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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Favor

Our lawn is covered in fall leaves in our little corner of "the land of pine trees and lakes".  The covering of fall leaves is as beautiful to me as a covering of new snow.  Both of them are a beautiful picture of the season they represent and if we are not careful, we will miss the opportunity to truly enjoy the changing of the seasons.   Fall brings a sweet respite from the heat of summer and Thanksgiving.  I love Thanksgiving!  I have so much to be thankful for.  Recently I heard a quote from a national department store chain, "One season at a time".  I agree. 

The smell of a baking cake is drifting my way tonight as we prepare for family tomorrow.  Our home will be filled to overflowing with people we love and our stomachs will be filled to overflowing with all the southern favorites.  I'm not even going to try to figure points on all that!  It is quiet and I am alone and my heart fills with joy as I think about my family and all the blessings and pure undeserved favor of God so freely given.  Psalm 100 says it like this, "Shout for joy to the Lord, O earth!  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before Him, singing with joy.  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are His.  We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and bless His name.  For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation."  (NLT)  Well said David.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Suggestion...

What would it have felt like to be the first woman?  The "Woman" literally woke up in Paradise!  She lived in peace with her husband and her God.  She had never been embarrassed or hurt.  She had never known disappointments or felt less than beautiful.  Loneliness was foreign to her.  No PMS!!  She was apart of the perfect couple with the perfect relationship, living in a perfect world.   Until.... 

I have often said that it's hard for me to judge Eve harshly.  Food would've probably gotten me too!  When we read the account of man and woman in the Garden, there are so many things wrapped up in such short passages.   Most of what we know about this woman we read about after the fall.  Are you like me and look forward to talking with her when we meet in heaven?  I have questions (imagine that!).  How was life when it was perfect?  Tell me about your and Adams relationship?  What was it like to walk in the Garden with God?  Then discussing things after the fall, Why when life was so perfect?  What were you thinking?!  Apparently, Adam was with her.  "She also gave some to her husband, who was with her."  Gen. 3:6 (NLT)  What was he thinking?!!!  He was given the commandment before her creation.  Did he not explain this thoroughly?    I wish there was more dialogue included.  Did they discuss it?  Did Adam try to prevent it?  The woman recounted it incorrectly to the serpent.    God said "But the LORD God gave him this warning.  "You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die." Gen. 2:16-17 (NLT)  She said, "...God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die".  Gen. 3:3 (NLT)  Did Adam add this for emphasis or did the woman add this herself like us girls do sometimes?  My questions are endless and my imagination can run away with me at times!

God placed them in the perfect environment.  He had provided abundantly for their every need.   God also provided an opportunity to choose.  It really comes down to trust and obedience.  The Expositor's Bible Commentary says this, "Enjoyment of God's good land is contingent on "keeping" God's commandments.  The inference is that God alone knows what is good for the man and what is not good for him.  To enjoy the "good" man must trust God and obey him.  If he disobeys, he will have to decide for himself what is good and what is not good."   It's pretty evident from that choice forward how well that's been working for us.

It seems the serpent convinced them that God was keeping something valuable from them.  They had all the good they could ever need.  All  earthly things and pleasures except...that one tree.  Here is where we find ourselves many times.  Satan suggests and with that he is usually finished.  He leaves us to our natural desires and physical appetites.  Verse 5 in chapter 3 says, "God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it.  You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil."  Women just gotta know!  Now we see where that comes from.  We inherited it from the first momma!  In truth, all wisdom and knowledge comes from God.  Proverbs 2:2-6 says, "Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding.  Cry out for insight and understanding.  Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure.  Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God.  For the LORD grants wisdom!  From His mouth come knowledge and understanding".  Proverbs is full of verses about wisdom and knowledge.  There will never be a need to seek it outside of the umbrella of God's protection and plan. 

There is lots to learn from the women who came before us.  Hopefully, the women who come after us will say the same thing about us.  But, let's not wait till then.  Why don't we share with the other women in our lives now.  Those in our families, in our churches and even our workplaces.  We need each other.  Help a girl out!

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Abundance

Would we be willing to die for the gospel?  That was the question I posed to my dear husband this past weekend.  We had just visited the Bible exhibit at the "Christ of the Ozarks" in Eureka Springs, AR.  Our tour guide did a wonderful job of taking us through the evolution of the written Word of God.  We saw ancient writings on vellum (calfskin) and papyrus.  Amazing!  For a lover of history, I wanted to look at every one of the thousands of Bibles.  Especially the ancient manuscripts.  We heard the stories of brave men and a few brave women who risked their lives to translate and print the Bible in the english language.  Men who felt it was important that all people have a personal copy of the Word in a language they understood. 

Every time I hear stories of the sacrifices made before me that have enabled me to have religious freedoms, I ask myself the same questions, "Would I?"  If I am honest, I'm not sure.  I tend to love things comfortable.  For example, we stayed in a cabin during our little weekend away.  Now when I say cabin, I mean a tiny little cottage with gas fireplace, flat screen tv, and wireless internet.  Not a traditional cabin!  My idea of camping always includes air conditioning and a bathroom.  See what I mean!  Could I stand persecution?!

