Tag Archives: Elizabeth Hoagland

Transform Your Morning and Your Mood in Less Than TEN Minutes…

Friends! March madness won’t drive us mad IF we try the below suggestion each morning…

GOOD NEWS for you readers out there: You do NOT have to be a morning person to start your day off well!!!

Coming from a confirmed grouch in the morning, in dire need of a pot of coffee prior to producing any semblance of intelligent conversation, I’m happy to report that listening to music in the morning brings blessings a plenty:

music and technology concept - smiling young woman with closed e

Blessing #1: Your focus will shift away from you and your distractions, rising up to the Lord.

Blessing #2: Praising the Lord allows you to worship with truths straight out of God’s Word.

Blessing #3: Your spirit will be lifted no matter your circumstance.

I’ll be giving you two worship songs shortly to get you started. If you listen to both of them, you can do this in under ten minutes

Recently we talked briefly about Dee Brestin’s book The God of All Comfort: Finding Your Way into His Arms which she graciously penned after her husband’s death. Songs are what saved her sanity.

The God of All Comfort

The first song I’d like to share with you John and I discovered while attending our middle son’s church, Tates Creek Presbyterian Church (TCPC), in Lexington, Kentucky.(www.tcpa.org )

Upon singing this song with its’ powerful lyrics (which caused me to weep), I made a mental note to investigate it.  I also wrongly assumed, because of TCPC’s more liturgical services and typically older hymns, that this song was also an old one. Au contraire…

Please allow me to show you one of my new favorites,

O Church Arise by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. (Never mind they also wrote a huge favorite of mine and I suspect yours, In Christ Alone. Checkout Travis Cottrell’s rendition if you have time.)

Keith is a British, Northern Irish composer, married to Kristyn, who many times co-write these “modern hymns”. Stuart Townend is a British, English songwriter and worship leader.

GETTYMUSIC-WELCOME-BOX_01

Please sit back and enjoy Oh Church Arise. Soak in the lyrics:

To read these truths from the lyrics, here are just a few Scriptures that spell them out:

Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 8, 12:9; 1 John 1:5; Isaiah 14:2; Psalm 27:1; Philippians 4:13; Romans 5:2; Colossians 2:15; and Hebrews 4:12.

The second song I’d like to show you I suspect you already know, but perhaps hadn’t been able to savor the Scripture around which it’s centered.

I’d heard about Kari Jobe over the past few years and was blessed to be led in worship by her at a Women of Faith Conference in Houston in March of 2014. (Click on “Houston We Have an Answer” from 3/6/14) FYI:

I love her song I Am Not Alone for several reasons…the most important of which is the reminder within the title. As believers in Jesus Christ, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit within us, we are never alone.

Matthew 28:20 is where Jesus tells us, “And lo, I am with you always…” Kari also says while writing the song, they began with Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. 

Please enjoy:

Savor these Scriptures which go along with Kari’s song:

Isaiah 43:1-2; Daniel 3; Psalm 23; Psalm 46; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 7:9-16; Romans 9:2; John 12:35; Exodus 14:14; and 2 Chronicles 20:17. (You can find more if you hunt!)

My prayer for all of us is as we begin our days, may we jump start them with worship and praise as only our Lord deserves. See if your mood doesn’t vastly improve as well.

‘Til next time!

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Music, Scripture

Love Stories and Chocolate Treats (Part 4 of 4) Dare We Write it in Cement?

Friends! Have you ever seen anyone staring at a mailbox?  I get that.  I’ve done that.

Four weeks before our wedding, with invitations in hand, all addressed and stamped, I remember I hesitated at the mailbox.  “This is it!  No turning back now!”…

Seconds, seeming like hours, passed.  Deep breath.

Whoosh…into the mailbox they went.

bigstock-Mailbox-4748677

Almost thirty-four years later, I’m pleased to report, John and I are still happily married and yes, we’ve dared to write many things in cement.  Two of our homes, a former one and our current one, have had charming water-in-the-basement issues. Upon their repair, new cement poured, we trek down the stairs to write something prolific or silly in the cement.

basement 1

basement 2

So why is it, please tell me, so many of us are afraid to make a commitment?  Fear of failure, or pride, perhaps.  “Blame it on today’s culture…” many will say.

Allow me to offer a brief respite.  One  into the blissful world of love.  Young love.  Naive love.   Pagan-turned-Christian love.  So completely-certain-of-love, this couple you’ll meet would one hundred percent  have written their names in cement.

All of the above and more is found in an extraordinary love story, A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.  It won the National Book Award as well as the Gold Medallion Award.  (A dear friend gave me this for Christmas a couple of years ago and I can’t quit talking about it!!!)

9780060688240_p0_v2_s260x420

Along with such bliss, throw in a friendship with none other than infamous author  C.S. Lewis.  You, the reader, will get to read eighteen of Lewis’ letters to Sheldon within the book.

Favorite discovery?  Lewis was quite the crackerjack!  He certainly didn’t fear sharing his brutally honest opinion about anything!  (And for you happy texters out there, Lewis abbreviates a lot, so you’ll have to crack his code.)

How God orchestrates Sheldon’s friendship with Lewis is fascinating.  How God orchestrates Sheldon and Davy’s (her real name was Jean) romance and ultimate marriage is nothing short of breathtaking.

Sheldon’s picturesque writing causes you to ooh and ahh, turning the pages as fast as you can to discover what lies ahead.  I found myself floating along the countryside right with them, almost feeling a breach of privacy in their romance.

