Wednesday, April 30, 2014

40 Day Challenge - Draw Closer to God & Your Hubby (Day 3: Trust in God's Sovereignty)

Reminder: before starting your day read the good news you were directed to post somewhere you'd see it every day (remember, Day 1?). 

Day 1's challenge was to recognize the power of Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross. There is absolutely nothing more powerful than this to get us through our darkest hours.

Day 2's challenge was to simply stop and praise God. Like Job we need to "...stop and consider the wondrous works of God." (Job 37:14) Instead of complaining and letting bitterness seep into our soul, praise God for His greatness, letting Him seep into our very heart, soul, and mind. You were also told to read Job 38-41 and list all the attributes that told of God's greatness. Here's my list:
  • He laid the foundation of the earth! (38:4)
  • He determined the measurements of the earth! (v.5)
  • He knows the base on which he placed it! (Uh, mind blown.) (v.6)
  • He laid the cornerstone. (v.6)
  • The STARS SING? (v.7)
  • The shut in the sea with doors when it burst forth at the sound of His voice. (v.8)
  • He made the clouds and the darkness. (v.9)
  • He told the waves of the sea to "stop here, go no further" (v.11)
  • He commands the morning and the dawn to know it's place. (v.12)
  • He asks Job, "Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?" (v.18)
  • He has storehouses of snow and hail that He has reserved for the time of trouble, battle and war. (v.22-23)
  • He owns a "cleft channel for the torrents of rain" (v.25)
  • He "binds the chains of Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion" (v.31-32)
  • He guides the bear with its children! (v.32)
  • He knows the ordinances of the heavens! (v.33)
  • He sends forth lightening and it answers him! (v.35)
  • He gives understanding and wisdom. (v.36-37)
  • He can number the clouds! (v.37)
  • He hunts for the lions and provides for the raven. (v.39-41)
  • He knows when the mountain goats give birth and when they're ready to be on their own. (39:1-4)
  • He takes care of donkey's. (39:5-8)
  • The wild ox serves Him. (39:9-12)
  • The ostrich has no fear of her eggs dying because, "God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding." (v.13-17)
  • He gives the horse his might. (v.19-25)
  • "Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south?" (v.26)
  • Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?" (v.27)
  • "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God let him answer it." (40:2)
  • "Will you put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?" (40:8-9)
  • He brings down the low and treads down the wicked. (40:12-13)
  • LEVIATHON! This part is my favorite: "Will [Leviathon] make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls?" (41:1-34) Haha, sometimes I read sarcasm in His voice? That last line especially: will you put him on a leash for your girls? Haha! LOVE IT. But more importantly this mighty sea creature who God describes as having flaming torches fly out of his mouth and when the mighty see him they are afraid and that there is not one creature like him and ends it with, "... he is king over all the sons of pride." And God plays with him as with a bird? He puts a leash on him? This mighty creature makes PLEAS to GOD? I can't even fathom God's greatness!
  • "Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine." (v.11)
Confession: I woke up yesterday morning to a messy house. Early Sunday morning we found sopping wet basement carpet (sigh). Which meant that we needed to drag all of our furniture elsewhere so we could begin the drying process (in other words my house is a disaster and it reeks of wet carpet). The first thing I did yesterday was let the frustration of that spill over in my conversation with my hubby, in fact it was the first thing I said to him. Not "Good morning!" or "Did you sleep well?" or "Do you want me to make you breakfast?" or "I love you!" Nope. It was complaining about the mess in our house. I felt immediate conviction, especially when my hubby told me to simply, "get over it." I found myself redirecting my thoughts The weather is nasty and ruined some plans. Our Bible study got canceled because there are so many people sick, including me and my family. There's only a teeny tiny path to get to my laundry room but laundry is overflowing and must be done. (Another sigh.) You see Satan uses these little things to plant seeds of bitterness and yesterday it was threatening to seep into every fiber of my being. I forced myself to sit down and create a song playlist called "God is GREAT!" (which contained songs like Indescribable and Our Great God and The Perfect Wisdom of Our God that were all about the wonderful characteristics of GOD - they were all God centered songs redirecting my thoughts to HIS WONDROUS WORKS) and I can't tell you what a difference that made. All day when I felt a complaint rising to the surface I'd instead refer to my playlist and to Job; and began praising God! His wondrous works are worth praising and because my thoughts were redirected to Him, the way I treated my husband was better, the way I interacted with my daughter was more patient and loving. I knew that in order to draw closer to my hubby I must draw closer to God FIRST, but the reality of that knowledge didn't hit me until yesterday when I put it to work. Here's why: your overspill will continue to be bitter complaining unless you realize the GREATNESS of the God you serve. So today the challenge is recognizing God's sovereignty in your life, because once you learn to trust Him wholeheartedly with you'll understand the freedom to truly love Him with every fiber of your being - totally changing your "overspill". 

Confession a year later: One short week ago my basement flooded again as a result of more than 6 inches of rain poured over our home in less than an hour (not a result of a forgotten soaker hose like last time). YESTERDAY I was struggling with the very same feelings described in my first confession. My laundry was overflowing and my laundry room was inaccessible. I am forever blown away at God's timing and the way He reveals Himself. The women I'm in a discipleship relationship decided to undertake this challenge again. THE DAY we started this challenge was the day we heard the gospel message at church followed by communion, which follows Day 1 of this challenge perfectly. AND THEN to have the same events? Focusing on God's sovereignty is absolutely, positively what I needed today and that just "happens" to be today's focus. I have goosebumps.

It's only day 2 of this challenge, but I can't tell you how badly I needed a refocus. I'm so glad you're joining me.