Maybe the bigger challenge during the age we live is living godly in abundance.  Maintaining intimacy with God when we appear to have every thing we need or want.  When there is no crisis.  When the world is literally at our fingertips.  How do we stay connected and intimate when we're not fighting for our lives because of sickness or desperate for the money to pay our next house note? 

There is no doubt that challenges and test tend to draw us closer to God.  These times deepen our dependence on Him and strengthen our faith.  So how do we live in abundance?  Part of the answer surely is by choice.  Maybe those times on the mountaintop are really a test too.  Will we still hunger for a deeper relationship with God "as a deer pants for water" when we are full and satisfied?  Will we still pray, read the Bible, attend church services, give of our time and talents?   Why must there be a crisis?!  Deuteronomy 6:10-12 gives this warning "When God, your God, ushers you into the land He promised through your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you, you're going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn't build, well-furnished houses you didn't buy, come upon wells you didn't dig, vineyards and olive orchards you didn't plant.  When you take it all  in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don't forget how you got there -  God brought you out of slavery in Egypt."  (MSG)   Be careful, don't forget what God saved you from.  Don't forget how it felt living in bondage in your personal Egypt. 

Where are you at today?  On the mountaintop or in the valley?  If you are in a valley, I probably don't have to encourage you to get on your face before God.  If you are on the mountaintop, enjoy!  Just remember to keep God close.  Just as you enjoy spending time with your loved ones when life is grand, so does your heavenly Father.  He's crazy about you! 

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mercies

My dear friend "K" invited me to attend a Mercy Ministries fundraising event this week - "Evening of Mercy - Celebrating hope and healing in the lives of young women".  It was an opportunity that I would not have had without "K".  I told her that it is nice to have friends with connections :).  It was a wonderful experience.

My week has been challenging.  A doctor's visit followed by lots of meds could have easily kept me home.  Top that off with the need to crawl under a parked train (wearing clothes that were not intended to facilitate crawling under trains) to get to the event could have discouraged those not crazy enough to go forth ! As one speaker said, "Satan was trying to keep as many away as possible".

The reward for such shenanigans was the opportunity to hear Nancy Alcorn, founder and president, share how her dream became reality in 1983.  More importantly, we heard two recent graduates give their testimony and one graduate from 22 years ago tell of how Mercy Ministries was used by God to save her life.  This graduate is now successful in the medical field and has the opportunity to help countless women in our own community.

What is mercy?  The Holman Bible Dictionary says, "On the human level it is best described as one's consideration of the condition and needs of his fellowman.  It goes on to say, "In both the OT and NT mercy is an action taken by the strong towards the weak, the rich towards the poor, the insider towards the outsider, those who have towards those who have not."  In the New Testament (NLT), 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul talks about mercy:  ...He (God) is the source (Greek - the Father) of every mercy and the God who comforts us.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.".  In Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)  the writer says this, "The unfailing love of the Lord never ends!  By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day."

Have you been kept from complete destruction?  I have!  In my flesh, I would have self-destructed already!  I am so thankful that in God's mercy, He sent Jesus to save me from myself!  "He (God) comforts us so that we can comfort others."  Where is God directing you to be His comfort to someone else?  Give your testimony, give your time, give your money, give, give, give.  There are innumerable ways that we can show God's mercy to others.   In our own local congregation and local community is a great place to start. God has missionaries across not only this great nation but all over the world who need faithful support.   As the opening of Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life" says, " It’s not about you." 

I am so glad that God's mercies are new each day.  On some days, as I lay in bed that night, I think "I'm glad I'm getting a new supply tomorrow because I probably used up all mine for today."  Of course, I know the supply never ends but I love the reminder that He meets us everyday and supplies what we need.  Let's all get out of our comfort zones and shows some mercy.  God has given us mercy so we can show it to others.

Until we visit again...

Live Blessed,
Carmen    

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Glass Slippers

I adore love stories!  Recently a dear woman of God shared her love story with me.  The beautiful way God brought her and her husband together.  God drew these two very different people toward one another with a love and appreciation that has lasted for years.  She honored me by sharing her heart.  Only another woman would appreciate how special this moment was.  Women need women.  Women need the emotional connection that other women offer.  Please don't misunderstand me, I love that man of mine!  I'm definitely not a man basher.  Never have been.  I love men.  They offer so much that women need but, there are times  we just need a "friend girl" to appreciate our story. 

I think sometimes we girls forget other's lives are full of stories.  We get so caught up in our own lives everything really does become all about me.  One woman's story may be a romantic love story.  Another's may be of a love that was lost.  Maybe you are still waiting on your Prince Charming to ride his valiant steed into your life (flashbacks from my childhood of Roger & Hammerstein's Cinderella are flooding my mind).  Then again,  maybe you have decided Jesus is the love of your life and you are called to live single.  Could your story be of an amazing miracle God has performed on your behalf or possibly you are waiting for the miracle that you so desperately need.  We all have a story.

Could it be possible that God is calling all women to renew our love for each other, our sisters in Christ?  Those in our local congregations, women in our communities, women who have forgotten how special and unique they are.  In her Bible study "Stepping Up", Beth Moore makes a statement that creates such a beautiful word picture.  Quoting her, "He (Jesus) is the ultimate Prince Charming to every woman, especially the one who forgot she was Cinderella."  What's your story Cinderella...maybe just as important is taking the time to listen to another princess tell hers.   