Voracious readers, poets, lovers of the sea, and music aficionados, Sheldon and Davy delight the reader with their daily antics.  Their gatherings with friends are festive and intriguing.  Their spiritual path, while comical at times, reinforces how God is so passionate in His pursuit of us.  His painstaking attention to detail never ceases to amaze me.

Our Heavenly Father provides just the right person at just the right time to lead us into His loving arms.  When doubt arises, as it often does,  He brings to mind that special person in whom we may confide.  Watching these scenarios transpire in Sheldon’s life is amazing grace at its’ finest.  Many times Sheldon shares his questions with C.S. Lewis.  Can you imagine having C.S. Lewis as your spiritual mentor?

CS Lewis

Sheldon and C.S. Lewis’ friendship was a gift to both of them, especially in later years.  Believe it or not, both of their wives suffered from terminal illnesses.  They walked these paths together.  Don’t miss their journeys.

C.S. Lewis preceded Sheldon in death.  Sheldon recalls Lewis shouting across the street during their Oxford days, “Christians NEVER say goodbye!  In eternity, there’ll be ‘time enough’!”

Sheldon called C.S. Lewis  “Jack” per Lewis’ pleading.  He added, “And as Jack said, ‘We must talk of a thousand things when you come.’”

Early in their relationship, when Sheldon accepts Christ into his life, he writes to tell Lewis.  Lewis replies, “My prayers are answered!”  Then he issues a warning we’d all be wise to heed:  “There will be a counter attack on you, you know, so don’t be too alarmed when it comes.  The enemy will not see you vanish into God’s company without an effort to reclaim you.  Be busy learning to pray. “

Lewis continues, “Blessings on you and a hundred thousand welcomes.  Make use of me in any way you please; and let us pray for each other always.”  (I’d drop the note like a hot potato if C.S. Lewis offered me his council at any time, wouldn’t you?)

2926x

Prior to Sheldon’s conversion, Lewis closes another letter with, “The Holy Spirit is after you.  I doubt if you’ll get away!” Sheldon confesses to us readers that this time in his life “was getting serious” and he and Davy were a bit frightened.  He says, “Alarm bells sounded, but I couldn’t decide where to run.  The personality of Jesus kept emerging from the Gospels with astonishing consistency.”

You’ll be moved to tears witnessing their faith come alive.  Because of Sheldon’s very open and tender depictions, it feels like another breach of privacy.

Sheldon and Davy embraced Philippians 1:21 and Galatians 2:20:

Philippians-1-21-web-nlt

“For to me, to live is Christ

and to die is gain.”

 Galatians-2-20-web

I’ve been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

(Footnote: for an excellent read on To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain checkout Matt Chandler’s book…)

828360

Without giving away anything else, I’ll end with Sheldon’s closing words about writing this book.  He said he prayed almost hourly, “that Christ would be in me, and speak through me.”  His prayers were answered…(Also don’t miss how the title came to be.)

He was dumbfounded by the overwhelming responses from readers once the book was published.   Scores told him how much the book meant to them, stabbing them in their hearts, making them kindred spirits.  Sheldon said, “Our broader kinship is, I think, we’re all so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the words and perhaps the courage to speak with unlocked hearts, that we do not know that it is the same with others.”  Amen.

“Robert Louis Stevenson said that every book was intimately a letter to friends.”

bigstock-Fountain-pen-on-an-antique-han-54193727

I pray each and every one of you dashes out to find and read this beautiful love story, A Severe Mercy.

Finally, as February winds down, it’s time for our conclusion of our four chocolate treats…This is an easy store-bought delicacy by our good buddies at Godiva. Some angel in disguise gave me these last year and I’ve been buying them ever since. (Bad discovery!)

We had our family over for Valentine’s Day and this was the very fancy dessert I served RIGHT OUT OF THE BAG. (My Mother, who served everything in crystal or silver serving pieces, is rolling over in her grave. God rest her soul.)

Don’t miss these little morsels of Heaven! Your Friends will love you!

‘Til next time!

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

Love and Chocolate Treats for February (Part 2 of 4)When You’re STUNNED about your Valentine’s Day Gift…

Friends! Happy Belated Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day! Please enjoy two wild tales…

FLASHBACK:  Valentine’s Day 1993…

“No babysitter for Valentine’s Day???” I whined, coupled with a proficient pout…

“Now honey…” my way-too-practical hubby began…”You know restaurants jack up their prices on Valentine’s Day, and the boys are too little to take out…”

Translation:  “Why don’t you just cook us up somethin’?

Silent thought while heaving an extra loud sigh for future Oscar potential:  “Oh boy, grocery shopping with three boys is such a trip…literally….”

Determined to create fun and education for our Valentine meal, I hunted down ingredients for everything RED:  cherry cool-aid, red spaghetti sauce, cherry jello,  red sprinkles to go on the ice cream with the not-so-red-but-filled-with-a-boatload-of-chocolate brownies.

Spreading out papers for the boys to color, my scary cooking commenced…

bigstock-Spaghetti-bolognese-25274297

Quickly into our “project”, something was not quite right.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Our oldest son, John Jr., was way too excited about helping with his brothers. They were coloring at lightening speed, wanting more and more “Valentines” to make for Daddy.

Dinner pulled together, Hubster now home and seated,  John Jr. and Gordy seated, Woody in his high-chair, the following proclamation ensued:

“Mommy!  We have a huge surprise for you! Daddy’s gotten a babysitter and everything!”

