Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Talk to me, Abba.

I will provide for everything you need. Trust Me to provide for you. Remind yourself that I care for the birds of the air. I clothe the lilies of the field. I can easily provide for you. Remove any doubt in your mind that I do not want to give good gifts to you, my child. Do not focus on your behavior to influence Me. Focus on Me. Think on who I Am. I provide. 

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" Matthew 7:11

For more on this segment, see this post.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Desperate Lengths

I have been reading an expansive biography on William Tyndale. I must tell you, I have been overcome repeatedly at the lengths this man went to in order for us to have the Bible we do. He worked for decades as a pauper so that we could read God's words and apply them to our very person. What has most struck me time and time again is how God used exile and persecution to forge this man into someone who would stop at nothing so that others could have an intimate view of God and be able to see His love for them. I will post a full review later in the week, but I wanted to leave you with a few questions. Are you running from or medicating the very thing God wants to use to forge you into a person of fierce godliness? Why do you fear the desert? Why do you fear the Holy Spirit?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Never Thought You'd Ask.

Perhaps you will recall a post I did a few weeks back about the most horrible kitchen around. This kitchen is also known as my kitchen. Remember when I made enough money from painting to get the copper dream sink? I made a little funny on my blog that day. I asked if anyone wanted to come build custom cabinets around it for me. Are you ready for what happened next? Someone contacted me. No really. Someone who builds cabinets. As you will know, we get a lot of empty promises and people saying they are going to help. This person, however, showed up. He measured the kitchen, the dining room, & the laundry room for custom cabinets. Can you believe it? It's a miracle. I largely have enough money to redo the kitchen (except for the appliances). Somebody, thank God with me. He is good. Do you remember me turning the kitchen over to Him and telling Him to do whatever He wanted. Kitchen remodels usually cost tens of thousands of dollars. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He shared some of His bounty with us. 

You want to help us with all of this? I never thought you'd ask. We can use your help. Come to our work day on the 18th of February. We have buckets of prep to do before these cabinets can go in. Come help. Sign up on our facebook page or just show up. Come help any day. We will let you work. Keep buying paintings so we can get new appliances. I am so thankful to Jesus for this thing He has done. I look forward to sharing with you about our cabinet maker in the future. Hold on tight.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Begin Family Worship

January 29th is Family Worship Sunday. I thought I would throw a little encouragement at you. It is very rewarding to utter real prayers (not just thanks for the food) with your family, read scripture, and sing praises. It can be very daunting if you look at the people who hang out and read the Bible and worship together for hours every day. My thought for you is to just start small. Ask God to give you great enjoyment in it. Do it following a meal as everyone is full and relaxed. Start by doing three simple things. Read a chapter of scripture. Pray for several minutes. Sing a praise song. Start there. It's easy. You can conquer this. 

I read a great article on people's thoughts on family worship. Check it out:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Talk to me, Abba.

All of the valleys and hardships are supposed to produce something in you. Your struggle is opening the way for you to become who you need to be. People of depth, character, and compassion are never born out of easy circumstance. They are whittled slowly. They are sharpened with great force and tribulation. Why do you beg to be free of pain and beg to be full of the character that pain will produce? Walk through the valley with Me. I am the point of all of this. I am truly the outcome you desire.

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, our rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

For more on this segment, see this post.

Monday, January 23, 2012

All Is Grace by Brennan Manning

Sometimes you read a book that makes you feel like you have pulled your heart of your body and sat it in your lap. I felt this way reading Brennan's memoir. It was gut wrenching, encouraging, and hit really close to home. I knew some of his life before, but truly I had not idea to the depth of the pain n his journey. I see now how God used the ravaging effects of an empty childhood to explain grace with such beauty to a man who came to see nothing else but his Abba.

I've learned much about grace from Brennan Manning. The thing that we daily refuse to accept. The thing we try to manufacture for ourselves. It comes from God alone. It comes to the worst of sinners.

