Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - Can We Fix It? Yes . . . Maybe. . . .Nah

       Have you seen the following sign at an auto repair garage?  "Additional charges: $25.00 for watching us fix it; $50.00 if you worked on it before you brought it it."  Some of us just can't help ourselves. We think we're mechanics when we're not. We're fixers who go into problem-solving mode as if everything depended on us. We're not alone. Two of my favorite Bible personalities, the Apostle Peter and Martha, Mary's sister, were fixers who jumped in to "do something about it" when Jesus wanted them to wait patiently for His expert and superior solutions. Peter thought he was supposed to know what to do and started babbling suggestions when Jesus transfigured on the Mount with two old friends. At one point, Peter was so sure of himself he corrected Jesus and was dubbed "Satan" as a result. Martha impatiently tried to fix a problem by tattling on her sister when, if she had pulled up a rug next to Mary and listened to Jesus, she may have discovered a seven course kosher spread, hot and ready to serve, in the kitchen after Bible study. As it was, her fussing and fuming left her out of the loop, isolated in her frustration and hurt pride.
     Fixers lack patience with both problems and waiting. We want to fix the problem quickly and move on when God calls us to know Him and wait for His guidance. Another problem with fixers is preyers: people who go to fixers to handle their emergencies or who do nothing at all because the fixer in their lives will do it all. The fixer, fueled by pride, sweeps in to the rescue to solve the problem and save the day. Sadly, we create quite a mess for ourselves and others by misleading them to think we can fix anything. Eventually we quit because we're burned out, sick and exhausted, or we turn mean because people expect our fix-it shops to be open every time they have a problem. We fixers have the real problem: we think we can fix things we can't fix. Maybe if God charged us extra for trying to fix a problem before bringing it to Him we'd give up this dangerous illusion.

You alone are God. Help us realize how far that truth reaches into our lives. Forgive us for the terrible habit of doing what we can first then leaving the rest or the mess we create to You. You're not our clean-up crew - You're the CEO of our lives. We have no business pretending to know better than You for our own lives but especially for the lives of others. Help us sit in Your Presence and soak up Your guidance and counsel. Help us choose "the one thing needed" as Mary did. Help us let You be You as we follow Your lead in all things. 

In the name of Jesus who followed You both into and away from needy crowds

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8

"'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'"

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the  power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body." Philippians 3:20-21

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday, November 29,2010 - Holes in the Ground

     On our brief tour of Hot Springs we dabbled in a couple of the steaming fountains built for public enjoyment. We also wandered into the Arlington and tasted the famous 4,000 year old water at an indoor water dispenser. Nick said with a touch of sarcasm, "Yeah, it's not like we can drink water at home." This spoiled child has had hot water at his fingertips all his life just like me. He didn't yet understand the historic significance of Hot Springs National Park's free, fresh-from-the-ground, spring water. 
    Isaiah 58:11 promises we'll be like a spring whose waters never fail when we follow the Lord and let Him satisfy our needs. A spring is a hole in the ground that allows the fresh water flowing underneath to seep or pour out, sometimes contributing to creeks and rivers. From the holes in our lives, God can pour out a rushing river of revival. From our needy emptiness, He gushes forth healing, wholeness and wisdom. He created us to need Him and by admitting our need for Him we clear an opening for His powerful Living Water to fill our own needs and to refresh others. We've grown accustomed to having the Lord ripple under the surface of our lives but do we keep Him underground or allow Him to flow freely out of our spirits and into the lives of others? 

Father, we're spoiled with Your faithful Presence. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we're strong when we're really holes in the clay that allow Your Presence and Strength to shine through us. You satisfy every need, fill every desire and bring joy and life into the driest desert. You lead us gently through rough terrain when we allow you to carry us. Help us hear Your heartbeat and walk where You want to use us. Refresh us with Your Living Water and clear away the overgrowth to pour out of our weaknesses. 

In the name of Jesus, the Living Water who quenches our thirst for God. 

"The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11

"He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010 - Rest in Peace, R.J.

     I'm feeling a bit stunned this morning as I received the news that a classmate's memorial service will take place next Saturday. We've had a Facebook prayer chain for R.J. and mutual friends who still live in or near our hometown held fund raisers to allay medical expenses. Just yesterday I looked at pictures of R.J. in his hospital bed, thin and hooked up to every machine imaginable. My heart went out to him and seeing him ebb away from this life led me to pray he would know God's Peace and Presence. Today's "Jesus Calling' refers to resting in the assurance of God's eternal Love. I read it before I saw the announcement about R.J., so my first thought on a cold Sunday was of a long, restful nap between church services. Now I can't help but think of a deeper, unending rest in God's Love  - a Love death can't stop. I hope, now that his battle with disease is finished, R.J.'s resting in the assurance of that Love and Peace.

Father, I praise You for a Love that won't let us go, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I praise You that death for those who believe is only a door opening to reveal what our hearts have believed and our  minds have hoped. Thank You for the life we have here and help us use it up for You, but I give eternal thanks for the eternal life we'll have with You when we no longer have to fight the battles that knock us down and batter our strength. Reign over us, Mighty God, and lead us to rest when we can and fight what we must in Your strength!