Visions of an escape to a hotel sans les enfants rolled thru’ my head….

bigstock-King-Sized-Bed-In-A-Hotel-Suit-2929786

Fantasy interrupted, my mischievous husband said, “John Jr., why don’t you tell Mommy about her Valentine’s Day gift?”

“Mommy”, John Jr. continued with wildly excited eyes, “Daddy and I got a babysitter for Woody…

so that the four of us can go to…..

…the Truck and Tractor Pull!!!”…

Taken from www.farmmachineryshow.org Photos by Scott Henson

Taken from http://www.farmmachineryshow.org Photos by Scott Henson

“The what?”  I managed to ask…feigning interest…

“THE TRUCK AND TRACTOR PULL!!!” John Jr.  repeated, now standing, voice at high decibels.

Fabulous hotel fantasy comes to a screeching halt.

Pivotal moment in Mother/Wife Career:

Enter a God moment…”You’d better put on a sense of humor while raising these boys, being a Godly, cheery, loving  wife and mom, or you’ll never make it.” (Guessing The Lord didn’t say “or you’ll never make it”, that’s just my translation.)

3boys

Bidding adieu to my very-sheltered-only-child background, it was time to buck up.  Riding a perpetual roller coaster comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will still praise you, Lord.

That year was a turning point for me.  Ups and downs, yes, but with a sense of humor.  Which segues beautifully into one of the funniest books on marriage I’ve read lately.

Allow me to share snippets of The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life  by Melanie Shankle.

antelope

You’ve probably heard of Melanie.  She’s one in the same who wrote Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn. She reports receiving countless pairs of earrings after the book published.  (There’s an idea!  She said she really wanted her next book to be Louis Vuitton Purse with Matching Wallet!!!  I’m thinkin’ A Caribbean Villa…could be swell.) Check out her way popular blog at www.thebigmamablog.com.

With killer humor, Melanie shares good times and not-so-good ones with her husband, Perry.  Melanie and Perry define opposites attract.  She puts it like this:  “Perry loves the outdoors and I love air-conditioning.”

She says,  “There are days filled with laughter and compromise.  And then there are days filled with silence and anger.  But at the end of it all, you’re two people God has joined to journey through life together

… For  better or for worse.  In hunting season and in health.”

bigstock-Hunter-in-tall-grass-55799945

My  wild-n-adventurous husband, John, used to ride motorcycles.  Shouts of praise he’s not riding anymore.  (At least for today.)  I poked fun at all the “accessories” a bike could have, not to mention the “gear”.  They make that in leather???

But guess what Melanie’s husband’s hobby is?  In addition to hunting, he makes homemade ammunition. You go, Perry.

In addition to humor, Melanie includes the importance of their faith.  She alludes to not following God and making bad choices prior to meeting Perry.

She and Perry met at a Bible study at Texas A &  M.  She said, “There was something about Perry that intrigued me.  He was different from other guys I’d met.  And he had a heart for God I hadn’t seen in many other guys.”

Making a list of husband qualities, Melanie realized, “What you really need is someone you’d want to be in battle next to you, someone who can make you laugh even in the tough times, someone who will encourage you to be the best  you can be…” (Sounds just like our “Balcony People” from a couple of weeks ago.  My friend Trish says her husband looks at her with “husband eyes”.  Same concept.)

Since surgery seems to be in the air at our house (we’ll go there later), I cried from laughing so hard over an incident when Perry had yet another surgery for his back.  After a night in the hospital, Melanie got Perry secured in the car for the drive home.  Spying a Chik-fil-A and craving one of their chicken biscuits, Melanie pulled into the drive-thru’ only to be informed they were no longer serving breakfast.

Seven minutes past the breakfast hour caused her to jump the curb to get out of the drive-thru’ lane.  Never mind Perry was in the passenger seat, barely twenty-four hours post-op from back surgery.  This is only the beginning…

Melanie gets Perry home and situated on the couch, somewhat still sedated.  She reports: “According to Perry, the Clemson Tigers band marched thru’ our living room to dispense his pain medication at some point that afternoon.  Which is weird, because we’re not even Clemson fans, not to mention that South Carolina is a pretty good haul from Texas.  So I took this as an indication that maybe it was time to cut back on the meds just a tad.”

bigstock-Clemson-Marching-Band-In-Gator-4405527

So for a guy who creates his own ammunition, hearing him suggest they try “radiant barrier paint” one day doesn’t seem so far fetched.  When Melanie asked him what he was talking about, he explained:  “It’s paint that makes a surface heat resistant.  They use it on the space shuttle, and I’m thinking about buyin’ some.”

Melanie replies, “Well, of course you are.  I’ve always said that if it’s good enough for the space shuttle, then it’s good enough for us.” 

bigstock-Space-Shuttle-Flying-Over-Eart-2873702

John and I aren’t the only ones having fun with this book!  Guess who else was caught laughing out loud reading this?  Ann Voskamp’s husband!  “The Farmer”, as she often calls him, got side-tracked while paying bills, and read some from The Antelope in the Living Room.  Picture Ann and the Farmer  howling, all the way up in Canada.

Melanie also sprinkles in a few stories about their daughter, Caroline.  She discusses leaving a legacy for Caroline and her future children.  A prayer she prays continually comes from Deuteronomy 30:6—“that the Lord would circumcise our hearts and the hearts of our descendants so that we will love God with all our heart and with all our souls.”