Day 3
Say it with me: God is in control. Say it again. And again. And again. Recognizing this one fact in your life will do wonders in allowing Him to sanctify you by whatever means necessary. It will also allow you to rest in Him and what He's doing in your life. What have you to worry about if you surrender everything to Him?

Jesus was very clear about His sovereignty in His sermon on the mount and because of His sovereignty we should not be anxious about anything, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all." (Matthew 6:25-32) 

Throughout the book of Job you'll see little hints of Job's understanding of what Jesus meant in His sermon with comments like, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (1:21) That was his first response to losing everything - including his children, his wealth, his reputation, his health, everything. In fact, his very first response was falling to the ground and worshiping God (1:20) But as months passed with a prevailing sickness, Job began to beg God to end his life, to hear his side of the story, he'd recognize God's sovereignty in passages like 9:4-10, 12:7-25, 14:5, 23:13, 26:7-14, 28:23-28 but then turn around and say, "Today my complaint is bitter..." (23:2) and "... yet I am not silenced because of the darkness..." (23:17) We'd justify Job's complaints right? I mean, he lost everything! 

Here's the challenge we find in Job: in the midst of trials and tribulations what are we called to do?

Elihu told Job that he needed to stop and recognize God’s wondrous works because HE.IS.SOVEREIGN. (Job 37:14). That is the whole purpose of this book: that Job shut up, stop whining, complaining, and asking that God hear his side of the story (read 23:2-4 as one of many examples). When God answers Job He asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (38:4) and by the end of God’s sermon explaining His sovereign hand he flat out tells Job, “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (41:11) If God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, if He is sovereign in their life, how much more will he take care of His children? Have faith, and praise His mighty, sovereign Name!

What can we understand about God’s sovereignty from this book? Well, He laid the foundation of the earth, who are we to question His plan? HE GIVES AND HE TAKES AWAY. (Job 1:21) Note the very specific wording in chapter 42 when Job regains his wealth, "And THE LORD RESTORED the fortunes of Job..." and "THE LORD GAVE Job twice as much as he had before..." and "THE LORD BLESSED the latter days of Job..." Based on the book of Job alone, everything, and I mean everything (your money, your clothing, the food in your pantry, your children, your life) is His. Yes, even your life (read Job 12:10). And when we add Jesus' sermon into the mix we realize that if everything is His (even food and clothing) then what on earth do we have to worry about? 

Rest in Him. Trust Him. Acknowledge Him. Praise Him (even if your refrigerator is empty). 

Sooooooo... how far does God's sovereignty reach? I don't know the answer to that exactly, but every day I read the Bible it becomes more and more evident that God is in control of it all for one purpose: HIS NAME AND HIS GLORY. I believe we will know all the answers to these questions in heaven but for now I know this... He gives each and every sinner a command: to believe in the gospel message or not. We either believe that Jesus lived, died, rose again and is seated at the right hand of God - or we don’t. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:3) There is no middle ground! We either live our lives for Jesus or we don’t. We either accept His sovereign hand or we don’t. And here’s the thing, whether or not you accept His sovereignty doesn’t matter. His plan will always, always, always win over yours. I can promise you this, once you begin to let go and let God work in your life, you truly begin to understand the freedom found in accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior! And LOVE Him as a result.

He is simply asking you to live a selfless life for the sake of Jesus Christ and His namesake. Even while you give up dreams, even while you endure hardships, HE is the only source of joy, hope, and peace. You will not win over the enemy without Him. You will not embrace your trials without Him. You will not be able to persevere without Him. Get over yourself and praise Him no matter what.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and HE WILL make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5

Listen to that verse! 
  • Trust in HIM with ALL your heart! 
  • Forget about your understanding, if we have any. 
  • Acknowledge Him and His namesake in everything you do! 
  • And then He gives you a promise: He will make straight your paths. NO, it doesn't say that the path won't be rocky, or difficult, but HE WILL guide you according to HIS WORD. 
So in the midst of whatever you're going through: depression, marital difficulties, loss of a friend, child, or simply an ache for something better; even if we are unable to bask in the blessings of a loving husband, healthy children, your own health, riches, or anything else this life as to offer, know that no matter what --He is sovereign-- and we can bask and rest in the promises of God's sovereign hand in our life and acknowledge His great works

With this knowledge comes a task: read Job chapters 38 - 41 again, where God is talking, telling Job of His sovereign hand over everything. Every time you hit something that speaks of God's sovereignty, highlight it or underline it or put a star next to it (mark it however you wish, I highlight or underline it in purple). Yesterday you were asked to read these passages and list all the things that pointed to God's greatness. Today, mark everything in those passages that helps you understand that He is in control. 

And then in your journal, and for the rest of the day, praise Him for it. Seriously. Praise Him for all that He is, all that He's doing and has done and will do. Praise Him for His sovereign hand. If it helps you, like it does me, create a playlist that helps you praise Him for His greatness. Today my playlist will be on repeat.

If you just joined us, I encourage you to start with...
  • Day 1 - The Gospel
  • Day 2 - Stop & Consider the Wondrous Works of God

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Joys of Owning a Pet]

It's that time of the week already and this week is all about our pets!

