Thursday, February 26, 2009

Welcomed Home With Joy!

"Welcome him in the Lord
with great joy,
and honor men like him..."
Philippians 2:29
Jim arrived home this afternoon from his 10-day dream-come-true-trip-of-a-lifetime to Israel! We picked him up at Philadelphia International Airport and were well-equipped with welcome home signs and Philly Cheese Steaks! (They don't mix meat and cheese in Israel, so this hometown favorite really hit the spot!)
We were so excited! Yes, I cried tears of joy and thankfulness! The children could barely contain themselves and had ear-to-ear smiles on their faces.
At home, we spent a few days decorating with hand-drawn posters, balloons, banners, letters and ribbons. Our foyer looks more like a party spot right now.
Jim had an "unbelievable" time in the Holy Land. It will take him weeks to share with us all that he wants us to know. And we have a lot of questions! He also took over 1,000 pictures and over 8 hours of video. What treasures they will be for all of us. We are thrilled that the Lord provided this opportunity for Jim to go to Israel, for all the Lord is doing in his heart through this journey and for the many friendships nourished there.
Thank you for your prayers! They were invaluable to us! We are humbled by all the love for us expressed through prayer. Thank you, dear family and friends, who extended very tangible love to me and the cherubs through phone calls, invitations for dinner, special dates with the kids and gracious friendship toward me.
The afterglow of our reunion will linger for many days, I am sure. Time to get the children all nestled and snug in their beds!
Welcome home, honey! We love you!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"God Always Give Us The Right Verse For Each Day, Mommy"

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law. I am a stranger on earth, do not hide Your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times." Psalm 119:18-20 (NIV)
Sometimes in the morning after I have had my quiet time with the Lord, I share a specific scripture that really ministered to my heart with our children when they wake up. I love when I can share with them how God gave me the perfect scripture verse for the day. He meets us right where we are as we seek Him in His Word. As I share with our cherubs, I pray that He plants in their souls a longing for His Word and that taste, see and know that His Word is alive and active.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
The children have their own devotion book that we use each morning for their breakfast devotions. Though these are not always peaceful and lingering moments in the morning if sibling rivalry or poor attitudes are kicking in, I do always reiterate to them the importance of starting each day in the Word.
The other morning, I was upstairs helping Gabrielle with her hair. So, as Joshua headed downstairs, I said to him, "Honey, please get the devotion book ready and find the devotion for you and Gabrielle today. We'll be right down." A few minutes later, he shouted up to me, "Mommy, our devotion for today is called 'Avoid Arguing'!" Praise the Lord! Avoid Arguing!
Our sweet cherubs had just had several days where they had argued with each other. Besides driving me nutty, I was telling them how their arguing did not please the Lord. Disagreements will happen regularly, but handling them with the right words, attitude and heart are paramount. (Ah-hem, note to self.)
The scripture verse for that day in our children's devotional was: "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (2 Timothy 2:23) When we read this together at breakfast, I said, "Isn't God so good to give us this scripture for today? We really needed to hear this!" Joshua said, "God always gives us the right verse for each day, Mommy!" Yes!
They are getting it! God's Word is truth. God's Word is alive and active. God's Word satisfies. Though our breakfast time devotions may not always be picturesque and peaceful, God is still speaking through His Word...and I pray that our cherubs continue to get it! May their souls long for His Word and His Truth.
What scripture is "just right" for you today?
"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."
John 17:17 (NIV)
Today is 2/ dad's birthday.
He passed away in 1998.
Our children never met him,
but we tell them about him and show them pictures.
We love you, dad! Happy Birthday!
Updated 7 AM: OK, in my One-Year Chronological Bible reading for today, look what verse was there...on my Dad's birthday: "The people indicated their ancestry by their clans and families..." Numbers 1:18

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Invitation

Invitation to the Thirsty: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare."
Isaiah 55:1-2

In a previous post titled "Lavish Love", I mentioned my guest list for a surprise gathering I was planning for my husband. I had prayerfully planned the guest list many months before the event, and the invitations were mailed about a month before the date of the party. Our families and Jim's dearest friends were invited. These friendships spanned from a few years to 20 years. And Jim and his cousin, John, have been friends their whole lives...almost 45 years.

About a week before the surprise party, the Lord put it on my heart to invite another couple. I had been building a friendship with the wife for several months, but Jim and the husband were just beginning a friendship. However, I saw a mutual respect and "connection" in this growing friendship and I knew in my heart that Jim would be blessed by having this couple at his surprise party. In Chuck Swindoll's book "Koinonia", he talks about how vibrant fellowship can bring forth new friendships. This is what God is doing here.