“That’s the legacy that’s worth working thru’ the hard times to leave for our daughter.”   She adds, “In this world that sometimes treats marriage like it’s a disposable commodity we can throw away when it no longer seems to serve our purposes, a world that whispers to us that the grass might be greener on the other side, that’s something worth keeping in mind…”  Oh, someone please shout hallelujah over that one!  May we press on…

Finally, soak in this visual:  In one particular scenario, Perry offered Melanie some inexplicable kind of grace.  She said,    “…even tho’ I thought I understood what grace looked like, I really had no idea how deep and wide the mercy of Christ is.  That he looks at us when we lay ourselves bare before him, with all our ugly truths and realities, and says, ‘And?’”

“In Psalm 103 we are told that God redeems our lives from the pit.  Verses 11-12 proclaim, ‘As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’”

Melanie adds, “I once heard someone say that those words (of Psalm 103) represent the beams of the cross—reaching all the way up to the heavens with his love and stretching out to remove our sins as far as from where the sun rises to where it sets.”  Grasping the picture???  Beautiful!!!

bigstock-single-wooden-cross-43540759

I pray you’re encouraged and enlightened by these glimpses of The Antelope in the Living Room.  There’s twenty-four lovely chapters to keep you that way!!!  And don’t forget this Valentine’s week:  Marriage is fueled by fun and forgiveness.

‘Til next time!

Our chocolate treat this week comes from another Kentucky cookbook called “Splendor in the  Bluegrass” by the Junior League of Louisville.  Its’ Chocolate Chess Bars on p. 245 are not to be missed!

10 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons

Don’t Make Me Come In There… “The Power of a Whisper” by Bill Hybels Makes You Think

Friends! I pray today finds you well and that perhaps you’re getting to experience a beautiful spring day.  It’s been a wild-n-crazy week in the Hoagland Household. (Translation: Not enough hours in the day.)

I found a post on a most helpful and interesting book by Bill Hybels which I wrote about a while ago, worthy of a reprise. Please enjoy.

Next week,  I’ve got a fun, new devotional to share with you. It will lift your spirits every day.

May you have a blessed week and hear from the Holy Spirit thanks to Bill’s great thoughts…


 

Ahhhh…Motherhood…. A time when you finally admit, “Never say never!”

How ‘bout a for instance?

“I’ll never be one of those Mothers who chucks a pop tart in the back seat to my child on the way to school.”  Busted.

 bigstock-Hot-Strawberry-Toaster-Pastry-41906824

“I’ll never plunk my child down in front of a TV and let him/her sit for hours.”  Busted.

 “I”ll never scream and yell like a  possessed person at my child.”  Yeah, right.

To this day, our boys’ favorite seemingly-possessed-style-of-parenting was me shouting “May Day!  May Day!” at the top of my lungs when something really went awry.  As if “the troops” knew I was waving a major white flag?

bigstock-White-Flag-Clipping-Path--2195366

After years of experimentation (!!!), probably the biggest attention grabber in my mothering was lowering my voice, in a do-or-die whisper.  Whispering won out way over yelling.  Greatest fear factor:  Whispering “Don’t Make Me Come In There!”

So what exactly do you do when someone’s whispering to you?  You sit still, ears at attention, and you listen

This week I’d like to share some highlights from an intense book by Bill Hybels:  The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond.  It had me from its’ title…

Not such a gutsy gal, I prayed this book would give me some gargantuan guts. (I s’pose “Guts for God” sounds better…)

Allow me to share the wealth:

329480_w185

Bill begins with informing us he’s been on a fifty-year odyssey of hearing whispers from God.  Bill expounds: “Inaudible whispers at that!…My entire journey comes down to a series of unplanned promptings from heaven that have charted a course for my life even I never could have foreseen.”

Sound crazy?  Perhaps.  But…to encounter Bills’ experiences all over the world  immediately hooks and leads us, the readers, to want to learn to listen expectantly and prayerfully.

After citing Samuel’s story, how he became a prophet of God from listening to God  in I Samuel 3, Bill shares a poem one of his teachers gave him which he memorized in the second grade:

“Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear,

An open ear, O Lord,

Alive and quick to hear

Each whisper of Thy Word;

Like him to answer to Thy call

And to obey Thee first of all.” (A hymn by James Drummond Burns)

Titus 3:5 returned to Bills’ memory when he surrendered his life to Christ:  “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Soon after that, a Christian man offered to buy Bill dinner.  Over burgers, the man asked him a show-stopping question:  “What are you going to do with your life that will last forever?…I’m just curious what you’ll do that will outlive you and all of those earthly accomplishments.”

Oh boy…that’ll make you think, huh?  My husband, John, is always saying upon his death, he just hopes he’s missed.  Not remembered so much for what he did, but because if you are missed, you have touched others’  lives.

obits

We are forever and a day laughing at obituaries that rattle on and on and on filled with clubs and organizations people belonged to as if a resume is needed…for heaven?  I don’t think so.

Bill also reminds us of Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (ESV)

Billy Graham, in his book Day by Day, tells us what the Holy Spirit does for us:  “The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of people, makes us yearn for God, and takes spiritual truth and makes it understandable to us.”

Billy’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, in a recent  Decision Magazine said “Learning to recognize the voice of God is critical, not only for our own peace of mind but also for developing a personal relationship with Him and for living a life pleasing to Him.”  There’s the peace found from Romans 8:6.