In the name of Jesus, our Victorious King over death

"Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to rasp how wide and long and high an deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

"Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy." Psalm 107:21-22

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010 Map Dots

     The clearest points on a map of Arkansas for the Nolands were Benton and Little Rock until yesterday when we turned another page in our travel guide and visited Hot Springs. We'd heard good things about this town we'd never visited and we weren't disappointed. The drive was beautiful even for the the tail end of a less than stellar autumn. As we entered the historic district we stayed alert to places we can go and things we can do when Julie and Nick come to visit for Christmas. Our visit was fairly quick but meaningful and enjoyable. While the remainder of  the Natural State remains a mystery to us we can say we've been to Little Rock and Hot Springs and we could have bought the t-shirts had we needed t-shirts.
     The spiritual journey God opens before us in His Word includes places we've been many times as well as whole new regions we may never enter in this lifetime. While I'm 28 years familiar with the path of a minister's wife in the U.S. who must learn to let go and take hold again, I can only guess at the experiences of a single missionary in another culture. So far, my travel log includes testimonies of  learning to keep God first in a convenient life while other believers around the world learn to honor Him on paths of persecution. My goal isn't to feel guilty about what I've not been called to learn or to bemoan what I'm missing of the world. My goal is to continually invite God to fill me so "the scales" fall from my eyes to fully experience and learn in the places He leads me in my own journey. As we arrive and move on from these dots on our maps, they become meaningful places in our minds, hearts and spirits if we're packing gratitude, peace and praise in our hearts for where He leads us and what He teaches us.

Father, it's easy to feel swallowed up and lost in the world. Don't let Satan discourage us about all the places we've not been,  the opportunities we've missed, or what we've not done for You. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and plant Your Peace in our hearts as we follow You, our Guiding-God, on the path You've marked for us personally. If we try to step onto someone else's more glamorous path we'll miss the gems, the people, the opportunities You put on our paths for us specifically. Bless every cup of cold water we offer our fellow travelers and those who are lost. Remind us that we're part of the same Body, on the same team,  and as we each carry out our own callings this Body grows stronger. Take the scales from our eyes and show us Yourself, seated on the throne of heaven and surrounded by praise. We praise You for Your loving faithful reign over us. Help us submit to Your plan and all the places You lead us as we walk with You. 

In the name of Jesus who walked with You on beaches, up mountains, into valleys, up a hill, and out of a tomb! 

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15

"Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized," Acts 9:18  (This happened immediately when Ananias placed his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord -- Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here -- has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 

"And again they shouted: 'Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.' The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: 'Amen, Hallelujah!' Then a voice came from the throne saying: 'Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, both small and great!' Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder shouting:  'Hallelujah! For our God Almighty reigns.'" Revelation 19:3-6

"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." Psalm 100:4-5

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010 - This Little Light of Mind

     When our children were little we noticed that "sleep begat sleep," meaning once they slept through the night a few times the habit stuck and they seemed to want more sleep. Good times: Happy babies, rested mama. Sometimes illness or a trip broke the cycle and for a while, waking begat waking, or fear begat fear. This same principle can snowball daily habits into out-of-control lifestyles. The more I eat, the more I want to eat. Messy leads to messier. Procrastinating leads to never getting around to it at all. On the positive side, the more I invest my time and energy into a pet project, the more I have to put into it. The more I write, the more I enjoy writing. The more I seek God, the more I want to know God.
     God's Word commands and encourages us to let the habit of gratitude snowball into a lifestyle of gratitude which is our best defense in the world's avalanche of darkness. God knows one word of thanks ignites our hearts to greater gratitude and a joy that can melt hard feelings and cut down self-pity. Trusting God enough to thank Him even in our dark places defeats negative thinking that keeps us in the dark. Sincerely thanking Him enlightens our hearts to recognize His blessings and to experience His Presence. When we acknowledge Who's with us and that He has ordered the day ahead, we'll more readily "rejoice and be glad in it" knowing one joyful step in His Love lights the way for the next step and for those watching us.   

Lord God of heaven and earth, I don't know how You can rule the universe and care about what's best for me at the same time but You do and I thank You. Thank You for the tailor-made plans You've made for our good. Thank You for showing us how to live above our circumstances. My heart is filled with joy at Your Love and I praise You for time to reflect on Your goodness to us and to those close to us. Guard our hearts and minds from sinking into worldly, worrisome ruts. May we be like the little tree in the gazebo - shining through the night and offering a little warmth for those who notice. May one grateful thought, one praise, lead to another - not just on Thanksgiving but today, Black Friday, and each day forward. 

In the name of Jesus whose love shown from a cross in a midnight sky one Friday to change the world! 

"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

"I will sacrifice a thank offering to You and call on the name of the LORD." Psalm 116:17

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010 - From Grouchy to Grateful

