whatever the amount was than fight with a person I live with.

Tuesday was lovely, a break from all that tension. I went to a different Bible Study and it was very uplifting... mostly because we went around in a circle and said good things about each other. But I feel like the things said were from the heart and all I could say was "thank you". (By the way, apparently I was "perky" that night?)

Wednesday I was tired. I took a nap between work and youth instead of going to the gym. My girls picked me up a bit, I LOVE my girls!

Thursday was Rhythm. Awesome, but I was still tired. There seems to be a bit of tension now on Thursdays because of the people who have chosen to leave Rhythm. It's one of those situations where I might know too much to not notice the little things such as facial expressions, sideways glances, and body language. It makes life... interesting. Thursday night was also the night when the FB messages flew back and forth and I gave in. What's $120 when compared to household peace? God will provide, even if I do have to sell my violin that I never got the chance to learn how to play.

Friday is a little blury. I remember work, Lifeway and dinner with Keri, and going to bed, but that's about all.

Saturday was the dinner with my parents and racist grandparents. With two black babies in the house, it was tense to say the least. Then there was Keri, Scott & Ellie's... Josh's house... and falling down on his porch steps in the rain (I have bruises).

Sunday was the open house so people could see Sammy in all his post-surgery glory. It wasn't bad, just uncomfortable for some reason. By Sunday night, I was done. I went to class at church because I knew what kind of people I needed to be around, and as soon as Lori came in and sat down next to me, I was gone. I cried on her shoulder for a while, class started and I randomly teared up all throughout it, class ended and Lori and Brian prayed with me and I cried through all of that. I went home and, per Lori's very exact instructions, made soup, put laundry in the washer, read my homework and ate my soup, put the clothes in the dryer, brushed my teeth and went to bed. Everything was done on autopilot and I was done. With the week-long tension broken, my body and spirit were ready to sleep for days.

Now you might be asking, where was God in your week? Well, I'll tell you. I didn't invite Him in. I wasn't actively in the Word last week. It was one of those weeks I thought I could handle on my own. Well, if I end each week having a breakdown, I'm not handling it very well, am I? Of course not! This week, KSJ and I started a Bible study together on the names of God. The first name we studied this morning was YAHWEH.

This is only the most important name you could ever know if your entire life! This name, these few letters, indicates God's everything! God was, and is, and will be. He exists, was never created and can never be destroyed. God's power is everlasting and His lifespan is never ending (it's also never beginning but trying to understand that makes my eyes cross). Our God is not some random diety that we created because we needed something to believe in. Our God is not a crutch we have invented for ourselves because we don't want to deal with reality. God is reality! If anything, calling God a crutch is in itself a crutch. Church can be a crutch if the God of the church is left out. But God is not a crutch, He is an everlasting, allpowerful, Creator who wants to be invited into our daily lives, into every nuance of our lives so that He can make it better, so that He can be glorified in it!

What's your crutch? Who or what do you lean on when things get tough? The crutch of friends? The crutch of family? Or an everloving God?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Laugh it Up! Part 2

By Mary Southerland

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world" John 16:33 (NLT).

Not long ago, my husband said something that was profoundly simple and yet life changing for me. "My first prayer each day is my confession to God that I want everything He has for me. I want it all!" I can just see the Father's face smiling at those words from a faithful heart. Our thirst for God pleases Him. Our hunger for God's richest blessings brings Him pleasure. God wants us to thrive -- not merely survive life. A continual feast of joy -- with every breath we take -- that is His plan. Laughter and joy are treasures from God, valuable to us for many reasons.

  1. Joy heals
  2. Joy makes us strong
  3. Joy makes the ordinary special.

4. Joy eliminates tension. Laughter and joy can take a tense situation and disarm it! When I prepared my first lesson on joy and laughter, Dan was out of town. The kids were young and bedtime was a major hurdle. I knew that several hours of study were ahead of me and was desperately trying to get both children into bed and asleep in order to complete the lesson. I had sweetly -- very sweetly - explained that I needed their help. I had made it very clear that I had to prepare a lesson and they could really help me by going to sleep. They were not cooperating! Before I go any further, let me just say I am fully aware that my behavior that night did not meet the criteria for being a successful mom. I have my moments. With each giggle and whisper from the children who were supposed to be asleep, my frustration level rose higher and higher. Finally, I marched into their rooms, hands on hips, icy stare in place and demanded silence! My son's innocent question was a show-stopper, "Mom, what is your lesson about?" Through gritted teeth, I growled, "Joy and laughter, Son." The words just dangled in mid-air, exposing my absurd heart motive. Jered looked at me. I looked at him. We both turned to look at Danna. Like a volcano erupting, laughter spilled out of our hearts, washing away the tension, while covering the circumstance with joy. When we had laughed it all out, they went to sleep and I wrote the lesson on joy - learned at the feet of my children.

