Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunday, peeps!


Happy Easter friends! 

For some people - a lot of people - Easter is about the bunny. I know you know what bunny I mean. The big, old, scary-looking-if-you-really-think-about-it, Easter Bunny. They expect candy. They expect hard-boiled eggs that are dyed in multitudes of color. They sing "Here Comes Peter Cottontail".

We make baskets for our boys as well but we have also, and more importantly, been teaching them that all these things is not what Easter is about. They know how Jesus was hung on the cross and died. They know that He was buried for a couple days. They also know the greatest thing. Jesus conquered death and rose again! That, my friends is what this Holiday is all about. Not about the candy, the bunny. It's not about searching for eggs in the Easter egg hunts. These are all fine and dandy, enjoy them. Please, please, please! Teach your children about Jesus and how nothing this world or things of this world could throw at Him can keep Him down.

Don't understand what I'm saying here? That's okay! It is time to learn probably the greatest TRUE story that you will ever hear! Do you have a Bible handy? Do you have a computer - oops! If you are reading this you have a computer.

www.BibleGateway.com Open a new tab, type it in and go there. Look up Crucifixion. Look up Resurrection. Either one, or both. You should get some hits for Matthew. That is one of the 4 Gospels. Click on one and read away! "See" me, er, message me if you have any questions!

For those of you with no time, no Bible handy, I will share the story here. I like to share. All scripture quotes are taken from the book of Matthew.

(*I will capitalize the H in He, Him so you know when you see that, that I am speaking of Jesus or God the Father.*)

Jesus is the Son of God. The true Son of God. There is no other. He was born and lived for 30 years before He started to spread God's word to the people. (We celebrate His birth at Christmas. It's another Reason for the Season thing.) In about 3 short years, He had made enemies along the way. The Sanhedrin were the "holier-than-thou" type that is probably a big turn-off to Christianity to you. They didn't like Jesus. They sought for "evidence" of Jesus saying blasphemous things... whatever they could to find an excuse to get Him out of the way.  They didn't want Him around because it made them look bad. The people were too interested in this man who they thought just claimed to be the Son of God. Even if they thought that it was true, it didn't and wouldn't matter to them. They just wanted Him gone!

There were 12 men who were close friends and followers of Jesus. They are called Disciples. They knew that Jesus was (and is) the Son of God. They followed Him everywhere. They were lucky enough to hear His voice as Jesus shared God's word. Remember, this was way back before the first Bible was even written so there was no written word to just hand a copy to people.

Anyway, Jesus and The 12 traveled by foot, boat, even a donkey. They were out in many cities and finally were returning to Jerusalem. Entering through the gates of the city, was Jesus riding on a donkey. You may hear this day referred to as Palm Sunday (another special day for religious people). The people in the city would throw down palm leaves, hence the term Palm Sunday.

Back to it. The Sanhedrin were not happy and were becoming less and less happy. One of Jesus' close friends and follower named Judas Iscariot somehow ended up with the Sanhedrin telling them that the man he kissed the cheek of was the Son of God, Jesus and the officials would have Him arrested.

Jesus is in the garden at night, praying. He told Peter that "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me." He spent a very long time praying. The disciples grew tired and could not even stay awake to keep watch. "Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me? Yet not my will, but your will be done." (Matthew 26:39) He returned to His friends and saw that they slept. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" He asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

Again, Jesus went off a little farther and fell to the ground, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Again, He returned to His followers and saw they slept on. He went away and prayed the same thing for a third time. "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer." He tells His disciples.

Judas, one of His close friends came up to Him with a large crowd that was armed with swords and clubs. Judas walks up to Jesus and kissed Him on His cheek. "Greetings, Rabbi!" Judas calls out. This kiss was the signal to the men to arrest Jesus. "Do what you came for, friend." was Jesus reply to Judas. The men came forward and arrested Jesus. One of the disciples reached out and grabbed the sword of one in the crowd. He struck a man on the ear and cut it off with the sword. At this point, the disciple was told to put the sword back in its place. He tells them, if you live by the sword, you will die by it. Jesus knew this was the fulfillment of Scripture.

They led Jesus away to the high priest and following behind was Peter. The chief priests and the Sanhedrin wanted to find false evidence so they would have an excuse to hang him. Many people lied and came forward as "witnesses". Jesus kept silent as they asked questions of Him. They want Him to say if He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Finally Jesus answered. "You have said so. But I say to all of you: From now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." At this, the high priest tore his close and said that He speaks blasphemy. The crowd calls for Jesus' death.
He was bound and taken to Pilate the governor.

When Judas saw this, he took the 30 pieces of silver that he had been paid to betray Jesus tried to return it to the chief priests, crying "I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood!" The priests and elders did not care. Judas threw the coins into the temple, went out and hung himself from a tree. The silver couldn't be used in the treasury as it was blood money so they used it to purchase a field where they could bury foreigners. This field is called Field of Blood to this day.

Jesus was taken before Pilate the governor. He was asked if He was the King of the Jews. He was asked if He heard the false testimony against Him. Jesus stood silent. Pilate had a custom as this festival to release a prisoner of the crowds choosing. They shouted for Barabbas to be released. Pilate knew why they had handed Jesus over. It was in their own self-interested and hate towards Jesus. Pilate's wife sent him a message telling him to having nothing to do with the innocent man because she had suffered greatly that day because of a dream. Barabbas was released to the crowd.

They were asked what should be done with Jesus? As one, the crowd  answers, "Crucify Him!" Pilate asks them what crime He had committed but they just called for Him to be crucified. Taking up water in his hands, Pilate washed his hands, "I am innocent of this man's blood." He tells the crowd. "It is your responsibility!" They answer, "His blood is on us and on our children."

