Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stepping Onto the Next Level

As 2012 leaves us… or maybe, as we leave 2012 behind and embrace 2013, God has brought me to a crossroads of sorts. Maybe He has brought you to one as well. My particular crossroads is, in all actuality... a staircase. There really isn’t a “take this road or this one” kind of situation for me. The path I’m on stays basically the same, but there is another level that I have to get to. And 2013 is time for me to climb. So, I can either stay at the foot of the staircase and meander here at the bottom throughout 2013, or I can begin my climb to the next level, where the Lord is trying to get me to come to.

Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? What exactly does that mean? What IS “the next level” anyway? I have NO idea! I won’t know until I climb the stairs. But here’s the situation: it is MY decision on whether I climb to the next level or not. The fact of the matter is, if I stay where I am, I will still be where God has led me, but I WON’T ever advance. If I climb the stairs to the next level, “great and mighty things which [I] do not know” await me (Jeremiah 33:3). Now, that’s where it gets exciting to me. For once in my life, I’m not scared. I am truly excited! I don’t know what’s at the top of the stairs, but I absolutely know that God is standing just behind me with His hand on my back, steering me towards those stairs.

And here is yet another twist in this journey: the closer I get to the stairs, the more slippery, bumpy, and gnarly the path is getting. I have slipped up. I have tripped. I have caught myself on many things I should not have said, thought, or done. I have felt awful for messing up and wondered where exactly I “lost” my “oomph!” Because back in May, when God shook me up and gave me a new path to follow, I was “gung-ho” about where I was going. But you want to know something? I am human, not perfect. If I didn’t have mistakes, I wouldn’t learn anything. And because I am still learning…I am still growing…and the last time I tripped, I bumped right into God! Then I realized that not only did I know that God wanted to move me to the next level, but so did the enemy…and he doesn’t like it one little bit!

The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. 
~John 10:10(a)

So, as I showered getting ready for church on Sunday morning, I said a quick prayer asking God to forgive me, and to speak through the pastor and give me a message. Going to church expecting God to show up…don’t you know that He DOES! My slipping, tripping, and bumping the last few steps to the staircase took me right to the base of the stairs. The message God gave me was, “Take the first step. Trust Me.” Well... Okie doke!

In 2013, my life is going to change drastically. I don’t know exactly what I will be doing, but I am confident that it will be a deeper step into this ministry He has called me into. Once I got over and through the intimidation and oppression I suffered for years. Once I got over trying to “read between the lines” every intimidating person was hinting at around me. Once I realized that my life was not determined by what others think of me, but by what God wants of me… I’m now ready to take the steps to the next level.

I am going into a “Sold Out Believer” mode of my walk with God. I will no longer be tolerant of anything less than that. However, that does not mean that I won’t like certain people, places, or things. It just means that, for me, I won’t be subjecting myself to things that do not bring glory to Him. Nor will I subject myself to people or things that will tempt me to slip up… to the best of my ability. I won’t be perfect, nor do I expect to be. But it is the fact that I have set my mind to TRY. And that is all that God is really after. My desire to at least strive for what He wants me to do. In that, I believe I will succeed.

As I say good-bye to 2012, I can truly say that God brought me through it and is now leading me to a new level in 2013. What’s in store? I don’t know. But whatever it is, it will be exciting! I hope you’ll join me to find out! And my prayer is this: 

May God richly bless you and guide you through the New Year and beyond. May you seek Him and find Him, and may He totally rock YOUR world!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Next Big Thing

A few weeks ago, I was tagged in a sort of "bloggers chain letter" so-to-speak, by a friend of mine, Lisa Lickel (Lisa is an Author, Executive Editor, Freelance Editor, Book Reviewer, Interviewer, and Mentor). Of course I dropped the ball, but I'm picking it back up and here it is! This is "The Next Big Thing" for me... I'm writing a book about the motorcycle ministry my husband and I do. It is in the works as of right now. But the term " in the works" is something that this writer knows is a loose term. Below are some questions and answers about what I'm working on...

What is the working title of your book?
     Two Wheels Toward Heaven: The Adventures of a Motorcycle Ministry

Where did the idea come from for the book?
     I was taking a class with my daughter on "How To Write A Book," which taught us how to blueprint our book idea, then start writing it. We had to come up with a working title for the book. Since I was going to be writing about our journeys with our motorcycle ministry, my daughter suggested the title, "Two Wheels Toward Heaven." Then she added, “The Adventures of a Motorcycle Ministry.”