    Our cats learned to turn on the radio alarm when they want to wake me. It was amazing and cute for a while but soon became murderously annoying. They've not used the radio since we've moved to Benton but find other devious ways to rouse me from REM sleep. This morning at 3:45 a.m. Zorra woke me from a deep sleep by charging things (Not by using our VISA to buy cat toys from the comfort of home but by running headlong into things to knock them down). Now I'm in no mood to write the Thanksgiving blog I had envisioned writing accompanied by candlelight and soft background music to match my inner peace. Instead, I'm grouchy and grouchy doesn't mix with gratitude.
     So, I'll apply what Jesus is calling me to do through my "Jesus Calling" devotional and "give thanks in all circumstances," so "the God of hope" will fill me with joy and peace as I trust in Him.  
     *Thank You, Lord, that I've not killed a cat or even maimed one, which means I've learned some self-control. I'm not bragging . . . I'm just saying . . .
     *Thank You that I'm up and writing now because we don't have as much time this morning with the church's Thanksgiving breakfast at 7:00 a.m.
     *Thank You that I don't have to cook breakfast but still get to enjoy eating with Tom, Nick and friends in our church family. 
     *Thank You for the invitations we received to spend Thanksgiving with other families. People can be so thoughtful and giving. 
     (I'm lighting a candle.)
     *Thank You Father, that Cruz's salvation means my side of the family is complete in You. Thank You for how You speak to us through children and use them to grow our faith. 
     *Thank You for salvation, for abundant life, for eternal life, for giving our lives on earth a purpose and a plan. 
     *Thank You for Tom - gifted, talented, sweet-spirited and modest Tom. You brought us together and You've blessed us together.
     *Thank You for Julie and Nick and their ministry together. You brought them together and now You bless others through them and are giving them a little one to love and teach them - and us - a world of new ways to love.  
     (I hear music!)
     *Thank You for Nicholas Robert Noland (Nick-a-Bob)who came along to keep us young and laughing and to do who knows what else to shine Your Light in this dark world. Oh, that boy amazes me!
     *Thank You for our parents and our brothers and sisters and their families. Each one enriches our lives even if we don't get to see them much.
     *Thank You for how You brought us to Benton. Thank You that we've never questioned whether or not we heard You correctly. We're overwhelmed with love here and pray You'll use us in this church that has made us feel such a part of them so quickly.
     *Thank You for Facebook, email and cell phones to keep us in touch with friends from other towns and churches. Our cup overflows with the friends You've given us, each unique and precious and much-needed. 
     *Thank You for our new home that felt like home from the first. Thank You for the gazebo (adorable with the little lighted tree and rocking chairs), the gate, the birdhouses and the bridge that add charm to each day. Thank You for the fence to give our pets some freedom in safety. 
     *Thank You for Little Mac, always glad to see us, always ready to go with us, smart as a whip and as loving as any dog could be.
     *That brings us back to the cats. Lord, thank You for Sonny and Zorra. Thank You for using them to get me up to spend time with You and write when I might miss the opportunity otherwise, especially on busy, full days that start early. 

In the name of Jesus, our greatest reason to live in gratitude, joy and peace!

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:8

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 Bittersweet Blessings

     As thrilled as we are with our new hometown and new church family I knew the holidays could feel bittersweet because of the distance from both of our families. If I wanted to let this gray foggy morning get me down I could focus on the fact that I won't get to spend time with Mama in the kitchen or enjoy her homemade biscuits with turkey hash or, my personal favorite, tomato gravy. We won't be sending Daddy to Kroger three times a day to get more of what we need. If I wanted to let guilt reign I could focus on the fact that Mom and Dad Noland will eat Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant this year as all of their kids celebrate with the in-laws or have the same distance challenge we do.
     You see how dismal my spirits could get if I chose to focus on the "bitter" half of bittersweet.  However, I'm going to "take the sting out of adversity" as Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling" entry for today says. I'm going to focus on the the "sweet:" Our four parents are sitting at  tables this year instead of any one of them lying in hospital beds. This is a cause for thanksgiving since we've come close to losing each one of them over the last several years. In light of this fact, I'm thankful to hear their voices on the other end of the telephone this season. We're thankful they have each other and enjoy each other's company. We're grateful they're examples of faithfulness to each other and to God. We praise God they taught us by example to follow Him first and that they support us in what He calls us to do wherever He calls us to be - even when that distance keeps us apart for the holidays.

Thank You, God of good gifts, for blessing us with parents who minister to us and to others. Thank You for the rich Christian heritage they're passing along to us, our children and our future grandchildren. Fill their minds with an unending list of blessings to count on these days of Thanksgiving. Surround them with Your Joy and Peace and thank You for the family traditions they've ingrained deeply in our hearts and on our taste buds! 

In the name of Jesus who brings us all to the same table as brothers and sisters in Christ!

"always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever." Psalm 118:1

"Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, O LORD." Psalm 89:15

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - Treasure Hunt

    The heavy night rain must be washing fall off the trees to the ground. People who live here say the autumn colors aren't as vivid as in the past but for people like us, accustomed to seeing one or two trees change colors, it's a spectacular season. One of my favorite fall views here in Benton has been a picturesque wooden church set among colorful trees that looks as if it came right off a Thomas Kincaid canvas, especially on two or three foggy mornings we've had since moving here. I wish the little church was on a less busy street so I could take it in at leisure with a cup of coffee. It's an especially comforting sight at night when the lights glow softly and create a homey, intimate  scene. The large cross standing by the red door reminds passers-by Who to thank for opening to us the intimacy and comfort of our Father's Presence and future heavenly home. I anticipate seeing this church with its Christmas wreaths and later framed in the baby green of spring.  
     Our neighbors may have grown accustomed to treasures like this tucked in their community but they're newly dear to me, like the train whistles in the night, the lighted trees downtown, the wooded hills, sloping fields and river bridges. God plants equally important spiritual treasures along our day's path as well, if we take the time to notice them. Today He's already spoken to me through the spoken and written words of several friends. He's loved me through the affection Tom and Nick both showed me before they left to begin their work for the day. He prompted me at the store and waved to me with the trees. I sometimes miss out on these treasures because I'm busy moving on to the next project. Today, I'm looking for the X's on my map that may be in my own kitchen or looking out my window or wrapped in the unlikeliest people or places.  