Jesus was taken and flogged. He was beaten. The soldiers spat on Him. He was stripped of His clothes and they put a scarlet robe on Him. The twisted a crown of thorns and pressed it deep onto His head. The soldiers mocked Him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" They struck Jesus on the head many times with a staff. After this, they took the robe off of Him and put His own clothing back on. Then, they led Him out to be crucified.

Jesus walked, struggling for each step as He carried the cross. With each step, its weight grew heavier and heavier. He was weak from being beaten and flogged. He was lightheaded and stumbling from loss of blood. The soldiers forced a man named Simon who was from Cyrene to carry the cross. Up the hill to Golgotha, the place of the skull. The soldiers offered wine mixed with gall but Jesus refused it. (Gall = bile from an animal, I believe.)

They nailed Him to the cross and raised it up. Oh the pain Jesus must have felt, I cannot imagine. The strips of flesh hanging on His back from the flogging up against the wooden cross. The nails in His hands and feet as well as the crown of thorns on His head all caused Him excruciating pain. Above His head hung a sign that read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."

There were two criminals who hung on crosses beside Jesus. They told Him to save Himself. They told Him to come off the cross if He was really who He said He was. People mocked Him as they passed, they said that if He was the Son of God He should get off the cross and save Himself and then they would believe Him. A darkness began to come over the land. Jesus cried out, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?)

The people thought He called to Elijah, a prophet from many, many years before Jesus was even born! They wanted to see if Elijah would come to save Him. Jesus said, "I thirst." The soldiers took a sponge and dipped into wine vinegar and placed the sponge on the tip of a spear. They offered this to Him. As some point a soldier stabs Jesus' side with a spear and blood and water ran out.

Sometime in the afternoon, Jesus cried out, "It is finished. Into your hands I commit my spirit." With this, He hung his head and died. A hush came over the crowd. Back in the city, the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split. The tombs broke open and many holy people where buried there were raised to life. They went into the holy city and many people saw them.

The soldiers guarding Jesus as He hung on the cross were beyond scared. "Surely He was the Son of God!" they cried. Among the crowd that watched the crucifixion were three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph (I think they were Jesus' half-brothers) and the mother of Zebedee's sons. As night approached Jesus was taken down and wrapped in clean linen cloths. A man named Joseph from Arimathea - a disciple of Jesus - took His body to be buried in his own new tomb. A big stone was rolled in from of the entrance.

The tomb was guarded to make sure it was secure because the Pharisees remembered that Jesus had said that after three days, He would rise again. Pilate sent guards to make sure the disciples did not come to steal the body and pretend that Jesus had risen. So, the tomb was sealed and guarded.

Here is where it gets good.

The morning on the third day, there was a great earthquake as an angel from heaven came down and rolled the stone away from the tomb and sat on it. The guards shook and became still when they saw this man who was like lightning, wearing bright white clothes. Mary and Mary Magdalene came together to the tomb and the angel spoke to them. "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not hear; He has risen just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then, go quickly and tell His disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him'. Now I have told you."

The women hurried to tell the disciples what the angel had said. On the road they met a man who greeted them. Realizing that it was Jesus, they worshiped Him. They were told again to go to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee. Off they ran!

The eleven remaining disciples (remember, Judas hung himself) went to Galilee to see Jesus and were told, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The disciples spread God's Word and all the things that Jesus had taught them, they now taught the nations.

This my friend, is the true Easter story. This is the reason Easter is celebrated. Somewhere along the way, years and years ago, it became more and more about the bunny and the candy and the big egg hunt. Like I said before, this is okay as long as you know and teach the true Easter story. Jesus hung on that horrid cross for you, my friend, and for me. He died in our place. He conquered death for us.

We are all sinners. Even once we become Christians - or Christ followers - we still sin. But, our sins are forgiven. God knows that we are sinners. It is what our flesh does. You can deny it, but it is still true. Everything we need to live a good and pure life, it is all written in the Bible. It is an adventure story, a love story...there are stories of heartbreak and heartache, triumphs and trials.

To be forgiven is a wonderful thing. All it takes is for us to confess that we are sinners. Confess our sins and ask for God's forgiveness. It does take some courage but it is so worth it! Jesus wants us to be forgiven. He wants us to be free from Satan's grasp. That one only wants us to burn in Hell forever with him. He is a liar, a deceiver, a thing that has been defeated but doesn't fully realize it yet. Jesus' death and resurrection (return to life) took care of that.

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world [me and you] that He gave His only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish [we still die an earthly death] but have eternal life."

Eternal life in heaven, my friends. God is in heaven. We get to spend eternity in heaven, the most wonderful place that you cannot even imagine! Our earthly bodies will eventually die, but we will live forever with God.
Without Jesus you cannot get to heaven. Some people may tell you that you can get there by doing good things but that is false. I'm sorry but that is just not true.

If you want to learn more about Jesus and the wonderful stories in the Bible, pick it up. Open it and read it. I would suggest starting with one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. You will learn all about Jesus' birth, His teachings, everything.

If you truly believe in Jesus, answer that knock and open that door. He waits patiently for you. It's all up to you. When you open that door, life does not automatically become perfect. We still go through trials and tough times, but we aren't ever alone. Once you open that door, you become part of a family. A family of other believers who are there for you, to pray for you, pray with you, someone to talk to, maybe even help you through some trials. That's all part of being a Christian. We aim to live life like Jesus.

If this interests you at all, let me know! I'll pray with you. I'll cry with you if you need it because no one should ever cry alone. I know this post is probably painfully long, but I wanted to share the Easter story with you. You made it this far, (I hope) so you have to have some interest. Let me know your thoughts.

May God bless you and fulfill you.
God bless you, Happy Easter.
~Karen

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

God's Lesson: Patience



Colossians 1:10-12 (emphasis mine)
...so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.