With the invitations having been mailed weeks prior, I contacted my girlfriend personally. I shared my heart honestly with her and told her that the invitation, albeit late, was meant to bless and honor them. I told her I knew Jim would be delighted if they were there. I did not want them to be insulted that they had not received a written invitation weeks before. Truly, I wanted to bless them and also bless Jim at his party by having them there.
My girlfriend's response blessed my heart beyond measure. Her reply was, as I expected, enthusiastic, gracious and understanding. The truth is the Lord is beginning to build this relationship between our husbands. We knew that. She was so thankful for the invitation regardless of the timing. She said, "You'll never know how much this invitation blessed me today!"

Tears of thankfulness to the Lord rolled down my cheeks. "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for putting this on my heart and that they were blessed just by the invitation."

Isn't that the way? Isn't is just a blessing to receive an invitation? It says, "You are loved. You are valued. You are included."

A fact of life is that we are not all invited to everything, nor can we be, and we can't invite everyone to our gatherings either. It's just not possible. Grown-ups understand that, even though at times it can still hurt. And God's timing is always amazing as I have had opportunity these past few weeks to walk with each of our children through these painful "I was not invited to that party" lessons of life that give us the privilege of building godly character.

There is one invitation that is extended to all of us to which we can all RSVP with an enthusiastic and committed "YES"! Our Host is the King of Kings. This invitation from our Savior to believe in Him and receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life is an open invitation, and everyone is on the guest list! That is so exciting! "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life..." John 3:36 "Whoever". An open invitation. The most significant, meaningful, life-giving and important invitation you'll ever receive. You are loved. You are valued. You are included.

When you accept this invitation, ask for His forgiveness and receive Jesus into your heart, He washes away your sin and you receive eternal life immediately. What is eternal life? This is John 17:3: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Knowing the only true God. Intimately knowing Him.

This sacred invitation has been delivered to us through God's son, Jesus. And when you accept this invitation, you receive an eternity in heaven!

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." 2 Corinthians 5:7

God's Word is a treasure just filled with His truths about knowing Him, eternal life with Him, and an eternity in the kingdom of heaven. If you have happened upon our blog and desire to RSVP to His invitation to know Him, please click here for more information. Please leave a comment for us, too, if you are not the shy type. We'll be praying for you! And if you need a Bible, let us know. As you open His treasure of Truth, you will find that His Word alone satisfies the hungry and thirsty. (Psalm 107:9)

My girlfriend and her husband replied "yes" to my invitation. They were enthusiastic. They were thankful. They were delighted to be there, and we were delighted to have them. And after the surprise party for my husband, he said to me "The guest list was perfect."

God's guest list is perfect, too, and it includes YOU! You are invited. He beckons you to "Come". Without Jesus, we are all lame, blind and poor. Amazingly, He invites us to feast at His table forever! If you haven't already, we pray you will accept His invitation. His love is perfect. His will give you strength to walk, eyes to see and make your heart rich in His love.

"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." Luke 14:13

"And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king's table, and he was crippled in both feet."
2 Samuel 9:13

Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God." Revelation 19:9

Friday, February 20, 2009

100th Day!

"I have more understanding...for I obey Your precepts."
Psalm 119:100
Today in our school's first grade, they will be celebrating the 100th Day of School! This is an annual tradition and one of the most memorable days of First Grade.
My dear friend, Cheryl, and I are co-room moms for our daughters' first grade class. We'll be spending this special day with the class focusing on math and the number 100. This is a great way for the children to be learning math, without even realizing it! The class room is decorated to the hilt with 100 things, which will be a surprise for the children when the arrive this morning! All three first grade classes will be sharing a huge cake at the end of the day that will be cut into 100 pieces.
A few years ago when I was a room mom for Joshua's first grade class, the Lord put it on my heart to read Psalm 100 to the class before the day's festivities began. If He leads, I hope to do that again today. His Word goes before all things, even a really fun, memorable and special day at school.
Psalm 100
"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations."
This short Psalm gives us so many truths. The Lord is God. He made us. We are His. Ahhhh....we are His people. I love being a sheep in His pasture. He is good. His love and faithfulness endure forever. Forever. Through all generations.
As He beckons us to cross the threshold to Him with thanksgiving and praise, our cherubs and I are going to write down throughout the day people and things for whom and which we are thankful. We are going to see if we can get to 100! I think we can!
I am thankful I can spend this day with my children at school and for being room mom for Gabrielle's class this year! I am thankful I can also spend the day with my friend, Cheryl, and our dear friend, Heather, who is a room mom for one of the other first grade classes. This is so exciting!
Coffee's done brewing. Quiet time with the Lord is my favorite time of the day. So thankful for quiet time with Him!
What are you thankful for today?? We'll include it on our list!
We are thankful you visited us here today. We'll be visiting you soon, too.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lavish Love

"How great is the
love the Father has lavished
on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!"
1 John 3:1

"I have never been surrounded by and felt so much love in one room", said one of the servers at the restaurant where I held a surprise gathering for my husband. We told him, "It is God's love." Koinonia love. The Lord had been invited to this celebration, and our Guest of Honor showed up big.

