Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fresh Mercies

It has been one year since my last blog post. Yikes! I cannot believe how much time has gone by! I began 2012 with the intention of writing posts on a regular basis, aiming for just one a month, lest I be overly ambitious and fail miserably as a result. Turns out, writing more than one for the ENTIRE year was overly ambitious! I had many partially written devotional posts that I never got around to finishing. Or, as is more accurate, posts that I did not deem "perfect" enough for posting. Such is the writing life of a woman who is a control freak, a perfectionist, and a victim of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Please do pray for my husband and 3.5-year-old daughter. Ha, ha.

On this Valentine's Day eve, I had planned on a traditional post related to Jesus, our eternal Valentine, etc. But, something struck a chord on my heartstrings this morning. In addition to my above listed "issues," I am also a Pinterest addict and a coffee addict. This morning on Pinterest, I found a picture featuring a glorious cup of coffee and Lamentations 3:23, which says, "His mercies begin afresh each morning." I had read that verse many times before and had even rejoiced in its truth, yet I had not been able to grasp the meaning in a personal way. Something about the cup of coffee on that print this morning finally brought clarity to the verse. 

One key to enjoying a fabulous cup of coffee is a fresh brew from quality beans (and, if you're like me, a fresh brew from a French press). There are few things that can gross me out like a cup of stale, nasty, cold coffee. There have been many times in which I have taken a sip of what I thought was a nice, hot, and fresh cup, only to discover that it was old and cold. (I can add easily distracted to my list of "issues"!) Coffee is meant to be enjoyed as freshly made. And guess what, my friends? The same is true of God's mercies. Every morning, God brews up a fresh pot of His amazing mercies for us to savor. We don't have to rely on the preceding day's mercies to get us through what lies ahead. God has new mercies for us every single morning. Isn't that wonderful?!

I have no idea when my next blog post will be, and I know my high-strung self well enough to know not to make another goal for a specified number of posts! So, in the meantime, I encourage you to join me in raising a cup of gratefulness to our loving Father God for brewing fresh mercies every morning. Oh, how He loves us!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Eternal Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day, blog friends! As you can see, I took the last year off from blogging. I will post later regarding the previous year's happenings, specifically as relates to the radical challenge for 2011. But, today is a special day and is worthy of a posting all its own! While the origination of this grand day is beautifully recorded for us in the annals of history (and of folklore), we have an even more beautiful recording of both the origination of and meaning of love in the Bible. We have the first and ultimate Valentine: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son..." (John 3:16). And how I thank Him for that!

Valentine's Day has always been a favorite holiday of mine, second only to Christmas Day. Even when I was a single gal, long before I met my man or had a first date, I loved Valentine's Day. I have always believed that the love we celebrate on Valentine's Day is not and should not be confined to the love between a man and a woman, although that is a wonderful aspect of today's celebration for many of us. Some of us pay homage to the love of friendship or of family. I have many memories of making special Valentine dinners for my folks to express my love for them when I was still single. And to be honest, there were plenty of dinners during which I was inwardly cringing and crying over spending yet another Valentine's Day without a beau of my own. As a Christian, I knew that Jesus was my Eternal Valentine; but, what I had was head knowledge, not heart knowledge.

Although I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was three-years-old and as my LORD when I was 15-years-old, it has not been until now, as a 30-something, that I have accepted Jesus as the Lover of my soul. It has taken this long for the truth of who Jesus is to sink into my heart. He is not just a mighty Warrior, conquering death and the grave. He is not just a gentle Shepherd, laying His life down for mine. Maybe I am the only one or one of a few who has been blinded to this Lover role that Jesus has longed to play in my life. In case you find yourself in need of renewed vision, as I have, consider these Scriptures:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but would have eternal life" (John 3:16).

“ 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness' " (Jer. 31:3).

"For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (Zeph. 3:17).

"But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him" (Ps. 103:17).

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33:27).

"For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies" (Ps. 57:10).

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me" (Is. 49:16).

"...neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39).

Of course, there are many, many other such Scriptures. These are just my favorites! My heart is filled with joy and gratitude to know without doubt that God's love for me is everlasting and that absolutely nothing can separate me from that love. He holds me in His strong, all-powerful yet gentle arms. And that is the best hug I can ever have!