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen

  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trustworthy

One of the ways I know God is speaking to me concerning a particular subject is when that topic is presented to me in several different ways.  That is how I came to this subject.  I read John chapter 2 and a couple of verses caught my eye. Then, an Oswald Chambers devotional I was reading was based on the same verses.  I really felt impressed to write but, put it on the back burner.  Fast forward a couple of months and it was presented to me again.  I awoke at 6am Saturday morning and knew this was my subject. 

Trust.  Have you struggled with the concept that to love someone means you must trust them?  I have.  Those who have broken your trust might tell you they must go hand in hand.  If you don't trust, you don't love.  What does trust mean to you?  Webster's dictionary defines trust like this, "assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.  One in which confidence is placed." As I read in John that day, I "saw" verses that I had not "seen" before.  John 2:24-25 says, "But Jesus didn't trust them, because He knew what people were really like.  No one needed to tell Him about human nature."  Hmmm, interesting. 

Recently I was given a survey of sorts to offer my thoughts on trust.  There were approximately 10 questions dealing with every thing from how I define trust and how I know others trust me to, have I ever broken the trust of someone, and if I had, was I able to re-establish it, and how?  Responding to that survey, really pushed me to search my heart on trust.

I love that God chose to include this passage because it appears that Jesus knew that we would befriend and even love those that we may not always be able to trust or that would break the trust we have for them.  Dr. Henry Cloud, Christian clinical psychologist, author and relationship expert, is quoted as saying, "Trust is not something that is freely given.  It is earned by our behavior.  A good character never feels "entitled" to trust.  Instead, he or she feels like he must prove himself to be faithful and that someones trust is not to be taken lightly."

The last question on the survey asked, "Have you ever broken trust with someone and if so, were you able to re-establish it and how?"  Here are a few things I have learned along the way:
  • The first steps always include confession and repentance.
  • Regaining trust takes time.  Remember that God forgives instantly a repentant heart but, with humans, it can sometimes take a little longer to work through the process.
  • When regaining trust, you must be willing to give permission to the offended one to ask questions and, be aware that you must be transparent and open without anger and defensiveness.
  • Realize, that returning, even if only briefly, to an old hurtful behavior could set you back and, according to how serious the offense, and how long you've been in the healing process, you may have to do some of those beginning steps again. 
  • When you've done all you can do (be sure that you've done all you can do though) and you still have not been able to rebuild trust, you must leave it to God.  You just keep on doing what is right and let God do what only He can do. 
I'm not a relationship expert and there is much more involved in these steps than it appears.  Use this as a spring board to learn more about this subject.  There are many great books, written by some great authors, to help you and I build and keep strong relationships. 

My desire is that I be found trustworthy.  I want others to know that my word will bond me.   Unfortunately, I have missed that mark before and have had to rebuild the trust that I damaged.  Allowing someone to rebuild trust that had been broken has also been apart of my life.  Both sides of that road can be difficult but rewarding.  I like how "The Message" paraphrases Proverbs 10:7, "A good and honest life is a blessed memorial..."  That's what I want, a legacy of being good and honest.  How about you?

Until we visit again,
Live blessed,
Carmen

Saturday, September 3, 2011

It's Seasonal




Cooler temps have arrived in my little corner of the "land of pine trees and lakes".  These cooler days are the first tease of fall.  I love autumn.  Sunflowers, football, hay bales and pumpkins.  Trees with their beautiful display of colors.  All of the gifts of fall are as welcome to me as the flowers and new growth in spring. 

God , in all of His wisdom, blessed us with the changing seasons.  I like living in an area where these changes are evident.  Life is like that,  full of change.  If it wasn't, we would never appreciate where we've been or look forward to where we are going.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds me "There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven."  Solomon also said in verses 11&12 of chapter 3, "God has made everything beautiful for it's own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."

Often we hear about different seasons of life.  Most often, people are talking about our childhood, youth, middle age and senior years.  That's a little simplistic for my life.  Those are seasons of life yet I have found there are others as well.  Some of them I have been sad to know they were changing and others I couldn't wait to move on.  Do you remember the excitement of starting each new phase of school -elementary, middle school, high school and then college?  How about starting a new job or marrying your sweetheart?  Those are all seasons.  Then there are others that may not be quite as exciting.  Your children growing up and going away to college or moving out on their own.  Losing a job and starting over.   Losing a spouse through divorce or death and wondering how you will cope in this new season alone.  Part of my survival during some of the seasons I have weathered is the knowledge that this too will pass.  A wise pastor of mine told me years ago, "nothing stays the same, good or bad."  As our Bible verse says, "people cannot see the whole scope of God's work...". I think that is probably a blessing.  If we knew ahead some of the seasons we were going to pass through, we might not want to go forward and if we "saw" the really good stuff early, we would never enjoy the present.

I am in a new season.  I have been for about two years and as I look around, I see others I care about entering new seasons and others leaving some tough ones behind.  It's good that our seasons change in nature and life.  One of my favorite movies is "Hope Floats".  Birdee Pruitt (Sandra Bullock) makes a great statement about changes in life.  "Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad but it's the middle that counts the most.  Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning.  Just give hope a chance to float up and it will too..."