I'm going to take a different approach to this: the joys and "joys" of owning a pet. Reason being, I have two dogs, whom I love as part of the family, but there are moments when I wonder if its worthwhile. Since we are dog owners, I guess the title of this should be, The Joys of Having Dogs in Your Family.
The "Joys" of dog ownership...
  1. Dog hair becomes a normal part of your diet. Yum.
  2. Dog hair. Period. Hair is everywhere and no matter how many times you sweep in the course of a week, you'll always have a pile of it. Especially when the weather begins to warm up.
  3. Dog Bombs - I heard someone say that if aliens ever invaded planet earth they'd believe dogs ruled the world because we pick up their poop, feed them, walk them, &etc. Haha! Seriously, though, having dogs poop in your back yard means you're constantly having to watch were you step and then on those days when you have to clean it up... yuck.
  4. They demand attention. If you don't exercise them, you notice when they destroy your favorite shoes from boredom. If you don't train them how to greet a guest at the door, your guest will be mauled by a jumpy, over-excited dog. If you don't train them they'll take the food right out of your hand without given permission. They take a lot of time and a lot of repetition, but they'll surprise you with the results if you take time to demand obedience. Plus, Marley makes it difficult to sit without giving him attention, because the world revolves around Marley.
  5. They break your heart when it's time to say good-bye. (Good-bye Nachi!)
  6. Forces you to be responsible. You're taking care of another life! Having a pet makes it difficult to just pick up and go without finding a sitter or a kennel. You must make sure they're fed, trained, watered, and loved. 
  7. Messes. Sometimes they puke on your rug or a pillow. Sometimes they dig monster holes in the back yard throwing dirt allllllll over the porch. Sometimes you find them snuggled on YOUR bed leaving behind a mess of dog hair on your pillow. When you have a puppy and are training them to go potty outside, you'll always have messes to clean up. Sometimes they're worse than toddlers about leaving toys strewn about the house.
  8. Nasty licking! Seriously hate slobbery, poop-smelling, dog kisses. Yuck. They eat poop, I don't care how "clean" their mouth is! 
    I need this sign for Quigley. 
  9. Barking. Marley barks at a leaf that floats across our yard. And because of his obsession with playing watch dog, my windows will never be clean.
  10. They are expensive! You end up paying an arm and a leg to get them neutered, fed, shots taken, toys, treats, birthday and Christmas presents...
The Joys of owning a pet...
  1. Companionship and genuine friendship. When I got Marley I was the loneliest I've ever been. He filled some lonely hours and for that reason he will always hold a special place in my heart. They are loyal, protective, forgiving, and they want to be with me all.the.time. no matter how I treat them. Plus Bean LOVES playing with them. 

    Bean showing Quigley her shells from the Bahamas. So cute!
  2. They display unconditional love. There's this running joke in our house that goes something like this: if you want to see who truly loves you, lock your wife and your dog in the trunk of your car and see who's happy to see you when you open it after an hour or two. It's true. They'd love you no matter what you do to them. Plus during some lonely moments you kinda appreciate a lick or two.
  3. It's unnecessary to clean the floor after each meal. They are most useful with small children who leave a damage zone a mile wide. 
  4. They teach responsibility. Which is perfect for kids. Bean helps feed the dogs every day and she loves it. 
  5. Two Words: Cuddle Time! Marley is a perfect cuddler and we have yet to convince Quigley he's not a lap dog. But if you're down you can count on them to nuzzle in and keep you warm and safe.
  6. Protection. When we go on hikes there's nothing better than having a dog with. Plus if there's ever a "lucky" soul that enters our home unwelcome, I'm pretty sure Quigley would come uncorked. 
  7. Dress up. It's a good thing #2 is true 'cause Marley hates this, but I.just.can' 
    Yup. He wore a tux at our wedding. Hehe.
  8. They give me plenty to write about! Like Marley's Weird Quirks, or Poor Marley and the Dreaded Red Ant Attack, or when Poor Marley Tried to Bite a Fan, or the antics of CraaaAaaaAzzzy Quigley (x2).
  9. They open doors to conversation. What's not to talk and laugh about if you see the picture of Marley in his tux? Or when people walk through your door and you have to explain that Quigley's nickname is "crotch dog" because that's how he gets your attention: sticking his giant head in a place where he knows you'll have to pay attention!
  10. They're entertaining. Who needs TV when you have stuff like this happening on a daily basis?
Like Bean playing patty-cake with Marley...

or Marley trying to dig his toy out of a stocking...

or play time with a baby...

or the time he tried to attack a fan!

or Quigley burying his rawhide.

I feel beyond blessed to have two amazing pets that give me reason to keep them around. I love them. They're part of the family and I can't help but spoil the heck out of them. To me the JOYS outweigh the "joys" so I do believe they're worthwhile. Life just wouldn't be the same without them in it.

Be sure to check out Melany's joys of pet ownership who has chickens, dogs, cats, horses... oh my! 

40 Day Challenge - Draw Closer to God & Your Hubby (Day 2: Stop & Consider the Wondrous Works of God)

Before today's task you must keep going back to the one thing that draws us to God: the salvation through Christ alone. There is nothing more powerful to get you through the darkest hours. Because of the hope we have in Christ we can and will make it through whatever trials we are going through right now, because we have hope in the fact that this life IS NOT OUR END! Our beautiful end is the day we breath our last and are forever resting in the glory of God, in the arms of Jesus Christ. Until that day, we joyfully persevere and endure whatever comes our way.

Day 1's task was to display that powerful gift somewhere were you could see it and read it daily. In fact, I encourage you to read it first thing so your thoughts are directed towards the only thing that matters: Jesus Christ. Here's what I did:
My picture frame turned dry erase board displaying my daily chore chart. I go to this every day so there was no better place to put it. This is what I wrote, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (3:23) Because of this sin we deserve to die (6:23) BUT He shows his love for us in that while we were STILL sinners Christ died for us! (5:8) SO if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, WE WILL BE SAVED. (10:9) There is NOTHING that can separate us from His LOVE." (verses taken from Romans, nicknamed the "Romans Road")
How did you choose to display the gospel message so you could see it every day for 40 days? Please share!

