Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mighty 3:16s

Many people are familiar with John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." That is our hope. Believing in Him (Jesus) is our salvation; our promise of everlasting life. Unless you've been living in a cave, you've heard this. It's good news. Yet there are many that have not made this important choice - one that has to be made BEFORE the fulfillment of everlasting life with Him in heaven. Max Lucado has even written a book entitled 3:16 and, for those of us who have put our faith in Christ, there are abundant resources available to support our efforts to bring as many people to heaven with us as possible.

But there is another important 3:16 in the bible that was brought to my attention recently. It's a passage that packs a tremendous punch of great power and promise. I'm talking about Ephesians 3:16 and it's subsequent verses: 16 "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being" 17 "SO THAT Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being ROOTED and established in love", 18 "may have power, together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" 19 "and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." WOW:O) Can you get your arms around that?

This passage in Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul as a prayer for the Ephesians; that they (the church) may have the fulfillment of Christ in their lives. It can also be a prayer for US, as the church; that we may be strengthened in our innermost being through his spirit. The (Holy Spirit) within us should permeate every fiber of our being; especially our heart, as He cultivates and strengthens our faith. The Master Gardener has planted his love within us. If we can grasp this, it should only yield a power of understanding; one that gives us a supernatural wisdom of the infiniteness of our God in, around and beyond us. Grasping that power and love, as individuals, and as the church, is our key to the abundant life here on earth.

Yes, John 3:16 if our hope for the future; for eternity. Ephesians 3:16, and its supporting verses, should be our hope and our prayer for the present. Let's pray for that kind of understanding and power in our lives; that we may truly live a life that represents that God, himself, lives within us. How can we live ordinary, uneventful lives when we grasp this amazing truth? I contend that we cannot. We have to live as if we are filled to the measure of the fullness of God. Let's radiate that power...tap the energy source that lives within us. God's wonderful gift of his Holy Spirit is within us if we have trusted in his son Jesus. Don't waste such a glorious gift by leaving it all wrapped up...Open it up and live life to the fullest!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Wal-Mart Face

We’ve all heard the saying, “She’d lose her head if it wasn’t attached!” Well, maybe I’ve heard it a little more than others:o)
Anyway, I felt like I’d lost my head, or at least misplaced it, this past weekend. We arrived in KY at midnight and I soon realized that I had forgotten my entire cosmetic bag at the top of the stairs at home. Aesthetically speaking, my whole “head” was in that bag! How could I “face” the world on this very important weekend without my mask? I mean, it was Kristen’s graduation and Mother’s Day. I wanted pictures – and I wanted to be in some of them! How could I do that when all my make-up and hair products, including “special” brushes, were still back in Illinois at the top of the stairs?! My heart sank…I ran smack dab into my vanity and it felt like I’d been hit by a Mack truck.

Bill graciously suggested that we go to Wal-Mart and try to salvage the situation. It wouldn’t be quite the same, but it would at least help me feel better about being “put together” the next day. There are some cosmetics that can be easily replaced, but the Wal-Mart variety just doesn’t cut it across the board. I picked up what I could and felt like I had the basics. They were completely out of round brushes, so I was completely out of luck on that one. Luckily, my friend had a half round brush I was able to borrow the next morning, so my hair wasn’t as bad as it could have been – just a little flatter than usual.

I meet Kristen for breakfast that next morning and as we’re walking back out into the sunshine from Panera, she looks at me strangely and says, “Why are your cheeks so pink?” I looked in the rear view mirror in the car and had to laugh. I looked like a raggedy Ann doll….just a brilliant shade of pink instead of red. When I put my Wal-Mart cream blush on that morning, it had not appeared to be making much of a splash, so I kept adding more. Apparently, it gets brighter as time goes by and sunshine only enhances it! The foundation I had bought was not looking too grand either…it was rather shiny, as well. I was glowing like a nuclear bomb! Now, I’ll have to admit it was rather funny, but at the time I was more than a little disappointed that I wasn’t looking as well as I’d hoped I would for the weekend.

This all got me to thinking about the “masks” we wear and the “image” we portray. I’m merely talking “physical” mask when I talk about the importance we put on our appearance. Take it from someone who attends a co-dependency group in Celebrate Recovery every Friday evening….I care so much about what others think about me and how I look, I forget that the real me is really comprised of what’s on the inside, not the outside. I felt a pang of guilt. I had been anxious for friends and family, who hadn’t seen me in a while, to see how much healthier I was – how much better I “looked” in a size 6 as opposed to a size 12 (okay, I was pushing a 14 more so than leveling out at a 12..LOL!). How vane is that? I was faced with my own imperfections and realized they came largely from my heart….OUCH!