Many times, tension comes when we face circumstances that are simply beyond our control. Have you noticed how little control we really do hold? How much energy we waste attempting to control that which cannot be controlled. Joy is lost in the struggle for power and supremacy, and that, my friend, is the root of a joy-less life. We battle for control of life instead of giving up control to God, the only one who can do anything about life. I often wonder how our journey would change if we realized and practiced the truth that if there is no control, there is no responsibility, so we might as well laugh!

I read of a young mother who posted this sign in her home:


"Things I Can't Do Anything About But God Can."

Underneath these words, she made a list of each circumstance and problem that she could not change. That is choosing a perspective of joy. Laughter and joy diffuse tension.

5. Joy reproduces itself.

In his book to the Romans, Paul delivers a simplistic but powerful message to each one of us, "Whoever has the gift of encouraging others should encourage. Whoever has the gift of giving to others should give freely. Anyone who has the gift of being a leader should try hard when he leads. Whoever has the gift of showing mercy to others should do so with joy" Romans 13:8 (NCV).

Joy spreads quickly! People are drawn to joy! Think with me for a moment about the people in your life who bring you joy. If you are like me, when you need encouragement or just some plain old fun, there are certain people who come to mind. What an honor! To be thought of as a "joy builder". Joy is the signature of a true believer. Because we know God, our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outer circumstances. Joy reigns within us -- solid, unchanging and eternal, flowing from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is Joy! And because He never changes, our joy is fixed. Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (NIV).

"Joyful believers have no trouble convincing people around them that Christianity is real and that Christ can transform a life. JOY is the flag that flies above the castle of their hearts, announcing that the KING is in residence." (Author unknown)

These days, I find myself avoiding the whiners who love to sneak into my life, crushing and stealing my joy. I am in the process of learning a very important truth. Here it is, friends. We set the joy level in our lives. Unspeakable and immeasurable joy is available through the presence of Jesus Christ but is set free by our choice, our "life setting." When it comes to joy, we need to be thermostats instead of thermometers! What is the joy level of your life? Maybe it is time to check that thermostat!

Let's Pray
Father, I praise You because You are the author and finisher of my faith, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega! You are my all in all, my light and my joy! Because You came, I can celebrate life. Lord, help me to feast on You and Your presence in my life.

In Jesus' name,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Random bit of funny

[Holding the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch]

King Arthur: How does it... um... how does it work?

Sir Lancelot: I know not, my liege.

King Arthur: Consult the Book of Armaments.

Brother Maynard: Armaments, chapter two, verses nine through twenty-one.

Cleric: [reading] And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy." And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats and large chu...

Brother Maynard: Skip a bit, Brother...

Cleric: And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.

Brother Maynard: Amen.

All: Amen.

King Arthur: Right. One... two... five.

Galahad: Three, sir.

King Arthur: Three.

Signs on Church Property

"No God-No Peace. Know God-Know Peace."

"Free Trip to heaven. Details Inside!"

"Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins."

"Searching for a new look? Have your faith lifted here!"

An ad for St. Joseph's Episcopal Church has a picture of two hands holding stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments are inscribed and a headline that reads, "For fast, fast, fast relief, take two tablets."

When the restaurant next to the Lutheran Church put out a big sign with red letters that said, "Open Sundays," the church reciprocated with its own message: "We are open on Sundays, too."

"Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons-come hear one!"

A singing group called "The Resurrection" was scheduled to sing at a church. When a big snowstorm postponed the performance, the pastor fixed the outside sign to read, "The Resurrection is postponed."

"People are like tea bags-you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are."

"God so loved the world that He did not send a committee."

"Come in and pray today. Beat the Christmas rush!"