Father, thank You for the way You make Your Presence known to us in peaceful, pastoral scenes or in the crowds of people we may find ourselves. Thank You for being a God who plans good things for Your children no matter where we find ourselves. Help us notice and appreciate every treasure great and small. Fill us with the Spirit of Thanksgiving for the simplest gifts and show us how to give simply and authentically. Thank You for being the good, great God You are. 

In the name of Jesus, our treasure wrapped in swaddling clothes, burial shroud and the robes of the King of Heaven!

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor 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." Romans 8:38-39

"You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grains and new wine abound.  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:7-8

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010 - Less is More

     Have we learned to love God with our gratitude? We sang the chorus "Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart, Give thanks to the Holy One" as part of our community Thanksgiving service and raised money to feed our hungry neighbors. It felt good, but I wonder how much gratitude fills our hearts for the meals and snacks on our own tables each day?
     I developed gestational diabetes during my pregnancy with Julie. It was my fault. I was skinny (5' 9" and 112 lbs.) and under the impression that "eating for two" meant I could eat for two sumo wrestlers. At one point, I was drinking a gallon of whole milk along with a box of Little Debbies each day. I paid dearly for this gluttony as I was sentenced to a meager 1200-calorie diet which excluded fried foods, sweets, and even artificial sweeteners. Throw in the emotional havoc diabetes can cause and you have an unhappy pregnant gal crying in the candy aisle at Piggly Wiggly because I could look but I couldn't touch. People stepped lightly past me and no one bought candy that day.  
     However, as in all things, God used this experience to teach me true gratitude for what I could and did have. Meals became a slow-down time when I relished my food in new ways. First, I had to plan meals with care and search for different ways to prepare what I was allowed to have. Next, because I had carefully planned, the plates had to reveal the importance of what they held. I arranged my evening snack of half a banana, a cup of skim milk and four graham crackers on a real plate at the table with a napkin handy. Eating was no longer about getting the food from the plate into my mouth but about getting the most out of each meal by absorbing aromas, colors and textures. I looked forward to meals and made each bite last as long as possible. While it may sound like I became more obsessed than ever with food, I found a new contentment and gratitude for it. Scarfing down whatever I wanted whenever I wanted didn't satisfy or I wouldn't have "needed" as much food. But when I slowed down and made each meal a mini-celebration, a Thanksgiving, the food satisfied because the experience satisfied. I've never enjoyed food more than when I had fewer choices and less of each choice.
     Maybe my experience explains why Thanksgiving food tastes better than most meals we have throughout the rest of the year. We take time to turn a meal into an experience. We're conscious of colors, aromas, arrangement and we anticipate what's coming. We savor the moments instead of eating out of habit. We stop and think to be thankful to the God we may take for granted 364 days out of the year. I plan to savor everything on the table this Thanksgiving but I also want to remember that less is more when it's eaten with gratitude to the God who gave it. 
     Father forgive us when we forget to love You with our gratitude. We're spoiled with sweets and treats and don't appreciate what we have. It's no wonder You allow times when the "fig tree does not bud." Teach us to be grateful for what You put before us.  Help us share what we have so Thanksgiving is an experience and not about stuffing ourselves. Guide us to have the same goal with spiritual food: we're satiated to the point of "needing" more variety and different experiences to excite and revive us while others are starving for the milk of the Gospel. Teach us to show You our gratitude by loving and giving to others. 

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my 
Savior." Habakkuk 3:17-18

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea," Psalm 46:1

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010 - Turning Keys, Opening Doors

     Until a few years ago, Nick saw everything and everyone as either right or wrong. He couldn't for the life of him understand how someone could do anything they knew was wrong. He would shake his head in complete dismay when he and Tom watched criminal after criminal carted off to jail on the television show C.O.P.S. "But why did they do it when they know it's wrong?"
     Sweet, simple faith. We adults could use a dose of simplicity when it comes to experiencing God in our lives. As children we were taught to thank God for everything (and we did!) and to sing praise songs with gusto, like "Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord!" Somewhere along the way we turned our time with God into venting sessions filled with lists of "Here's what I need to make it through today."  These approaches to God can backfire and lock out the flow of His peace and Presence since our focus is on ourselves instead of on glorifying Him. We'll never wrap our minds around the mystery of how God works in us but we have the keys to opening the way for Him at our fingertips, the keys of gratitude and praise. The abundant life Jesus promised flows from a spirit of gratitude and praise. 
     When we can't feel His Presence we can turn the key of "praise" for all the times we've felt His Presence or have known He was with us. Dusting off our mental scrapbooks and praising Him for His Presence with us in specific moments of the past opens the door and invites Him to work in us today. When we're churned up inside with the most recent, most urgent mind-wracking anxieties and problems, we can  turn the key of "gratitude" by thanking Him for the Peace He's handing us, even when we don't see it and can't imagine being at peace.  

Father, help us keep the doors open between us. Yes, You live in our temples but You don't force Yourself into every room uninvited. Help us swing open every door to You with our thanksgiving and praise. May we offer them when we don't feel thankful as well as when we do. Help us remember to make praise our primary prayer goal. Step over every thresh hold and make Yourself at home. You are welcome, Lord Jesus, enter and bring with You all that Your Presence means. Praise the Lord, oh my soul and all that is in me, Praise the Lord!