FC_Jan14-185x243

Well how exactly do we hear from the Spirit?  Bill gives us five filters to help us test every whisper we receive.  He says, “No matter how confusing, challenging, or unsettling a prompting may be, if it passes the following filters, I obey it every time:

Filter #1:  Is the Prompting Truly from God?

Filter #2:  Is it Scriptural?

Filter #3:  Is it Wise?

Filter #4:  Is It in Tune with Your Own Character?

Filter #5:  What do the People You Most Trust Think About it?”

The best way to learn more about these, in addition to the book, is to watch the below YouTube clip where Bill talks about this whole concept and explains the filters.  It’s only eighteen minutes long.  The testimony included will bring you to tears.

Stormie Omartian, in her book Lead Me Holy Spirit affirms the concept of being rooted in our faith:  “The Holy Spirit is the power of God flowing through you, and that puts you on solid ground, like a house built on rock.”

947794

Last week we talked about how we want to become rooted like redwoods. All of these  authors we’ve heard from today are textbook examples of Colossians 2:6-7:  “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward:  Just go ahead with what you’ve been given.  You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him.  You’re well constructed upon him.  You know your way around the faith.  Now do what you’ve been taught.  School’s out;  quit studying the subject and start living it!  And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” (The Message)  Don’t miss those last two crucial sentences!

Look at how The Voice puts it in verse seven:  “Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundationBe strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.”

May it be with us…

‘Til next time!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Friends

When You’re Suddenly Awakened at 3:40 in the Morning…(The Kneeling Christian by An Unknown Christian, Helps us ALL with prayer.)

Please allow this quote to sink in for  a minute:  “We are never so high as when we are on our knees.”(From The Kneeling Christian)

 

Given the recent occurrences around us in the States and in France, I believe prayer is our only answer.  Two summers ago I was reading three different books (I know, I can’t help myself).  In all three of them, The Kneeling Christian was mentioned.  Taking that as a divine cue, I marched out and bought a copy.

 

I feel it’s important enough to reprise the post I wrote about the book. (This was in August of 2014, before our younger  little lovebirds were married, just in case you get confused. They’re now going on their second anniversaries.)

 

I pray you’re encouraged by the below post to get down on your knees, not only to pray for your family and those closeby, but for all of the victims, their families, and friends of the latest tragedies.

 

Maranatha.

Drifting off to sleep with a smile, four of our six birds were back in the nest. (Gordy, Woody, Lauren and LT were all staying with us.) This Mamma Bird rejoices when the birds return home.

Suddenly, at 3:40 in the morning, our house alarm started blaring….

The Panel Of The Security Alarm System

John said, “See where it was tripped!!!”

Blind as a bat (Oh, just wait ‘til you see where this goes…), I grabbed my glasses and raced to the alarm panel. “It says, ‘office.’ Maybe that’s the office off of Woody’s room and he and Gordy have set it off?” I suggested.

“Nope,” John said, “It’s the downstairs office.”

By this time, I was nearly on John’s heels as were Gordy and Woody. The girls were still in bed. Naturally, Gracie, the best watchdog ever (!!!), was right on my heels, dashing and simultaneously barking down the stairs.

The three of us bravely stood out in the hallway while Hubster marched into the office. No windows broken, nothing seemed amiss…

“Swoosh!” Something brushed by John’s ear.

“IT’S A BAT!!!!” John yelled.

Bat

“How ‘bout the paddle tennis rackets on the porch?” I asked.

“No! We need longer necks….Where are our regular tennis rackets?” (The man thinks on his feet like no other.)

Tennis Racket

“Hmmm, could be a problem as we’ve not played tennis since we moved in this house four years ago.” I sputtered…

By this time, the bat had moved into the family room. This plucky Mom hightailed it back upstairs. Lauren had come out of her room and I screamed, “Get back in your room! There’s a bat on the loose!” to which she and LT screamed in unison and slammed the door. We are some fine kind of fearless women.

Frightened Woman In Bed

Meanwhile, downstairs, we could hear screams coming from the boys. Dying to say, “Y’all sound like a bunch of girls…” I refrained and valiantly slammed our door shut.

Seems the bat had now entered the kitchen and perched up on one of the cabinets. Woody threw something up at it. It swooped down with all three men flailing their racquets. Akin to The Three Stooges, not one macho man could connect with the beleaguered bat.

MBDALGU-EC003

Finally, the bat chased Gordy down the hallway. More high-pitched screams followed with a resounding “YES!” (Funeral services were not held for The Great Winged Intruder.)

Shall we all sing, “Ding dong the bat is dead!” after our snake story? (Please click on Ding Dong the Snake is Dead—Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist for more info…) And I beg forgiveness for any of you animal lovers out there…

So what does a bat have to do with prayer, you may be asking? Well, not a whole lot, obviously…but the pearl to glean is from having family closeby. Or framed photos of your family if they live far away. This reminds us to pray fervently and feverishly for them.

Please allow me to share a couple of highlights from a book that’s been mentioned in the last three books I’ve read (Whenever that happens, I take that to be a divine suggestion): The Kneeling Christian, by Unknown Christian, originally from 1924, offers powerful pearls on prayer. (Research revealed author is Albert Ernest Richardson. He was a British Anglican clergyman and missionary.)

kneeling christian

The preface grabs you from its’ first page: “It’s not too much to say that all real growth in the spiritual life—

All victory over temptation,

All confidence and peace in the presence of difficulties and dangers,

All repose of spirit in times of great disappointment or loss,

All habitual communion with God

Depend upon the practice of secret prayer.”