As I read about his childhood, I was very struck by how much I could identify with it. He was abused, neglected, unwanted. The pain in my own heart seemed to surface as I read his words. In these words, I realized something very profound God had done for me. Most people who have had this type of childhood are emotionally detached their whole lives. This explains Brennan's divorce and alcoholism. God has done something miraculous in my life. I feel very deeply. Not in a sappy greeting card way. I think it is on a level that most people never allow themselves to get to because of superficiality and fear of pain. I have been struck by this since reading this book. This was something only God could do for me. I thank him for giving Brennan the brilliant words to convey years of unspoken emotion. That in itself is healing.

I wish I could convey to you what his words have done for me. Brennan taught me about this tender, gracious, furiously loving side of God that has forever altered my relationship with God. He taught me that the prodigal can never outrun the Father. That my worth to God is totally dependent of Christ. What richness there is to the words he has offered us as he is ailing in health and unable to care for himself any longer.

"How glorious the splendor of the human heart that trusts that it is loved."
-Brennan Manning

Thursday, January 19, 2012

As White As Snow.

Denbigh and I spent a few days this week on a spiritual retreat in Copper Mountain, Colorado. Our mentors in hospitality have been flying them up there for six years. The feed us, take us on snowy adventures, and spend hours in prayer with us. It is a gift. 

Doris, our hostess, asked a question of us. What was our primary message. Hers is forgiveness. Another person's was obedience. Mine is grace. Much of the time, people think about grace as this sweet thing that God gives us when we do bad things. I knew that mine was not a wishy washy message and so I prayed for a word picture for it. A few things came to mind over a period of days.

The next morning when I got up, there was a powerful snowstorm in the area. I watched as the snow seemed so furious in its falling. It limited all visibility and blanketed everything it touched with inches of thick powder. My mind drifted to Isaiah 1:18, which tells us that though our sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow. It sounds nice. What I realized watching snow is that this grace is intense. This covering is powerful and relentless. It covers everything.

Then, God gave me a phrase.

"His is a wild grace that throws itself on sin."

The second picture that came to my mind was of a man emerging with a gun. He points the gun at me. Then, another man throws his body in front of mine and takes the bullet that was meant for me. That's a wild grace. That's what we receive.

I'm wondering if you can have two main themes running through your life. I love another thing that makes grace display it's beauty, truth.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why I Love Truth.

Theology, as stated by Merriam-Webster, is the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially :the study of God and God's relation to the world. I don't know about you, but I desperately want to know truth. I want to see how God is relating to the world and I want to jump in. I have formed many things in my life according to the theology God presents to us in the Bible. He says that He is close to the broken-hearted. I want to be too. He desires to minister to the afflicted. I want to as well. If I had a poor understanding of theology, I could jump head long into some false doctrine and think God just wants to make me prosperous or that I should kill people to honor Him. At the conference of Nicene, people discussed the theology of Christ being God's Son or not. I'm glad some fought for the truth of scripture.

The dictionary tells us that doctrine is a principle or body of principles presented for acceptance of belief. It is something taught, a teaching. Every time we listen to a pastor or attend church, we are learning doctrine. Doctrine is what keeps us in the true knowledge of God as revealed in His word. Without this we could follow any teacher claiming to follow Jesus and think we are just fine. I don't know about you, but I want to know who He really is.

Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the creation of the universe concerning superhuman agencies. It involves devotion, observances, and contains moral code for governing human affairs. It is the observance of faith and the practice of belief. This sounds like how I live my life. What about you?

I think cultural Christians are really good at one thing, boycotting stuff. I have been wondering of late why so many are so angry. I wonder why so few defend truth. Do we not know it? Have we gotten sucked into the media campaigns of false religion? Perhaps we just need someone to blame for our lack of action according to our faith. I do know this. If we believe Jesus died for our sins and that we are saved by grace through faith, we have doctrine and theology. If we act on any teaching in the Bible, we are religious.