"When down in the mouth, remember Jonah. He came out all right."

"Sign broken. Message inside this Sunday."

"Fight truth decay-study the Bible daily."

"How will you spend eternity-Smoking or Non-smoking?"

"Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives"

"Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world."

"It is unlikely there'll be a reduction in the wages of sin."

"Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church."

"If you're headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns."

"Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon."

"This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing?"

"Forbidden fruit creates many jams."

"In the dark? Follow the Son."

Laugh it up, Fuzzball!

"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" John 10:10 (NKJV).

Jesus lived and died so that we can experience abundant life! How often we pass over those words without stopping to grasp the amazing truth they hold. Jesus did not come so that we can merely survive life. Pagans can survive life. God's plan is for us to thrive in the midst of the days, months and years we call life. A continual feast of joy -- with every breath we take.

John 10:10 clearly states the promise of God, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (NKJV) In this verse, "abundant" literally means "going beyond; full or exuberant". In other words, an abundant life is a life filled with joy! Even in the midst of a joy-less world we can live a joy-filled life for one simple reason -- God is in control! And because He is in control, we are promised, "A cheerful heart has a continual feast." (Proverbs 15:15 NIV)

Life, my friend, should be an ongoing celebration.

Now, be honest for a moment. Is your life a continual feast, a daily celebration? Would those who know you best describe you as a person of joy? Laughter and joy are treasures from God, valuable to us for many reasons.

1. Joy heals.

Proverbs 17:22 "A happy heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength." (NCV)

Author and speaker, Barbara Johnson, says that "One laugh = 3 Tbs. of oat bran." Hospitals and doctors in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area where developed "laughter programs". I love it! Doctors are actually prescribing laughter. Why? Because they have discovered what scripture has said for thousands of years - that laughter heals! The documented benefits of laughter are:

· Exercise for lungs
· Increased circulation
· Controlled pain
· Reduced tension
· Strengthened immune system

In other words, God created us to illustrate the truth, that if we laugh more days, we will have more days to laugh! Joy heals!

B. Joy makes us strong.

Joy -- humor -- laughter -- all cultivate inner strength that operates beyond our own human abilities. His joy in us will produce His strength through us. The joy of the Lord in us will produce His strength through us! The words of Nehemiah say it beautifully, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)

A life without joy is like a car without shock absorbers. It will be jolted by every bump in the road. Laughter and joy are the shock-absorbers of life and can radically change our perspective of life and the tough times it holds.

Several years ago, one of my friends underwent a mastectomy. "Sally" was out of work for months, undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments. All in all, it was a horrendous ordeal! She was not known for her inner strength and, in fact, often seemed fragile and frail in her handling of tough circumstances. Sally's battle with cancer was by far the greatest challenge of her life. Anticipating her return to work, Sally's co-workers were a little tense, wondering just how this experience would affect her personally as well as her ability to handle the stress of her job. They got their answer on her first day back at work. Sally walked in, smiling, wearing a poster-board sign around her neck. On the sign was a huge black arrow pointing down. The sign read, "It was this one!" Yes, joy and laughter make us strong!

C. Joy makes the ordinary special.

Someone said, "If you have to move ten inches from where you are now to be happy, then you will never be truly happy." We need to celebrate the ordinary things in life because it is against the backdrop of the ordinary that God's work becomes extraordinary. As we celebrate the ordinary - as we celebrate the little things in life - we build a life of joy! We don't have trouble celebrating the big events in life. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries -- are celebrations we anticipate and execute with great planning and forethought. We tend to place unrealistic expectations on these celebrations because there is no daily celebration of life.

So celebrate, my friends! Celebrate Thursdays, half birthdays, haircuts, new jeans, and report cards. Celebrate the day braces go on -- and especially the day they come off. Celebrate if Dad comes home early. Hey -- celebrate if Dad comes home!

Several years ago, my friend Sharon and her family was flying to Texas for the Christmas holidays. Before she could even begin packing, a mountain of laundry had to be done. Her sweet husband offered to help. After the first few loads, they turned on the television to watch a Christmas special. Settling into the couch sitting under a wall of windows, they folded load after load of clothes. It was midnight and Dan was bored -- a dangerous combination. The drier buzzed and out he went to retrieve the final load. He came back into the room wearing a "hat" which turned out to be a pair of her sexiest underwear. I burst out laughing -- and so did the people outside their family room windows!