He continues, “Our yearning desire is to stir up Christians to ‘take hold of’ God as never before.”

Watch this: “We are never so high as when we are on our knees.”

bigstock-Man-In-Prayer-672503

The author doesn’t pretty things up any, either. Reminding us of the devil’s schemes, he pleads, “Fellow Christians, let us awake! The devil’s blinding our eyes…Do we realize there’s nothing the devil dreads so much as prayer?

Satan laughs at our toiling, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” (What an awesome reminder and motivation for us all to pray, pray, pray.)

Some of you may argue, “But I don’t know what to pray for?”

Don’t forget what Paul tells us in Romans 8:26-27: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, … and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (ESV)

Happy family

The author succinctly answers questions about what prayer is,

how God answers prayer,

        if He always answers, and

                 obstacles we must be aware of.

In a powerful Bible study called Praying for Your Prodigal: A Journey Through Luke 15, by Kristen Sauder, Kristen also gives us a beautiful list of what prayer is:

“Prayer is:

           A Gift.

                 A shelter in times of storms.

                       A classroom filled with wise instruction.

                             A banquet hall for our inner nourishment.

                                    A place of comfort.

                                            A place of compassion.

                                                   A place of forgiveness.

                                                            A place of renewed strength.

Prayer changes us internally and externally.” Kristen asks, “Does conversation with the Savior affect your countenance?” Ouch….and yet a blessed challenge.

She concludes:

“Prayer …

     Delivers help and hope.

           Enables us to speak directly to the Father.”

Between Kristen’s excellent information on prayer and the author’s pearls in the Kneeling Christian, we must arise and awaken to our surroundings and to people for whom we can pray.

When family is closeby, or even if they’re far away, let them serve as visual reminders to kneel in prayer and storm Heaven’s gates for your loved ones. (Hopefully snakes and bats don’t fit into that equation.) We must also continue to lift up those affected by the recent tragedies.

Please remember:

It is never too late.

We must never give up.

Businessman Looking At Faith Door

The Kneeling Christian concludes: “To pray with all your heart and strength—that is the last, the greatest achievement of the Christian’s warfare on earth.”

And may I conclude with a favorite Scripture: I Thessalonians 5:17 can be quickly memorized and put to daily use: “Pray continually.”

Lord, please keep prayer in the forefront of our minds.  Amen and Amen.

‘Til next time!

6 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

Part 2 of 4 in the Month of Love: Love for Spouse (With Help from Lauren Chandler)

“Think I should wear my sandals in the snow???” I asked Hubster. It was 4:30 in the morning. We were loading up the car to go to the airport. Snow was pummeling our town, roads and suitcases…

Winter Road

“Sure.” Hubster answered assuredly. “We’ll be in Naples by eleven o’clock this morning. Forecast: Warm and toasty.”

Beautiful tropical beach with palm treesConfidence received, off I trotted, sportin’ my sandals, thru’ the snow, plopping down in the car. Thankful we left early, traversing the unplowed roads to the airport which were scary sketchy.

Arriving safely, we got our bags checked and whizzed thru’ security. Amazingly, all departing flights read “on time”. Starbucks in hand, John and I waited to board our 7:00 o’clock flight.

Knowing several folks on the plane, we enjoyed hearing about their destinations: Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, and we were heading to our beloved Naples as the snow poured forth from the sky. Calgon take me away….

Airplane take off

Fast forward five hours, two Starbucks, deplaning, re-boarding and two de-icings later, 100% of our plane’s passengers missed their connections.

Stress ahead road sign

Safe to say my sandaled feet possessed some frozen toes. Maybe I’ll think twice before I show off in the snow again.

How do you handle a change in your schedule? Some of our fellow passengers were none too happy. Being married almost thirty-two years has helped us in times like these.

Your love for your spouse can make or break adversity. We just made the best of it and were glad to have arrived when we did.

Cancelled or delayed flights aren’t really that big of a deal. Discovering a malignant tumor in your brain is. (More on that frightening discovery for the Chandlers in a minute…)

Allow me to introduce you to a darling young wife and Mom named Lauren Chandler. Just so happens her husband is Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. (www.thevillagechurch.net )

ScreenSnapz058

Before we get to Lauren’s book, you must know John and I discovered Matt’s preaching thanks to Campus Outreach on the University of Kentucky’s campus. (www.colex.org ) It was Campus Outreach who ministered to our two younger boys while they were at UK, inviting them to their New Year’s Conference in Nashville one year and Chattanooga another year, where Matt was one of their speakers.

Matt was all they could talk about. Soon after that, John and I were blessed to hear Matt preach at the Together for the Gospel event in Louisville at the Yum Center. (www.t4g.org) Powerfully-gifted-by-God defines Matt’s preaching.

I learned of Lauren’s book thanks to Ann Voskamp’s blog, www.aholyexperience.com. Ann wrote the forward of Lauren’s book, Steadfast Love.

9781433683787

I quickly nabbed the book, knowing we readers would learn of the trial Lauren and her family endured after discovering the tumor in Matt’s brain. Much to my surprise, while Lauren shares some of their cancer journey, her writing is largely more about her steadfast love for the Lord.