What genre does your book fall under?
     Christian Non-fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
     If there was ever a movie rendition of what I'm writing, I'm not sure who I would choose to play our characters. That would have to take a lot of thought. However, Sam Elliot comes to mind for at least one character (don’t ask me why). But that’s as far as I have ever got with that idea.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
     The one-year adventures of a motorcycle ministry couple, with a very unique conversation starter.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
     More than likely, my book will be self-published, as I don’t have an agent, editor, or a publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
     First draft? It's been several months and I'm still working on it!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
     Not sure. I really don’t know of anyone else who does what we are doing. In other words, I really haven’t researched it. Probably due to the fact that pulling a casket behind a Harley is a rare thing. Especially for what we are doing it for.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
     I was thinking about the number of miles we traveled in one year and the many people we met along the way, and I thought wow...I could write a book about that! Not to mention some of the people we talked to and the things they have said, were things that were sometimes even hard for us to believe. And we heard them firsthand!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
     The fact that we pull a full-size casket behind us makes it interesting all by itself. But the number of miles we traveled in one year, the different people we met and talked to, and the places we got to see would make it interesting for anyone, I think. Plus the trials we have been through with it and the fact that it is a ministry. Add to that the reason we began pulling a casket behind a Harley in the first place is something every person we have met wants to know. The answer is in this book.


You can visit our website to see more about our motorcycle ministry. You can also visit Lisa's website to check out some of the books she has written and some of the stuff she does as well.

Where 2? Ministry

Lisa Lickel

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trust Issues

I've been broken and bruised both mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And while I talk about it here on this website, I don't do it to rehash the things I've been through, but to extend hope and healing to those of you who suffer the same things. You see, though I've been broken, I've been healed. From the inside out, I have been healed. And while some of those scars still remain in the healing process, the worst of it is gone. Yes, God healed me. Yet, being the human that I am, I remember. I remember because that's how humans are. We remember. But the difference between me and the next girl or guy is this: I'm using what I remember to bring glory to God. I'm using what I remember to help someone else who is stuck in the rut of oppression.

It's not easy being the recipient of yelling, screaming, or verbal, mental, or physical abuse. It's not easy to get over, either. But the GOOD NEWS about it all is that, while God knows every single event of your life; while He knows every single tear you have shed, He also knows the way out and will use every negative thing in your life to make something good out of it.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28 (HCSB)

You may be stuck in that rut today. May I encourage you? You won't be there for long. It might seem like a lifetime to you, but trust me, it is but a moment to God. He is working something wonderful for you. It is up to you to hang in there and trust Him. It sure helps if you cry out to Him. He is there, listening, watching, waiting.

Many years ago, I was at a Youth Camp with my oldest daughter. One day, as the adults went out for their activities, we were blindfolded, then put into a line holding hands. There were about thirty of us. Then we were directed to walk through the woods, blindfolded, following the sound of the voice of the "Leader." We did as we were told and before long we came to a rope stretched across the trees. We were then told to find our way out of the woods. Following the rope, we walked, still blindfolded. But just as we thought we were to the end, we ran into other people, also blindfolded. We were at an impasse. What to do? It didn't take long before we discovered that there was another rope away from our designated rope. But we were instructed to stay together. We couldn't leave anyone. We worked and worked and before long, we found our way out and were told to remove our blindfolds. What did we learn? How to work together. But here's the real moral of the story: In order to get out of our dilemma, all we had to do was ASK. If we had only called out to our leader, she would have come, taken us by the hand, and got us out of our mess. Uh-oh.

It's the same way with God. When we are in a mess, all we have to do is ASK. Call out to Him and He is there, ready to help us out of any and every situation we are in. The only problem is that we never think to ask. We are such a "Do-It-Yourself" bunch of people, that we think we can get ourselves out of our own messes. "You got yourself into that mess. Get yourself out!" is what we've grown up hearing. But it is such a LIE! Directly from the father of lies, the devil. And the sad thing is...we LISTEN!

When he [the devil] tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars. ~John 8:44b (HCSB) (brackets mine)

How do you think God feels when He watches us, His children, floundering around in our own pig sty of a mess, wishing we would only cry out to Him? You think He keeps us in the mess and doesn't come for help? He does His timing. We may think He's left us to our own devices when in all actuality, He is teaching us a lesson. The lesson? It is different for each of us, but yet the same. The outcome may involve many different aspects, but one of them remains the same for us all. Trust in Him. Trust! Do we trust Him? We should.