"He is here, Hallelujah! He is here, Amen!
He is here, I will praise His name again!"

"While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'" Luke 24:36

" . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise -- the fruit of lips that confess His name." Hebrews 13:15

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010 Lost in His Love

     How do you handle dead-on, head-on, full-force expressions of love? Most of us react with discomfort to simple compliments and gifts, much less to accepting the spotlight of God's unconditional life-changing Love.  We become moving targets due to feelings of unworthiness or because we don't want to "owe" God anything. Too bad for us because we are unworthy and we already owe Him everything since He sacrificed His Son so we could enjoy abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. We can either live out our abundant lives  in the depths of His inescapable Love or negate them by denying His Love, refusing to let His Love change us, or wasting our time working to deserve His Love. None of our feeble responses please Him but neither do they change the fact that He overwhelmingly loves us.
     Parents ask their children, "Are you strong enough to walk away from a fight?" Men ask themselves, "Am I secure enough in my manhood to wear a pink shirt or carry my wife's purse or let my little girl put rollers in my hair?" Women ask themselves, "Can I step back and let my children make and pay for their own mistakes?" Similarly, we must ask ourselves, "Am I strong enough to stop trying to earn God's Love and just receive it?"  Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19 was for believers to have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Personally, I believe it takes power to accept God's Love because we have to shove our pride out of the way first. We have to let go of our good works to accept His grace and admit our need to accept His Love. It takes God-given power to say, "My life is not about avoiding what makes me feel uncomfortable or self-conscious. My life is about accepting Your Love, loving You in return, and freeing You to love others through me as You free me to accept Your Love from them." I'm ready to plug into the Power and let His Love flow.  
     Dear Father, we get terribly caught up in our comfort zones, to the point that we miss out on the lives You intended us to live. Forgive us when we let our self-consciousness or feelings of unworthiness keep us from loving others. Forgive us when our ideas of what Your Love should look like get in the way of Your Love. Empower us to let You love us fully, as You desire. Thank You for Your mysterious and unfathomable Love. I long to be filled with Your Spirit and lost in Your love.* 

In the name of Jesus, our Power Source for abundant living!

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep  is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you maybe filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

"Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge." Psalm 62:8

*idea borrowed from the hymn, Blessed Assurance "filled with His Spirit, lost in His love." 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010 - Punched in the Faith

     A young couple in our church is waiting to deliver a baby they know may not survive delivery. A friend who survived brain tumors and cancer in other areas of his body is a walking testimony to the healing of God but he just lost his wife after her comparatively brief struggle with the same disease. Another friend lost her father and a young woman I know has had her second emotionally draining miscarriage. An elderly friend who's ready to go to heaven doesn't understand why the Lord doesn't take her home to be with Him. A newly wed young man lies in bed trying to regain feeling and use of his legs. Any one of these hard-hitting hurts make me feel like I've been punched in the faith.
   The question "why?" bangs on my brain but usually leaves unanswered. We can't help speculating, and we may even hit on some plausible answers but really, we're shooting in the dark when we try to give specific answers to the big picture question of why God allows these things to happen. In the face of such hard-hitting, breath-stealing hurts, we can keep coming up empty by asking "Why?" or we can anchor ourselves into Who will love us through the pits and up the cliffs and show us His goodness on these dark, less traveled paths. As the refrain in the song  "What if God Says No?" by The Akins says, "It doesn't mean He loves us less" when He allows life's pain to touch us. His love is unfailing and purposeful, even when we feel like we've been punched in the faith and don't know why.  
Father, I accept that You are Love so anchor my heart in that Truth so my faith doesn't falter or break when the wind turns and starts tearing the shingles off my insulated life. Help us store all our "whys" away for the day we can sit and talk with You and let You draw diagrams in the sky of how the painful parts of our life were used for good in the lives of others as well as in our own lives. For now, Lord, teach us to "take heart and wait" for You. In Your strength, You will lead us and we praise You that we don't have to depend on our own strength in times of unspeakable grief. 
     In the name of Jesus Who "disappointed" Mary and Martha by not showing up when their brother was sick and then showed them Your goodness in a new form!
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:13-14
"In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling." Exodus 15:13
*To hear the song "What if God Says No?" go to this link and click on the song under Music Player (bottom left of page): http://www.facebook.com/theakins

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010 - Go to Your Happy Place

       When Julie was three or four, she talked me into playing house with her once.
 She dubbed me "the mommy" and herself "the little girl." As soon as we started playing, "the little girl" made a dramatic character change and became "the bad little girl."  "The mommy" corrected the "little bad little girl" but "the bad little girl" always found another way to be "bad." After three times of dealing with "the bad little girl," "the mommy" quit. Julie said, "But Mama, I'm not really bad, I was just pretending to be bad." Yeah, well, her Fantasy Island was my NIghtmare on Elm Street. Real life with my sweet child was better than the pretend world in which she wanted to see what it felt like to be "bad."  
      People can be creative when they want to escape reality. The phrase "go to your happy place" refers to the idea of avoiding unpleasant or painful situations by mentally retreating into a self-created world filled with what makes us feel most happy and peaceful. 
     Does your "happy place" include other people or time alone? If you picture people there with you, are they talking or quiet? Do you visualize yourself doing something you enjoy or doing nothing, with nothing expected? Whether in the mountains or at the beach, our happy places are like rainbow covered soap bubbles floating by to take our minds off the stress and pain of the moment and people who chase rainbows and bubbles discover only disappointment.
     God's Word gives us something better than a jedi mind trick, temporary escape or happy place. He promises us His Peace to carry us through our realities. He offers us the outlet and release of prayer. He is a Guard, an Insulator of our hearts and minds Who captures and deals with our self-destructive habits of people-pleasing and wringing our hands. He nourishes us with Living Water and the Bread of Life so we can offer others something real in place of platitudes and leftovers. Sure, we all need the occasional change of pace, some new scenery, revival, and refreshment but if we're constantly trying to escape, we haven't let God into our reality.

