Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Boy, do I have a lot to write about!

My brain has just been twirling with ideas these last couple of weeks, but I've been so busy with Christmas gatherings, baking and preparations for traveling, I just haven't been able to sit down and share like I've wanted!  I'm so sorry, but trust me...it hurts me a lot more than it hurts you!!=)

I will admit to you though that we never got decorations (including our Christmas tree) up this year.  I sort of feel like a bad parent in some respects.  I would have loved for Emma to have had the halls of our home decked in Christmas fun.  There was just no time.  And fortunately, she's still young enough that none of that really matters anyway!

Which got me thinking....

This is the first year that I haven't had a tree up.  That tree has symbolized so much for me at Christmastime all my life, yet this year...the year we didn't have one...I've truly "gotten" what Christmas is really all about.

Now don't get me wrong, I know and love that Christmas isn't about trees and Santa and presents and carols and cheesy claymation movies...it's about the birth of Christ.  This I have known all my life.  But this year, because we didn't decorate and because we've attended Christ-centered events (concerts, small-group parties, and Bible studies) and were placed amongst certain people our focus, instead of on the worldly side of Christmas, was on the whole story of Jesus.  Not just His birth, which is an amazing event to celebrate, but His entire story from the Old Testament to the New.  And let me tell you...it is magnificant!

He is all over the very first verse of Scripture in Genesis all the way to the very last in Revelation.  Jesus...Beginning and End...Alpha and Omega.  And He is what we truly celebrated this year!

It's like the age old debate of the Day of Sabbath...seventh day of rest...Saturday or Sunday?  If you look in Scripture at the seventh day of creation, there was no statement of ending like with the previous six ("there was evening and there was morning, the first day...").  Genesis 2:2 says, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."  No mention of an evening and a day. 

I've said it once and I'll say it again, I'm not claiming to know the mind of God, but I do know He's chucked the Bible full of little idiosyncrasies that require pretty in depth examining....just like this.. Having said that, I'm of the thought that though there is probably a literal day of rest we are to take (I don't know which one) the point I think we all too often miss is that we are to rest and delight in the Lord EVERYDAY.  The seventh (never-ending) day encompasses that idea for me. 

So too, Christ's birth, life and death aren't meant to just be celebrated on Christmas or any other man made Holiday.  We are meant to rest, delight, worship, praise and celebrate our Savior's life story (in it's entirety) every day of the year and of our existence.  It's why we were made.

That's not to say we won't ever have a Christmas tree again.  I assure you we will.  And we'll even be curling up to watch Frosty the Snowman for years to come, but being reminded of the simple truth of Christ and what we should be celebrating each and everyday was nice.  I think it's a good note to end 2009 on.

With that in mind, I'm taking the next couple of weeks off from blogging.  We'll be traveling for Christmas and then it's the New Year.  In that time I'd like to focus on what I've mentioned above, but also my family and prayer about where God wants me to go with my blog in 2010.  He has given me many great insights already about things to share, but I know there is more so I need to spend some time just listening to His direction.  In the mean time, I will miss you all, I'll miss writing and I can't wait to gear right back up starting Janunary 1st.


From our family to yours, we wish you a beautiful Christmas.
We pray that you have many blessings this Holiday Season.  May the love and joy that is Christ Jesus be with you now and always.
Jon, Kelli and Miss Emma   

 (photo by Amber Davis @ ClassiclyAmber Photography)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Conversation with a 20-month old...

Emma wanted to watch her Thomas movie for the forty trillionth time today.  I had to distract.  It worked for a little while at least.

Emma: Where Thomas, toot too, mommy.

Mommy: Upstairs

Emma: Oh

Emma: Mommy, Eiiidy (Lady the train) Thomas, toot toot?

Mommy: In your bed (she has a stuffed Thomas)

Emma: Oh

Emma: Mi na mi na na Thomas, toot too? (Sorry, I only made out the last part)

Mommy: In your room (again, referring to the stuffed Thomas)

Emma: Oh

Emma: Thomas toot toot

Mommy: He's not down here, he's upstairs.

Emma: Oh

Emma: Offin mommy boots, Thomas toot toot.  (Mommy take your boots off, Thomas toot toot~ I have no clue)

Mommy: Taking my boots off....

Emma: starts screaming crying

Welcome to our life!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Love...taking it a step further

I was thinking the other night about the Great Commission.

Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I think that’s an interesting command.  One that I know I very often fail at.  To go out into the world, making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is no easy task.  It takes not only a heart for God, but a mind, hands, and feet set on Jesus as well.  After all the church (as a whole) and Christians are here on this earth to represent Christ.

So how do we do this? 