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me? ~Psalm 56:3-4

There are many things going on in the world today. Many people running this way and that, trying to figure out the meaning of life. Many people trying to figure out the wheres and whys of the things going on the the world. But if we would all just stop, and simply cry out to our Leader for help, He will! Oh yes, it's as simple as that. Just cry out to Him!

The best Christmas present you could ever receive is the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. But He won't force Himself on anyone. You have to come to Him and ASK. I was in a bind for many, many years. I had no earthly idea that my issues could be resolved just by asking. I knew salvation. I knew prayer. I even knew to pray for others. But the deep-down-break-your-heart-I-have-lived-with-this-all-my-life issues, I did not know He would remove. Until one night when someone else called it out for me. That's when I knew. That's when He came. That's when I was healed.

Make this Christmas one of new beginnings. You won't regret it one bit.  Trust the Lord with everything you have. And I can tell you, it's the most wonderful experience you will ever have. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Slippin' 'n Slidin'

I've been slippin' 'n slidin' lately. Nope... there has not been one bit of ice or snow near or around me. I've just slipped a bit. I don't suppose anyone else has slipped? You have? Welcome to the club! It happens. Want to know a secret? God isn't the least surprised, either!

One thing I've learned about slippin' up, is that it is easier to get back on track than what we make ourselves believe. Oh yeah, it is! You see, always before when I messed up, I found myself running even farther away from God. Why? Because I thought He would be so mad at me that I would be extremely punished for messing up. I thought I would have to "do" tons of make-up work to gain His love, understanding, and trust once again. Oh, how WRONG I was!

God doesn't have a "To-Do" list that He brings out when we finally come to Him, head down, tail between our legs, sniffling and whining, begging for forgiveness. It's not like He says, "Alrighty then, you did what? Oh, THAT! Okay, let's take a look at what the penalty is and what you'll have to DO to make up for it." Uh... no. There is no "To-Do" list. The only thing we are asked to do is ASK. Once we do that, He forgives.

Don't believe me? It says so right here, out of my Bible: 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9

Let me tell you something; God is NOT surprised by anything you have done or anything that has happened to you. You CAN go to Him. He is the only One who understands, who will accept you, and never ask you questions. He will take you AS IS. Trust me.

In light of the things that have been happening around us, in Connecticut, in the movie theater, at the grocery store, wherever...our country is in a Slippin' 'n Slidin' state. But the GOOD NEWS about it is this: God wants to restore our land...but there's a few things we need to know first...

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land. ~2 Chronicles 7:14

We want America to change? If we'll humble ourselves, pray, and seek God's face...and turn from our wicked ways...THEN He will hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land. We can't go to God for forgiveness if we aren't humble. You don't stand in front of someone and in a condescending attitude say, "Okay, I'm sorry!" No. You walk up, take a deep breath, and in a soft spoken voice, with a sincere heart, apologize. It's the same with God. He's here. He's waiting. Our slippin' 'n slidin' can stop any time. He's ready to catch us and turn us 
"Upside Right" (as my pastor says).

The night I went to Him with years of pent-up mental and emotional scars that no one knew about, He knew. He took care of them even when I didn't even know HOW to ask Him to. But He knew why I was there. And here's the really cool part... I knew I needed healing, but I didn't know from what. I just knew that something needed to change. God knew. I was willing. I was ready. And I asked for healing and forgiveness. God took care of the rest. 

Instead of slippin' 'n slidin' ourselves right into more trouble, how about if we slip 'n slide ourselves back into the arms of God...where we should be in the first place.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Whoa! Which Road Are You On?

I was trying to find my way not long ago. I was supposed to bring some supplies to my husband and son at a house they were working on. Since they are contractors, they often need something extra, or something that didn't get picked up for the last delivery. That happened this particular day.

DA called me and gave me directions. They were clear...until I got to "the fork in the road." By the time I had run to the lumber yard, picked up the item that they needed, chatted with the guys in the store, then drove the few miles to the road I was supposed to take, I had forgotten whether or not I was supposed to go right or left at the fork. I was pretty sure I was supposed to go left, and I did... the road became gravel, then became more narrow, and then I realized I was NOT "in Kansas anymore, Toto." Because there was another fork in the road, and a driveway...oops, left went into a driveway, too. Back up...take out the cell bars...great...try anyway. As DA answered his phone, I explained that I thought I was lost, because there were TWO forks in the road.