Each year, their church youth decorated Christmas trees and delivered them to the older members of the congregation - a wonderful act of service. They also had a contest to see who could produce the ugliest tree, which was always delivered to the pastor's home on Christmas Eve. However, since they would be out of town on Christmas Eve, they had chosen this particular night to deliver the prized tree. Outside our windows stood youth workers, youth and the youth pastor -- laughing hysterically. (Some of them are still in counseling today!) That ordinary chore has become a favorite family story. Joy and laughter make the ordinary special.

I want it all! I want everything that God has for me! I want to celebrate life! But I often get so wrapped up in the urgent things that I lose sight of the important things. A celebratory attitude is slowly siphoned from our souls by the countless "joy robbers" the enemy sends our way. Guard your heart and mind! Refuse to surrender your God-given joy to anyone or anything. Join me this week as we celebrate Jesus! Party on!

Let's Pray
Father, I celebrate You! Thank You for bringing joy and peace into my dark world. Thank You for a love that never fails and a peace that meets every need. Help me to remember that because You are in control, I can have joy every step of the way.

In Jesus' name,

Now It's Your Turn

  • Evaluate the joy-level in your heart and in your home.
  • Identify any "joy-robbers" present in your life and make a plan to eliminate them.
  • Plan a party, announcing that the flag of joy will be flying above your home from now on.
  • Memorize the key verse today and make it one of your life verses.
  • Answer the following question:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Life tip #23

Do not pray and tell God that you are willing to go wherever and whenever He decides unless you REALLY mean it! I prayed on Monday night for God to direct me in any direction He chose, and Tuesday morning, that's just what He did. I woke up Tuesday morning knowing where I was going that night, and it wasn't a place I had ever been before. It wasn't to Africa (been there) or to some other far-away place. No. It was to the other side of town.

Me: "God, I'm willing to go in any direction You point. I'll will be still and wait for You to tell me where to go and then I will go there and do what You want me to do."

Him: "Go over there."

Me: "But I'll miss Bible study!"

Him: "Go over there."

Me: "Okay."

I'm no one important and I don't really know that much. But I do know a powerful and living God who desires nothing more than to have a relationship with me! He is perfect and loving and more than sufficient for every single person on this silly little planet and yet He wants me! Who am I? I'm no one really. The things I see in myself are pretty much crap unless God is at the center of them. The only good thing in me is Jesus.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Give God all Your Cards

Typically, I don't like phrases that talk about giving God all the "cards" or putting all your "cards" on the table when it comes to your life because it makes life seem like a game, like something trivial. But that's how we live, isn't it? We happily hand a part of our lives over to God, like playing Go Fish, but when we want it back or something else back, we just take it. We treat God like the discard pile in a game of Rummy. We put cards down knowing that we can pick them up again. We strategize about how and when we can pick them back up and win the game. We plot and scheme to get our way because we don't want to fully surrender to God. We have ever so cleverly called this process "planning for the future" and in doing so have short-changed God of the surrender He asks for in our lives.

Now, I'm not saying to not plan anything ever and don't save up money for the future, quite the contrary, those things are good and necessary in this world. Save money, plan for tomorrow, ask for directions, get an education, and live your life. But don't do any of these things at the cost of surrendering to God. Love God and plan your life according to His will for you. Understand that if God wants to move you, you need to be ready and willing to pack up and move for His good purpose. He purposes to give us a hope and a future, not to lead us all over creation for His personal jollies.

Here are just 10 verses (my own emphasis added) on surrender and serving:

"And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)

"If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor." (John 12:26)

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass ... Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." (Psalm 37:4-7)

"But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in Your hand..." (Psalm 31:14)

"He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." (Matthew 12:30)

"I came to send fire on the earth ... Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." (Luke 12:49)

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.' And 'a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:34)

"... whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:33)

God doesn't ask for just part of your life in a few nights a week, God requires your whole life, every second of every day! He has given His only Son to provide a life for us, to provide that hope and future and what do we give Him in return? A few nights a week and a courtesy prayer every now and then when other people are listening. Would that make you happy if your son had died for someone? Doubtful. We are too selfish to even think about giving the lives of anyone we love to someone else, much less our own children!