Are you entering a new season?  If it's an exciting one, take time to enjoy the ride!   If it's one that you know immediately you are going to be glad when it's in the past, Psalm 31:24 says "So be strong and take courage, all you who put your hope in the Lord!".  Birdee's advice is great advice, "give hope a chance to float up and it will too..."

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Making of An Idol

"Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts.  They have embraced 
things that will make them fall into sin"  Ezekiel 14:3

Elvis Presley once said in an interview, "Well sir, the image is one thing and the human being is another.  It's very hard to live up to an image".  I am a long time Elvis fan.  You know you are successful in pop culture when you are a "one name" artist.  This past week was the 34th anniversary of his death and he has only grown more popular and successful.  A teen idol who still has a host of fans long past their teen days.  I personally don't think he's still alive but....just kidding!!  Thinking of his career and his popularity, brings to mind the subject of idols. 

During my morning quiet time, I have been reading in Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was a priest who had been taken in captivity to Babylon and while there he was called by God to be a prophet.  The Israelites had a bad habit of worshiping just about anything those around them worshiped.  Why didn't they influence others as much as they were influenced?  Probably for some of the same reasons we struggle with that but, needless to say, they were deep into idol worship.  God is a jealous God and He had told them in no uncertain terms how he felt about idols.  Number one was:   "Do Not worship any other gods besides me.  Do Not make idols of any kind...You must never bow down to them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!" (Exodus 20)  I would consider this instruction to be about as direct as you can get.  Yet, they bowed.

If I'm not careful, I can be very judgemental concerning the Israelites.  Why?, how?, what were they thinking?, are all questions that have been asked by me.  On the other hand, I can excuse and overlook idol worship in my own life.  Richard Keyes, "The Idol Factory", defines idols this way, "An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God.  All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them...Idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God's existence or character.  It may well come in the form of an over attachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good...An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero - anything that can substitute for God".  Hmmm, that definition stings.  When I search my own heart, I must confess, there have been idols there.  A big one has been the scale.  Have you ever seen the commercial that shows a person dragging around a scale chained to their leg?  Funny, but painful.  I have spent most of my adult life struggling with weight.  I look back over the years and my poor body image has defined me in so many ways.  How I felt about myself, what activities I would participate in and my clothing choices to only name a few.  One of the biggest regrets I have now is that I was never able to enjoy my younger body!  I can not remember a time since I was 16 that I didn't feel the need to lose weight.  I never felt pretty.  Strange, isn't it?  If I were to bear my soul, and I don't think either one of us could handle that, there are a few more that I have bowed to. 

The thing about false gods is that they never satisfy.  Never.  False gods are unable to fill up those empty places in our hearts.  They lie, they mislead us, they addict us, they just never deliver on any promises they make to us.  They leave us frustrated, jealous, defeated, depressed and a whole host of other feelings, emotions and realities.  God offered so much more to the Israelites and He offers so much more to us.
God promised restoration to the Israelites and He promises it for you and I too.  Isa. 41:9-10 "For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.  Don't be afraid, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand".   Ezekiel 36:26 "And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command".  Hebrews 1:3 "As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.  He has called us to receive His own glory and goodness!  And by that same mighty power, He has given us all of His rich and wonderful promises.  He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in His divine nature".      

Kelly Minter, "No Other Gods", puts it like this, "A professed god is who or what we say our god is; a functional god is who or what actually operates as our god".  Is there something or someone "functioning" as a god in your life?  When was the last time you not only searched your own heart but asked God to search it and "reveal any unclean" thing within you?  When we tear down the idols in our lives and purpose in our hearts to devote that kind of attachment, allegiance, sacrifice and worship to the one true God, we can truly begin to find peace and joy.  I will not lie, as I have said in the past, I'm a work in progress.  Living in the freedom of worshiping the one true God is the desire of my heart.  I am so glad that God knows that about me.

Until we visit again...
Live blessed
Carmen





Sunday, August 14, 2011

Under Pressure

Have I ever mentioned that I can be a little over cautious?  As a child, my mom cooked many suppers with her handy, dandy pressure cooker.   I have memories of the little weight jingling away and even more vivid memories of her stern warning.  "STAY AWAY FROM THE PRESSURE COOKER!  IT COULD BLOW UP!"  What all could happen to me or our house was never quite fully explained, yet I knew it probably involved a lost limb or eye.  As an adult, I never owned one and never intended to own such a explosive, dangerous device.  Recently, at a gathering of friends, one of the young ladies began to sing the praises of her electric pressure cooker.  I was intrigued.  By the way, another aspect of my personality involves asking lots of questions.  I quizzed her.   Interrogated her.  After all, she was suggesting I use a piece of equipment that could do potential harm!  She assured me they were safe.  That I would love the new and improved models.  I began to ask around.  Several friends have them.  I began to get brave.  I needed one of these.  After all, working full time leaves little time to cook.  The purchase was made (after much research on the best, safest model of course).  55EXEYUJVV5B

Fast forward to today.  With directions in hand, and my dear husband close by (what if it exploded and I needed first aid or an ambulance!), I faced my fears.  I read the directions, several times.  I looked at the illustrations.  Read ALL of the safety precautions.  Gathered all my supplies, and began.   When the timer rang and it was time to do the quick release of pressure, I turned that over to my valiant husband (he asked was it so he could be disfigured instead of me).  "Of course not", I said.  He was so confident.  He reminded me several times, that it is 2011 and the label said "safe and easy".  If I had filmed myself when he began the pressure release, it would have been a YouTube sensation.  Standing across the kitchen from him, I actually jumped when I first heard the loud "hissssss" of the steam escaping.  After quite a bit of harassment, I reminded him that it is good to be needed.   