"Did you turn at the sign on the tree that said, "Whoa!"?"
"No, you didn't tell me THAT."
"Honk your horn." ... I honked... "Oh, you're here. Turn at the "Whoa!" sign." And he hung up!

Fantastic. I was there and didn't know it! I turned onto the road with the "Whoa!" sign. As I came around the bend, there stood my son on the roof of the house, waving. Gee whiz, I was there the whole time and thought I was lost. I gave DA his item and said, "I had NO idea all this was back here!" I have lived in the same area all my life, and the road I was on was a complete surprise to me.

As I was leaving, I realized that many times we take the road everyone else is on, never knowing that a whole other world of beauty is out there, if we had only taken the "road less traveled."

"Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." ~Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus teaches that in order to get to Him, we have to take the narrow path. The gate that not many are entering through. In today's society, following the "norm" is what's popular. If we don't, we are generally shunned. Not only by the general public, but often by our own Christian brothers and sisters. Because many have forgotten that being a true follower of Christ means being a sold-out believer. And well, for some that's just too big of a commitment.

So which road are you on? Are you standing at the gate wondering which way to turn? I wish there was a sign that said "Whoa!" letting us know that this is NOT the right road to take. But there's not. Instead, we have the words of Jesus in Matthew 7. Will you take the narrow gate...or will you follow everyone else?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stop Watching the Rear View Mirror

Have you ever had "Rear View Mirror Syndrome?" Don't know what that is? I guess it could be confused with "Rubber-Necking." But not exactly. I just made it up.

Rear View Mirror Syndrome, in my book, is looking back as you're moving forward. Of course, if you're constantly looking in the rear view mirror, you won't see where you're going and you might miss something in front of you. In fact, you might miss a LOT of things. You could even wind up crashing into something if you aren't careful. Then again, you may just end up crashing altogether.

I had this problem of watching my rear view mirror. I was always looking back on what I could have done better, what I should have done better, how I could have, should have, and didn't avoid mishaps in my life. I had a lot of regrets. But the difference now than then is that I have learned to get over Rear View Mirror Syndrome.

 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead... ~Philippians 3:13

It's that whole "Forgiveness" thing. We know that God forgives us. But what we fail to recognize is that when he forgives, he forgets! But the saddest thing yet is that WE don't forgive OR forget. We maintain that Rear View Mirror Syndrome. Not only with ourselves, but with others.

The saddest thing for me to see are those who simply will not let anything go. They continue looking in the Rear View Mirror of life, watching reruns of things long gone, things they refuse to let go of. What's more, looking in the rear view mirror doesn't give you a true picture. Because everything in the rear view mirror is backwards, obscure, and tend to get a bit foggy. And most people neglect to read the writing on the mirror before looking: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." Maybe that's why we crash while watching.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15

I know people who have Rear View Mirror Syndrome. They constantly bring up things of the past. In so doing, they cause a lot of arguments and hurts while dredging up things better left alone. Because each time it's dredged up, it is distorted more and more until it no longer looks like it did when it happened twenty years ago.

But you, man of God, flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. ~1 Timothy 6:11

Forgiveness. The best remedy for Rear View Mirror Syndrome. As the Christmas holiday approaches, maybe this is the year to lay to rest your RMS.... and 
"press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you] heavenward in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 3:14 (changes in brackets, mine)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Little Quiet Here...

QUIET! Wouldn't that be nice? A little quiet time? What would you do with it? Would you even BE quiet? There are times (probably more times than not) in my life when although my mouth wasn't moving, I'm not making noise, and I'm sitting quietly...I'm really not quiet. Because my mind is a whirling dervish of activity!

Oh, if I could only shut off my brain and just be still for a little while. Well, my doctor says that it's a good thing that my brain never shuts off, because if it did, I'd be dead! *sigh* I only want a little quiet sometimes. Know what I mean? Just a little quiet. God wants us to be quiet sometimes, too.

Be still and know that I am God. ~Psalm 46:10

Have you ever wondered exactly HOW to be still and just KNOW that He is God? Oh, that would be called, FAITH. Yet, there are still times when we really need to just be quiet! Just be quiet. We come to God, maybe not daily, which we should, but we come to Him with our complaints, our requests, our lists of things we would like for Him to do. And don't get me wrong, God wants to give us SO much. Because He loves us so much. He wants to give us everything we desire (within reason, of course). Yet, there are times when we need to just take a breath and get quiet before Him and LISTEN.