Has religion been taken captive and added to until you can't see it anymore? Absolutely. It is genuinely hard to find Christ in church in our day. The problem is not our religion, however. We don't need to boycott the "man." We need to stand up and do what Jesus asked us to do. We need to love. We need to show grace. We need to feed the hungry. We need to keep our eyes on the cross or we will trip face first into sin. 

I deeply appreciate these elements in my life because the heart is wicked and deceitful and would lead me away from Christ. I desperately need to stay near. I think about the saying that it isn't religion, it's relationship and it worries me. I'm worried when we refuse truth and go with feeling. If Christ used all the religious observances of the Jewish faith, who am I to discredit this. He came to fulfill the law and abolish false religion. He gave us things like communion and showed us how to fast, pray, and study the scripture in order to stay near to Him. Study everything and see if the ideas presented to you are true. "they searched the scripture every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11 If someone would question Paul, I think we should question everyone and search the scripture to determine truth.Let us not blame religion and theology for what hypocrisy and legalism are doing. Let us change our very lives to reflect truth.

Here is a great article on Religion vs relationship: 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Talk to me, Abba.

Crave My truth. I want to reveal Myself to you for your benefit and My glory. I am faithful to give you the knowledge that leads to life. Lose yourself in My word and cling to what I teach you there. Use it to draw close to Me. Find the beauty that leads to the life I long to give you. Refuse to be distracted by feelings or ideas. Cling to who I truly am. The rest there is abundant.

"Jesus answered, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me."
-John 14:6

For more on this segment, see this post.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree is a timeless tale of the love between a tree and a boy.  Created by Shel Silverstein, this simple story is heartfelt and makes for a warm parable about the endless capacity of love and how giving is an act of love that does not need anything in return.  A beautiful book for parents to read to their children, The Giving Tree has been around for over twenty years and won’t soon disappear from the bookstore.
The story is short and never leaves the tree on its own.  It all starts when a boy comes to the tree.  He is hungry, so the tree offers her apples for him to eat.  From there the boy and the tree bond and a friendship is formed.  However, as the boy grows older, his desires change, but the tree still gives him what she can, apples to sell, branches to make a house, until all that is left is a stump.  By now the boy has become an old man and all he wants is something to rest on.  Once again, the boy and the tree are together, and both of them are happy.
No matter how long the boy was away, the tree was always happy to have helped.  This is a great way of showing children that the act of giving is something special and nothing should be expected in return.  Of all the children’s books available, The Giving Tree one book that should be certain to have some shelf space.
With little effort, you can see the rich, spiritual story encased in these pages. The tree gives up it's very life for the boy, is always joyful for his return no matter how long the boy has been away, and in the end the tree provides rest. 
This is one of Laomai's favorite books. She read it on video for a beloved friend and I thought I would share it here. Please pardon my poor video taking and enjoy her reading. She is reading from a stump she found and proclaimed to be a "giving tree."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Talk to me, Abba.

What is keeping you from trusting My design for your life? What are the things that you place your hope and trust in? Today, lay everything down here with Me. I will tell you what you can pick up to bring Me the most glory. I'll show you how to lead people into the arms of Christ. Nothing else you desire is as important. Will you trust Me with this?

There is only Christ. He is everything. Colossians 3:11

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory

What if you could grow closer to God and improve your health in just 21 days? Susan Gregory, “The Daniel Fast Blogger,” has a plan to help you do just that. Widely recognized as the expert on this 21-day fast inspired by the book of Daniel, Susan has helped thousands of people discover a safe and healthy way to fast. The principles you learn from The Daniel Fast will change the way you view food, your body, and your relationship with the one who created you. Includes 21 days’ worth of Daniel Fast recipes! Visit www.daniel-fast.com

I had been curious about this fast for some time so I was quite interested when it came available for review. The new year was approaching as I was finishing the book so I decided to begin a 7 day Daniel fast on New Year's Day. I did it somewhat lenient since I had never done one before. I realized that I am quite reliant on all of the non-approved foods for the mainstays of my diet. You must give up everything processed, dairy, meat, sugar, processed foods, and drink nothing but water. I think giving up coffee was the hardest thing for me. The fast helped me to break addictions that I had to certain foods and even cravings for certain foods. I remember more how bad those foods would make me feel and how much better I felt when I did not eat them. It genuinely made a difference in my overall well being. I also had some significant spiritual breakthrough with several things I had been trying to let go of. I highly recommend it. I didn't weigh myself because that wasn't really my goal. My husband, however, did. He lost 7 pounds and was still eating a little junk each day. All that changed for him was our meals and he lost weight. Try the fast for yourself and see what can happen when you break off the pull of food to focus on Christ. 