I am happy to report that we enjoyed wonderful bone in chicken breast with new potatoes and carrots in 30 minutes.  Fifteen to reach high pressure and 12 to cook.  Falling off the bone tender I might add.  Well, I'm hooked.  I love this new gadget!! 

I love that man of mine.  My hero.  It was fun experiencing this together.  Try it sometimes.  You might even get to kiss the cook!

Until we visit again,

Live blessed,
Carmen

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stings

"...O death where is your sting?"  1 Corinthians 15:55

It is here in this corner of "the land of pine trees and lakes".  It has stung the group of believers I call family.  In the past week, a wonderful elderly saint, a warrior for Christ, a man who faithfully ministered in prisons and nursing homes went to meet his Savior face to face.  A dear friend lost her brother very unexpectedly and Monday night a sweet, kind, godly young pastor's wife lost her courageous battle with cancer.

I don't understand the timing of death.  We sing of heaven and we talk of being homesick but I have found that most of us feel like the old saying, "I want to go to heaven, I just don't want to go today".  Really what I don't understand is God's timing.  His decision process.  God's power and sovereignty are supreme.  His ability to intervene in the affairs of men is unquestionable.  Yet, I have often said, "I know He can, I just don't know if He will".  

How do you feel about questioning God?  About arguing your case before Him?  During difficult times, when tragedy hits us personally, we usually ask "why"?  What purpose will this serve?  What is the eternal significance in this?  Sometimes, usually after time, we may see the "why", the purpose.  More often we will not know the answers to our questions on this side of heaven.   This is where our faith muscles are stretched and we "know because we know" that we are loved by God and if we are in pain, it is never in vain.

For those who have left this world, they have met their sweet Savior.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that when we are absent from our body, we are present with God.  That is a wonderful and exciting promise!  To those who woke this morning without their loved one, this may be a comfort that will have to grow through time.  Healing will come only through a process and a big component of that will be time.  My prayer for them all is that God will do for them what only He can do.

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Not Returning to Egypt Part II - Pain = Change

Change is scary.  Sometimes it's exciting, often it can be bittersweet but usually scary is one of the bigger components.  Unless we are changing our cologne scent, we usually don't do it without our feet dragging and our fingernails dug into the carpet.  Of course, I have been known to struggle with a change of cologne scents.  There are so many to choose from!  Ok, off that rabbit trail and back on the main road.  The Bible talks alot about change.  Restoration is the theme that runs through the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

In Part I of this post, I shared how I sought godly counsel to help me make some necessary changes emotionally.  I am also a member of Weight Watchers.  It would be great if I could say that I was successful my very first try at this eating plan but, this was my second time around with them.  I have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight more times than I can count.  Like a dear old friend, James, said once, "I have lost a 1000 lbs over my life time!"  An exaggeration for both of us but it sure feels that way!  If I listed every "diet" that I have been on some of you would be surprised and others of you would say "been there, done that".  Emotionally, there are issues I continue to struggle with.  Physically, I am in better health than I have been in years.  I would say that seeking help staying free has been an important step for me.

In "The Word For You Today", the author has several great quotes on change.  "Usually we don't change until the pain of staying the same becomes unbearable.  For most of us, knowledge is not the bridge to growth-pain is."  Knowledge has not been the catalyst for change in me.  I "knew" what needed to be done.  Yep, pain did it!  Emotional pain and physical pain.  It's amazing how being miserable could motivate me.

Step Two:   deciding to change.  In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul tells us to "let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think."  "Let God" - hmmm, active participation.  I must participate.  I must decide, choose, act and I must decide, choose, act daily.  Even when I didn't want to, when it was inconvenient, when it seemed easier to use old behaviors, when I was pressed, pushed, tired or hungry.  Even when those I love played on my weaknesses.  I must decide!! Please don't misunderstand me.  Making lasting changes in my life has been one of hardest things I have ever done.  The second quote from "The Word For You Today" says, "Change usually comes when it hurts so much that you have to change, when you learn so much that you want to change, and when you receive so much that you welcome change."

Here I am today.   Just deciding every day.  Standing firm, and not letting myself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1)  I have come to realize that there are some issues and behaviors that I will have to work on daily to keep submitted God.   I wish that I could say that it was easier.  I am to the place now that "I have learned so much that I want to change and I have received so much that I welcome change".  When I fall, I get up, dust myself off and start again (Proverbs 24:16).

Has the pain of staying the same become unbearable?  You can change.  I am.  Notice I didn't say I did.  I am a work in progress.  My dear husband has a Sammy Kershaw song that he quotes often.  Kind of a mantra for his life and I think I will borrow it here.  "I ain't as good as I'm gonna get, but I'm better than I used to be".

Until we visit again...