How do we listen for, or to God? I think that's a personal thing for everybody. Some people claim that God has spoken audibly to them. Some say it's that "Still, small voice" inside. Some say it's a feeling, a presence, or a thought. Maybe something someone says to you is God giving you directions or confirmation. But if we're making noise and not paying attention, we miss it! I know I've missed many a word from my heavenly Daddy many times. And I have regretted it. But here's the really cool part: I can go to Him, get quiet, apologize for not paying attention, and He will re-deliver His message to me!

Don't think so? He did it for Jonah. Jonah blatantly disregarded God's directions and went the opposite way... oops... but he changed his mind (of course, he was in the belly of a great fish, so he had time to think) but he apologized and God re-delivered His message. So, why not me? Why not you, too? There's that faith thing, again. If we have faith, believe, trust, and receive, the possibilities are endless. And to me, that's exciting stuff!

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you. So Jonah got up and went..." ~Jonah 3:2-3a (HCSB) (emphasis mine)

So, the next time life seems to be dragging you down, BE QUIET! Get before God and ask Him what He would have to say to you today. You might just be surprised in a very special way.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Encouraging Each Other

There was a time when everything I did or said revolved around the opinions of others. I could not make a decision for myself for fear of offending someone, or getting into trouble because of my actions. I literally lived in a way that made me feel like a rag doll in a dollhouse. At the beck and call of everyone around me whether I liked it or not. When at home, when at school, when with friends. I succumbed to everyone elses wishes. This is what intimidation and control does to a body.

Slowly but surely though, I began to come out my shell. I would make advances to try to stand up for myself. This initially caused me a great deal of pain and angst, to the point of suppressing things. This in itself caused a number of physical and emotional ailments. Ever heard of the Snowball Effect? One thing leads to another, which leads to another, which snowballs into disaster.

After many years of suffering this, I realized one day that I was living my life for other people and not for me. I was not doing what God had called me to do. Over the years,  I could feel His gentle pull in one direction or another. I would attempt to do His will, but would always end up shrinking back when others would tell me quite frankly that this in not what THEY thought I should be doing, or began to cause me grief because of my trying to follow the Lord's lead.

Don't criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. ~James 4:11 (HCSB)

But do we really have to listen to what others say? Maybe to some degree. There are those who are so in tune with the Holy Spirit that He does in fact prompt them to give messages to others. When we ourselves are in tune with the Holy Spirit as well, we will have the discernment to know the difference between bossiness and godly wisdom.

This happened to me several months ago. When the veil was lifted from the life I had been leading, I received a message from a very godly man. The message surprised me, yet compelled me. And in the short amount of time, I have literally seen this come to fruition in my life! Since you are reading this, you are experiencing it firsthand! You are not here by accident.

You see, God knows that a little encouragement from the right people will set me, and maybe even you, into motion. When I begin to feel a little doubtful, even though I'm reading God's Word, praying, and studying, there are times when I slow down just a little bit to evaluate my direction. It's at these moments when someone I have great respect for, or something I read or hear, gives me the little spiritual nudge that I need.

It doesn't have to be something huge. Just a little something that confirms for me in my soul that yes, I'm on the right path, doing the right thing. Which is why I write the things that I do. I am spurred on by the gift God has given me. Because I know that to write something that comes from deep within, something I have experienced, or that I feel I must write down, will also ultimately help and encourage someone who reads it.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing....give recognition to those who labor among you.....esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. ~1 Thessalonians 5:11, 12(a), 13 (HCSB)

May I encourage YOU today? God has a plan for you. He has something that He wants you to do. You will succeed, if you place your trust in Him and go forward. Don't listen to naysayers. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Trust that still, small voice inside you, leading you in the only direction you'll ever find peace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Be A Penny Picker-Upper

Several years ago, I went to a youth camp with my daughters. We were in Nashville, Tennessee at an event called MissionFuge. We would have worship, Bible study, games, lessons, and then go out into the city and actually DO missions. 

One particular morning during our morning worship time, we were all given a penny and told this story: How many times to you see a penny on the street and don't pick it up? It's dirty. You don't know where it's been. It could have dirt on it. Mud, germs, who knows? So you either step on it or over it and walk away. But it still has worth. It is still a penny and it is still worth what it's valued at. Just like people. We were encouraged that day to have a face-to-face encounter with God and be "Penny Picker-Uppers."