I believe that God is teaching me patience and peace. So far, our stove is still not fixed and might not be, until the end of the week, if we are lucky. It has been a week tomorrow that we have no stove. I miss it. I miss it a lot. The store is replacing the part instead of the whole thing like we were hoping. Even though it is only 2 years old, we were hoping to be able to purchase a different model since this is out second Frigidaire which has had some form of problem with the control panel. This one, the wires were closerthanthis to catching fire. They were crackly and falling apart when the man came to see what it needed. He said we were lucky because if there were flames, the entire kitchen and possibly the house (depending on how fast the fire department was able to get here) would have been up in flames. 

We were lucky.

I've said it myself, but was it really luck or was it God's hand at work?  I'm 99% certain that God's voice was urging Joel to get the extinguisher out in the first place. I know that it was God telling me to use the extinguisher when I did. I hate to even think of what might have happened if I ignored his voice? 

We were lucky.

Proverbs 16:33
The lot is cast into the lap, 
but every decision is from the Lord.

Luck or no luck, God is the one who is ultimately in control. God was certainly in control when he prevented an outright fire last week. We did not have a physical hand of God come and snuff out the smoldering wire, but his voice was in our heads. 

The part for the stove came today, and we have a general appointment made for the service, but no time as of yet. I'm not sure there is even a confirmation on the day as of yet. Patience, Karen, patience.

Psalm 145
I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. ...

I have a nice drawer with beautiful and delicious vegetables that I had bought last week for me to have yummy stir-fries, sautes, etc. I fear they will be a wasted purchase unless anyone knows how to saute on an electric griddle? Anyone? I miss my stove, but I also miss my vegetables.

Patience, Karen.

God's blessings to you and may he bless you with patience as well.
~Karen

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thoughts on a Fire

Yesterday was an okay day, that is until evening came around. The morning was filled with the usual cleaning, straightening and then eating lunch with Trevor. We played together, he played his Farm Frenzy game that he now loves on the computer while I played solitaire.

The afternoon flew by really. Before I knew it, Jeremy was walking into the house and we went outside to have some fresh air and play. Scooters and bikes. I need new tires for my bike, and have, quite honestly since about 1999. I don't know why I still have the bike since it has been that long....

2012, March 


2012, March

The boys like it when I take out one of their scooters and ride with them, race them and just have fun, so that is what we did.

We played for about 50-55 minutes since it was nice, but with the wind it was Cold! After we came inside, I went to get supper ready. Baked mac and cheese. Yummy! Or it would have been, had we gotten to eat it.

This beautiful, flat top stove began to billow thick, black smoke. Everything you see in this picture - a lots more that you cannot see - was completely covered with the white powder from the fire extinguisher. Yes, you read that correctly. Fire Extinguisher. This also includes the beautifully, golden perfection of baked mac and cheese, which sadly, met its end in the trash can after it cooled down.

The smell of this house last night was disgusting. The air was filled with the smell of smoldering rubber, a hint of the mac and cheese and then there was just dust, everywhere. This is the first time that I have ever needed to use a fire extinguisher so not knowing what to expect, the white powder cloud that immediately took over everything it possibly could, could in fact be normal. I did not expect it to look like a gigantic bag of flour had exploded. Needless to say, we had pizza last night, at 8:00 pm.

We are thanking God for protecting us from what could easily have been a complete disaster, for giving me the quick thinking to grab the extinguisher from the counter - incidentally, from where Joel had put it right before he took Jeremy to the store with him simply because he didn't like the smell and wanted it nearby in case I needed it. Later, he said that he honestly did not know why he felt such need to get it out, but he did. I see God's handiwork written all over this!

There was the voice in my head, calmly telling me to pick up the extinguisher, aim and squeeze the trigger. There was probably a voice in Joel's head telling him to get that extinguisher out of the back room. This voice  could only have been God's voice, protecting us, telling us what we would need and what I needed to do.

While I am spraying the kitchen stove, T-man is blissfully enjoying the warm water in the bathtub, just having a nice, relaxing soak. Visions of a towel-wrapped T-man being dropped out the window (if the kitchen did catch fire, there is a great chance we would not be able to make it to the front door to get out) and onto the bush almost directly blow the window. Luckily, it is not a 10-foot drop like it would be in the back of the house, but there is still a good drop there. I see a pressing need to have the chain ladders they make specifically climbing out the windows in case of fire.

Luckily, since God was indeed watching out for us, protecting us, there no towel-wrapped, scared little boy being dropped out any window, or raced out the door. There were no flames even. But there was smoke. Another blessing was the wind. At this time, the wind was blowing just enough to give us a strong cross-draft through the house so by the time Joel and J-boy got back from the store, most of the smoke and dust had cleared out.

We are blessed with family who will drop everything and come running, or in this case, a dad who will drop everything and come driving right over from Lititz. My father was another blessing to us last night. He stayed for quite some time to help clean up, be with the boys for a little. It is nice to have someone there to just be near.

We are especially blessed to still have our kitchen, our house and definitely blessed to have our lives. God watches over us all the time. It is so easy to take Him for granted because of this. He is always there. We go through life, knowing He is there but sadly, pushed way back as we focus on other things until something happens that forces you to remember Him. He should be first, not last.

God is always watching over us, out for us, caring for us, loving us. Even those times when we feel so alone, like the world has up and left us far, far behind. He is there. You cannot go anywhere, not one place that He is not already there. I thank God for this. He is my anchor and as the boys grow, He is becoming their anchor as well.

This post is long, again, and I apologize. I will be heading back to bed shortly since an emergency has a way of sapping all your strength and the general ability to function well. I'll end here with one of my favorite verses.

God's blessings to you.
~Karen
Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him,
and He will make your paths straight.
*
Psalm 56:3
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sleepy Thankfulness

I don't know about any of you, but this spring forward daylight savings time has really messed with my sleep, especially last night. For the first time in 5 years, I had overslept on a school day! If not for my husband - who also overslept - I'm not sure the boys would have made it to the bus on time. If they did, they probably would not have had time for any breakfast. Thank God for my husband!