Prince of Peace, our Resting Place, Guardian of our minds and hearts, help us release our reality into Your Hands. Flow through us, Living Water, and wash away the coping habits we've acquired that only postpone or deny our need to depend on You. Take away our props, crutches, and pacifiers so we learn to depend on You alone. Put Your song in our hearts and make Your reality our reality. Teach us to access the transcendent Peace You've promised us. Remind us to keep the prayer line open all day as we present our requests to You. We're grateful You've provided Truth that's better than anything we can conjure or create. 

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

"Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of Living Water will flow from within him." John 7:38

"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:18-20

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 Open But Unbroken

    Rumor has it we have some quilting maniacs amongst us in Benton. I'm a little in awe of people who can control a needle without personal injury, much less design such intricate and artistic work. I would love to see their work (obvious hint) because to me a quilt best symbolizes warmth, home, practicality and memories. Memory quilts are a personal favorite since each bit of fabric evokes vivid responses to an experience or era as the mind flips through its Kodak moments and as fingers remember.
     To acquaint myself with our new church family, I'm floating from circle to circle in its unfinished quilt of fellowship. Most recently, I've sung with the Morning Glories and swapped stories with soul-sisters. This Sunday Tom and I look forward to getting to know the Crossover Cafe bunch over a cup of coffee. Each circle of sweet faces we've enjoyed has blessed our faith with testimonies of how God has brought and continues to bring them together for His purpose and glory. 
     The Lord, the Quilter, constantly designs colorful, new, warm and embracing circles among His children. He stitches us together by first infusing us with His perfect blend of colors. He cuts us down to the right size, reminding us that the church isn't a blanket with one pattern but a quilt of many patterns. He draws us together with His tender Voice, grouping and re-grouping us, linking us together to minister to each other as we warmly embrace people who have no circle, no sense of belonging, no sweet fellowship.  
     I'm discovering a million ministries and an endless number of circles I want to stitch myself into because my heart doesn't want to miss a thing or one precious soul. However, my body refuses to be in more than one place at a time, despite my polite requests or when I've tried to defy space and time. So, as I flit from circle to circle I'm listening for God's Voice over my own desire to "do it all." I'm trying to be content as a "simple sheep" (Sarah Young's phrase) who lets Him draw me into the places He wants to use me. Until then, I plan to keep flitting as I enjoy His handiwork in detail.  

Lord, You're a Master Designer with endlessly creative ways to call us together and use us. When we're obedient to Your Voice You use us even when we don't realize You're doing it. When You place us in new circles, each of us brings a unique perspective and together You create a once-in-a-lifetime pattern of experiences and gifts You can use. The fellowship You give us within our comfortable cozy circles provides soul-satisfying rest and nourishment. Use us, Lord, in practical ways to cover those around us in Your Loving care. We're Your Hands and Feet so keep us free and available and keep every circle in Your church open but unbroken: open to new people but unbroken in the fellowship of Your Love. Help us hear Your Voice above all others and, like simple sheep, may we follow You wherever You lead.

In the name of Jesus, Who began stitching the church together with twelve imperfect but colorful pieces of rough and sometimes fishy-smelling fabric!

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying 'This is the way; walk in it.'" Isaiah 30:21

"My sheep listen to My Voice; I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:27

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:1-3

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - TMI

     When Tom and I first knew God was calling us to relocate from Alabama to Arkansas, we looked for ways to help Nick give Arkansas a chance. We learned during our first trip to "the Natural State" that 14-year-olds can get learner's permits to drive -- on real streets -- to real places. And, to prove that people over a certain age shouldn't have children, we told Nick the news on our return to Alabama. His attitude toward Arkansas changed immediately and drastically. It's funny how the brain-fog cleared the second we saw his over-enthusiastic response to his future. We immediately started back-peddling hard and fast. As the song says, "I can see clearly now the rain is gone." Now we're searching for  exception clauses to this unnatural idea of children behind the wheels of anything other than go-karts. 
     We forgot what we learned in seminary counseling classes: avoid making important decisions when in a state of anger, frustration, discouragement, depression or, in our case, desperation. A life change clouded our judgement and we took a human route to "make it all better" for our child. It's a shortcut we regret and hope Nick will forget. 
      God our Father and Wise Counselor never takes shortcuts or makes short-term decisions. Circumstances and emotions don't affect His goal of leading us to fulfill our eternal destinies. Sarah Young says in today's "Jesus Calling" entry that God places a "protective fog" over the future to teach us to focus on the One walking with us. We don't have to strain to see God through the rain or wait until the clouds clear. He's not dimmed by fog or smog. No shining view can eclipse Him and no mountain can hide Him. He's here with us as He promised: beside, before, behind, in our hearts, in our minds, our Firm Foundation underneath, and our Banner of Love overhead. We weren't designed to handle too much information. God created us to know and love Him, trusting Him to reveal the right amount of information at the right time. With God holding my right hand now and the promise that one day I'll see him face to Face, "the future's so bright, I've gotta wear shades."