If you find yourself in need of a Valentine today, may I suggest Jesus? Perhaps you have never fully given your heart to Him. Or maybe you need to remember your first love and renew your love for Him. Wherever you are in your walk with Jesus on this glorious Valentine's Day, take hold of His hand and commune with Him. He wants to be your Eternal Valentine.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Radical Plan for 2011

Well, hello there, blog friends! Long time, no post. I know. That's life with a 19-month-old. I give myself credit for having my priorities in order, though!

I have 10 blog posts waiting to be typed out here. I thought about making a New Year's resolution to have at least one blog post every month. Alas, like most of my past New Year's resolutions, my plan would be doomed to failure after March! I actually gave up on making New Year's resolutions a few years ago. I prefer to make gradual, subtle changes (both at the beginning of a year and throughout the year) in order to achieve a goal that I establish at the beginning of a new year. For example, for the past couple of years, I've had the goal of becoming healthier. So, some of my subtle changes have been to switch from white rice to brown rice, from regular pasta to whole wheat pasta, etc.

For 2011, after prayer and tears (you'll see the reason for the tears below), I'm taking a more...Radical approach to planning out my year. I'm establishing more...Radical goals for myself. One of my favorite books that I read this year was Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I cannot recommend this book enough!
As I read Radical, I was reminded over and over of John Piper's works. So, if you're a Piper fan, you'll probably love this book, too! Before reading this book, I had been blinded to the Truth of Jesus' command to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). When Jesus said to "go" and to "make disciples", He wasn't making a suggestion or giving us an option. He commanded us. Because I have Jesus, I owe a debt to the rest of the world. I am obligated to share Jesus with those who have never heard the Gospel, on both a foreign and a domestic basis. God has graciously blessed me with so much, and I do not want to squander what He has entrusted to me. What seems radical to man is normal (and can even be pleasing) to God.

After describing how he, his family, and his church body have made radical changes in their lives to spread the knowledge of Christ in the world, Platt ends his book with a challenge to the reader to conduct his/her own year-long radical experiment. He lists five action points: 1. pray for the entire world; 2. read through the entire Word; 3. sacrifice your money for a specific purpose; 4. spend your time in another context; 5. commit your life to a multiplying community. I have committed to conducting my own radical experiment in 2011 because I want more of Jesus in my life and because I want to repay the debt I owe to the rest of the world.

Platt recommends an organization called Operation World for assistance in praying for the entire world, and they send out daily prayer e-mails. Hey, if it's in my inbox, I'm going to read it/pray it. I'm just that e-mail conscious!

Unfortunately, I can't say that about the Word.
I am ashamed to admit that I have never read through the entire Bible. I've tried, but I never make it past Leviticus! I found a great reading plan that breaks up the Bible into a different category (e.g., Minor Prophets, Major Prophets, History, Gospels) for each day of the week, and I think that will help keep the momentum going. And I am excited to see what God works in and through my life as a result of having more of His Word in my spirit!

I don't do much for myself in the area of rewards. I am a frilly, frou-frou kind of a girl, but I don't get my hair done regularly, I don't have acrylic nails, I don't get pedicures. But, there is one treat I give myself. Coffee!!!! Ah, my drug of choice. So smooth, rich, energizing. Yes, I love my coffee, both brewed at home and chosen as a special coffee house treat. Some girls can say that they get up every morning because they just love Jesus that much and can't wait to start their days with Him. As I confessed to a close girlfriend just today, I'm not one of those girls. Don't get me wrong...I love my Jesus. But, coffee is the reason I get up every morning. My daughter is a big reason for why I get up, but I have to walk by the kitchen first because her room is on the opposite end of the house. Most mornings, the first thing I think is, "Dear Lord, if I can just get to my coffee maker in the kitchen." Platt challenged his readers to sacrifice their money for a specific purpose and pointed out that in order for it to be a true sacrifice, it would have to hurt. Um, yeah, the biggest pain in my life would be to give up coffee. FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR. Mercy, Lord Jesus. Yes, I have cried. I have cried real tears over this commitment. I know there are dark days ahead as I detox from my smooth, rich, warm drug. The specific purpose for which I have chosen to sacrifice is the building of a water well in an impoverished community. I was stunned to read the statistics of deaths and diseases associated with contaminated water in other areas of the world. It warms my heart, so much more than a cup of freshly brewed coffee ever could, and tears run down my cheeks all over again, to know that mommas will be able to give their babies clean drinking water, in a very small part because I was willing to give up my coffee for a year. FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR. Day by day, I tell myself. Day by day. You can begin praying for my poor husband and daughter now. They will surely need it.