How many times though, do we treat people like an old penny? How often do we pass someone on the street, dirty, maybe a little smelly, maybe they don't speak clearly, or maybe they smell like alcohol, and we walk on by them because we just don't want to mess with them? They aren't worth it. But... they ARE still valuable...just like the penny. And while we might stoop to pick up a penny, would we stoop to pick up this human treasure?

We are ALL valuable to God. He sees our hearts. He sees our worth. And He has called us to be "Penny Picker-Uppers." It's a matter of life and death, really. A literal matter. Because what if that dirty, smelly, alcohol-and-drug-ridden-slurred-speech-speaking treasure of God was the next person to save the life of someone you love? What if they were the next minister-in-waiting to bring a group of people into a relationship with the Lord?

The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. ~2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

That day at MissionFuge, I was supposed to be leading a group of teenage girls to our mission destination. Just after hearing the penny story, we were taken into a daycare and shown the 4-year-olds' room. Outside the walls, there were the precious little blessings, playing on the playground. Then the lady in charge handed us rubber gloves, buckets, and cleaning supplies and told us were were going to clean the kids' room. We were all quiet. I knew the girls didn't want to clean the room. I didn't either. I had come to do ministry, by golly! I wanted out on that playground to be with the kids!

But we split up and started cleaning nonetheless. I went to the corner where the cubbies were, and began to half-heartedly wipe them down. But as I swiped into the one of the empty cubbies, I heard a scratch. I felt around inside, because I was sitting lower than the cubby, and I picked something out of the little box....a penny. My eyes watered and I realized that I had just had a "Face-to-Face" encounter with God. He reminded me of the penny story and that those little "pennies" out on the playground needed love, and the greatest love I could show them was to clean their room.

I turned around and got the girls' attention. I held up the penny and said, "Look what I just found." The room went silent. They got the message, too. Then I said, "I think we need to get this room cleaned." Immediately they went to work with a new found vigor. That room was cleaned top to bottom, including over the trim around the doors and windows!

It didn't take long and the room was spotless and smelling wonderful. Then we were able to go out and play with the little ones. It was such a better blessing after we humbled ourselves. But afterward, when we all went back inside, the teacher had the kids look around their room. Even as little as they were, they noticed. Then she explained that their "playmates" had cleaned up for them, and they should say thank you. It was what happened next that surprised all of us.

Every one of those little, precious blessings, ran to us and threw their arms around us and hugged us! You see, these blessings were children of parents who were recovering drug addicts, some just out of prison, and all trying to clean their lives up, find jobs, and start over. The kids would come to the daycare at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes not leave until 10 at night. 

The whole point of that trip was to have a face-to-face encounter with God... and that day, we did. We were humbled and learned a very important lesson. Being a penny-picker-upper isn't about the copper coin. It's all about spreading the love of God....

Then these righteous ones will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?" ~Matthew 25:37-39 (NLT)

If all you get out of this article is that you need to pick up more pennies, then you've missed the point. I told this story at church several years ago. A week later, we were eating dinner with a group of people after church and a lady called me over to her table. As I approached, she held up a penny and said, "Look what I have! I have been picking up pennies ever since you told that story." She was so proud of herself and how many pennies she had picked up that week. But I couldn't smile at her. I could not acknowledge her accomplishment. Why? Because she totally missed the point. She was picking up monetary pennies, not human ones. It saddened me greatly.

It saddens me now that there are others missing the point. Every time I see a penny on the ground I remember that day at the daycare. I wonder, how many human pennies are there? And I begin to look. It may be a smile, saying hello, giving encouragement, or just visiting someone who is alone or feeling down. But picking up "Pennies" is what we are called to do. Don't miss the point. Instead, ask God to show you someone you can lift up today, tomorrow, next week... but whatever you do, be the right kind of Penny Picker-Upper.

And the King will say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" ~Matthew 25:40 (NLT) many "pennies" can you find to pick up?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oysters of Life

Little Oysters, little Oysters! Oh, the little Oyster. A living, little thing that lives under the sea. Some like to eat them...especially on the half-shell. Not me. The poor little Oyster.

There it is, the little Oyster... one of God's little creations, minding its own business. Living there under the sea on the ocean floor. Just trying to exist, find food and eat... and is constantly being hunted. It's constantly being irritated by various things and people.