What I normally do in the mornings - it's my new "habit" - is find one thing to be thankful for. Then I begin to look for another, and another. I pray and thank God for all the things that I am thankful for. Easy... usually. Today it was easy for me because the first thing I thanked God for was the promise of a brand new day, a new beginning. I try, and yes, sometimes fail at beginning my day with a thankful heart. The important thing is to try. Even if you just think of one thing to be thankful for, it is a great start. Focus on that and each day try to find another to add to it.

Right now, I am not thankful for my cat's voice, as she has been meowing the E.N.T.I.R.E. morning so far. The entire morning. I cannot figure out what she wants, or needs. She has been petted, fed, has plenty of water...even picked her up and put her on my bed - this is a no-no because she likes to poo on it. I just want her to stop meowing. It is not a "clean" pure meow either. She's developed a gravely meow which just irritates. But in this instant - right now! - I am trying very, very, very hard to focus on the fact that I am thankful for the cat because she is Bella's playmate, her constant sniff-friend. Seriously, besides her licking constantly, I have never seen a dog who sniffed so much! My pets are weird.

Aah, a moment of pea-nope, spoke too soon. A blessed moment of silence that has ended too soon. Koko, my cat, is rubbing against my leg, but does not want to be touched. She is about 13 years old so she is entitled to her little idiosyncrasies, but nipping when she rubs to be petted will not be an entitlement. She is now laying on the dog.

Anyway, here are some of the things I have decided to focus on to be thankful today:
- God
- the promise of a new day
- a roof over my family's head which keeps us warm, dry and sheltered
- my husband
- my husband's job which he works very hard at to provide for all our needs
- my children (after 2 losses, they are a blessing even on a very bad day)
- the sun which is trying to peek out from behind the clouds
- my pets, even though they are definitely weird
- dirty glasses and dishes because that means that we have food and drinks
- the green plants poking up through the soil, fighting to grow (Spring is coming, ya'll!)
- a school where safety comes first
- teachers who really seem to care about each student
- THE FREEDOM TO ATTEND WHATEVER CHURCH I WANT to WORSHIP MY GOD!!!
- my life... plain and simple


Trust me, it took me a while to come up with this list of things because I was not feeling very thankful to be awake. Especially when I was the only one awake for a brief moment.

It's a beautiful day today. God has blessed us with a brand new day. Enjoy it, no matter where you are or what you have to do, do it for God's glory. Whatever task you are given, do it to the best of your ability. Even if you hate it, do it well, because:


God's blessings to you, my friends.
~Karen

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Coffee...A Metaphor of Life

The warming rays of the sun filtered through the blinds at my window.
In the quiet of the morning, a bird called and another answered.
Slowly, the earth was waking up.
No phones ringing.
No cars running.
No kids yelling.
Just the peaceful quiet of the early morning.

In the stillness I can hear His voice.
I listen closer to hear His words.
"Come, my child. Awake," He says. "The day is new."
I fight the temptation to just lay in bed; I lose this one.
The bed is warm and cozy.

"Come, my child. Awake," He says again. "The day is new."
I groan. Warm, comfy bed or the cool of the bedroom.
Some choice. Slowly, I stretch and slide out of bed.
"Okay, Lord; I am up," I yawn.
"Good morning, my child." I imagine His smile as He looks at me.

Like any parent looking at their child, their sleepy smiles, He just smiles.
His face is filled with love and compassion.
I am His child who He is so proud of.

"Wake up, my child. It's a brand new day, and I will meet you in the kitchen."
His voice is quiet as He speaks.
I yawn again and go about my morning business.
As I make my way to the kitchen I find myself more awake now, and ready for coffee.
I grab a cup and fill it with coffee, wanting to add the milk.

I pause as I hear His chair move slightly.
"Did you know that coffee with milk is the same as a life with Me?" He asks.
A little early for a coffee/life metaphor but I listen as I glance at my coffee.
"Coffee on its own is dark and and can be bitter." He continues.
"But once you add the milk, it lightens. Its flavor is less bitter. Its color brightens."

 Reaching in to the fridge, I grab the milk, thinking on His words.
Life with Christ is dark, bitter. It seems to be missing something.
Add the milk, Christ, and it seems brighter, more pleasurable.
I think that adding a little sugar helps as well; adds a little sweetness as well.

I put a teaspoonful of sugar in my cup, stirring to dissolve it.
Then pour in a little milk and watch the milk swirl.
Our lives can be filled with such darkness, that we can only hope we find our way.
I small dot of light can give us a glimmer of hope.
As we focus on that tiny spot of light, it begins to grow and gets brighter and brighter.

Jesus is that tiny dot, that hint of light in our dark worlds.
The more we focus on Him, the brighter our lives get.
What was once a dark, lonely world, has now become a bright and joyful life.
Where we once cowered in the corner, so afraid, we walk away from.

God wants us to walk away from that dark corner.
He wants us to open our hearts to the limitless possibilities a life with Him has to offer.
He wants us to hear him.
God is waiting for us.
He has already been knocking at your door, and patiently waits.

Simply reach out your hand, reach for His hand.
Hear His words of welcome: "My child. I love you. You are mine."
My heart smiles at these words.
"My child," He calls. "My child, you are Mine. I love you."
He repeats Himself to make sure we hear.
"I love you, you are my child."

Some people will spend their entire lives in that darkness.
They miss out on the best love in the world, the best thing that is not even of this world.
My heart is sad, as I say these words to Him, "My Lord, please forgive me...."



Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Sunshine

God has chosen to bless us with a gorgeous Saturday today! Go outside, enjoy the sun! 