Friday, January 06, 2012

Bordeaux's in Kyle, Texas

 Bordeaux's is one of my absolutely favorite places to eat and i just realized that I have yet to blog about it. Perhaps, I thought that I couldn't capture the essence for you. I shall however try. 

The romantic atmosphere is divine for a date night or soiree with your girlfriends. I love everything about it. You walk in to black leather covered chairs and elegant booths that make you feel a world away when you slip into them. The lighting is just perfect. It is not so low that you cannot see your date and just low enough to set the mood. The rustic, elegant surroundings are a perfect backdrop for your evening of decadence.

On my last visit, we started with escargot and stuffed mushrooms. Oh butter. Next, the salad came with the best dressing I have ever had, the wasabi cucumber. A sweet savory butternut squash soup came into play. Then, oh then, the pièce de résistance, the filet oscar. Stars. My mouth is watering. This is a 6 oz. center cut filet topped with blue crab meat, grilled asparagus, and their signature  jalapeño béarnaise sauce. I highly recommend that you try an evening out at Bordeaux's.

Visit them online: Bordeaux's
cucumber wasabi 
 butternut squash soup
stuffed mushrooms

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Gomer's Cooking With Gas

Perhaps you think it's glamorous to live in a mansion. Sure, if you go by the tax assessors records, it might seem so. The reality is that this is hard work. Some days we cry. Some days we are really excited. Some days we are so broken under the weight of God's grace that we can hardly speak. 

There are moments that seem truly lucid and some that are incomprehensible. As I stare at this I house, I am often reminded of my own depravity and the lengths God has gone to just to make me useful. We are constantly coming up against comments that we will never finish this project or that we are crazy. What I have learned is that we must take everything in stride. Take the negatives in your life and use them to motivate you and to remind you of grace. God is faithful. Our house is warmer than it was 3 years ago. Mostly, despite some harrowing defeat, we are still going strong. In the face of hateful critics, we have persevered and we are managing to do the very thing we set out to do. Hundreds of people have passed through our doors because God is good. He wants a place in the desert for people to come to. He wants a quiet respite for His weary children. Though we are not wealthy beyond our wildest dreams, we are trying to do the work. We pray and we thank God for the things He has done. When it's all said and done, we will all know who did this. We will know it was not us. To God be the glory.
Here is a tour of the worst room in the house, the kitchen. This is my stove. We went for a year and a half with no stove (no joke) because we were putting our money into redoing the plumbing and other things.
These cabinets had doors once, but I took them off. I turned the kitchen over to the Lord and have asked Him to remodel it. I'll let you know what He does.
Another view (into the utility room). 
Here is Denbigh nailing up some foam board in the kitchen. It is a great insulator.
 Denbigh and Yaya posing for me.
 The floor we are ripping up.Who wants to donate a new floor to Gomer?
 The ceiling with the foam on it.
Here are our exposed pipes. We replaced cast iron and copper lines. Now we need to build a wall around it to cover it up.
A recent painting I did in my effort to raise money for the kitchen project. I've collected about five thousand dollars so far. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Marriage & Substitutionary Atonement

Our goal in covenant marriage is to lay down our life so that our spouse can become more like Christ. Give them the grace to mature. Keep your eyes on the cross.