See, the little Oyster has many layers. When a little speck of something gets under its "skin," it immediately begins to cover that irritation with layer after layer of its delicate nature, hiding that irritation, rolling it around on the inside. That irritation grows larger and larger. But over time, many years, and with the help of God, that irritation is turned into a beautiful pearl.

That's kind of like our lives if you think about it. We, too are one of God's little creations. We, too live our lives just trying to exist. We, too are constantly being hunted and irritated by various things and people. 

O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. ~Psalm 56:1-2
And not unlike the little Oyster, we also gather those specks of irritation and cover them within layer after layer of our delicate nature, hiding that irritation. We roll it around on the inside, letting it grow larger and larger.

Yet over time, unlike the Oyster, we suffer through things like depression, anxiety, headaches, anger, sadness, worry, and many other illnesses both physical, mental, and emotional. Sometimes our little irritations cause us such grief that we feel we can't go on...

But while we go through these little things, over time, they mold us, change us, and when we turn our irritations over to God and trust Him with these things, just like the Oyster, God will turn them into a beautiful pearl. 

"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning..." ~Isaiah 61:3a (NLT)

He will take those things and show us how to use them to help others who are suffering the same things we once did. Oh, we think we could never be able to help someone else. But let me assure you, once God heals you and brings out your precious pearl, others will see it and wonder. They will come to you, some unknowingly, and you, you little Oyster, will share your pearl...and help another little Oyster find their pearl.

Trust me on this...

What irritation in your life has become a pearl?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What If I Did It Wrong?

There are many times over the past few months that I've wondered... am I doing this right? I get little "thoughts" that try to manifest themselves into larger thoughts, that go something like this: What if someone doesn't like what I've said? ~ What if someone confronts me about what I've written? ~ What if what I wrote starts an argument? ~ What if someone says I'm lying? ~ What if I'm doing it wrong? ... Too many "what ifs."

Let me clarify something. Each of those questions are random. Each one is not even true. Each one is straight from the father of lies, the devil. And he would like nothing better than to push me back into the black hole the Lord pulled me out of.

I'm writing this today because I truly feel that there is someone out there who is struggling with this very thing today. So I'm writing to let you know that yes, you will struggle. Yes, there will be times when things don't go as planned. You will have bad days among the good days. But if God heals you of any malady you have carried or suffered, you ARE healed... in Jesus' name! No one can tell you any different. You are masterpiece, created by God, and He has great things in store for you!

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago ~Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

God healed me in May 2012. Many long years of suffering mentally, emotionally, sometimes physically. He healed me. I don't doubt that one bit. And He gave me this website right here to encourage each one of you who come to visit. Each day is a new day. Each day, His mercies are new. Each day it is up to me to claim the positive. Each day I claim the hope that He has given me. Do I feel His presence every day. No. But I know He's there because His Word promises that He is.

So my friends, don't let the enemy drag you down. Don't let him get a toe hold on you. And whatever you do, don't let anyone intimidate you or try to tell you that what you feel in your heart, or what you are doing is wrong. Because if God called you into it, God will see you through it. No one knows but you and God. I'm choosing to follow Him and go where He leads me. I hope you do, too.

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. ~1 Corinthians 7:17a (NLT)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Well, I Never!

We've always been told to "never say never." Because saying, "I'll never..." will always end up being the very thing that you DO. And while we usually end up doing those things we NEVER want to do, it is not that way with God. There are many things that God will in fact, never matter what: 

He will Never...leave you nor forsake you.

"...For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." ~Hebrews 13:5b

He will never... stop loving you.

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 8:38-39

He will never... remember your mistakes.

"...For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." ~Jeremiah 31:34b

I have never had God remind me of something I did "back when." Because when I asked Him to forgive me, He DID, never to remember it again. When I have messed up, He has never stopped loving me, because His Word says that nothing shall separate me from the love of God. When I have been in the deepest pit of depression, and felt all alone, He has reminded me that He is right there with me and if I'll only ask Him, He'll get me out of there.

I have yet to find anything that God said He would never do, that He has done. Of course, I really haven't looked. Because I know that He also never goes back on His Word.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Running, Running, Running...

It seems as if I've been running & didn't know it. I haven't gone anywhere. Just haven't payed attention like I should. And the funny (odd, not ha ha) thing about it is, I have felt like something changed, but couldn't put my finger on what!