Day 2: Stop & Consider the Wondrous Works of God

Here's the thing about us girls.... we can't shut up. We struggle to shut up our brains, we struggle to stop talking when we shouldn't, we struggle to direct our thoughts on one thing because we are born multitaskers.
This can be a good thing! But today your one and only goal is to stop and praise God. Here's why:

Consider the story of Job. He lost everything! All of his children, his riches, his property, his worth, you name it, it was all gone in a very short period of time. Can you imagine? Put yourself in his shoes: you lose all of your children in a mind numbing accident. Your home is burned to the ground along with everything you own. You lose your vehicles, your boss fires you, and you have absolutely nothing left. Then you receive a phone call from your doctor stating you have cancer and must endure months of agonizing chemo therapy. What would you do?

Would you have the courage to say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21)

OR would you be like Job in the later days of his sickness:
  • lamenting the day you were born (3:1-26), 
  • would you complain (6:1-30; 10:1-2; 23:2), 
  • ask God to simply kill you too (6:8-9), 
  • would you too believe that God was not listening to you (9:16), 
  • would you think God left you (29:5), 
  • would you too lose hope (17:15), 
  • would you beg for mercy (19:21), 
  • would you praise God (chapter 12) and then turn around and want to justify your actions, thoughts and words: "But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God." (13:3) "Though he slay me I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face..."(13:15), 
  • would you have the audacity to argue your case to God as well? (23:3-4; 31:35-37) To be so arrogant to think that you deserve to speak before Him? 
  • Would you question the purpose of praising this God who allowed all this to happen to you? "What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?" (21:15) 
  • Would you be like Job who says over and over again, "I am not silenced because of the darkness..."? (23:17)
Yes, that is what we'd do! We use Facebook to complain and post our drama, we call our friends to justify our actions and words, we bash our husbands and friends with other women on a daily basis, when bitterness rises to our throat we vomit the words despite the knowledge that they'd hurt the person who received them. In the midst of pain and anguish, we do not simply shut up and listen. 

The book of Job forces us to consider that trials and tribulations are not new! What are we supposed to do when trials and tribulations come our way? Use the book of Job as an example:

When Job's friend Elihu comes into the picture he not only rebukes Job's 3 friends but he also rebukes Job quite severely, "Why do you contend against him, saying 'He will answer none of man's words'?" (33:13). He tells Job to simply shut up and listen, "Pay attention, O Job, listen to me; be silent, and I will speak." Elihu goes on to teach Job and his 3 friends about the sovereignty of God in chapter 34, but the most remarkable piece of rebuke Elihu gives is this, "Job opens his mouth in empty talk; he multiplies words without knowledge." (35:16) This one statement should shut us all up, but Elihu's point in all of this is what I believe to be the entire purpose of the book of Job: "...stop and consider the wondrous works of God." (37:14) When God finally begins to speak in chapters 38-41 it is absolutely clear that He is powerful, He is sovereign and He is mighty. The climax of the story is Job's answer to God's question, "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God let him answer it." (40:2) It's the climax because it's when Job finally learns to shut up and listen, "Behold I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further." (40:4-5) That is what we're going to do today. Shut up and listen. Shut up and praise God. Shut up and consider the wondrous works of God!

As my friend Brandi so perfectly put it, "God gets the glory no matter what we're going through!"

So today marks day 1 of this journey in that we are not going to complain, gossip, justify, post our drama all over social media, we will not let the bitterness overspill - covering all who lie in our path.

Today we are going to stop asking "WHY?" and simply praise God for the tribulations and what He's teaching us as we endure.

Today we are going to praise God for the salvation given to us through Jesus Christ.

Today we are simply going to stop and praise God for all He has done, is doing, and will do.

Here's how we're going to work on this:
  1. Read how God answers Job in Job 38-41 and note Job's repentance in chapter 42. Recognize the greatness of God and fall on your knees in repentance and praise. If it helps you, list all of God's amazing attributes He speaks of in these chapters.
  2. Every time you feel like complaining or gossiping or justifying, or posting your drama, or when you feel the bitterness rising to your throat and threatening to spill over, take your journal, notebook or piece of paper and praise God. This will take a conscience effort and it will take time, so no matter how crazy life gets today, I challenge you to do it. 
Join me again tomorrow? Because tomorrow's goal is recognizing God's Sovereignty. If you just joined us, I encourage you to start with...

Monday, April 28, 2014

40 Day Challenge - Draw Closer to God & Your Hubby (Day 1: The Gospel)

Starting today I challenge you to participate in this purposeful commitment to better your relationship with God and with your husband. Each day is specifically designed to direct your thoughts to Christ - the only source of truth and hope. I can't promise instant gratification by the end of the 40 days, but I can promise that by redirecting your thoughts and actions you will have renewed hope, purpose, and a new understanding of the love and promises we have in Jesus Christ.

I'm doing this for many reasons: 1. I need a renewal of mind. My thoughts have been taken captive by the things of this world and I desperately need to regroup. 2. I have many women in my life who are either struggling with depression, marital issues, or all of the above. I know of nothing better than for them to join me in this challenge to redirect our hearts towards the only true source of eternal and everlasting hope and joy.

Grab a blank notebook, journal or a piece of paper. Join me.

Day 1

We must recognize the power of the gospel. It is in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that God boasts of His all mighty power. There is nothing in history worth as much as the gift of life in Jesus Christ. Nothing. Because nothing else will give us eternal life. 