This book would be great for small groups, Bible study groups, etc. as each chapter is akin to a mini-Bible study in and of itself. Lauren not only walks us thru’ Psalm 107, she includes many various Scriptures and stories from the Bible pointing us to character traits to either avoid or emulate. Other storms she’s encountered, besides Matt’s cancer, are also included, offering hope to inspire us all to press on.

You’ll never read the phrase steadfast love the same again. Your love for the Lord will grow as will your trust in Him and His Sovereignty.

When Lauren does address Matt’s brain surgery and treatments, she candidly shares they felt like the church would go on and she would be able to go on, even with their three young children, should God not heal Matt. Her stalwart faith especially at such a young age is inspiring. Her resolve reminds me of my dear friend Gwen Paten and her family’s cancer journey.

A few years ago, several of us were at a Beth Moore conference. Docs had just told Gwen her husband Mike’s cancer had spread throughout his body and he may live another two weeks at the most, but there she was praising the Lord on the front row. Those of us observing this melted into a puddle of tears.

Gwen and Lauren each are examples of Job when he said in Job 1:21 – “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (NIV)

Job 1 21

The Lord did indeed heal Matt, altho’ Lauren says they were told brain tumors are never truly cured. She closes with, “We put our trust not in Matt’s health, but in the Lord of steadfast love.”

If you’d like to hear Lauren tell more of her story, catch her interview on the Eric Metaxas Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) It aired January 28th and you can listen to the podcast of it.) She was a mere seventeen years old when she first met Matt!

Fun fact: Lauren and Matt are about to host a conference on marriage, based on Matt’s book The Mingling of Souls. (www.minglingofsouls.com) Lifeway recently did a story on the 10 Marital Nevers well worth your time.  You’ll get to see how Lauren’s love for Matt and their marriage is a beautiful, Godly example.

9781434706867

Please join me in lifting up the Chandler family in prayer, for their ministry, their church, and their health. What they’re doing to advance the Gospel is far reaching.

“WHOEVER IS WISE, LET HIM ATTEND TO THESE THINGS; LET THEM CONSIDER THE STEADFAST LOVE OF THE LORD.” PSALM 107:42-43

A beautiful quote to close comes from Chapter Nine:

“Who is wise and understanding?  May we be counted among them. May a holy fear of the Lord lead us to lives that are free, open, and generous.  May we anchor our souls in the One whom the Scriptures reveal–in His steadfast love, not in our earthly wisdom–so that we may be immovable in the midst of the storm.”

‘Til next time!

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons, Travel

Four Fabulous Kinds of Love in February Part 1 of 4: Love for God with Help from Stuart, Jill, and Pete Briscoe…

Ahhh, February. The month of love. Any of you guys out there reading this better have “buy chocolate for ____________” on your calendar…

Gift boxes of gourmet chocolates for Valentine's Day

We gals really appreciate it even if we say, “Oh no, please do not buy me any this year.” Just know we do NOT. MEAN. A. WORD. OF. IT. (!!!)

This month we’re going to have some fun with four different kinds of love:

Love for God,

Love for Spouse,

Love for Family, and

Love for Friends.

We’ll be exploring ideas from God’s Word and from excellent authors who can teach us a thing or two or ten.

Just when I thought our beloved Naples, Florida couldn’t get any better, Hubster and I were blessed with an unbelievable opportunity to enjoy it even more. On Sunday, January 24th, we attended Covenant Church of Naples (www.covenantnaples.com).

Pastor Trent Casto delivered a sermon on ‘The Lion of Hell” which caused each of us to walk out of there with both eyes open, hearts beating more rapidly, and much more on the alert for the prowling lion/thief/father of lies who’s looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Translation: Major wake-up call!

In addition to being blessed by an applicable sermon, we noticed in Covenant’s bulletin we could return on Wednesday to have “Breakfast with the Briscoes”. As in Jill, Stuart, and Pete Briscoe! For real???

Tellingthetruth

Guessing many of you have either heard of the Briscoes or have read one of their many, many excellent books. Their books cover every topic you can imagine such as Bible studies, women’s ministries, prayer, marriage, family, aging, renewal, children’s books, etc.

Two of my personal favorites are Time Bandits: Putting First Things First (LifeChange Books) by Stuart

789925

And A Little Pot of Oil: A Life Overflowing (LifeChange Books) by Jill

1390050

Stuart and Jill hail from England, married in 1958, and praises to our Lord landed in the United States, ministering at Elmbrook Church (www.elmrook.org) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for thirty plus years. They’re “retired”, altho’ still travel and speak everywhere while being in their 80’s! They are still goin’ strong. Stuart said when asked when they were going to quit speaking, “As long as we’re able, we’ll go!”

Their youngest son, Pete, pastors Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Dallas (www.benttree.org). He, too, has written several books. He is very articulate, clearly loves the Lord, and is fun to watch interact with his parents.

The three of them have an amazing ministry, in addition to all they do via www.tellingthetruth.org. It offers messages that are broadcast all over the world via six hundred radio stations in eight different countries! Their website is a wonderful resource with invaluable teaching. (Podcasts, etc. are available PLUS they have a FREE APP you can download on your phone!)

Let’s get to the questions Pastor Trent posed to the three Briscoes. Each and every one of us can benefit from these.  Consider your love for God in each of these scenarios:

QUESTION #1 – How do you find joy and purpose in your everyday life?

Stuart said we must keep everything in perspective, especially from our human vantage point. He quoted Theologian Dr. Vernon Grounds who said, “aging means diminishing”. We must embrace slowing down, finding joy in each and every stage.

