Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Uncompromising Abandonment

You've heard me say before, Jon Walker is one of my favorite devotional writers. Today's message brought to mind the days of sitting across the kitchen table from my Dad when I had disobeyed. I was a pleaser by nature, but upon a few occassions I decided own way (in direct contrast to that of my parents) was a better option. I vividly remember one particular kitchen discussion. My Dad asked "Do you love your Mom and I?" "Yes." "I mean really love us?" "Of course, I do, Dad." His response, "I don't think you do." I felt my eyes grow wide in surprise. "If you loved us, really loved us, you would have obeyed our wishes out of respect." Gulp. Then on a sheet of paper, he wrote

"Love + Respect = Obedience."

He looked at me and said, "it's that simple" and then he got up from the table and walked away. One of the most powerful (and lasting) things he ever taught me.

So how does this relate to Jon Walker's message? It's based on John 14:15 "If you love me" (really love me), "you will obey what I command."

*** *** *** ***
When Jesus speaks of love, he allows no room for sentimental fantasy or momentary emotion. He sees love through the eyes of the Father, who models love by being Love. God-Love is bold, strong, and sacrificial. God is not afraid to wade into the mess of things to rescue those in need of holy love.

God plants this love inside us, but it grows healthy in the soil of abandonment. We abandon our rights, our judgments, our opinions, and our schemes. Jesus is uncompromising in his abandonment, saying he says and does only what the Father tells him to do (John 14:10). Then, he carried uncompromising abandonment on his back up the hill called Golgotha.

In order to grow Jesus-Ones, we, too, need to abandon anything that sets us in rebellion to the Father. The Jesus-life requires that our thoughts and plans become so close to the Father’s that we appear as one with him, just as a married couple, deeply abandoned to each other, appear to live as one.

Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15, NIV) Walk around that statement and open you eyes to this: Jesus isn’t reducing love to dutiful acts of obedience; he’s saying your love for him should compel you to agree with his plans and to carry out his purposes, not your own.

Abandonment is possible because you have Jesus within (Christ-in-you), helping you to love and obey. Let him lead you to that place where you heart begins to beat so closely with God’s that it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. Love God, and in the intimacy of that love, do what pleases him – that is, obey his heart.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Great Food, Special Friends, Happy Hearts

Hope you and yours had a lovely weekend! We had a wonderful time Saturday night at the home of our friends, the Robertsons. They are an absolutely delightful family and we always enjoy time spent with them, so we had very much looked forward to getting together.

For dinner, they had planned pizza on the grill, something completely new to me. The Robertsons (and others I've since spoken to) have been doing it for some time. I love pizza in almost any form, so I couldn't wait to try it!

When we arrived, Tracy was busy preparing the dough...

A few moments later, after a light toasting on the grill, they were ready for toppings...

There were a huge array of toppings, including many veggies and herbs fresh from their garden. Here is Anna, showing us how it's done...

A layer of cheese and then they went back on the grill under Dale's skillful hand. (Too bad this isn't "smell-o-vision." The aroma was heavenly.)

Voila! The finished product!

Some were not only a feast for the tummy, but for the eyes, as well. Look at the beautiful array of toppings on this one...DELICIOUS!

I absolutely loved the pizza made this way and would love to try it on my own. It was great fun to do this with a group of people. = )

A little later, it was was time for dessert.! True to form, they had not one, but three desserts...everyone of which was exceptional. First, my all-time favorite, pumpkin roll made by Tracy (be still my heart!)

Then, an amazing berry trifle, made by Brittany...

And lastly, some of the best chocolate cake I've ever had, made by Rachel.

The rest of the evening was spent on their beautiful back porch. Unseasonably cool temps and the glow of candlelight provided the perfect atmosphere for sharing stories and lots of laughter with these special friends. A wonderful evening, indeed. = )

Friday, August 21, 2009

For the Love of Quotes

Are you like you just love great quotes? At any given time, I have several that bounce around in my head. They challenge, encourage, admonish and inspire me.

Earlier this summer, I read an aweseome quote on Beth Moore's blog. It's by Mark Batterson, Pastor of the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. As I read it this morning, I realized it has captured my attention almost daily since I printed and posted it over my desk in May. Today, I've decided to pass it along. It's a keeper...

"Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Grab life by the mane. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion."

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this or feel free to share one of your favorite quotes in the comments.

Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Encouragement for your Monday

(photo courtesy of Google images)

Brighten Your Corner

We cannot all be famous
Or be listed in "Who's Who,"
But every person, great or small,
Has important work to do.

For seldom do we realize
The importance of small deeds,
Or to what degree of greatness
Unnoticed kindness leads.

For it's not the big celebrity
In a world of fame and praise,
But it's doing unpretentiously
In an undistinguished way.

The work that God assigned to us,
Unimportant as it seems,
That makes our task outstanding,
And brings reality to dreams.

So do not sit and idly wish
For wider, new dimensions
where you can put into practice,
Your many good intentions.

But at the spot God placed you
Begin at once to do,
Little things to brighten up
The lives surrounding you.

If everybody brightened up
The spot where their standing,
By being more considerate,
And a little less demanding.

This dark old world would very soon
Eclipse the evening star,
If everybody brightened up
The corner where they are!

~Helen Steiner Rice

2009 Scripture Memory Challenge #16

(photo courtesy of meowsap of Deviant Art)

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
~ Proverbs 4:23

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Make New Friends But Keep the Old...One is Silver But the Other is Gold

This past Sunday brought a sweet reunion with a friend I hadn’t seen for six years. It was wonderful! Our "lunch" together stretched into several hours of “catching up.” (Truth is, we could have kept on talking, but dinner was fast approaching!)

Angela and I met waaaaay back in 6th or 7th grade at church. She was the first girl who befriended me there. I actually remember thinking she was really pretty and wondering if she was nice. I was so happy to discover she was in fact, nice and she wanted to be my friend. = ) (Something else I vividly remember was her incredibly cool "I'm a Pepper” shirt…LOL).

We were different in as many ways as we were alike, yet still became great friends. Throughout middle school, we went to GA’s and Sunday school together, and though we attended rival high schools, went to youth group together, as well. We shared phone chats, mission trips, youth choir, sleepovers and double-dates. We were there for one another’s weddings, worked and carpooled together, shared countless conversations over lunch and breakfast and walked with one another through some difficult journeys. As life continued on, there were sometimes weeks or months between contacts, but we’d always pick up right where we left off.

A few years back, as Brennan was heading into high school and we were in the midst of caring for Tom’s Aunt Helen, Angela had a new baby, and not long thereafter her family moved out of the immediate area. For the first time, we lost touch with one another. A year or so later, she contacted me by e-mail asking if we could get together. It was an especially challenging time. Between Aunt Helen's increasing needs, work, Brennan's activities and assisting in youth group, we felt stretched to our limit. I planned to write her and explain that though I'd love to see her, it was a really bad time, but I kept putting it off. Weeks turned into months and then months to years. I truly missed her and wondered how she was doing, but felt ashamed for never getting back to her, and then for letting all that time slip by with no contact.

A couple of years ago, I joined Facebook and began hearing from some old high school friends. By now, life had settled down substantially and I was truly hoping Angela and I would cross paths. I searched for her (on Facebook) several times, with no success. Then, last month, I returned from vacation to find a "friend request” waiting. It was from ANGELA!!! I was thrilled. Immediately I wrote to her and we began “catching up.” It broke my heart to learn that all that time, she thought I was upset or angry with her. I assured her nothing could be further from the truth. We immediately began planning for our reunion lunch and set the date. I literally couldn’t wait.

Our time together on Sunday was great, just as I had hoped. She is such a treasure. I sat across the table from her as we reminisced and shared with a renewed appreciation for her dear friendship. How I had missed her (especially her laugh!) I'm now more determined than ever to cherish her and our friendship in the years to come.

I headed home from our lunch with a full and grateful heart. Grateful she cared enough to search for me and make contact again, and especially to the God who knit our hearts together all those years ago.

"Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure." Jewish Proverb.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Special People + Bridal Shower + Road Trip = Great Memories

This time last weekend I was on a road trip. My travelling companions? Breezy (my daughter-in-law-to-be), her Mom, Lisa and her Aunt Shawn. Our destination? Youngstown, Ohio (about a 5 hour trip). The occasion? A bridal shower for our sweet girl, given by her Aunt Kristin.