Therefore, we start with the gospel, because (as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:3) it is of first importance and it is upon this foundation we build. 

We have, in countless ways, broken every single one of God’s commandments. We lie, gossip, hate, envy... we are foolish, faithless, heartless, arrogant... and I could go on forever! Every sin is a strike against God’s perfect, holy, and blameless character. For that reason, we deserve hell, we deserve God’s wrath, we deserve to die (Romans 6:23). Every single one of us. We are so utterly helpless because of our sin that we are unable to save ourselves or even contribute anything to our salvation. 

Thankfully, what we cannot accomplish, God accomplished on the cross in that "while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He endured the wrath of God for our sin so that we could enter the presence of God as holy, blameless and righteous. There is no one that loves us like Jesus loves us. There is no one who is willing to sacrifice like Jesus did. Recognizing the work Christ did on the cross as the most powerful commitment of our life, we are forever changed. We are not bound by sin! His death was sufficient to cover every sin: past, present and future! By accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior we were granted instant salvation. That hope in Christ’s saving grace allows us to trust in Him and free us from fear, from doubt, from ourselves

And this gift is so easy: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED.” (Romans 10:9) We are now heirs through Christ to an eternal glory in heaven with Him. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit who is our helper until the day we die and who is the guarantee of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). And by simply believing in Jesus Christ we can rest in this one amazing fact: that no matter what we do, no matter how many times we fail, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Because we are His children He is quite literally running to us, embracing us, kissing us, before our words of confession and repentance even come out of our mouths! Because we are His children, and because of His love for us, He is constantly teaching us and disciplining us as we walk this life. 

That promise is enough to sustain us until we breathe our last breath.

Here's your task for the day: Somewhere, where you will see it everyday, display the gospel (Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, that is the gospel and note that Paul states it is of FIRST IMPORTANCE). Milton Vincent in his book, A Gospel Primerargues that we need to make the gospel our obsession, that we need to preach it to ourselves constantly and I couldn't agree more. There is nothing more powerful than the free gift of God through Jesus Christ His Son. What a miraculous gift! That we are proclaimed holy and blameless and righteous even though He knew our sins (past, present and future) because of the death Jesus endured on our behalf is a powerful gift. This gift will get us through the darkest hours. 

If you're struggling to know what to write remember that the gospel is the "good news of salvation for hell-deserving sinners through the Person and work of Jesus Christ" (Milton Vincent) or display 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, or the Romans Road (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:28, & 10:9-10), or Ephesians 2:1-10, or use Milton's poem, Feel free to copy, paste, print out and display.

Beholding the heavens, I now understand
God measured them all with the breadth of His hand.
He fashioned the trillions of stars in the sky,
The sun and the moon He established on high.
All heaven and earth, which He made in six days, 
Show daily and nightly His merit of praise.
So wondrously caring is God every day, 
Creating, sustaining my life every way.
Each breath I intake, every beat of my heart,
All pleasures well-tasted are His to impart.
Indeed, for such blessings He should be adored
And honored supremely as eminent Lord.
In fact, for this purpose He brought me to be, 
That I might His glory and kindliness see
And cherish Him fully in all of my days, 
Obeying with pleasure whatever he says, 
Fulfilling the calling He's laid upon me
To show forth His glory deliberately.
Yet I could not fail God much worse than I've done.
Ignoring His glory, for mine I have run.
I've spurned a life under His wisdom and care, 
Begrudged Him the throne and pretended me there.
A prideful and lust-laden path I have trod,
Transgressing all Ten great Commandments of God. 
My foolish rebellion gives God every right
To damn me with haste to the miserable plight
Of terrible judgments in His Lake of Fire,
Where wrath is most fierce and will never expire.
With wickedest sinners I truly should know
The worst of Hell's furies for failing God so.
So this is my status and these are my flaws
Apart from Christ Jesus and His saving cause: 
I carry sin's guilt and am gripped by sin's pow'r,
Held fast to its various lusts ev'ry hour,
Deserving of flames, both within and without,
And sliding t'ward Hell as I toss all about,
Too reprobate even to play a small part
In clearing my record or changing my heart
To pacify wrath and be worthy of grace,
To make myself lovely and win God's embrace.
Completely condemned by God's Law in its whole,
I've nothing to offer to ransom my soul.
But wonder of wonders, so great to behold,
My God chose to save me with method so bold.
What I could not render,
God fully has done, and doing, He rendered it all through His Son.
He sent Christ to die on the cross for my sin
To suffer my anguish, my pardon to win.
Amazing it is, when I stop to regard, 
That God would consent to an anguish so hard,
Surrend'ring His Son unto mayhem and death,
To torturous writhing 'til His final breath.
'Why does God forsake Me?' alone Jesus cried;
Yet God left Him hanging until He had died.
That Jesus was willing His life to lay down,
Be scourged and insulted and wear thorny crown
For one such as I who had spited God so,
Amazes and blesses and makes me to know
That greater a lover is no man than He, 
Who laid down His life for a sinner like me.
Now after Christ died
He was placed in a tomb,
Which first was a grave,
But then served as a womb,
Travailing and quaking the day He was raised
And brought forth by God to be handled and praised.
The Firstborn from death on that day emerged He
With power to save to the utmost degree.
At God's own right hand Christ now reigns from on high,
A Friend in high places to sinners who cry
To Him for forgiveness, their evils confessed.
He gives them a pardon and then makes them blessed.
As prince He is Savior to all who believe,
Who come to Him humbly His grace to receive.
Now when my time came and to Jesus I cried,
He gave me the pardon for which I had sighed,
He cleansed me completely from wrongs I had done, 
Released me from bondage to sins, every one.
He shattered sin's chains which had held me before, 
And thus made me free not to sin any more.
A child of the Father He made me to be
And gave me the Spirit as His guarantee
That, being God's child, I will one day obtain
A heavenly treasure that never will wane.
While in me, the Spirit gives power and love
And sweet premonitions of glory above.
In saving, God also did justify me,
Accounting me righteous by His own decree,
Declaring me guiltless of all of my sin,
And bringing His wrath against me to an end.
This wrath Christ appeased in full brunt on the Tree,
When, bearing my sin, He endured it for me.
So now God relates to me only with grace,
The former wrath banished without any trace!
And each day I'm made a bit more as I should,
His grace using all things to render me good.
Yes, even in trials God's grace abounds too
And does me the good He assigns it to do.
And when I am sinning God's grace does abound,
Ensuring my justified status is sound.
No wrath is awakened in God at my sin,
(to say so again).
God's heart pulses only with passionate grace, 
Which jealousy wants me back in His embrace.
God does not require even that I confess,
Before He desires His forgiveness to press.
Forgiveness has been in His heart all along; 
And when I approach Him to make right my wrong,
He runs up to greet me and draws to me near,
Embracing and kissing and ready to clear. 
God does see my sins and He grieves at them so,
For when I am sinning, His love I don't know. 
He even will send me some heart-rending pain,
So I'll learn new ways and His holiness gain.
His disciplines always are with love imbued,
A love that seeks ever my ultimate good.