And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the starts - all the heavenly array - do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to the nations under heaven. 
Deuteronomy 4:19

God's blessings to you, my friends.
~ Karen

Friday, March 8, 2013

Prayer and Praises


Prayer is a daily, constant need. Even when we are living life while is the full sunshine of the open meadows, we still need to pray. It is easy to focus on prayer during our times in the dark shadows of the thick forest. During these dark times, we turn to prayer as a last resort. "I have done everything I can. I guess I'll pray."    "I suppose I should pray about it." You think these thoughts. "I don't think it will make a difference but I'll say a prayer about it."

Prayer is so much more than "just" a prayer. Prayer is powerful. Prayer opens up the heavens so the Spirit of the Lord pours out and completely fills us with God's power and love. It is the reason I am still alive. It is the reason that we have been blessed with Jeremy and Trevor. Prayer is the reason I even met Joel. God works in mysterious ways, and he certainly did when I met Joel! But, that's a story for another time.

Prayer can bring us answers, bring us love, bring us hope. Like my gpa's rose (pictured above) has hope of spring and nice sunny weather, we have hope in the Almighty. We have hope for our lives.

"Because of your little faith, Jesus told them. For if you had faith even as small as a tiny 
seed you could say to this mountain, 'Move!' and it would go far away.
Nothing would be impossible."
Matthew 17:20

All it takes is faith. We have the ability to change our lives with God's help. We need to have prayer in our lives, in our homes, in our country. It seems that each day we have less and less prayer in our country, in our lives. Did you know that prayer can save a nation? I don't know about you, but I completely believe that our nation needs saving. We need to bring God to our nation once again. 

"Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers, read it, and went over to the Temple
and spread it out before the Lord. Then he prayed this prayer:
O Lord God of Israel, sitting on your throne high above the angels, 
you alone are the God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You created the heavens and the earth.
Bend low, O Lord and listen. Open your eyes, O Lord, and see.
Listen to this man's defiance of the living God. Lord, it is true that the kings of Assyria have
destroyed all those nations, and have burned their idol-gods. But they weren't gods at all; 
they were destroyed because they were only things that men had made from wood and stone.
O Lord our God, we plead with you to save us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone are God." 
2 Kings 19:14-19

Is this nation, our America, really worth saving? Or is it doomed like Sodom and Gomorrah? This country is filled to overflowing with wickedness and all sorts of sin. Are there enough Christians in this country to make it worth saving? I think it is. We need a refresher course in our history, how we fought for our freedom, our religious freedom. Oh, how far we have strayed from those ideals and freedoms! There are many people wanting to take Under God from our Pledge of Allegiance. They don't want public displays of Christianity in general. They certainly don't want God in our schools, which is exactly where we do need Him! 

But, I digress in a way. While we do need to pray for our nation, it is not meant to be the topic. 

Prayer is not a little thing, to be "whipped out" as the last ditch effort to change things. Sometimes things would not need changing, if we were praying constantly. That doesn't mean that our days are filled with nothing but one long, rambling prayer. There is a term that I like. It is "popcorn prayers." Our days should be filled with these popcorn prayers because God listens to them all. Our little prayers that pop up to heaven are important because we are not forgetting God. We are not putting other things first. Even a short, "Thank you God for______" prayer is okay. He likes them.

There are, of course, times when longer, deeper prayers are called for. In those times, we take ourselves off alone, pray with our whole hearts, even have the Spirit pray for us when we don't know how or what to pray. The Spirit intercedes for us, when we can't find the words, don't know the words. 

Jeremy has already prayed this little prayer: "Dear God, I am praying. I don't know if you have ears to hear this or not but I believe that you can hear it no matter what. I'm scared. The room is dark and it is scary. Amen." He told me that he said this prayer the next morning, and right after he said amen, he seemed to think the room was a little bit brighter, the shadows less deep. 

If a now 9 year old boy can have the faith to trust that God will hear his prayer and answer it, why can't we? We are supposed to have the pure, innocent faith of a child. Jeremy knew that God would keep him safe, make the room less scary because he has been taught that God is always there, He wants the best for us and will protect us. We tell him that if he is scared during the night, too scared to leave his bed to come to us even, he only has to let God know to be comforted. (Trevor is less sure, but still loves prayer.) 

As we grow up we tend to lose that trust, that pure thinking. We start to question everything, wonder they whys behind them all. Our kids can help us get that back. Listen to their prayers. Listen to the depth of their faith and truly listen to it. Children's prayers are usually shorter and definitely more to the point. They tend to get right to the heart of the matter. 

The praise part of prayer is usually forgotten or purposely left out now too. Praise is important in prayer, as well as life. I usually get my praise and worship time in while I'm doing my household chores in the morning. I am usually alone - unlike today, with Joel working from home - so I crank that music and get going! It is amazing what all I can get done while the music is on. Today, the house is quiet. I don't like a quiet house in the morning. I like a loud, praise the Lord kind of morning! Conference calls do not fit with loud, praise the Lord mornings. 

For you have heard my vows, O God, to praise you every day, 
and you have given me the blessings you reserve for
those who reverence your name.
...and I will praise your name continually, 
fulfilling my vow of praising you every day.
Psalm 61:5,8

I hope that your life, your house is filled with God's blessings, love, mercy and grace. I hope your prayers go answered - remember that God's time is not our time - and you may live life to the fullest in Jesus' name!

God's blessings to you,
~ Karen

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Looking for the Joys

There are times when I have nothing. There is no inspiration coming my way, no thoughts; my mind is a complete blank. I don't like these times. When it comes to writing, this explains my six-years of nothing.

Although I have been writing again, I feel empty in a way. I'm happy but my heart does not sing. It sings when I have thoughts, when I have inspiration. It just beats when there is nothing. I still find pleasure in my children, my life - for the most part. Something is missing though.

When my heart sings, I like who I am, how I am. Everything is joyful, serene and pleasant. I don't yell - which my kids really, really appreciate - I don't grumble or complain. Instead I sing. I dance.  I sing my suggestions and advice, (even orders) to the kids which makes them laugh. I smile. I smile.