They picked me up at 9:00 am Friday morning and after a quick trip to Starbucks, we were on the road. Our plan was to arrive at the home of Breezy’s Aunt Kristin in Columbus (on the way) for lunch. It normally takes about two hours to get there, but due to heavy construction and an overturned semi, it took almost four. We finally arrived at Kristin’s home, and after a warm welcome by her and her husband, Andy, we were ushered inside to enjoy the wonderful lunch she had prepared for us. Oven Fried chicken, Caesar salad and fruit. Delicious! And then…Kristin’s specialty, “Kolache” (an Italian nut roll) for dessert . (It was simply amazing!)

After lunch, we were back on the road, this time we followed Kristin, who had kidnapped Breezy for the ride. = ) More construction, a missed exit, more traffic and we finally arrived in Youngstown and got checked into our hotel around 7. Breezy’s Dad, John (Kristin’s brother) had come into town to surprise her. = )

I knew Breezy’s family was Italian. What I didn’t know was that Youngstown, Ohio was known as “little Italy.” There are Italian restaurants everywhere. We ate dinner that night at a pizzeria called “Inner Circle.” We tried an assortment of different menu items, all of which were very good. We had a great time, chatting and hearing stories from Kristin and John.

After a relaxing Saturday morning, we got ready for the bridal shower. It was a luncheon at a wonderful (of course, Italian) restaurant called Caffe Capri in the absolutely beautiful “Mama Q Room.”

The host & the guest of honor. = )

The tables looked lovely! Breezy’s love of coffee inspired Kristin’s choices for decor and favors...

Each table had a centerpiece containing various kinds of coffee. There were coffee beans scattered all around, then iced coffee and three different types of flavored coffees from which to choose. Each place setting had a chocolate spoon, a coffee scented candle, chocolate covered coffee beans as well as a darling pen that was personalized with a tiny little coffee cup!

Breezy's Mom, Lisa and her Aunt Shawn playing Bridal Bingo.

When it was time for lunch, we first enjoyed a wonderful salad, followed by the delicious entree, Chicken Marsala. The side dishes (green beans with almonds and gnocchi) were served family style. (It was the first time I'd ever tried gnocchi and I thought it was terrific!) My absolute favorite part of the meal, however was dessert...tiramisu. The portions were huge and I unapologetically ate every bite. = )

Is that not just a thing of beauty!? ; )


The shower was a wonderful & joy-filled occasion, with two especially touching moments. First, at the start of the shower, Kristin asked Breezy to share the story of how Brennan proposed. As she told the story, she got a bit emotional, which resulted in many teary eyes. (I especially enjoyed hearing this sweet story from her perspective.)

Later, when only one gift remained, Kristin explained that though it was from her, it was being given in honor of Breezy's Grandma, who passed away last year. "Grandma Sandy" had always loved buying snowglobes for Breezy. Needless to say, as she opened this, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. It's a bride and groom and the inscription reads, "Love is not about who you live with... it's about who you can't live without." What a fitting end to a very special occasion.

We so enjoyed the remainder of our weekend (even that long drive home!) Great memories that will last a lifetime. How I love this precious girl and her dear family!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

2009 Scripture Memory Challenge #14 & 15

Lest you think I had forgotten about the Scripture Memory Challenge, I wanted to share with you my current passage, but first the one that happened to fall during my vacation last month...

As I sat on the beach, staring out at the vast ocean, I couldn't help but think of our Creator. Beautiful water in varying shades of blue as far as your eye can see, endless waves lightly tumbling onto the sand -- so incredibly peaceful and calming.

As each day came to a close, we looked forward to yet another breathtaking display as the glorious sunset painted its way across the sky. I've always loved sunsets, but they seem especially beautiful to me when viewed from the beach. = ) They never fail to bring to mind God's glory and magnificent artistry, which couldn't help but inspire my scripture selection. I thought Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV) described it perfectly:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge."