I recently read this passage in a book entitled 
Well-Driven Nails by Byron Yawn:

The Problem with Christian Marriage Seminars

It is assumed by most evangelicals that doctrine plays little if any role in life's more important issues. Take marriage, for example. Our most popular books on the subject would indicate the need is practical and not theological. But is not biblical marriage dependent on the central doctrine of our faith, the atonement (Ephesians 5:22-33)? Paul's discussion of marriage was merely an opportunity to emphasize the power of the cross in one important area of life. He was not using the death of Christ as an analogy of marriage. We've got it backwards, He was using marriage as an analogy of the cross. Marriage is⎯at it's core⎯a living analogy of Christ's death. The power of the cross put on display within the most intimate relationship on earth. Paul's point? 

You can't have a "better" marriage without understanding doctrine, especially substitutionary atonement.

There's thick irony here. How is it you can spend an entire weekend at a Christian marriage seminar and never hear the gospel preached or the atonement explained? A substantial commentary on the Church, I'm afraid. Paul's marriage seminars were much different than ours. At his, all you heard about all weekend was the Cross of Christ.. "Session One: The Cross." "Session Two: The Cross." "Breakout Session: The Cross." "Husband's Breakfast: The Cross" "Wives Luncheon: The Cross." So on and so forth. Maybe if you were lucky, he'd mention marriage somewhere toward the end. Or maybe not. Doesn't much matter. When you left, you understood marriage. Whether a husband or wife, you knew your responsibility. The cross makes Christian marriage obvious. More to the point, Christian marriage should make the cross obvious.

In my nearly twenty years of pastoral ministry, I've never had a couple implode because they didn't have enough practical marriage tips. Usually, it implodes because tips are all they have. There's no cross. Never was. Ironically, Christian marriage seminars are part of what's wrong with Christian marriages.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Talk to me, Abba.

Empty your life of everything and make space for Me. Slowly add back in the things that bring Me glory. Don't worry yourself about petty things. Don't try to keep up with your neighbors who must be doing or have this or that. I Am all that you need. If you would lay aside worthless distractions, you would find peace. You would find the very thing your heart desires. Your worth is from Christ alone. Don't be afraid of the dessert. The emptiness is a gift. The pain is a gift. I have brought you to the dessert to allure you to Myself, not so you would long for everyone else. Breathe. Let go.

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Bring her into the wilderness,
and speak kindly to her."
-Hosea 2:14

For more on this segment, see this post.

Monday, January 02, 2012

In a Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day

This book was highly recommended to me by a friend who is not a reader. When people who don't love to read are excited about a book, I take notice. Recently it came across the queue for review and I snatched it up. You must be wondering what the book is about with such a conspicuous title.

Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC, breaks down and examines a passage of scripture most of us would skim over. 2 Samuel 23:20 is broken down for the reader. In this verse, Benaiah kills a lion in a pit on a snowy day. Then King David appoints him over his entire army. As you can imagine, this book is about facing fear and making an obstacle an opportunity.

A blurb about the book:
"Your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn't chase. You will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. Stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is inspired by one of the most obscure yet courageous acts recorded in Scripture, a blessed and audacious act that left no regrets: “Benaiah chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it” (2 Samuel 23:20 -21). Unleash the lion chaser within! 

What if the life you really want, and the future God wants for you, is hiding right now in your biggest problem, your worst failure…your greatest fear? "

I appreciated this book. It was a rich study in overcoming your fear. It was not taken from the usual methodology. Nobody was telling you how to live your life. This was a challenge for a warrior. Prodding and asking, do you want to aggressively pursue the daunting, impossible thing laid out in front of you or do you want to watch tv and grow fat. It's your choice. 

Sometimes, when you try to write an entire book about one verse of scripture, it gets pretty tired. There were some old cliches thrown in here and there, but for the most part, I felt challenged the entire read. Challenge yourself to attack a lion in your life this year.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." 
Mark Twain

This book was graciously provided by Waterbrook Multnomah for review.

Miscarriage | Infertility | Hope

I encountered Jesus as a young child in a church pew in the balcony of an old country church. Through a lifetime of trial, I knew he was the...