Well, I posted many pictures from the weekend on Face Book, and I’m wearing my Wal-Mart face and hair in all of them. Do I look my best? No, but I’ve realized it’s not really about how I look, but WHO I am. I am a blessed and loved child of God and that qualifies me as beautiful, no matter what my outer appearance is.

I’m also reminded of the spiritual “masks” that we wear. People come to church on the weekends and many are hurting on the inside. You can’t really tell, because they put on a smile and act like everything is fine in their world. Like most of us, they’re only in denial. If not something more intense, most of us can at least search within us and find some level of co-dependency. We are people-pleasers, we put others’ needs in front of our own, we obsess about what others say and think about us….in short, we are bound by our own insecurities and we don’t even realize that we’re “masking” something more complex – discontent in our hearts. It’s a vicious cycle that never seems to end.

We’ve learned in Celebrate Recovery that many “conditions” are merely symptoms with more complex root causes. For instance, one’s hurt or addiction may be what they’re trying to deal with, when those are really just a by-product of something like co-dependency or unforgiveness. If we could all start taking off the masks and finding out what is really causing discontent in our heart, we may just begin to live an authentic life. It means people will see you for who you really are….that the darkness will be exposed…but at least it will lose its power over you.

I’ll admit that appearance is more important to me than it should be….I am a girl after all, and we are sort of conditioned to care about those things. I will continue to take care of the temple that God has given me and I will continue to try to look attractive; especially for my husband, but I hope I can become more and more focused on my inner beauty. The kind of “glow” that comes from inner beauty is one that is refined by God. When I’m refined on the inside, I can’t help but appear beautiful on the outside. You can’t buy that at Wal-Mart!

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, shall be praised.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great Weekend in KY

We had an action-packed FUN weekend in KY, as we celebrated our daughter’s graduation and Mother’s Day. Kristen is now certified to teach children in K – 5th grade and will be pounding the elementary school pavements as early as this week. Any school or class that gets her as a teacher will be blessed. I read some of the letters from students she was assigned to as a student teacher and they are really funny! One that really made me laugh was the one where the student said she was the only teacher that had ever “rapped” for them. I love her creativity and bet the students remember what she taught them in that “rap” session. We’re just praying for the right job for her and trusting that God will make the necessary arrangements for that to happen. I do want to thank so many of you for celebrating Kristen and her graduation. We love each of you and are so grateful for the love and support we are blessed to have from family and friends.

I also got to see my mom for a little bit on Sunday for Mother’s Day and she was having a good day. She looked so pretty and had on jewelry she had won at bingo…so cute! Of course she loved seeing us, as we loved seeing her. There’s no better medicine than love and family….a good dose of joy does a heart good. My mom has always devoted her life to her family and I am grateful for her love and devotion. She was also a wonderful cook, so I’m especially grateful for the fried chicken and the dumplings that she always made sure I had enough of….yes, I know the meaning of “southern comfort”. Bill and Kristen and I ended up at P.F. Changs for dinner and that was awesome as well. They’re sort of fun to hang out with.

Some of our friends made me laugh with their discussions at the graduation reception. We have some pretty fun friends that never fail to provide amusement. Several of them had their blackberries out and one was showing the others how to change the font to what she termed the “glaucoma” font – a very large print for those of us that have some challenges with our eyesight as we “mature”. I tried to take lots of pictures to post on Facebook. Kristen was rolling her eyes and calling me the “crazy picture taking lady”. I’ll have to admit, she was right on target! I’m not that savvy with a camera, but I’ve developed a new addiction for photos and will soon be a “picture posting maniac”. They may not be that good, but I’m hoping it will get better. I was using Kristen’s camera this weekend and had no clue what I was doing. A new digital camera is on my wish list and I’ll be having some fun with that in the future, I hope.

One last thing for this post, as we’re driving back to Rockford today and I’m using the time to write once again….we saw the most amazing testimony/message at Southland Christian Church, in Lexington, this weekend. Nick Vujicic is a young man that many of us have seen on YouTube. He was born with no arms or legs…but he is definitely the hands and feet of Jesus. He travels the world speaking about Jesus and introducing the love of Jesus to thousands of people. His physical limitations would be enough to make most people think they had nothing to offer and would cause many to resort to being limited psychologically and spiritually, as well. But not Nick! He is so full of God’s love and joy and THAT is very evident as he speaks to people. He has allowed God to use his limitations to bring thousands to salvation and seems quiet happy to do so – what a miracle! I love the way he speaks boldly and cuts out the fluff - His “language” is God’s language. When you’ve got no arms and legs, I guess you sort of circumvent what others might think about what you say or how you say it. All I can say is that it’s very effective and profound. Much of what Nick shared made an impact on me, but there were a couple of things I took away and hope to remember daily. These may or may not be original to him, but they’re good reminders, so I want to share them:

FAITH – Full Assurance In The Heart!
(I LOVE being reminded that this is what my faith is!!!)