So this is my story; ongoing it is.
How shall I thank God for this gospel of His?
A gift that keeps giving, the gospel confers 
The bounty of heaven each time I rehearse.
Deserve it?
I don't on my holiest day;
But this is salvation, and herein I'll stay.

Next, in your journal, notebook, piece of paper or whatever, write about that day you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and thank Him for the gift He has given you. For the rest of your day praise Him, thank Him, and rest in this gift of salvation.

For the next 40 days read the gospel message every day before doing anything else. My hope in doing this is that it'll become a habit for the rest of our lives, giving us a moment to direct our thoughts to Him first thing.

See you tomorrow I hope!

If you're interested in seeing the entire 40 Day Challenge, visit my Titus 2 Women page and scroll down to the the "Here's a Few Ideas for Your Time Together". You'll see the links for all 40 days.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How I Got my 18 Month Old Interested in Books

Apparently reading requires a safety helmet. ;)
We established a reading routine. We read many books immediately after breakfast every morning. We also read books before her nap and before she goes to bed. This was something we did from day 1, she was teeny-tiny but we read to her anyway, pointing out pictures, ooooo-ing and awwwww-ing, interacting with the book. 
3 months old
The mentality, "She's too young for this!" never entered into our mind. Do not underestimate the power of reading to your child early. If you're enthusiastic about reading, your child will follow suit. (My little Bean is living proof!) I was surprised how early we saw results.

When she brings me a book I stop whatever I'm doing to read it to her, even if it's for the 100th time that day. Reading will always be a top priority in this home. (I think the stupid book Baby Feels has the record for "read most often" in this house.) Yes, there are many moments I have to do a mental attitude check because, quite frankly, I don't want to do it. But it's the one thing I make a priority even on a day full of things to do. There are moments, however, I lay the book aside and say, "Let me finish _____ and then I'll read with you."

There's a reading nook in her room. Before she received an overstuffed Minnie Mouse chair for Christmas, she LOVED having a blow up turtle as her little seat. Cute. Giving her a place to enjoy books was the best thing we could've done.

After our breakfast reading time I give her the books we read together while I read a book of my own. I love this because I can read my book of choice! It's so cute to be reading on the couch next to my daughter as she jibber-jabbers about the book in her hand. Sometimes I'll hear a word mixed into the jabber, like "cookie" in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or "out" in Itsy Bitsy Spider or "appy" (happy) in If You're Happy and You Know It. On the weekends Daddy joins us. Showing enthusiasm for reading in your own life will be contagious. Parents are the biggest influence even with things like this!

We attend the story hour every Wednesday at the Library. She's still learning to sit still and listen, but it's a change of scenery with other kids with someone else reading to her including play time and a craft. Afterwards I always pick out new books to take home while she plays.

I pick out books with specific words she already knows or with things she's showing interest. Right now she's obsessed with roosters, which she calls "do's" (cock-a-doodle-doo) so I find as many books as I can with roosters. She also enjoys farm animals and songs! She LOVES Iza Trapani's song books for classics like I'm a Little Teapot and Itsy Bitsy Spider.

I put interactive books on my phone and iPad. What's not to love about this? Playtales is a fun app and so is any FisherPrice book. This is perfect entertainment while traveling or while I am busy making dinner.

When I bring a little bag of things to do, the majority of the items in it are books. This bag of goodies is pulled out at restaurants, the vehicle, a friends house, &etc. It's always fun to pull out the bag and let her sort through it. Sometimes a friend will join her.
She's 6 months old in this picture with our friend Kirk.
We limit screen time to less than an hour a day. Sitting in front of the iPad (even with interactive books) or TV (even educational shows) limits creativity and imagination. We put together puzzles, play with blocks, read books, go to the park, (whatever) and she also has plenty of time to play and read independently. I'm always pleasantly surprised how often she picks reading during these times.
My 12 month old with a trail of books. 
My first job as a teacher was 7th and 8th grade reading and I also taught struggling high school readers as well. The struggling readers were usually the students who's parents ignored the importance of reading to their child from the start. They didn't have memories of reading with an adult. They didn't have parents who gave a lick about reading themselves or set aside a specific family reading time. Reading was never a priority in the home. If I were to make any suggestion that'd be it: make reading a priority. There are SO MANY ways to do that.