The first thing that comes to mind for me is missionaries out in the field.  They are the epitome of “making disciples of all the nations” for they are going to lands far and wide, where danger and adversity like we can’t even imagine face them.  They present the Gospel to ears and hearts that have never once heard about or felt the love of Jesus.  Missionaries are the classic example of the Great Commission.

Who else?

How about pastors?  Both here and abroad, men and women are out there shepherding flocks of believers and unbelievers alike in communities of faith so that more hearts are won for the Kingdom of God

Mind you these are but brief descriptions.

But what about you and me; the garbage men, the housewives/ stay-at-home moms, the bank executives the guy at the dry cleaners and so on and so on?  What is our role in the Great Commission?  Seeing as most of us don’t have Masters of Divinities, how are we to go out into the world impacting lives with the love of God?

I’m reminded of my last post concerning loving your enemies and the tough time I had and still have with doing that.  In the comments following that particular writing a certain Scripture was shared.  Here’s what it says.
Romans 2:1-4 : “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Or better still, how about Matthew 7: 1-5, which states, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

This tells me that before I can go out and make disciples I have to stop judging.  It’s not my job to judge, it’s my job as a Christ follower to spread the Gospel.  But judging is the very thing that gets in the way so often and people…souls…are lost in the process because we have no concept of what it means not to judge.

I have to note before I go any further that Jesus says at the end of His great commission that He is surely with us always, until the end of age.  This means that regardless of the beefs we have with this person or that person, we have the Holy Spirit leading us in loving behavior…if we allow Him to.  There is so reason, if we let Jesus do in us what He wants, that we should be segregating who we think is deserving of redemption and who isn’t.

But, if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s what we do isn’t it?

We have these rouge congregations out there that quote Scripture for spreading hate instead of love.  We have communities of faith unwelcoming to outsiders.  We have hell, fire and brimstone spewing from the pulpits instead of grace.  We have denominations fighting over this and that in Scripture.  We are a divided church and because of this we have people all over the world left with the impression that Christians are hypocritical, unloving, intolerant, and well…judgmental.  Imagine that.

For every wrong doing, it takes multiple rights to make up for it.  For every extremist Christian group or even just one judging eye, multiple hearts run fleeing for something other than Jesus because we humans have royally messed up the simple message of Christ.

And simple it is…God loved us so much, He came to this world as a mere baby, to live a short life, then die the most gruesome of deaths, only to rise again so that we may have eternal life with Him in heaven. 

How sad that we can’t get that right.

When we speak to a person, believer or not, our every word, action and attitude (know it or not and like it or not) affects that individual for a lifetime.  So it is imperative that we let the Holy Spirit do the talking or else we’ll miss opportunities left and right to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God

We have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  We have to be the same people everyday, not just the ones we are on Sundays.  We have to live our lives like an open book everywhere we go and not just in buildings we call church.  We must look at people, not as just people, but as souls searching for a place in this life and beyond.  We have to look past sin and stains that mar them and find the part of them that longs to be and can be loved…redeemed.  We have to unabashedly proclaim the name of Jesus.  We have to strive to live Christ-like lives so that what non-believers see isn’t someone out to judge or condemn them, but to wrap their arms around them and love them, just as God would.  People are hurting and if we could set aside our pride and self-righteousness for one second, we might change lives...even our own. 

That’s our role, everyone’s role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

And it starts with less judging. 

Dear Jesus, I judge.  I take the love and grace that you have blessed me with and I’m stingy with it.  May you have mercy on me when it is in my time to sit at your feet and be judged.  I ask that you give me a heart of love and not one of condemnation, Lord and that you convict me in those times that I think I know all too well who is deserving of your grace and who isn’t.  Dear God, I pray that through your Holy Spirit I can look past all people’s indiscretions and simply speak truth into their lives for the sake of their salvation.  Lord, I love you and thank you and praise you that I am your child, along with all my junk.  You are an awesome God.  Amen.

So I leave you with this…

Ephesians 3:16-19
“And I pray that you being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge~ that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Be blessed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another PW Post...


I've heard people are writing on post-it notes how they want their cookbooks signed.  And leaving little notes along the path straight to the table of Ree Drummond.


As fate would have it, I'm four hours away with a promise of a hotel room that fell through and a hubby that doesn't see the need in driving all that way to stand in line (for hours) for PW to sign my cookbook and smile a warm hello...NEXT IN LINE!

Jon, I know you're reading this and all I have to say is...

No more Cowboy food for you!


If I were one of the privileged ones heading to see Ree this is what my post-it would read:

(Mall cop: "Ma'am, move along please. Ma'am, there are a lot of people waiting. Ma'am...NEXT!)

I'm only kidding!

I'd settle for...