If pleasing God isn't enough motivation for you, check this out:

Mark 10:28-31 (New Living Translation)

"Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

What have you given to God? Have you taken it back already? Have you really turned your life over to God and let Him have free reign over every single aspect of it? Have you let him dictate your days, minute by minute? Will you? Why not? Is it a trust issue?

Monday, March 23, 2009


Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used
to go and play in the Giant's garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and
there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there
were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into
delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich
fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the
children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. "How
happy we are here!" they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the
Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the
seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his
conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own
castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

"What are you doing here?" he cried in a very gruff voice, and the
children ran away.

"My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "any one can
understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself."
So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.


He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on
the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and
they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when
their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden
inside. "How happy we were there," they said to each other.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little
blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant
it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there
were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a
beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw
the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped
back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people
who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. "Spring has
forgotten this garden," they cried, "so we will live here all the
year round." The Snow covered up the grass with her great white
cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they
invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was
wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew
the chimney-pots down. "This is a delightful spot," he said, "we
must ask the Hail on a visit." So the Hail came. Every day for
three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most
of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast
as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like

"I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the
Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold
white garden; "I hope there will be a change in the weather."

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden
fruit to every garden, but to the Giant's garden she gave none.
"He is too selfish," she said. So it was always Winter there, and
the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced
about through the trees.

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some
lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it
must be the King's musicians passing by. It was really only a
little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since
he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be
the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped
dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a
delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. "I
believe the Spring has come at last," said the Giant; and he jumped
out of bed and looked out.

What did he see?

He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall
the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of
the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little
child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again
that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving
their arms gently above the children's heads. The birds were
flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were
looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely
scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It was the farthest
corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was
so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree,
and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree
was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was
blowing and roaring above it. "Climb up! little boy," said the
Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy
was too tiny.

And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. "How selfish I have
been!" he said; "now I know why the Spring would not come here. I
will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I
will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children's
playground for ever and ever." He was really very sorry for what
he had done.

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and
went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were
so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter
again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full
of tears that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole
up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into
the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds
came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms
and flung them round the Giant's neck, and kissed him. And the
other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any
longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. "It is
your garden now, little children," said the Giant, and he took a
great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were
going to market at twelve o'clock they found the Giant playing with
the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant
to bid him good-bye.

"But where is your little companion?" he said: "the boy I put into
the tree." The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.

"We don't know," answered the children; "he has gone away."

"You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow," said the
Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he
lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played
with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never
seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he
longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. "How I
would like to see him!" he used to say.

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could
not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched
the children at their games, and admired his garden. "I have many
beautiful flowers," he said; "but the children are the most
beautiful flowers of all."

One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing.
He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the
Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It
certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the
garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its
branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and
underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He
hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he
came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, "Who
hath dared to wound thee?" For on the palms of the child's hands
were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on
the little feet.

"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I
may take my big sword and slay him."

"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."

"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and
he knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, "You let me
play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my
garden, which is Paradise."

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant
lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

Friday, March 20, 2009

living the cliche

Music brings back memories nearly as quickly as smells do. The Decemberists’ “Picaresque”. When I first got this record over two years ago, it was during the spring. J—told me I would like it, he was right of course. He always knew what kind of music would speak to me. I would listen to it on my tiny iPod and sit on the tiny balcony and smoke. If it was evening, a beer would be involved as well. During that summer, I would listen to it with my feet propped up on the rail, trying desperately to get a little sun on my extreme paleness.

It was a strange time where all I had to do was go to work (no summer classes) and come home again. It was also strange because of how I had peopled my life. I had friends, good ones, not-so-good ones, ambivalent ones, drunken ones, sober ones, smelly ones, and highly caffeinated ones. My friends were always good for a beer, smoke, or faux hawk. On some level, I miss the easy camaraderie that we had. There were times we just sat there, didn’t say anything or do anything, just sat and existed near each other. Sometime we would talk. R— and I would talk Foucault or Nietzsche, J—and I would talk Shakespeare and other classics, Je—and I would talk writing our own stories or dealing with abusive men, B—would tell funny stories and play on the floor like a cat, chasing his cell around refusing to use his thumbs. We were very existential. J—and B—would get out their guitars and mandolins and play and sing. Je—and I listened. That was our life. That is still their life.