For months, I had prayerfully planned this surprise for Jim in celebration of his birthday and journey to The Holy Land, a dream-of-a-lifetime-trip for him. Gathering family and friends together for him was the best gift I could give him to send him off with love on his dream vacation. Each step in the party-planning process, I prayed for God's direction, provision and will. I wanted the celebration to be God's plan, not mine. I prayed my husband would be blessed and encouraged.

Covering the surprise celebration in prayer, I looked for and saw God's fingerprints and confirmation throughout the planning. As I shared some of the details with my Precepts Bible study group (who had also been praying) and rejoicing in God's goodness, one of the gals reminded me that Jesus' first miracle was at a wedding celebration. "This, the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him." (John 2:11 NIV) He revealed His glory and faith in Him had taken root.

I do believe God, through His lavish love, graciously revealed a bit of His glory at this celebration for my husband as well. And we pray that faith in Him is taking root by those who served us that evening and by others in the room who may not have that faith in Him yet. One of my prayers for this celebration was that, if our guests had come and met a stranger, that perhaps they would leave as friends. God answered this prayer in an unexpected way.

On the guest list were our family members and Jim's dearest friends. Some of these friendships have spanned up to 20 years. A few of these friendships have just developed over the last few years. One friend and his wife have just started to become good friends, and I knew the Lord wanted me to invite them. (I will be posting on this at a later date, called "The Invitation".) Jim and his cousin, John, have been friends their whole lives. Only a few people could not attend the party, but they were with us in heart.

It was a fun party to plan. For the seating arrangements, instead of numbered tables, I had named the tables places in Israel where Jim would be visiting, such as the "Sea of Galilee" table and the "Mount of Beatitudes" table. Each guest received a pretty, laminated card with scripture on it, a goodie bag with some of Jim's favorite candy in it, and a "party popper" with the Jewish star on it, representative of Israel.

Jim was indeed surprised. That's an understatement. After the initial shock, he joyfully got in the groove and began enjoying and taking in the evening set aside for him.

After enjoying dinner, I had asked one of my husband's friends to be the "Master of Ceremonies" as I invited our guests to share something about Jim to honor, bless and encourage him. As these precious guests shared their hearts, Jim was given the best gifts of all, and his heart was filled with thankfulness, love and humility. We were deeply touched by the love expressed toward Jim. He is devoted to his God, family and friends. He is a man who genuinely cares for others. He is a man with funny quirks, a good sense of humor, a love for football and fabulous food.

At the end of this special time of sharing, Jim, whose heart had been moved by all that was said, took the microphone to thank everyone. "My treasure is in this room tonight. My wife, my children, my family and friends are my treasure." A lump formed in my throat and tears streamed down my face as the room was silent. God has answered my prayers for Jim to be blessed and encouraged. Thank you, Lord.

One of our dear pastors then prayed for Jim and for our little family. He is a special pastor to us, and we call him "The Love Pastor" because the love of Jesus just oozes out of him. This pastor is a worshipper of the Lord. We were humbled and thankful for his beautiful prayer for Jim and for us.

As this special evening began to wind down and our guests began to say their good-byes, something unexpected happened. The servers, who had stayed in the room during the sharing and prayer time (though they did not have to), were hugging many of our guests and us. They were moved by what they had heard and seen. One of the servers said, "This is how you want your life to be. This is how you want to be known. This is a lot of love." We were quick to tell the servers that this was God's love. His Lavish Love.

As one of our servers loaded up a cart and helped us get everything to our car, he kept talking to us about how special the night was for him, a stranger who had become a friend. Of all the hundreds of events that restaurant has hosted, he said they have never witnessed that much love. He embraced us and had an ear-to-ear smile on his face. We thanked him and promised to keep in touch. A few days later, I sent a note to the general manager at the restaurant to tell him of the exceptional service we received that evening. And a box of Bibles, devotionals and other books was a gift from us to our new friends at the restaurant.

When we arrived for the party, these precious people were strangers. When we left, they had become friends. Thank you, Lord, for Your amazing answer to prayer.

My heart was so thankful when Jim told me on the way home that night, "That was one of the best nights of my life!"

I share this story to tell of God's faithfulness to answer our prayers above and beyond what we can ask or expect. While praying for God to be glorified in a celebration may seem a little trivial compared to our prayers for serious global issues of the day, as my Bible study friend reminded me, God cares about every detail...even celebrations, like the wedding at Cana, and like Jim's party. And when He does amazing things so that He is glorified and people's faith is put in Him, well we rejoice in Him indeed! His love is lavish!