So to those that get to have your cookbook signed...I envy you.  But have a wonderful time.  I'm really not bitter.  And I'll still read your blogs recounting all of your wonderful experiences.

But give me a couple days...

Again, kidding!

Blessings friends!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I have a Confession...

I've been contemplating this post for a couple of weeks now.  It's a tough one, but one I feel it necessary to write about.  I'm not going to candy coat anything.  And even though I'm pretty certain, I'm supposed to share this lesson, I'm not entirely sure how well it's going to be received.  I'm not hoping to start a debate, I'm simply logging what God has taught my heart through this experience.  Please be respectful in your comments, even if you don't agree.

So here it goes....

I don't often watch Oprah, but a few weeks ago when it came on I was busy in the kitchen so I left it on for background noise.  That particular day Oprah briefly discussed the recent tragedy of Shaniya Davis, the five-year-old little girl who was sold into sex slavery by her mother and was then later found murdered on the side of a North Carolina highway.

Immediately I was brought to tears.  As I sat there crying I clung to my own daughter.  Feelings of sadness dissipated and before long I was just plain angry.  I was angry at Antoinette Davis (the mother).  I can't even begin to understand a mother doing that to her daughter.  I was angry at Mario Andrettie McNeill (Shaniya's accused kidnapper, rapist and murderer).  I was infuriated that men like him even exist.  How any grown man with half a heart could commit the crimes he committed is beyond me.  I was angry that this type of evil exists in the world.  I was angry that this is the world I have to protect my daughter from.  I was angry that at the end of the segment I was left almost thankful that though this little girl was put through pure hell for the amount of time she was with McNeill, that he didn't kill her in a more brutal way.  I was actually thankful that she was "just" strangled and not beaten to a pulp and left for dead or worse, tortured and mutilated.  I was enraged...what kind of sick world do we live in that I'm thankful for a strangling death as opposed to something more horrific?

I was angry that the only fragment of understanding I could come up with for why this happened was that Satan is running rampant in this world and his army and evil are invading hearts day in and day out.

When I talked with my mother later that night, I was still mad.  It resonated in my tone.  And my mother told me I needed to let this go; that I shouldn't let this type of anger get to me.  But I couldn't let it go.  My mind just kept swirling and twirling.  And then I was faced with a question.  One that literally brought me to my knees.

How was I as a Christ follower supposed to love these people?  How was I as a Christian supposed to love these enemies?

I'll be perfectly honest...it's just not in my human heart to do it.  I've lived by the "love the person, hate the sin" for as long as I can remember, but loving "these" people and people like them was too much.  I mean, I can handle the easy sins.  A liar?...sure I can love them.  Even an adulterer?...I can love them too.  How about a thief?...my heart is wide open!  But a person/people who rape and/or murder innocent children?  No way!  Not in my power.

That's why Jesus had to work on me a little bit.

That Oprah episode aired on a Friday.  The next day, Saturday, we ended up watching CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) because no good cartoons were on yet and they had these cheesy circa-1983 puppets singing songs on.  It was that or Japanese anime, so we went with the puppets.  Anyway, Emma was intrigued and that's all that matters.  After about twenty minutes the show cut to a verse of the day~ remember this is a children's show.  Here was the verse:
 Jesus says in Luke 6:27~ But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you"

Though compelling enough (I mean the God of the universe commands us to love our enemies) I wasn't entirely convinced (or convicted) until I read farther down.  The next several verses go into what good is it to just love and pray for those who are like us (Christians) because even sinners do that.  And then to not only love your enemies, but to not expect anything in return either.

Here's what really got me though...again straight from the mouth of Jesus....
Luke 6:35-36~ But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

(I have to note here that God convicted me through some really old scraggly puppets.)

It's one thing to think you know and understand something, but it's something more powerful to read the actual words of Jesus...He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Now, I by no means set out to understand God.  That is a task I think should be saved for the likes of heaven, if then, but certainly not on this earth, in my lifetime.  Therefore, I still can't really wrap my brain around being kind to the ungrateful and wicked~ that's the nature my flesh and the limit of my human logic.  Then to throw in there that Jesus, the Creator of all things good, hater of sin, Almighty, Perfect, still loves the ungrateful and the wicked...


That Sunday we had a guest pastor preaching at church and at the very beginning of his message he urged the congregation to think of one person (while he's preaching) that we feel is unworthy of God's love.

Hmmm....I didn't have a hard time doing that, but I knew God was really going to bring this lesson home for me.  I braced myself.