But now, listening to this music, allowing it to take me back to that time of existence (for existing was all we were really good at), I have decided that moving on is best. It was good for a time, and perhaps it was a needed time of little responsibility or at least little acknowledgement of responsibility. But I’ve moved on. I haven’t had a beer in longer than I can remember. I haven’t smoked in even longer. And I hadn’t listened to this record in at least a year.

“16 Military Wives”, “From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)”, “The Engine Driver”, and “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” all trigger something in my brain that takes me back to that balcony on a lazy, summer, Salem day. The smells of fresh air, cigarette smoke, and J—‘s hair gel holding up his faux hawk. The sights of the sunny courtyard of our apartment building and the wiry maintenance man trudging down the sidewalk puffing on the weed dangling from his barely-there teeth. The feel of the warm sun on my extremely pale feet and the breeze just slight enough to move our cigarette smoke along. The sounds of birds in the bush under the balcony, Re—playing unidentifiable music in his apartment next to the balcony, and Mo the Cat trying to catch the aforementioned birds through the screen of the kitchen window and getting frustrated. The stale tastes of cigarettes, coffee, and beer mingled with just a hint of cinnamon toothpaste.

Yes, music brings back memories nearly as quickly as smells do.

The Sufferings of His Broken Heart

by Max Lucado

Go with me for a moment to witness what was perhaps the foggiest night in history. The scene is very simple; you'll recognize it quickly. A grove of twisted olive trees. Ground cluttered with large rocks. A low stone fence. A dark, dark night.

Now, look into the picture. Look closely through the shadowy foliage. See that person? See that solitary figure? What's he doing? Flat on the ground. Face stained with dirt and tears. Fists pounding the hard earth. Eyes wide with a stupor of fear. Hair matted with salty sweat. Is that blood on his forehead?

That's Jesus. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Maybe you've seen the classic portrait of Christ in the garden. Kneeling beside a big rock. Snow-white robe. Hands peacefully folded in prayer. A look of serenity on his face. Halo over his head. A spotlight from heaven illuminating his golden-brown hair.

Now, I'm no artist, but I can tell you one thing. The man who painted that picture didn't use the gospel of Mark as a pattern. When Mark wrote about that painful night, he used phrases like these: "Horror and dismay came over him." "My heart is ready to break with grief." "He went a little forward and threw himself on the ground."

Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a "man of sorrows." (Isaiah 53:3 NASB) We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.

We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

The writer of Hebrews would later pen, "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death." (Hebrews 5:7 NIV)

My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.

The next time the fog finds you, you might do well to remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think that no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to him pleading among the twisted trees.

The next time you are called to suffer, pay attention. It may be the closest you'll ever get to God. Watch closely. It could very well be that the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one.

Great House of GodFrom
The Great House of God
© (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009) Max Lucado

God Can Redeem Anything

This has a special meaning for me today. Along with the song "You Raise Me Up".

Today's Truth
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

Friend to Friend
God is faithful. He can use all circumstances for His glory. Let's take a brief look at the life of Joseph (Genesis 37--50). Joseph was a man of integrity who did right in the eyes of the Lord, yet he faced hardship, betrayal, and temptation. As a young man, he was less than humble a few times with his ten older brothers. Okay. Straight up, he actually came across as a puffed up little braggart. His bragging fed the jealously of Joseph's brothers because he was clearly their father's favorite child. Now granted, Joseph threw gasoline on the fire of this jealousy when he bragged about the dreams God had given him, and may have deserved a good smack upside his head for being so insensitive, but imagine how he must have felt to be thrown into a cistern and sold into slavery by his very own brothers! It chills me to the bone. Through it all, however, "the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered" (Genesis 39:2).

He found favor in the eyes of Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh in Egypt, and gained great position, privilege, and prestige. Not so bad for a guy who had been sold into slavery, huh? God was surely with him through it all. Joseph was trusted and placed over all that Potiphar owned.