There are many sources I'd recommend for parents but this book is by far the best I've seen:
Check out her blog full of wonderful ideas for teachers and parents alike:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Hunger Games Trilogy [Book vs. Movie]

If you haven't read the books or watched the movie, this will be confusing....

I'm only going to talk about one piece that I disliked about the movie: how they incorporated the Mockingjay. If you read the book and the significance Suzanne Collins places on how Katniess received this pin as her token in the Hunger Games the movie will tick ya off. The movie makes it casual and virtually meaningless: Katniss trades for it in the Hobb and gives it to her sister, who (when saying good-bye) gives it back to Katniss. That's it. When you dive into the trilogy, which is focused around this idea of the Mockingjay, I'm surprised it was changed!

Let me explain: when Katniss volunteers in place of her sister for the Hunger Games her friend Madge gives her this pin of a Mockingjay when she tells her good-bye. The bird itself basically shows defiance against the Capitol! Here's why: the authorities created a bird called the Jabberjay to replicate conversations had between Panem residents and relay them back to officials. Once rebels realized how the Capitol heard their conversations they used the Jabberjays against them, giving false information. So the Capitol released the birds into the wild thinking they'd die off. However, they mated with the Mockingbird creating an entirely new species: the Mockingjay, who simply repeated beautiful melodies. Despite the Capitol abandoning them, they've survived against all odds! When Madge gives Katniss this pin of a Mockingjay she explains it was her aunts. You don't understand why this is such a big deal until the second book. You see, the aunt's name was Maysilee who was in the Hunger Games with Haymitch and did not survive. This family heirloom was extremely significant from many different perspectives: Greasy Sae, Haymitch, and most importantly, her mother. Maysilee and Katniss' mom were best friends. There were so many connections missed when the filmmakers left Madge out of the story. Just this one piece nearly ruins the movie for me.

If you haven't read the books I highly recommend you do, obviously I don't feel the same about the movies. (Haha, I rarely do when there's a book/movie combination!)

My Goodreads review:

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset (The Hunger Games, #1-3)The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After watching Catching Fire I decided to reread the books. Over the course of a this week I finished this trilogy feeling somber and dispirited. I give Suzanne Collins credit! She knows how to suck you in, forcing her readers to feel what the character feels. It's more than empathy or appreciation; I feel like my head's in a cloud and that the connection I felt to each character helped me understand the roller coaster of emotions they faced as each event unfolded.

She writes about more than a love story, more than political drama, more than death, war, and action. She quite literally gives voice to those affected by the aftermath of surviving warfare. Her book reminded me of Ishmael Beah's true story as a boy soldier, 'A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier'. Not because Ishmael's story was about surviving the Hunger Games, but because Ishmael was forced to witness horrific events, perform horrific acts, and kill in horrific ways. It affected him in much the same way Suzanne describes Katniss' broken character. Now I want to go back and read Ishmael's book and compare Suzanne's studies on the effects of war and violence on those coming of age to his true story. I'm almost positive Suzanne is dead on.

View all my reviews

If you're interested in more information on Ishmael's book, visit his website:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten [Why Christians are Jesus Freaks]

Freak (n.)
1. as if under the influence of 
2. an ardent enthusiast or fanatic
3. a person who is obsessed with something

Why do Christians seem to be under the influence of Jesus, or obsessed with Him? Why are we ardent Jesus enthusiasts? Why are we Jesus fanatics? WHY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH CAN'T WE STOP TALKING ABOUT HIM? 
Many people honestly do not get it and many others are tired of hearing about it. I won't ever, ever, ever apologize for being a Jesus Freak. It wasn't until recently (in the last 2-3 years) that I've been a PROUD Jesus Freak. I used to be a closet Jesus Freak, which didn't really make me a Jesus Freak, because if you truly are a Jesus Freak (aka obsessed, a fan of, an ardent enthusiast) you want everyone to know it. Christians want to share the true joy they have found in Him! You may not agree, you may be tired of hearing about it, but I refuse to let that silence me. I've seen statements such as this written to Jesus Freaks, "Let me go to hell in peace." and I grimace. If you believe in Hell, believe me, based on how it's described in the Bible (which I wrote about here), you do not want to go there! Besides the promise of heaven, there's millions of reasons why Christians become Jesus Freaks (and I'm only sharing 10)

Thankfully, I'm not alone! The Bible very clearly states that all who "...confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved..." (Romans 10:9) and if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, we are family, united in Christ. It's a bond that cannot be broken. And I have that bond with Melany. So join us as we proudly proclaim to be a..
... for the reasons we've listed and so much more.

1. One very BIG reason why we cant shut up about Him is because we do not, under any circumstances, wish hell on our worst enemy. One of the "gentler" descriptions (if there is such a thing) that Jesus gives is that it's a place of "... weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:12) Don't believe in hell? Okay. Christians believe we are eternal beings, that our life here on earth does not end in a casket six feet under ground. That is hopeLESS. We want to be hopeFULL and Jesus is our only hope. We have faith in Jesus' words of hope, that what we experience here on earth is not the end. That's one reason of millions, but it's one of the biggest. (If you want to know what the Bible says about Hell, read this post.)