Live blessed,
Carmen   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Perfect Planning

I love the beach!  We just returned for a few days of sun, sand, family and fellowship.  The sound of waves crashing against the shore, the smell of salty air (well it smelled like seaweed this time) is so soothing.  The night sky was so vast and full of stars.  Night after night the sky put on a light show for us.  I have never witnessed so many shooting stars.  We were all like kids, so excited every time one passed over.

Every time I visit the sea shore, I think of what a mighty God we serve.  I stand amazed and always sing (quietly of course, don't want to scare anyone)  a verse of "How Great Thou Art".  Who but God could have designed this wonder? 

David, describes it like this in Psalm 8, "When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers -the moon and the stars You have set in place - what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us".  In Job 38 the LORD challenges Job when he questioned the LORD's wisdom.  The LORD lays out a series of questions that I love to read.  I can just hear Him speaking. 
"Who defined the boundaries of the sea as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness?  For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores.  I said, 'Thus far and no farther will you come.  Here your proud waves must stop!'  I love this!  Our creator!

God has designed this universe for us.  Perfectly planned.  We are surrounded by beauty and wonder.  He loves us so.  The next time you look up and see a beautiful painted sunset or drive by a lake and notice the moss covered trees at dusk let it be a reminder of His love for you.  You are loved!  You were planned for!  "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love.  Death can't, and life can't.  The angels can't, and the demons can't.  Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away.  Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

Be at rest and filled with peace.

Until we visit again...
Carmen

Saturday, July 16, 2011

You Just Do

"How do you get through things you don't want to do?  You just do."  Jaycee Dugard


Recently I watched an interview with Jaycee Dugard.  Her first since her rescue.  She is an amazing young woman with a story of not only surviving but thriving in a captive situation filled with abuse.

Her quote from above has brought to mind another quote.  This also from a woman, a mom, that had lost her child not to abduction but death.  She was asked how did you survive?  How did you go on?  Her answer, "I didn't mean to.  I just kept getting up everyday". 

How do we survive difficult times?  How do we survive a scary, maybe even terminal diagnosis?  How do we survive broken hearts, abuse, neglect, infidelity, bankruptcy, loss of job, loss of spouse, death of a child, addictions and a host of other terrors? I have often said of a tragedy, "I could never survive that. It would kill me".  You probably have said the same thing.  Jaycee addressed that thought when she made the statement, "You just do".

In Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT it says, "The unfailing love of the LORD never ends!  By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day."  Beth Moore said a couple of things on this subject in "A Woman's Heart, God's Dwelling Place".
"God's measure of mercy is offered according to need.  In the moment we say (we could never survive) those words, our ratio of mercy matches our present need.  But when the time arises and the need escalates, so does the grace required for us to make it!  God is always sufficient in perfect proportion to our need.  Every morning He has already set aside the omer for our daily need".  She goes on to say, "God's grace is always there prior to our need.  We must receive it.  You and I can survive anything but we must want to".  In "The Word For You Today", it defines grace this way, "This word "grace" simply means "all of God you'll ever need, for every situation you'll ever face." 

Through the difficult times in my life, and believe me I haven't faced any thing like Jaycee Dugard, I look back and ask myself "how" and just like Jaycee, I just did.

Jaycee didn't sugar coat her ordeal.  She wrote a very candid book about it.  You don't need to sugar coat your situation either.  Life stinks sometimes.  Really bad stuff happens to really good people.  The Bible says in Matthew 5:45 NLT "...He (God) sends rain on the just and the unjust".  The difference for the just is that we have an advocate in Jesus Christ.  We are a patient of the "Great Physician".  We have a power source, the Holy Spirit who prays for us when all we can say is "You know God" or "HELP!"  A power source that fills us and strengthens us to do anything that is required.

Why did God allow such a thing to happen to Jaycee?  I don't know.  There are some things that we may never have the answers to on this side of eternity.  I have found in my life, often after, in hindsight, I can see how the situation grew my faith muscles and how God used the situation to work together with other things in my life for my good.  I also know this, I have much more compassion for others in an area that I have struggled with and I also have had some great opportunities to come along beside someone and say "Hey, I've been there and I survived and you will too.  This helped me..."  We live in a terrible sin sick fallen world.  The Bible tells us that we should expect trouble, trials and difficult situations.  They all have the potential to make us stronger.  In them, we learn that God's grace is sufficient.  Jaycee not only survived, she thrived in a most difficult life.  She became better instead of bitter through her ordeal.  She has the opportunity to use her experience to help many others who have suffered child abuse.  God never allows His children to suffer for sufferings sake.  It is always for a greater good, because something in eternity is at stake.  Don't misunderstand me.  Surviving is a process.  It's not easy and it takes time. 
Remember the old Andrae Crouch song, "Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus.  I've learned to trust in God.  Through it all, through it all, I've learned to depend upon His Word."  

As a dear old sister in the faith always said, "God'll do to depend on." 

Until we visit again...

Live blessed
Carmen

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Not Returning to Egypt-Part 1

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 NIV

During our last visit, we talked about staying free and how difficult that can prove to be at times.  My favorite Bible teacher, Beth Moore, defines captivity in her Bible study "Breaking Free" like this, "A Christian is held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God planned for her."  When you look at captivity with that concept in mind, it becomes easier to believe that there are things that bind us. 