This is not one of those days. I've been praying that I can see the joy in life today, that I can smile. It is a matter of choice today. I remind myself to choose happiness. It isn't easier since I honestly feel like being grumpy over being happy.

This morning I woke up to a mostly cloudy day which didn't not make me smile. I was tired even though I got more sleep than normal. I think it made me more tired. Deciding to focus on finding the joy in life rather than all the many things which were making me grumpy, I grabbed my Bible.

Opening it, for some reason I turned to Romans 12. Romans 12:6-8 to be exact. "God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, the prophesy whenever you can - as often as your faith is strong enough to receive a message from God. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If you are a preacher, see to it that your sermons are strong and helpful. If God has given you money, be generous in helping others with it. If God has given you administrative ability and put you in charge of others' work, take the responsibility seriously. Those who offer comfort to the sorrowing should do so with Christian cheer." (The Living Bible)

Being me, I cross-referenced it. (I also really love to do research!)

I Corinthians 12:8-11 says, "To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. He gives special faith to another, and to someone else, the power to heal the sick. He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God's messages - or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still  another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying. It is the same and Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have."

All my life, since I was old enough to understand anyway, I have struggled to find my spiritual gift. My mother says that I have the gift of mercy. So, I looked up the definition. Webster's Dictionary defines mercy to be, "a compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender," "lenient," and "a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion."

Compassion was also looked up. Webster's, of course. Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Well, I suppose I do care an awful lot about people. Please don't cry around me, or I will have to simply cry along with you, just because you are feeling so down, sad, angry... to cry. I can't stand to see someone cry, let alone cry alone. If you need someone to cry with, I'm your girl!

I want to make people happy, because for some reason, when I see a truly heart-felt smile, it makes my heart happy. I like my heart to be happy. Happy hearts are awesome.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful songs.
Psalm 100:1-2

Along with happy hearts, I love photography. Especially taking pictures of God's earth and my family. I also love to write, especially when I'm really emotional. Is my gift to write - to share God's work in my life, or is it the gift of mercy? Can a person have more than one gift, or do we each have the ability to excel?  I'm still researching this one, and really trying to figure out my own gift. 


The sun is slowly getting ready for bed. I'd say it is in the "winding-down" stage. The boys are oddly enough, bickering in the bathroom. The dog is laying in her customary position while I am on the computer - looking at me with perky ears. (This is Bella.)


I believe one boy has started to either dance or kick box, judging by the sounds. These sounds - even the bickering(!) makes me happy. Bickering equals kids, which equal my own flesh and blood - why not be happy by bickering children, because it means you have children.

All in all, I'd say it turned out to be a pretty good day. God has blessed me with a new day, a new beginning. God has given me much to be thankful for, the good and the bad which turned out to be my focus today.

God has given you many, many blessings. Sometimes, we just need to think of each of them and list them. Look at the list you have just written and pray about them. I bet it is a longer list than you thought possible.

God's blessing to you, my friends.

~Karen

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Choosing between Anger or Blessing





   Today we are blessed with a snow day. Trust me, it took me quite some time this morning to see it as the blessing it actually is. I woke up feeling tired, dragging, even frustrated and I hadn't even gotten up out of bed yet!

In my area in PA, they are saying we can get dumped on by a snowstorm. So far, there is barely an inch on the ground. Around 5:30 this morning, it was still snowing -it is now raining- and there was a good covering on the ground. This is around the time that schools must put the notice in for a delay or closing, so since it was snowing and the weathermen are calling for up to 10 inches of snow, most schools have closed.

As I lay in bed listening to the sounds of the boys coloring together, the quiet voices of the cartoon they are watching, I realize something. The boys are no longer being quiet. In fact, there is an outright argument going on. Yes, sometimes I am slow on the uptake. I listen to see if they can resolve their fight on their own and am dismayed to realize that I now needed to leave the nice, warm and cozy bed I've been dawdling getting out of. When you are tired, the last thing you want to do is crawl out of your bed.

The rising voices and tempers of the boys were loud enough for the neighbors to hear by now. Momma need to step in it seems. Just what I did not want to do. I wasn't paying attention to my own volume and tone as I yelled over the boys to be quiet. I don't know about you, but realizing that I am doing the same exact thing they are, and yelling at them for doing what I found myself doing, is hypocritical. I closed my eyes for a minute and desperately tried to reign myself in. "Patience, I need patience and to be calm," I told myself. I took a deep breath and calmly and gently told the boys to quiet down. The result was the same as it usually is: being ignored. I find that unless I yell to get their attention, they ignore me, talk over me, scream, fuss and cry. The thought alone makes my temper flare up. Deep breath again. 



 Okay, I am calm again. I decided that instead of spending the day with anger, frustration, some tears, time-outs, and outright rage, I would look at the day as a blessing. We choose how our day goes. No, we cannot choose what life brings us, but we can choose how we react to it. Today, I choose patience, serenity and joyfulness. It will not be easy. I know that I can do it though because it is part of what I prayed for this morning. I can do serenity and calm. I like calm. I like things that give me a calmness.



 In nature, there are many, many things that I can find that feeling of calmness, that serenity. I love nature, all those beautiful things that God has made for us. Like the deer pictured above, I can settle down and feel a sense of calmness settle deep within me. When my temper starts to flare up, I tend to force myself to look at the sky, in hopes of something to calm me. I love to watch the clouds, especially when they cover the sun and the sun's rays flare out all around and sometimes through the clouds.


 My family loves nature. In fact, our vacations take us to different places in the country specifically to see nature, to be around it and to bask in all of God's glory in the form of His creation. We are blessed with children who love nature - mountains, oceans, and everything in between. We've been to the Rainforest in the Northwest and really enjoyed walking through it and very much enjoyed everything about it including the ground! Really, who enjoys the ground? On that vacation, we were blessed to enjoy not only the Rainforest, but several National Parks, including Yellowstone, beaches and stony shorelines in Oregon, the Redwood trees in Northern California and many other places.