2. Historians cannot argue that Jesus lived. Historians cannot even argue how Jesus died. So if Jesus lived, taught, became the most famous individual to ever walk the earth, and then died on the cross undeservedly, there's gotta be people who wrote about the greatest story on earth? Right? YES! His disciples. We have faith that what these witnesses wrote in the Bible is truth (not just in the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but also in prophet's like Isaiah who prophesied the coming of Jesus and what He was going to do while He was on earth or even what He'd look like in Isaiah 53:2; or Paul's experience in Acts and what he wrote about Jesus in Romans, Ephesians, &etc.) We believe it because they heard the Word from God Himself and are simply His messengers.
We have absolute faith that what Scripture states about Jesus is absolute truth. And faith that what Jesus taught is absolute truth. I grew up hearing this from my father: "Either Jesus was the biggest liar on the face of the planet, or everything He said about Himself was 100% true." I believe the later (and Jesus had A LOT to say, I had a hard time keeping this list at 10). Based on what Jesus taught, there is no middle ground. (Either you believe Him or you don't. Period.)

3. Jesus taught us to lay up treasures in heaven. Why? Everyone dies and we cannot take our money or things with us. Not only that but the things of this earth rot away, something of value has the possibility of being taken from us, or broken. So Christians rest in the promises of Jesus and what He taught: that heaven is a place where none of this will happen, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19) This earth is corrupt and is constantly falling apart. Jesus promised that heaven is perfect. Christians live for that promise! We live for an eternity in a place that is better than we can possibly imagine (and no, it's not harps and wings and flighty things like the media portrays, it's a place where we will have our own mansion with feasts, time with friends and family... imagine your best day on earth... it's infinitely better than that...) AND we'll be with the one Man we love more than life itself! (Yup, Jesus, the guy we can't stop talking about!)

4. Jesus promised (many times) that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life in heaven (see #3). He states it over and over again in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, here is one example "Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life." (John 6:47) and another worth sharing (OH I could share so many!) "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." (John 11:25) Why am I sharing this twice? Because salvation is so easy! It has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with anything we can or will do. Absolutely nothing. Christ died on the cross for us. We accept Him as our Savior. Thus, He receives all the glory. We gain righteousness through Christ alone. If we confess and believe in Him, we will live in eternity with him. (Again, Christians believe we are eternal beings, that we do not cease to exist after death, this promise given to us by Jesus is one heck of a promise. See #3.) You may think me crazy, but I choose to believe it with all of my heart!
Did you know C.S. Lewis was an atheist who sought to disprove Christianity? In his pursuit He became a firm believer, because he could disprove none of it
5. Jesus told his disciples, "... do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:42) There's a few truths in this statement for us as well. I'll share one: if we believe in Jesus and acknowledge Him in this life, He will be our Mediator on the day that we meet God, therefore we should not fear death if we truly rest in His promises. For us, death is like our car, it takes us where we want to go: eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ - who we're obsessed with - remember?
Okay, I'll share TWO. Everyone will meet God, either He will acknowledge you or deny you, either you will be in heaven or in hell. (Go back to #1 either you believe in Him or you don't. There is no middle ground. There is either heaven or hell. Period.)

6.  Jesus promised He will be with us in good times, in bad times, and all the in-between. We simply need to rest in Him and trust Him with all our heart, soul and mind. "... behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

7. Jesus promised His love for us will never die, never waiver. In fact, He loves us so much that He was willing to die on our behalf. WE DESERVE TO DIE because we cannot keep His Word, His law perfectly. We CAN'T. We sin every second of every day. For that reason, we deserve the wrath of God in Hell. Thanks to Jesus and His love for us in dying on the cross, defeating Hell, enduring God's wrath for becoming sin ON OUR BEHALF, we have eternal life for believing in Him. THAT'S how much He loves us, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) 
Paul wrote this amazing passage in Romans 8:38-39 that explains this love to his audience who is enduring the worst kind of persecution we can possibly imagine (they're losing their homes, families, their own life for their faith in Christ...) "I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God is Christ Jesus our Lord." There's no way I can even fathom the depth of His love.

8. Jesus promised (see a theme?) that He will never lose us, He will never forsake us! That's quite the promise considering how many times I screw up in the course of a day. We are imperfect humans loving a perfect, holy, and blameless God. We cannot live up to His standards, which is why we're Jesus Freaks! He is our mediator. Our High Priest. Our Shepard (John 10:11). "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:27-28) Even on our worst days, no matter what we face, He will be there to give us strength to endure until we take our last breath (See #5).

9. Jesus promised he will take care of us, so do not worry about tomorrow. "... do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life.And why are you anxious about clothing? consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:25-34) He promises to take care of what we eat, drink, and wear. Period. It may not be easy, or fun, but we live this life in anticipation for the next. Whether or not we have anything for tomorrow, He knows what we need. He is simply asking us to trust Him. (Like our marriage vows, " good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as I live...". Marriage is a beautiful picture of our relationship with Christ and I could think of no better phrase to describe the kind of trust He wants from us.)

10. Jesus promised deep satisfaction is only found in Him. "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35) He is not referring to physical hunger or thirst, this is a metaphor, He is comparing himself to items we need here on earth in order to live: food and water. He gives more satisfaction than those items. In other words, He is the only source of life (see #3) and the deep satisfaction I have found in Him cannot be fully described. 


Everything written in red is taken directly from His mouth! Now, do you understand why we're FREAKS ABOUT THIS GUY? 

If you want these promises to be yours as well and you want to understand what deep satisfaction is really like, check out my "True Hope" tab at the top of my page. Melany has written about Him as well (and today's top ten is not the first), so don't forget to check out what she says about being a JESUS FREAK!