Every person's life and experiences are different.  I think that is one of the reasons God tells us in His Word to "...work out your salvation with fear and trembling."  Philippians 2:12.  The Amplified Bible says it like this, "...work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).  Assuming that Christ is your very own Savior, you must then remember, you and God must plot the course for your freedom trail.  Here is a glimpse of mine.

For me, my first steps to freedom came with the realization that I must change.  Me, myself and I must become emotionally healthy. I could no longer remain in the state I was in.  I was responsible for making the change.  I could no longer wait on anyone else in my life to change first or even change at all.  As the old song goes "It's me, it's me, it's me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer."

Along with the understanding that I must change, I knew that I was not going to be able to change on my own.  If I could have accomplished that, I wouldn't be where I was.  All of my best efforts could not change me.  All of my co-dependent behaviors, my over-eating, my feelings of wanting to control, my living with fear and anxiety, and with boundaries that could be moved easily by those I love must begin to change.  Yet, I felt helpless to change   Satan continued to remind me, "You've tried this before and you couldn't do it.   Don't even try now.  You will just disappoint yourself and God."  I felt defeated in so many areas of my life.  What must I do differently?  Where is the missing link for me?  I needed help!

There are times in our lives that we need another godly set of eyes to help us see our selves and our situation in a different light.    As my mom has said many times, "sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees".  Do you have godly counsel in your life?  A pastor, professional counselor, Sunday School teacher, a friend (one that will be willing to speak the truth in love) or an older Christian mentor to help guide you through the trees?  One of my own godly counselors, Gil, helped me see that we Christians are how God carries out His plan.  He uses us to love, admonish, counsel, direct and protect each other.  In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us that we are all one body (all Christians).  Verse 16 says, "Under His direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly.  As each part does it's own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing full of love."  Proverbs is full of verses encouraging us to accept good counsel.  Take the time to look at a few, 11:14, 12:15, 15:22, 19:20 and 24:6.

The decision to seek help was the first step for me.  I have wandered off the trail a few times.  I can still handle situations in my life the "old way".  I do know this, I'm farther down the road than I was and I am much quicker to get back on when I see I took the wrong exit. Where are you on your freedom trail?  Did you just get on or did you take the wrong exit and and now need to return to the path?  Maybe you've been traveling awhile and see yourself getting stronger each day.  Wherever you find yourself, remember, every step brings you nearer to the abundant life God has planned for you. 

Until we visit again,

Live blessed,
Carmen

Monday, July 4, 2011

Let Freedom Ring

We are celebrating early in my little corner of "the land of pine trees and lakes".  I hear the faint pop of fireworks as I write tonight on this Independence Day eve.  Celebrating the birth of America's independence and freedom from Great Britain is a wonderful time in our country.  Amazing favor from God! 

I have found that there is so much more to freedom than the initial action of being set free.  I suspect that all those enslaved through history have encountered this realization.  Certainly the Israelites looked back toward Egypt several times on their journey to the promise land. 

In Galatians 5:1, Paul reveals something interesting.  "So Christ has really set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free..."  (NLT)  Staying free.  My mom once said to a loved one, "there are more ways to be in prison than to be behind bars."  Have you found this to be true?  Over the years I have been held captive in a few areas of my life and if I'm not careful, I can return to bondage easily.  Why is that?  Why is it so much easier to return to the unhealthy familiar than to move forward in the healthy new?  Once again Paul can shed light on this dilemma.  Galatians 5:16 (NLT)  says, "So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit.  Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves."  He goes on to say in verse 19, "...and the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict."  For most of us the real work of staying free begins after we are set free.  In the Expositor's Bible Commentary the authors have these thoughts, "It is not always enough to "will" something, for good intentions are not always carried out.  Our wills must be energized by God Himself."

Fortunately, we have a lot of help from our "energizing"  God!  Phillipians 2:13 has these words of encouragement that have brought me comfort many times when I worry that I might not be able to withstand this battle within me.  "For God is working in you giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him."  Thank you Lord!

I never want to over simplify "staying free" for those who are in a battle for their very life.  It is a process and we will always need to vigilant to watch over our hard fought victories.  Satan, the great enemy of our souls, will continue to try to take back lost ground.  Be alert!

In my next post, we will explore this subject further.  I certainly don't have all the answers but what I have learned in my own life, I'm willing to share.  Wouldn't hard earned experience be wasted if we didn't use it to help someone else?

Until we visit again...

Live blessed
Carmen

          

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Check Engine Light

I have become high maintenance.  Mid life has brought me to this place.  Supplements, juices, hormones and points (that’s for another time) have taken over my life!    

A few nights ago, after finally settling in for sweet slumber, I realized I had forgotten one of my maintenance items.  My dear husband suggested a check list.  A check list!!!  Now don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t upset at my honey, he was just trying to help. How would mine look?

Mid Life Check List
Hormones (NEVER forget these!)
Hair Color
Moisturizer
Supplements/Vitamins - so many they must be put in a pill box (I can’t believe “pill box” is in my vocabulary)
Moisturizer
Reading glasses
Did I say moisturizer?