Yellowstone Buffalo nursing her young calf

Hoh Rainforest

Oregon coastline

Mountains out West

California Redwoods

Rocky Oregon Coastline

Drift Logs

Hoh Rainforest

Yellowstone 

Oak Harbor Washington

 God has blessed us with so many of His beautiful creations. I am sharing some of my favorite pictures I've taken from our vacations. I have somewhat of an odd perspective at times, so some of the pictures (here and in future posts) may not exactly make sense. I love writing and photography, so combined with God's earth, the sky is literally the limit!

In walking through the forests, through the mountain valleys and along the coastlines, I can bask in God's glory. I am always more calm on vacations because nature calms my heart and soul. Being at home all day, I look to the clouds and trees for my feelings of calm. The picture of the cardinal from the beginning of this post was taken in my backyard. I try to find things that keep me calm and serene or I can blow my top and go through life like I'm chained to the back of a smoking bus and not enjoy anything. That is not the life that God wants us to have. He wants us to enjoy it. Joyfulness, kindness, love, compassion are only some of the good things that He wants for us.

You can start your day tired and you immediately have a choice. You can spend the day grumpy and even angry or you can choose to spend the day finding the joy in life. I think that a joyful life is much better than a grumpy, sour outlook. I have my grumpy days which always make my upset and full of regrets at bedtime. There is a sense of a wasted day.


 For the past few weeks, I have been trying to picture this flower when I first wake up. Its bright, sunny color immediately makes me smile, the bright green of its leaves remind me of the green grass and the combination of green grass and a bright sunny skies does wonders for my spirit. The center of the flower, the deep red color contrasts with its otherwise bright colors but does not overtake them. It all blends together to form the perfect flower. God has created it this way. Life is a balance. You can't have a good life, without some trials because we wouldn't know how to truly enjoy the good. In photography, I like to find the contrasts in nature, especially my sky pictures.

 

 Like the bright blue of the sky, the slightly deeper blue of the water and the dark trees, the bright white heron stands out, yet blends in at the same time. To me, the white heron is a glaring example of Christ in our lives. We are the scene behind the bird. It is a pretty picture without it, but missing something. We go through life trying to find what we are missing, to find what leaves us with a sense of emptiness and loss. But with the addition of Christ, shown by the white heron, He fills that emptiness. He cancels out the sense of loss and instead fills it with joy, with beauty. Christ is the completion. We see this in the things that He blesses us with.


 He has blessed us with so many things, that it is often easy to overlook or even take them for granted. There is no guarantee of the blessing of another day. God blesses us with another day. In the morning, even before you even take a single step out of bed, you have been blessed. You woke up. You have been blessed with the gift of another day. It is up to you how your day will go. God has blessed you already, with the beauty of the morning. Even with the rain, or snow - whichever the case may be - there is beauty if you truly take the time to look. Those are just a couple things, but so many more can be found if you look.

I choose today, to count it as a blessing and enjoy my day with the boys. I choose to be serene and calm and to keep that calm. Today, I chose happiness instead of sadness, joy instead of frustration and anger. Today, I choose to be blessed by my boys' love for me. I choose to enjoy being their mom and even choose to enjoy the work that needs doing in the house. I can easily ruin the day by choosing to remain frustrated and angry at the boys' fighting and let my own emotions run out of control but that doesn't make sense now, does it? Why choose to spend the day upset when we can so easily choose to let my heart feel lighter and filled with God's love and all His mercy, grace and blessings?

Isn't this a place of calm, of serenity?
Do you choose to serve the Lord today, or do you choose to serve your human feelings and emotions? 




 These are my little blessings, well, smaller than they are now but these are my little miracles.  Back when they didn't mind being held and snuggled with mama in pictures. Today, I choose to be blessed by their love and of course, by their hugs.

Have a great and blessed day, my friends!
~ Karen


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trust is a Five-Letter Word...

Once again, I struggled to wake up. It could have something to do with my little T-man laying with his legs draped all over my chest, legs, even my neck. Being 5 and scared of his room, he spends a good portion of the night in my bed with me and my hubs. So... I'm left literally dragging myself out of bed. I am truly thankful for my T-man though. He's my miracle baby #2. J-boy is my miracle baby #1. It is a miracle that God has blessed us with these loving and sometimes frustrating, beautiful boys. I trusted in God that He would allow these boys to live. Trusted completely.

They are good friends and together try to help each other out, whether that particular helps is needed or not. At times they fight, at times they just play so nicely together that you almost forget that they are actually together. Time flies by in those moments.

Florida Trip

Outer Banks - Ocracoke Island, NC
 We have been blessed in the past years with two boys who were excellent travelers. We don't just do vacations, we do Road-Trips. Joel and I have started this "tradition" on our honeymoon when we flew into Vegas and spent two weeks on the road. Nearly every night a different hotel. 14 days, 9 states. Lots of fun and beautiful scenery. We are a nature-loving family!


Is this brotherly love, or what?
In 2010, we flew out to Seattle with one stop. T-man was strapped into his car seat and scared. J-boy was nervous but he took to flying almost right off the bat. We started in Moses Lake, Washington and worked our way down to Yellowstone, then towards Cali to see the Redwoods and then drove up the coast to Oak Harbor are in Washington before catching our flight home.


 The Redwood trees remind me to look up towards Heaven. I love standing under them and looking straight up. This picture is one of my favorites. God created some very beautiful things for us to enjoy here on earth.

Our silly boys in the van heading to the OBX, NC.


 Our boys are quite a bit less pleasant to spend time with in vehicles nowadays. Even short rides can be a great test of patience. I need more patience. There is no way around it. Patience is not a strong-point in my character. I admit that combined with my somewhat short-temper, it can be like a lit stick of dynamite at times. God is still working on me. I believe that God has a sense of humor and takes, not delight in my temper but, delight in my attempt at learning patience. Like a parent He watches me struggle and allows me to make mistakes, and is always there to pick me up and dust me off. He is always with us, watching us, guiding us.