As I consider my current scripture (as with all previous choices), it is especially meaningful to me at the present time, as well.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT)

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

You may remember I mentioned in a previous post that Tom has been awaiting word about the possible outsourcing of his job. Well, we learned yesterday the firm is going forward with the outsourcing contract. While the affected 12 employees will have the opportunity to interview, there are no guarantees of employment. In addition, the outsource company has decided to eliminate 3 of the 12 positions (as yet unnamed). This process should be complete by October 1st.

Unsettling? No doubt. Some of those affected have been employed by the firm for many years. They never imagined anything like this could happen. Tom was able to make several different contacts yesterday/last night and he will of course, continue to do so as well as interview with the outsource company. Although it's hard to think we may be entering into a long and difficult "season," we both truly have a definite measure of peace. This entire matter rests in God's capable hands. That's right, the same God who created that vast ocean, and those beautiful sunsets knows and cares about our every need. I'm' reminded of other challenging times when He not only provided for our needs, but often far exceeded them. He has proven himself trustworthy time and time again.

Maybe you or someone you know is in a similar situation at this time. Friends, be encouraged by this promise. Not only can we trust the Lord to meet our every need, we can also trust Him to bring peace to our soul. We need only narrow our gaze and keep our hearts and minds fixed on Him, rather than the circumstances that surround us. One of the best ways to do that is through prayer and memorizing scripture...why not join me and start with this one? I'm praying for you...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blessed Be the Tie that Binds

Last week, we were incredibly privileged to spend an evening with some of the dearest people in all the world! It was a gathering of former youth group staff and their families, as well as members of our praise band (nearly 70 people!) for a truly special occassion. Our former youth pastor, his wife and their children were home from the mission field in Ireland!

Pastor Mark (affectionately known as "PM"), Andrea and their children left for Ireland a little over two years ago. Although several friends have made the trip to Ireland to visit them, we weren't expecting to see their family here in the states for several years when they would be on furlough.

PM and Andrea had a thriving youth mininistry in our church. God used his incredible gifts of teaching and worship to influence scores of teens over the years. Andrea is one of the most supportive and loving ministry wives I've ever known. She too has such a heart for others, teens and adults amazing encourager. When she hugs you, you have been hugged! (Do you know what I mean?) They are both so well loved by so many.

Tom and I were absolutely privileged to be a part of youth staff for several years, and we wouldn't trade those years for anything. The insight it gave into PM's heart was incredible. When he shared several years ago how the Lord was leading them toward missions, we were thrilled and heartbroken all at once. For more than two years, they made necessary preparations to transition their family into life in Ireland.

God began working through them almost immediately in a number of ways. Though "ministry" there looks entirely different than ministry here, they are more convinced than ever they are exactly where God wants them. Their school age children have adjusted beautifully. Both PM and Andrea say there is no place they'd rather be serving.

PM sharing some stories about how God is moving in Ireland.

Andrea, Baby Kate and Aisling. Would you believe this beautiful girl is from their college cell group in Ireland?! Aisling is an absolute delight. She knew that PM and Andrea were planning a trip home. She didn't tell them she too was preparing for her own visit to "the states" and instead surprised them by being there that night, as well! Amazing!

The joy and laughter that filled the air was unforgettable. (We didn't want to leave!) The really beautiful thing about that evening? For those few hours, it was as if they had never left. God has knit these hearts together with ties that truly bind.

Rick (soon to be joining PM in ministry with his family in Ireland), PM, former praise band member & friend, Micah, my husband, Tom.

Long time, beloved youth leader, Lori, Brenda (also home for a few weeks from Shanghai where her husband works and where she has a wonderful ministry to women) and Julie (who serves our junior high with her husband)

Jared & Josh -- these two can do just about anything and they were key to PM's ministry with the youth group. They created event videos, ran power point, sound board, you name it. They're both great guys and truly humble servants.

Alex with her parents, long-time, well-loved youth leaders, Janelle & Todd

Two more beloved former youth staff member, Tracy & Steve

After an amazing time of fellowship, PM joined up with two former praise band members (our friend, Dave and our son, Brennan) and played praise music for a couple of hours. It was incredible to be able to worship with him again.

PM & Andrea's precious daughter, Aislinn. We were completely captivated by her during praise & worship. She knew every word!

Another very special couple and the hosts for this wonderful celebration,
Tim & Lori


Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.