Abba, open my eyes to Your constant Presence and wake my spiritual hands to feel Your firm grasp. Noisy circumstances and sloppy weather can't tear You from my side or hinder Your work in me. Lord, You're my all-weather Guide. You've prepared a destiny for me that excites me and fills me with wonder. Keep me from taking shortcuts like Sarah and Abraham with Hagaar or Rachel and Jacob with Isaac. Your timing is best. Keep me contentedly busy getting fully acquainted with You as we walk together. I don't want to miss a thing but I only want to know what You want me to know.

In the name of Jesus who, knowing all things, lived in step with You, Father-God

"Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny." Psalm 73:23-24 NLT

"Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory." Psalm 73:23-24 NIV

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"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. all that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely." 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010 - The Trouble with Trouble

     The trouble with trouble is that a little dab can disable us when we have the wrong perspective and modus operandi. Remember the comedy routine featuring a man who accidentally sticks his hand in a bucket of glue? The harder he tries to get his hand unstuck, the more of his body and whatever he uses to pry himself loose becomes stuck. Even as a child I realized the glue dilemma could have been averted with a little common sense. 
     Let's relabel the bucket "problem" or "glitch" or "change of plan" instead of "glue." Don't we fixers do the same thing when we apply all of our focus, energy, and resources on getting rid of the problem? The bucket becomes our lives instead of a small part of our lives. Before long all our systems jam up, we're exhausted and our "I give up" positions aren't as comical as the glue skit guy's were. Finally we ask God to bring out His special formula of Goo-be-gone and free us from our own fixing. 
     I'm still wearing the sticky from past problems I've whacked with my usual two-by-four or jumped into with both feet, so I'm trying to use my common sense and stand back to let God handle each bucket first. My prayer is to become aware of Him every moment of the day so my first response to new problems is to simply stand still and casually ask, "Lord, what's Your plan here?" My next goal requires even more self-restraint: I want to go with the plan God reveals, asking no questions, making no suggestions, and refusing to tweak it in the least. Every time I've forced myself to stop and let Him touch the problems I faced, He's dissolved the stickiest of situations and untangled the most troublesome troubles. I guess that means the trouble with trouble is me. 

Lord Jesus, You promised we'll have trouble as long as we're in this world. So be it - You said it - I believe it. But please, help us stop making bigger, stickier trouble from what could have been a momentary problem. You call us to walk in the Light of Your Presence because that's where we find Your perspective and Peace. You've already overcome this world and all its bottomless buckets of troubles and worries. Help us live as if the problems we face can't affect us because You've conquered them and they're subject to Your reign. Forgive us when we get it backwards and let the problems reign instead of You, Almighty God. We sing praises to Your name for kicking the biggest buckets of them all: Satan, sin and death!

In the name of Jesus, Conquerer and King, Lord of Light and Love!

"Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, LORD." Psalm 89:15

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. but take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010 - Masterpiece in Progress

   Tom and I have learned a lot about helping our children progress musically as they've taken lessons. For Julie, our parent-oriented child,  the whole "go practice piano for 30 minutes" approach proved to be a long time to go it alone without interaction. She knew what she was supposed to do but would rather hear it again from a living, breathing human than sit in the room alone with just a piano. Nick wants an audience to hear what he's learning by ear. He can easily fill 20-30 minutes with bits and pieces of songs he's heard and likes. What he needs  to practice is reading new music. Both had to learn that "faster" and "louder" are rarely better. Both thought they practiced longer than they did to be better than they were in less time than possible. Julie was a star piano student and Nick is progressing lightning fast on the saxophone and the guitar, but we needed a daily practice plan that wouldn't kill their love of music while helping them accomplish their teachers' goals for them. Tom creatively suggested to Julie: "Forget the clock. You can stop practicing when you can play this section of this song and that section of that song. When you think you've got it, we'll come hear you and see what we think."  For Nick, it's been "Play what you want to play by ear for as long as you want to and we'll listen, but we're going to put some new music in front of you each day to help you practice sight reading new music." All of these are wise, tailor-made, bite-sized goals accompanied by the promise of our presence, help and evaluation. 
     As parents we often sign our children up for activities without realizing how active we'll need to be to help them succeed. God never makes that mistake. God the Father doesn't have a clock or timer when it comes to guiding us through the spiritual lessons He's teaching us.  He doesn't drop us off or sit wait in the car while we learn. He's incredibly patient in teaching us the next part of our song. He inspires us to fulfill His gift of creativity but He also helps us focus on the discipline of learning difficult passes. He hears our efforts to please Him and hears the squeaks, the missed notes, the rushing, the endless space between the last note and the one we're trying to find as a masterpiece in progress. He doesn't shame us over our errors but fills us with joy in His Presence. I can forget how it sounds to other people when I'm keeping perfect time with Him because my "Different Drummer" is also my Audience of One.

Father, You've composed a beautiful song for me to live out for You alone. Living Your music is what brings You glory and spreads Your glory for others to respond. Thank You for letting us be co-dependent on You as we learn how to use the gifts and talents You've given us. May we use them today to bless You, our Audience of One!
In the name of Jesus, Whisperer of the Melody playing in our hearts!