 Like the pelican on the roof, unless we actively look for Him, He remains unseen by us. Trust is another big issue with me. I've had my heart broken and have been betrayed so even though I know that God is right there, He remains hidden at times.




 
 The need to trust God is like this bridge. It seems to suddenly just drop off. Can you trust that this road continues to get you across the water safely, or will you drop off the edge and land in the water? We have to trust God because He loves us. He created us. He wants our trust, just like we want our families and friends to trust in us. Only God wants it more. He literally holds our lives in His hands. We can trust Him. Trust seems like such an easy thing. Oh, just trust in God to see you through safely, I've been told. Let me tell you, that is a lot easier said than done at times.

Just like the father in this picture, God holds us close to Him in His embrace. His strong arms surround us, keeping us from falling. J-boy had to fully trust his daddy on this cliff-side to not let him fall. The smile on his little face tells it all. He is smiling because while he sits enjoying the view, he doesn't have to worry about falling because he feels his daddy's arms around him tightly... and he is holding on.


 When life gets rough and we hit a roadblock, Jesus is there, waiting for us to reach out our hand towards him. If we reach out, He takes our hand and lifts us, or guides us around or even over our roadblocks. J-boy was being a great big brother to T-man when T would stumble or need help. "I'm on it mom..." he would say. I told him that he was like Jesus helping us over our fallen trees. At this, he did not just smile, he beamed.


We can learn a lot about trust from our children.  They dream big. They live big. They try to climb so high sometimes that they do not know how to get back down. Just like a mommy (in this case) God is there with them, watching out for them and for us.. He holds our hands as He guides us on the way down. Are we listening for His voice, His words to help guide us, or do we sometimes knowingly close our ears because we feel that we can do it ourselves? My son trusted me completely to not let him fall as he slowly slid back down his "mountain". We can trust God on the climb and the ride back down. God is the ultimate parent. There is none better.


 His touch is gentle, so gentle that we don't always feel it. We trust that it is always there... that is until some new trial or temptation comes our way. There are times when we are convinced that at the first sign of trouble God takes off like a skittish dragonfly, flying for safety. At these times it is hard to remember that God is bigger than our problems. God alone stands completely firm in the face of trials. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days standing firm against Satan's temptations. 40 days of fasting, so He was weak, tired, His earthly body struggling to keep moving, keep going. His mind stood firm.


Matthew 4:10  Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written:
'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only." 
We start the day enjoying God's beauty He gives us to celebrate the new day. We are filled with hope, at times with energy. Other days we wake up tired, sad, weary. When we are tired, completely bone weary and struggling, are we just giving in to the temptations or do we wrestle up the strength to stand firm. I know that I give in at times. It seems like it is the easy way out, but really, in the long run it is the hard way. God doesn't give up and neither should we. He will never give up on us, so why do we give up on ourselves? If the Lord thinks that we are worthy of His time, His care and His love, why do we believe we are so unworthy, unlovable? When we are tired, distracted, or just so sad, that's when The Voice whispers, "You aren't any good. How could anyone love you, want to care for you? God doesn't love you or he would_____." We hear this voice and begin to believe it is true. We fall for the lies that Satan whispers. We hear them and in our despair, our desperation, believe them.

John 8:44 "You belong to your father, the devil...for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native tongue, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

It can be so easy to fall into his trap, believing all he whispers to be truth. God is angry with the devil for his lies. Satan tries to cause us to stumble, to stop believing in God and trusting in God. This makes God angry. The ultimate parent rises and is angered. When we believe the lies and deceits, God gets sad. He wants us to be secure in Him. Trust completely in Him. 

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. 


Satan can be defeated. Temptations can be withstood. Pray for God to keep you from all temptation and that when temptation does arise, that He gives you the strength and the ability to withstand them and ignore the lies. Prayer can seem just such a small thing, a last resort when nothing else works. Prayer is so much bigger and better than we dream it to be. Instead of last, it should be first. 

Prayer is the reason that I am still alive. The trials that I've been a survivor of, I'm a true survivor. There were times when I almost did not. Accidents, attacks.... Satan did them all and I am still here. He isn't happy about that. We stumble, catch our feet on sticks, unseen hands grab at our feet and legs. We sometimes continue to stumble and never find our footing. We spend our lives lost and searching but don't know what we search for. Other times, we step over and around those stumbling blocks he tries to put in our way and we have complete trust in God to see us through life safely. There are times when we are in between. We stumble, find our footing only to stumble again. Find our footing again. A never-ending cycle. God is with us through it all. When life is too much, He carries us through. 

To stop believing the lies, open your bible to John 3:16, which says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (Emphasis mine.) God loved the whole world - that means you and I both - enough that He sacrificed His only son for us - imperfect beings that we are. You see, we go through life thinking that we are surprising God by our action, our choices. Nothing surprises Him. Nothing. He knows what is going to happen, and when and He still loves us. There is nothing that we can do to ever make Him stop loving us. 

Romans 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, 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."

Isn't that an amazing love? There is nothing that will separate us from God's love. Even if we spend our entire life making the wrong choices, even choosing to believe the falsehoods instead of in Jesus, He will still love us. I don't know about you, but that kind of love gives me chills. Good chills. 

God wants us to choose Him. He wants to stand at the door of our heart and knock. He wants us to throw open that door, wide open and reach out with both hands, and say, "Yes Lord. I believe in You. I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, not by my works, nor my action, but by Christ alone. Come into my heart, Lord. I want to live my life for you." 

I did this when I was seven years old. Sure, I've backslid but God has never left my side. I've come back to God even though I never really, really left Him. He was waiting for me with open arms. 

~Karen