But reading the blog of a friend put things into perspective for me. I haven't been to The Stoop in a while. It has been so cold in the mornings that I haven't ventured outside to my porch, where I usually stand and talk to the Lord. Being that a couple of mornings it was in the 20's outside, I just couldn't stand there. Because not only was the temperature so cold, there was a breeze along with it, and I was already chilled INSIDE the house! And you know what? I can make excuses all day long for not going to The Stoop. The fact still remains that I've been running.

I get into these little "funks" from time to time. I shy away from prayer like it was the plague. I begin to feel as if I'm bothering God because I seem to say the same things every time I talk to Him. Doesn't He get tired of hearing it? I begin to feel as if I'm not a "productive pray-er" so-to-speak.

Growing up, I was afraid to pray...because I had gotten in trouble at home for doing it, after a particularly bad episode with severe depression. Praying then became something I was afraid to do, for many years... but I eventually figured it out, with a little spiritual help.

So, when I read about my friend and how she experienced a "soul quenching" one night when she walked out into her orchard to find her lost dog...then realized how beautiful and quiet and soul quenching it was. Because she could see the stars, feel the breeze, and just felt peaceful and in the presence of the Lord. And I felt jealous! Can you believe it? I felt jealous! 

That's when I received a little prompting that I hadn't been out on The Stoop and I hadn't made an effort. So where was God through all this? Waiting. He has been just waiting for me to get my act together and figure myself out. He's never been pushy. He's never been derogatory. He's never even MADE me talk to Him. But I always feel bad when I don't.

And the best part about all of this is that, even though I flit from time to time...God NEVER leaves me. He understands me. He loves me. He waits for me. And never, I mean never does he throw my mistakes back at me. I never have to worry or be afraid. Yes, I mess up. But when I come to Him, He's there, ready to listen. Ready to comfort. Ready to love me, just as always.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Old Witch

It's Halloween!! Witches, ghosts, goblins, things that go "bump" in the night. And no, I don't believe in any of that "fooky" stuff ("fooky" is how my grandson, Radley used to say spooky when he was learning to talk). However, to me Halloween is just a fun day to dress up, be silly, and get lots of candy. It's also a time to drag out old books and read, which is what I try to do each year with one certain book in particular.

When I was little, my mother bought me a book titled, Old Witch and the Polka Dot Ribbon by Wende and Harry Devlin. It quickly became one of my favorite books for her to read to me. As I got older, of course, I read the book myself. In fact, I still read the book! Every fall right around Halloween.

Old Witch is a cantankerous, moody, grumpy little old witch that lives in the attic of the old Jug and Muffin Tearoom. She was awakened from a very long sleep in the chimney when a little boy named Nicky, and his mother, bought and moved into the Tearoom. 

Actually, Old Witch is very nosy and sometimes causes a lot of trouble. What witch doesn't? But in this book, Nicky and his mother are baking and preparing for a cake baking contest the town of Oldwick is having at their carnival. 

The contest is to raise money to build a new bandstand. They invite Old Witch to enter as well, but warn her that Mrs. Butterbean always wins first prize. Sounds like a challenge to me... it does to Old Witch, too. 

The book, written and published in 1970, is a lively little book. The story line is fun and hints at helping the community as well as being fair and not cheating. I have always enjoyed Old Witch. She may be mischievous at times, but she's funny, and deep down wants to do the right thing.

At the end of the book is a recipe for Old Witch's Magic Nut Cake. A perfect recipe for the Halloween spirit, I think...even if it is from an Old Witch. [Recipe taken from the book, Old Witch and the Polka Dot Ribbon]

Old Witch's Magic Nut Cake
(Get Mother to help)

     3 eggs
     1 pound can of pumpkin
     3/4 cup vegetable oil
     1/2 cup water

Beat together and then add:
     2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
     2 1/4 cups sugar
     1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
     1 1/4 teaspoons salt
     3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
     3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
     1 cup yellow raisins
     1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pour the batter into three buttered one-pound coffee cans and place in oven standing up. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and 15 minutes or until a straw from a witch's broom, inserted in the cake, comes out clean.

Cool the cakes, turn them on their sides and frost with:
     4 oz. cream cheese
     3 tablespoons butter
     1 teaspoon lemon juice or vanilla
     1/2 box confectioners' sugar

Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

(Recipe tested by the Food Department of Parent's Magazine)

Hope you enjoy this nutty Halloween cake! You may try making it into cupcakes. 

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