"There's within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,
'Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still'
In all of life's ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus - 
Sweetest name I know.
Fills my every longing
Keeps me singing as I go!"

"Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." Psalm 34:5

"God made Him who had not sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:25

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010 - Unsung heroes

Unsung spiritual heroes abound in the world: 
     Bible study leaders who prepare week in and week out;  
     parents who live the walk before their children;
     prayer warriors who kneel privately to conform their hearts' desires to God's will; 
     missionaries in remote areas who must adjust to a new world of foods, customs and culture and who must do without what we call "basic; 
     spouses who keep living the faith in the quiet hope that God will take hold of their marriage;
     young couples who want children but who are learning to trust God more with every setback;
     youth who are determined to live out genuine faith in the hostile halls of high school.
     widows and widowers who get up each day to live out a faith they built alongside someone else; 
    wage-earners who can't make the figures work on paper but who give anyway, realizing there's more to this life than this life;
     ministers who wonder whether or not they're where God wants them but who keep ministering until He re-directs them;
     These beautiful people are the salt of the earth bringing the light of hope to a world quick to drop what becomes difficult and move on to more immediate gratification. I have one more example of an unsung hero who's shining the light of God's hope as she faces the unknown with a simple, beautiful, overflowing faith. Tina Johnston now lies in a hospital room in Little Rock for the third week in a row and must stay at least another week. Her complicated medical history has led to one more complicated surgery which led to further complications. After infection set in, doctors deemed it necessary to leave her surgical wound, approximately a foot or more in length, open to heal from the inside out. Just being in the room while the nurse removed tape, bandages and gauze to clean out the "chasm" was enough to turn me into a puddle of nerves since I'm a little squeamish about large gaping wounds. I sang "Somebody's Praying" and hoped they were. The fact that Tina could lie there to go through this painful procedure four times a day without slapping anybody who comes near her bed is enough to make her my hero.  

God heals us from the inside out and occasionally dabs on a little of the faith and hope we see in others. Those who have no hope have no healing. Tina mentions the future, when she'll feel like getting in shape and living a higher quality of life, and she speaks of it with assurance from a place in her life when just getting out of bed is a major accomplishment. Those caring for her in the hospital see her hope rise above her circumstances as Tina responds courageously to what they have to do to take care of her. It may be all in a day's work for them, but for Tina, her family, and anyone who sees what she's going through, it's a continuing exercise in faith, hope, joy and peace. 

Father, we all have a Room 101 which contains "the worst thing in the world" for us (from 1984 by George Orwell). For some it's the big issues, the seemingly immoveable mountains but for most of us it's what we face every morning, or four times a day, that takes the shine off our hope. Heal us from the inside out, Great Physician. Heal us of unrighteous attitudes and thoughts that poison our witness and dim our lights. As You expose our souls, God of hope, fill us with all joy and peace. Leave no space unwashed. May we allow You to take Your time with us and keep us from jumping off the examining table. You are loving and gentle; Your goal isn't to make this a painful process but to do what needs to be done to heal us so we don't have to go through it again. We turn everything over to You, God of the complicated, and ask You to use us as part of Your healing process for others. 

In the name of Jesus, Whose nail-scarred Hands brought us peace.

"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27

"I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles," Isaiah 42:6

"Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010 - IKR?

     I have a confession to make: I've only written one or two thank you notes since we started this whole moving process. IKR? (For you readers who don't know, IKR stands for "I know, right?" - the younger generation's standard answer to most statements these days.)  Shame, shame, shame on me! Am I ungrateful? Broken arm? Amnesia? Fresh out of stationery?  Nope, but my cup is buried in blessings and I'm feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of adequately thanking the people God has used to bless us. As a so-called writer, I find it hard to write a "Thank you for the gift. We really appreciate it," kind of note. Also, if I start writing thank-you notes, I'm bound to leave out the people who did the most.  Finally, I've simply lost track of who has given what. Terrible problem, isn't it? To be surrounded by giving people who refuse to stop giving? 
     We've hit an unusual but much needed place in our ministry. I'm trying not to question God about His blessings, which sometimes seem too good to be true. I'm making every effort to relax and enjoy what He's seen fit to give us at this time. It's easier for me to understand why He sends the tough lessons into my life than it is to understand why He allows restful seasons of abundance and blessing. I try to remember that God gave His perfect Son for our sakes, so why would He hold back other good gifts from us? Now, I could start listing my blessings right here and now but, excuse me, I have some thank-you notes to write.

Father, You're a Good Giver and just as we are the recipients of Your Love, we're the recipients of Your good gifts. Help us not to question You when You give because You don't play guessing games when You choose the right gifts for us. You know what will benefit us most and You see that we get it, when we need it most. Thank You for putting godly, loving people in our lives. Thank You for the gift of fellowship and friendship. Thank You for the gift of making us Your family. Thank You for Your "ask, knock, seek" policy on gift-giving. Help us not to hold back when others ask, knock and seek. May Your generosity pour through us to others asking for Your blessings. We're a bit overwhelmed with Your gifts but help us learn to relax and enjoy them as they come, as we live in a state of thanksgiving.
In the name of Jesus, the most perfect and most needed Gift!

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. " Psalm 23:5 

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

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11:9-11

"He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32