As far as spending my time in another context, I started teaching ESL at my church while I was still reading Radical. I will continue participating in that ministry in 2011. Jon and I were also recently asked to teach the K&1st Sunday school class at church two Sundays a month. I really feel like we're in over our heads, so we'll see how long we survive! If God wants me/us to go on another foreign missions trip in 2011, I/we will respond in obedience. But, I must say that local missions opportunities are a lot more feasible with a 19-month-old in my life! Not to mention easier on my heartstrings. Oh, how I love my little bundle of cuteness! She still smells just like a package of Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies. All buttery sweetness.

God has placed us in a warm, welcoming church. We have so many opportunities to serve and to impact the world for Jesus. It will be exciting to see what God has planned for Mansfield Bible Church in the coming year.

So, that's it. That's my radical plan for 2011. Long-winded, I know, but all my posts are long-winded! I hope you will pick up and read a copy of Radical and prayerfully consider how God would have you to respond. And when you read, sip a cup of coffee. And say a prayer for me. And for Jon and Claire.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Refreshment for a Momma's Soul

As a momma of a 14-month-old, there are many days when I could use some refreshment. Please know that I love my baby girl to pieces! Claire is my pride and joy, and I am grateful beyond words to God for entrusting her to us and for the privilege and blessing of being a SAHM. But, as much as I love her, and as grateful as I am, there are days when I wonder if I will be bald from pulling my hair out by the time Jon gets home from work! And after speaking with several women in my community about this issue, I know that I am not alone in needing refreshment from time to time (if not daily!).

During just such a trying day not too long ago, our gracious Father led me to read Isaiah 66:13, which says, " 'As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,' says the Lord." I have read this verse many times in the past, but it has taken on a deeper understanding now that I am a mother. Just a few days later, Claire was not feeling well, and I spent a lot of time just holding and rocking her. While I was rocking her, my thoughts went back to the above verse. I began meditating on how a mother comforts her child....tenderly, gently, lovingly, patiently, selflessly, unconditionally. There are times in a young (or in my case, young-ish) momma's life, and at every stage of motherhood for that matter, when we need God to comfort us tenderly and to soothe us. What a blessing to hear Jesus promise to comfort us tenderly just as we do our own children!

Isaiah 40:11 tells us that Jesus "gently leads those that have young." I love this verse! I tear up just thinking about it. I am greatly comforted to know that God does not expect me to be a perfect mom (despite the pressure that I put on myself) or to "get it right" every day of Claire's life. He knows that I cannot be an effective mother or the mother that Claire needs in my own power or ability (or sanity!). That is why He promised to gently lead me and all you other mommas out there. I like to think that God ordained for the adverb "gently" to be in this verse because He knew just how frazzled we can become in conducting our momma duties!

Here are two more of my favorite verses for being encouraged in motherhood:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness" (Jer. 31:3).
"The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zeph. 3:17).

Are you having a rough day/week/month/season of motherhood? Do you need Jesus to comfort you tenderly? Do you need Him to lead you gently? Do you need Him to quiet you with His love? Do you need to know that He delights in you and that He is with you? Meditate on these verses and listen for God to speak to you. He longs to be gracious to you, and He rises to show you compassion (Isaiah 30:18).

Products are available!

This is just a quick post to let you all know that a cup of joy products are available for purchase at Pirate Coffee Company in the heart of historic downtown Mansfield! Pirate Coffee Company is located at 116 N. Main Street. They have delicious coffee drinks (as well as coffee alternatives), and everyone is friendly and personable.

I have plans to have my products available at other retail locations, as well as getting my store website finished. But, for now, go to Pirate for a pick-me-up for your body and your soul!

One Last Word on Contentment (a.k.a., The Joy of Contentment Part 3)

Crazy as this may sound, I have been working on seven different blog posts, which might explain why I have not been able to get a single one typed out here. Ha, ha. But, in an effort to whittle down the list, here is one last quick word (in two points) on contentment.