He told us he loves enjoying different generations. He and Jill are blessed with three children and thirteen grandchildren. Each month, he asks his grandchildren for a few sentences’ worth of an update—for their “beings and doings in the last month”. Then he publishes them in “Pappa’s Monthly Round-Up” so they can keep up with one another. Grandparents, take note!

Stuart told us he used to be a runner. One day he was out jogging and became really tired. He slowed to a walk and suddenly realized what he’d been missing: trees in bloom, green, green grass, blue skies, he heard birds singing, etc. He added, “It’s amazing what you see when you take the time to slow down.”

He quipped that in England there’s a trajectory to your life: you start out playing rugby, then soccer, then you just run, then you walk and play golf, and finally you become a bird watcher. We all laughed at this, and yet while Stuart said he and Jill are now birdwatchers, they still were quite spry moving around on the stage, up and down the steps, etc. He may have been fooling all of us!

Bird Watchers

Pete said one lesson he’s learned was that he does not find joy and purpose in success. He pointed us to Galatians 5:22-23 which lists the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

He said, “Joy is a gift from the Holy Spirit. We must be available to the Spirit and receive joy and purpose from Him.”

Jill said when you can’t praise Him for what He’s allowed, praise Him for what He has done. She cited cancer as an example. She doesn’t believe we should praise Him for the cancer, but praise Him for our caregivers, medicine working, family surrounding us, etc.

Praise Him that we find joy in Jesus, within us. There’s joy in serving Him. Look for the invisible qualities of God that are visible in His Creation. She cited Psalm 16:11 which says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…”

156b20226a0d5518f3598e6ae5544915

QUESTION #2 – Each of you are leaders in different capacities. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?

Stuart replied that “leaders are intended to lead with followers following—a followship if you will.” He offered three suggestions:

A – Lead them where they are, not where you think they should be.

B – Lead in the direction they’re willing to go, not where you’re determined they should go.

C – Move at their speed, not yours.

IF you’re able to accomplish all three of these, two things will happen:

1 –Rapport is built.

2 –Momentum is generated. As a leader, you need momentum because nobody can steer a stationary vehicle!

Stationary bike

Pete said he loves the opening line of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you….” He said, “As a leader, you must remember that!”

Two levels to consider are “is this working?” and “is this not working?”, all the while remembering it’s not about you! Piece of cake, right???

Pete quoted Bill Hybels’ book Courageous Leadership illustrating the difference between “Capitol L” leaders and “Little ‘l’” leaders. He talked about leaders who are visionary, entrepreneurial, motivational, directional, strategic and managerial. Many audience members nodded recognizing some of their own particular styles.

44379

He admitted, “It’s tough to not get hung up on performance. At the end of the day, people still want to know how well you know Jesus, not how well you perform.” John and I talked about this later and he said, “This reminds me of that saying, ‘People don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care.’” Amen.

Jill confessed she’s quite the instigator, full of ideas. While this is a gift of hers, putting the ideas all together, coming up with a plan, and implementing it is not. Therefore, she learned to invite help.

When she and Stuart first arrived at Elmbrook, she realized she was the “minister’s wife”, therefore she must surely have a job to do. She gathered the women of the church and asked them to write out what their expectations of her were. (Can you imagine?)

Not surprisingly, their lists, upon lists, upon lists of expectations not only overwhelmed Jill, but she almost instantaneously realized she could do nothing on those lists!

After her cup of tea in a time of crisis (great suggestion!!!), she realized, thanks to the Lord, she’d just chip away a la Ecclesiastes 9:10 and “do unto the Lord”. Even if her efforts were bad, she was trying with all her might and praying harder than ever.

QUESTION #3 – In your own walk in Christ, what is the single greatest discipline a Christian should develop?

Jill suggested three things: prayer, solitude, and silence. No performance. She said, “Jesus will mentor you when you pray to Him.”

Young woman praying in the church

Jill recalls a visit to Viet Nam thirty years ago. They were led to a secret church. After hearing Jill pray, one young gal who’d also risked her life to be there said, “I love how well you know Jesus. I want to know Him like you do.” Jill realized that how we pray suggests how deep our relationship is to the Lord. Now that will make you think!

Stuart believes there’s more than one discipline. He said, “Both dependence and obedience are required.” These produce trust. Let that soak in a minute…

He pointed us to Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 where He tells His disciples to “go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to obey all the commands I’ve given you…”

Pete believes the discipline of knowing who you really are is of paramount importance. He threw us a curve ball. He asked, “How many of you are sinners in need of a savior?” To which we all raised our hands.

He corrected us by saying, “We shouldn’t identify ourselves as sinners, we are saints now, saved by grace. Perhaps we’re saints who sometimes sin, but we cannot mistake our identities…

There’s so much Christ has purchased for us. Knowing Him more today than yesterday should be our goal.”  How great is your love for God?

After the Q & A we had the opportunity to receive two books:

Improving with Age: God’s Plan for Getting Older and Better by Jill and Stuart Briscoe

26654060

Experiencing Life Today: 365 Day Devotional by Pete Briscoe

26132335

Sadly the morning flew by and it was time to leave. Pete, Stuart and Jill all gave John and me lots to discuss and ponder. We got to meet and speak with each of them and they were positively lovely, engaging and sincere.  Their love for God is contagious.

Take the time to explore their website: www.tellingthetruth.org.   You will be blessed!

‘Til next time!

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Bible Studies, Book Reviews, Scripture