Here are just a few pictures of some of our family and friends. We love each and every one of you, deeply and from the heart! "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." 1 Peter 1:22

1 John 4:16: "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So David Inquired Of The Lord

"So David inquired of the LORD..."
1 Samuel 23:2 (NASB)
I love my Precept Ministry Bible Study group, and our leaders, Carol and Linda. Currently, we are studying 1 and 11 Samuel. The famous "life sentence" about David being "a man after God's own heart" is evidenced within these precious books of the Bible. His heart wanted to honor God. He revered and trusted God. He was committed to God's ways and His purposes.
Repeatedly throughout these books, we read, "So David inquired of the Lord". Then a verse or two later, we read "So David...." obeyed. So David went. So David sent. So David waited. So David did. Usually, whatever God told David to do when David inquired of Him, David did. (Now, I know in this study we have not yet reached the infamous sin of David with Bathsheba, but I am learning so much about godly character and integrity exemplified through David thus far.)
So David inquired of the Lord. So David obeyed.
It's interesting to do a word search on "David inquired of the Lord" and then read through those passages to see how he obeyed God. And God blessed David beyond measure. or are great on-line Bible study tools.
To live a life characterized by being after God's own heart, inquiring of Him, and obeying Him. Indeed, he loved and served the Lord with integrity of heart. David was a humble shepherd who became a king. Glory to our Good Shepherd and our King of Kings. May we go through each moment of our lives inquiring of Him for His will and direction, and may we follow and obey His voice.
"He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."
Psalm 78:70-72
"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham."
Matthew 1:1
"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David..."
Luke 1:68-69

Friday, February 6, 2009

Camping Near The Water

"Then they came to Elim,
where there were twelve springs
and seventy palm trees,
and they camped there near the water."
Exodus 15:27 (NIV)

In reading through the Bible chronologically in a year, I am currently in Exodus. This morning's passage included the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites as they were being pursued by the Egyptians. "And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen." Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. Exodus 15:17-22 (NIV)

After this amazing crossing the Sea on dry ground, God then led them through a desert. Throughout the journey from Egypt, He had provided everything they needed. He gave them guidance and light by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. He provided them food to eat and water to drink. Each step, He was with them. Though the path from slavery to freedom seemed slow and was indeed difficult, God was so faithful to show them Himself through provisions and miracles.

Reading through to Exodus 15:27 this morning, I felt immediately refreshed with the thought of fresh springs and palm trees. Wow. God had brought them out of slavery. He provided everything they needed. He protected them from their pursuing enemies by a miracle of His mighty right hand. He brought them through the desert and to Elim. After being in the desert, I imagine those twelve springs and seventy palm trees at Elim were a paradise to them.

Today, we kept our children home from school for a "stay well" day for the first time. The Lord had put this on my heart yesterday morning during my quiet time. He confirmed it through my husband. Then, this morning, as I read about being camped near the water in Exodus 15:27, I thanked the Lord for His will for us for today. And I asked Him to keep our family forever camped near the Water so that we would always "stay well" in His perfect care. We want to camp near the Living Water today and every day. We need His life, sustenance and refreshment. May His twelve springs and seventy palm trees always be waiting for us, inviting us to rest and be refreshed after a journey of trust in Him.

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"You Are Essential To Me, Mommy"

"Only one thing is essential, and Mary has chosen it...
and it will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:42

Car conversations and chatterings with our cherubs are one of my favorite treasures of being a mom. Chauffeuring my children to and from school each day and our other drive times are precious (unless, of course, there is sibling rivalry going on!). Some of the most valuable parental teaching, listening and learning time has occurred in our vehicles, around our meal table and during bed time prayers. Some of the most precious words from our cherubs hearts have been spoken during these times, too.

This past Sunday after church, the children were watching a video in the car while hubby ran into the hardware store to get more paver-friendly rock salt for the forecasted snow storm. One of the characters in the movie used the word "essential". Joshua said, "Mommy, what does essential mean?" I said, "It means you absolutely need something. It is necessary for you to have it."

Right after that brief (and hopefully accurate) definition of "essential", our sweet Gabrielle said to me, "You are essential to me, Mommy." Awwwww! Wow! What a lovely blessing from the lips of our angel. God knows how to encourage us just at the right moments. He knew I needed some "mommy encouragement" on Sunday, and He used our precious Gabrielle to deliver it to me.

Shortly thereafter, Jim got back in the car without paver-friendly rock salt, but with a fresh supply of various nuts and bolts. (What man can leave a hardware store without something new to bring home?) I told him what Gabrielle had said. "You have to write that one down" Jim said. So, here I am writing it down. But mostly, I am treasuring her words and love in my heart.
Share with us some encouraging words you received recently! :)

"But Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart."
Luke 2:19