Then the pastor began to teach about Ruth.  In the book of Ruth we are told (long story short) about a Moabite widow (Ruth) who accompanies her mother-in-law (Naomi who hailed from Judah) back to her home in Bethlehem.  Now the historical and cultural setting tells us that two women, with no man to lead (provide) them, they were going to be presented with some pretty dior circumstances.  Couple that with the fact that Moabites were not a liked people among the Israelites and they were going to have even more major issues because of Ruth's heritage.  To us, this may seem silly.  But Ruth for all intensive purposes, was unworthy.

Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem just in time for harvest and (again long story short) they were shown favor by Boaz, according to his own goodness and kindness.  He made sure they were provided for and taken care of when society would have totally discarded them.  He didn't HAVE to be nice to them.  He didn't even have to give them a second glance.  But Boaz even married Ruth, not only redeeming her, but elevating her status to one of pretty lofty importance alongside himself.

This is a condensed version...please read Ruth in it's entirety...it's a short book and you'll be glad you did.

Anyway, the significance of all of this is it totally foreshadows the love and grace of Jesus.  And the answer to the initial question of "who is unworthy of God's love" is....

Me.  I am unworthy.

Yet Jesus, because he is a good and gracious God, redeemed me and elevated my status to lofty importance as one of His children even though I didn't and still don't deserve it.  I am a sinner and because a sin is a sin is a sin in the eyes of God, that means I rank right up there with the ungrateful and wicked as well.  But God loves me.  And He loves those I find it hard to love as well.  So too am I supposed to do the same.

What a tough pill to swallow.  And a conviction that I am still prayerfully seeking God's wisdom on.  But He made it abundantly clear to me not once, but twice that if I am to follow Him, this is one of the things I must do.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not, but I'm sure it wasn't easy for Jesus to hang by nails on a cross for the world's sins, feeling forsaken by His Father either.

We were never promised living Christ-centered lives would be easy.

So I encourage you, if there is someone in your life (family member, friend, acquaintance, or even someone in the news) that you need too forgive or open your heart to despite them maybe not deserving it, ask God for guidance in doing so.  Harboring any anger or hate is just allowing Satan to have his way and that'll eat away at you eventually.  But the joy that is Jesus shown through your love and kindness may change hearts.  Your's included.

Dear Lord, thank you for speaking to my heart both when it is open to hearing your wisdom and even at times when it isn't, Jesus.  Thank you for convicting me and lovingly rebuking me through  Your Word as well as through ways that are totally unexpected.  Dear God, thank you for loving me despite me being unlovable and Lord I ask for strength in having a heart like Yours.  I pray for the family of Shaniya Davis and I thank you that she is resting in Your arms now.  Please be with her loved ones as well as with her mother and the man involved in her death.  May, through these terrible events, they be lead to your loving embrace as well.  Your forgiveness is incomprehensible, but Dear Lord, I praise you that I serve a God capable of such mercy should a heart truly repent.
I love you.

Be blessed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear Jesus...

 I've mentioned that Emma was pretty sick over the Thanksgiving holiday.  It all started last Monday with her running a really high fever.  She had me and her daddy pretty worried.  So for the duration of the week she slept with us...partly because she wouldn't have it any other way, but also so we could keep a close eye on her as well.

There was one particular night that I lay awake watching her intently, touching her skin every so often to see if she was any cooler and just to feel her breathe.

On this night I finally placed both my hands on her chest and began to pray.  At first the prayer was our usual nightly prayer of, "Dear Jesus thank you for Mommy and Daddy and ...." on down the line of all her grandparents and even our dog Reesie.  Then it evolved into a more heated request for God to heal her little body.  Begging was more like it.  I begged God to take Emma's fever away and to give me the wisdom in helping make her more comfortable in the process.

My prayer went on forever.  And when I was done, it was all I could do to keep from sobbing.

It was then that my sleeping child rolled over and placed her little hands on my chest and in a whisper said, "Mommy, Daddy, CeeCee, PawPaw, MawMaw, Eesie".

I think she was asleep the whole time because she never once opened her eyes, but I believe with all my heart that she heard  my prayer and wanted to pray alongside of me for all those that she holds dear.  I was awe struck.  And though I prayed for her healing, it was my heart that truly got worked on.  I heard Jesus in my daughter's sweet voice...in her innocence.

"Everything is going to be ok, dear child.  My love surrounds you and your little girl.  No fever or fear is beyond my power.  I'll take care of you both...your whole family.  I love you."

It was definitely one of those moments when you know God has done something really remarkable.  A sick, seemingly asleep, praying 19-month-old is pretty amazing in my book.  Then to hear the voice of God in my daughter's words.... I just had to write it down so as to remember this through the ages!

Dear Jesus, 
Thank you for all that you have blessed me with.  Thank you for my Emma, and for your love that I learn about through her every day.  Thank you for indeed healing her and healing me in the process too.  I love you and praise you for you are a good and awesome God.