Where is our spiritual lesson in this?  We brainstormed together looking for spiritual meaning, some way to encourage my readers.  None seemed plausible.  As Michael Corleone said in “The Godfather III” about his nephew, Vinnie, “You are what you are.”  It is what it is. 
I have changed.  My body has changed.  It seems possible that the one I’m occupying today may not really be mine.  If I had put more thought in this, I could have been more prepared.  Not so surprised.  I will be 51 on Saturday.  Reality is setting in. 

Are there any positives in all of this?  Absolutely!  I am healthier, physically, mentally and spiritually than I have ever been.  My faith muscles have been stretched and have become more developed.  I am still growing in the Lord.  Learning more and more about what’s really most important in life.  I judge less, extend grace more and know because I know that Jesus Christ is the love of my life. 

The Bible tells me in Proverbs 20:29 “…the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.”  (NLT)  I do enjoy the benefits of some hard earned experience even if I do cover up the splendor of my gray hair! 

Until we visit again…

Live blessed,
Carmen 
    
    




Saturday, June 25, 2011

On our Side

Country music is alive and well in our home.  From the early songs that some call true country to the newest that attract a huge base of young fans.  Country music videos are T.V. of choice for my dear husband.  Myself, I like a variety of music.  My IPOD contains Mandisa, Travis Cottrell, Michael Buble, Harry Connick, Jr. among other things.   While in my car, pondering my thoughts (I get that from my mom) is how you would usually find me.  Although I must confess, sometimes I just feel the need to pop in Lynyrd Skynyrd and belt out "Sweet Home Alabama" with Ronnie Van Zant. 

The other night, my honey and I were relaxing and, you guessed it, watching country music videos.  On came Rascal Flatts' video "I Won't Let Go."  As I began to take in those words, my heart stirred.  So many of the lyrics remind me of Jesus.

"It hurts my heart to see you cry"  Psalm 56:8 records one of the sweetest verses, "You keep track of all my tears in Your bottle.  You have recorded each one in Your book".
"I will fight your fight" Are you in a hard fight?  God will fight for you.  Joshua 23:10 says, "Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as He promised."

Can't you just hear our sweet Jesus saying those words?  Sometimes it's hard to understand the depths of God's love.  Paul talks of that in Ephesians 3:18-19.  It can be especially hard if you have struggled with feeling the love of your earthly father as I have.  Jesus understood.  He left us many verses to assure us of His love.  Matthew 10:-29-31 tells us that nothing happens to us that He doesn't know and that even the hairs on our head are numbered. 

Have you cried buckets of tears?   Do you feel unloved and unnoticed?  Are you in the fight of your life?  Jesus really does care.  How do I know?  From experience!!!  The more I get to know Him, the more I see and feel His love.  Start asking God to let you "see" Him at work in your life.  Beth Moore, my favorite Bible teacher, calls these "God stops".  Begin looking back on your day and recording one "stop" from that day.  Don't get discouraged if all you can think of in the beginning is "a good parking space" like I did!  Keep at it and you will begin to become more and more aware of His presence.  Growing in your relationship with God is a process.  Why not get started today?  He's waiting.

Well, I've talked your eyes off today.  Until we visit again...

Live blessed,
Carmen

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thirsty

It's raining today in the land of pine trees and lakes.  We are in a drought of sorts so the very faint rumble of thunder early this morning was thrilling.  We (my dear husband and I) have been working diligently to keep our new sod alive.  The prospect of help from above fills me with thankfulness.  What I really wanted to do was stand in our front yard in my pj's and do a little happy dance:)! 

This feeling was a great reminder that my soul will always thirst for God.  In Psalms 143:6 (NLT) David says, "I reach out for You.  I thirst for You as parched land thirst for rain."  Sometimes my soul is thirsty and sometimes I'm parched.  All pale and crunchy, like our lawn.  An amazing transformation happens when that same lawn receives a little water, it brightens up.  Let it have a steady rain and it becomes lush.  My soul is like that.  My recognition of the Holy Spirit's presence and my willingness to let Him "rain" on my soul is thirst quenching.  John 4:13-14 (NLT) quotes Jesus reminding us of this very thing.  "Jesus replied, "People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water(from the well).  But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether.  It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life."

In Oswald Chamber's beloved classic "My Utmost For His Highest", he talks about our depending on God's presence.  "Having the reality of God's presence is not dependent on our being in a particular circumstance or place, but only is dependent on our determination to keep the Lord before us continually."  I like the secure feeling we are promised that God's presence is not dependent on our circumstances.  This becomes very important when we are in a "tight spot" as George Clooney's character says in"O Brother Where Art Thou", (don't watch this unless it's been edited - way too much cursing!)  I've been in a few "tight spots" over the last couple of years and I bet I'll be in a few more before I leave this world.  I've learned some great lessons and I hope to share some of those along the way.  Until we visit again...

Drink up from that perpetual spring!

Live Blessed,
Carmen

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In the beginning...

A dear elderly pastor has encouraged me through the years by calling me the "great communicator".  I don't think he dared compare me to Ronald Reagan but it was his way of pushing me to use a gift that I do have, talking.  My hope is that through these posts, I will encourage you, make you chuckle, and stir your heart.  I am not a gifted writer.  What I am is a woman wandering through the middle of her life with all the changes and wisdom that brings. 

Thanks Dianne for encouraging me to blog.  I hope I don't embarress either one of us!