1. In a recent edition of Parenting magazine (July 2010), a 4-year-old girl was asked whether her pet would rather be a person. The wise child responded, "He is used to being a guinea pig. You are supposed to like what you are and not want to be something else." How interesting that a 4-year-old girl can figure out something with which most adults continue to struggle. If only we could fully, gladly embrace what and how God has created us to be!

2. I recently received an e-mail from a popular retail store known for its eclectic, international merchandise. The subject line read, "Gimme, gimme, gimme! I need! I need!" Because I am always thinking of a new blog post idea (hence the seven posts mentioned above), I could not resist viewing the content of the e-mail, you know, to verify the authenticity of the subject line. (I would never think I actually needed something from this store. Ha, ha.) The content was just what I expected: the usual presentation of various pillows, scented candles, and decor items. What struck me about the subject line was the blatant marketing strategy. The company was directly feeding thoughts into the readers/customers minds. And don't you know that Satan works the same way? If he cannot tempt you with enticing presentations, planting the seeds of discontent, he will begin feeding you the thoughts outright, much like transplanting grown plants. The primary need for a plant to thrive following transplanting is good soil. Is your mind good soil for those thoughts of discontent? Or are you allowing your mind to be transformed by God's Word (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:26)?

So, that's it. Time to cross another topic of the list!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Joy of Contentment--Part 2

At long last, here is Part 2 for "The Joy of Contentment." One of the facets of God that I believe in the most is that He has a sense of humor. And because He is a sovereign God, His sense of humor is timely!

During my hiatus from the blog world, which has been over a month now, God has been dealing with me on a different aspect of contentment. And that, my dear friends, is the aspect of state of being. He hasn't dealt with me on this aspect anywhere near as frequently as He has the aspect of material things or my physical appearance (as discussed in Part 1). However, as I said above, He has a marvelously well-timed sense of humor. And though He hasn't dealt with me on being content in my current state as frequently as other aspects of contentment, the teaching sessions have not been less painful.

Even if I am not actively writing on this blog, I'm always musing over possible subjects, anecdotes, etc. with which to write a post. So, my mind is always set to "Play" if not "Fast Forward". Okay, it's usually set to "Fast Forward". I've never been known for being a patient person. One thing God has used motherhood to teach me is the practice of appreciating the beauty of a moment. I say "practice" because taking time to smell the proverbial roses is not an action that comes naturally to me. Sometimes God wants to make sure I don't forget how to appreciate those moments and how to be content, as Paul said, in whatever state I am (Phil. 4:11).

Just over a month ago, I experienced a very painful neck injury. It was a fairly minor injury, but it was debilitating nonetheless. As a result of this injury, I wasn't able to hold or to take care of my daughter for several days, and I also missed two races. It did not take me long to realize that this setup was a prime learning opportunity if I would allow it to be so. I had the choice to fight the situation, and in the process drastically slow down my recovery, or to relax and to submit to God, choosing to be content even in my albeit short-term debilitated state.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes, "
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:11-13 NIV, emphasis mine). Now granted, I have never faced the same caliber of trials as Paul had: multiple shipwrecks, floggings, abandonment, times of hunger and exposure, etc. But, the secret to which Paul refers to can be learned by anyone, regardless of degree of trials. Philippians 4:5b-7 says, "The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." In these verses, Paul provides us with the prescription for contentment. Because our kind and gracious Lord is near, we do not need to be anxious, fretful or worried. Rather, we should be praying and supplicating (asking God for help) with praise and thanksgiving in every situation.

In addition to being impatient, I'm also a chronic worrier. And for me, discontentment and worry often go hand-in-hand. Discontentment is a strong state of mind. But glory be to the most high God that His peace is an even stronger state of mind! His peace is perfect, going beyond our measly human ability to comprehend. When I allow God's peace to settle my mind and spirit, being an umpire for my soul (Col. 3:15 AMP), I feel perfect contentment, regardless of present circumstances. I know that I can trust my loving, faithful Father to provide what is best for me and to work out every situation for my good (Rom. 8:28).

If you are in a state of discontentment today, I challenge you to let it all go in prayer, with thanksgiving. And as my beloved Grandpa says, may the peace of God be with you!