His circumstances had taken quite a turn for the better ... until our man Joseph was wronged again ... this time by Potiphar's lying, lustful wife. Although he nobly resisted her sexual advances, Joseph was imprisoned when she falsely accused him of attempted rape. In the darkness of a dungeon, Joseph again experienced the lavish light of God's faithfulness as he was granted, "favor in the eyes of the prison warden" (Genesis 39:21). He quickly rose to a position of power and responsibility amongst his prisoner peers and was trusted by the warden.

While imprisoned, Joseph met a cupbearer and a baker who had been in Pharaoh's service, and when each of these two men had a disturbing dream the same night, God allowed Joseph to interpret their dreams. Joseph told the cupbearer that in three days he would be freed from prison and restored to his position in Pharoah's court (the interpretation wasn't quite so favorable for the baker). Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him to Pharaoh, but on the third day, at Pharaoh's birthday feast, the cupbearer was reinstated and Joseph was forgotten. How frustrating would that be?

Two years later, while Joseph was still in the dungeon for doing the right thing, Pharaoh had two dreams that troubled him greatly. "So he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him" (Genesis 41:8b). Finally, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh of his ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh sent for Joseph, who--with God's enabling--interpreted the dreams, and Pharaoh rewarded Joseph by placing him in charge of his palace and his people.

After Joseph was placed in charge of Egypt, he worked with integrity and fervor. He collected and stored all the excess food from the land in preparation for the famine that God had revealed, through Pharaoh's dream, would come. There were seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. The years of famine were severe, and during the famine, Joseph sold grain to both the Egyptians and to people of other lands.

Ultimately, the famine brought Joseph's brothers and father from the land of Canaan to Egypt for a God-reunion and restoration that only our amazing El-Shaddai could have arranged. In spite of all the pain he endured at the hands of others, Joseph was able to exclaim to his brothers in kindness, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good."

Joseph really got it.

He saw the big picture.

Though we've had to rush through this story, the take-away is clear. Joseph paid a high price for sins that had been committed against him, but through the trials, he was blessed richly as God eventually used each circumstance for His good. My dear sister, our God is able to redeem anything and everything that we face or endure. Anything! No matter what you've been through, not matter the secrets you've been hiding or accusations you've been listening to, God is able to redeem you.

Do you believe that? He is waiting to show you the big picture. If you've been holding something back from God or resisting His healing, then it's time for you to take your faith and trust to another level. No more safe living.

Let's Pray
Dear God, Help me see the big picture today. I surrender my pain of __________ to Your greater purpose. You know what I've been through...and I know that You are faithful, compassionate, and able to redeem anything. Please turn my hurt into something that can be used for Your good!

In Jesus' Name,

Now It's Your Turn
Journal about what's been redeemed in your life ... or about what you would like God to redeem.

Romans 8:28 says, "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." Write this on the tablet of your heart today. Commit it to memory!

Thursday, March 19, 2009




1. The state of being contented or satisfied; content.

Contentment without external honor is humility.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. --1 Tim. vi. 6.

2. The act or process of contenting or satisfying; as, the contentment of avarice is impossible.

3. Gratification; pleasure; satisfaction.

At Paris the prince spent one whole day to give his mind some contentment in viewing of a famous city. --Sir H. Wotton.


a state of mind in which one's desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be (1 Tim. 6:6; 2 Cor. 9:8). It is opposed to envy (James 3:16), avarice (Heb. 13:5), ambition (Prov. 13:10), anxiety (Matt. 6:25, 34), and repining (1 Cor. 10:10). It arises from the inward disposition, and is the offspring of humility, and of an intelligent consideration of the rectitude and benignity of divine providence (Ps. 96:1, 2; 145), the greatness of the divine promises (2 Pet. 1:4), and our own unworthiness (Gen. 32:10); as well as from the view the gospel opens up to us of rest and peace hereafter (Rom. 5:2).




the contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation; "the chef tasted the sauce with great satisfaction"


state of being gratified or satisfied; "dull repetitious work gives no gratification"; "to my immense gratification he arrived on time"


compensation for a wrong; "we were unable to get satisfaction from the local store"


(law) the payment of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation; "the full and final satisfaction of the claim"


act of fulfilling a desire or need or appetite; "the satisfaction of their demand for better services"


  1. The fulfillment or gratification of a desire, a need, or an appetite.
  2. The pleasure or contentment that is derived from such gratification.

Are you? Why not? Is it your fault? Have you talked to God about it?