Another reference he made was to the three things he asks God daily to teach him:
Teach me to Pray, Teach me to Thank You, and Teach me to Trust You!
I want to incorporate those requests into my daily communion with God also. It can only help me to know Him more.

Praise God for Nick’s life and testimony. I’m sure many will come to know Christ through his circumstances and story and I greatly admire his courage and conviction. You can watch him yourself and be blessed by God’s work in and through his life.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Random thoughts on the way to KY

I’m way past due for a blog update. I know we all have the same 24 hours in every day, I just haven’t mastered how to best use mine – a challenge I’m afraid may always be a thorn in my side. Facebook doesn’t help. Now, when I do have a free minute to unwind, it seems like I recline in front of the tv to watch a program we’ve tevoed (How in the world do you past-tense tevo??) and open up my computer to my Facebook account. It wouldn’t be so bad if I just didn’t have to know what’s going on in everyone else’s world. It’s so fun to have a pulse on all your friends (old and new!), but it can really be a mindless way to eat up time. I guess it all comes down to discipline, or lack thereof. I’m usually pretty disciplined, but I have a way of avoiding a disciplinary mindset on the little things. Unfortunately, a lot of little things can add up to a BIG thing….a problem. Once I know I have to take a disciplinary action toward my own shortcomings, I can’t justify my actions any longer and I have to purposefully make a plan to get out of my quagmire…move my mountain…slay my giants. Well, I guess I’m there. I’m gonna have to purpose to cut out “fluff” and respect the parameters of TIME. I can so daydream if I’m not careful! All that to say, sorry I haven’t posted a new blog recently – no excuses, other than lack of discipline and creativity. I’ll try to be better at it. We’ll see how that new mindset for discipline works out.

Bill’s and my lives have been rather busy and eventful. We continue to put lots of time, effort and love into the CR ministry at Heartland. The people there are loved by God and loved by us – they’re SO GREAT! When I see one of them get their breakthrough to freedom and healing its like God has blessed me personally, and he has! CR’s a big blessing in our lives. We’ve had some other milestones recently: our 25th wedding anniversary was on April 28th. All I can say is “Praise God”! He gets credit for that one because it’s his miraculous power that kept us together and keeps us going. He’s such a good glue for stick-to-itiveness!!! No, you won’t find that one in Webster, but you know exactly what I’m saying. We have also been on a complete “health” re-haul for nearly 6 months now. We go to the greatest physician – Dr. Mitchell of Kolbaba and Associates. He’s a chiropractic physician and has great insight into nutritional health. It’s helped us anyway. Bill was really not well and had some major issues with his health. We decided to tackle the “monster” together and make drastic lifestyle changes. For those of you that know how Bill loved to cook and how we both loved to eat, you will be amazed at the “bareness” of our cupboards and fridge. Bill’s signature dishes (so well known by so many of you!) have not graced our kitchen, much less our lips or hips, for over 6 months now. Now, THAT’s amazing! Chicken Marsala, Pasta Fagiole, and Pasta with Filetto sauce are sorely missed, but will not “rise again” in this household. Well, maybe on an occasional holiday or special occasion, but not as a weekly staple! One of these days we will post some pictures so you can see the changes for yourselves. That’s been a great adventure for us and we’re much better off for it.

Our one and only “SPECIAL” child, Kristen, is graduating from the University of KY this weekend with a degree in Elementary Education. We’re so proud of her. I’m actually writing this blog in route to KY – good way to use car time! (It’s a little hard to drive at the same time though…LOL!) Yes, Bill is driving as I “unload”. We so appreciate continued prayers for God to open the right doors for a job opportunity for Kristen. We’re praying for 1st grade in a school of His choice anywhere from Lexington to Louisville – or in between.

As most of you know, Bill’s book has officially hit the market. “They Called Me White Jesus” is a project that was birthed in answer to prayer and what we truly believe is God’s direction in our lives. It’s only a response to what God has done for us, a declaration of his faithfulness and our gratefulness. The wonderful thing is that God will do just as much or more for any one of you. He loves you just as much as He loves us. Take him at His word and believe Him…OBEY Him….He will prove to be faithful. I promise!

What’s been interesting in this entire book process is watching the nature of people. We know that God opened the door for this book and we are just being obedient in telling others how faithful He is. He even brought a publisher to us – amazing, really, when you think about it. So all we want to do is finish well on the assignment. That’s sometimes easier said than done. Just like following God, promoting a book takes some active participation. While it may be a blessing to just have a book “out there”, it’s paramount to get as much exposure as possible to “spread the good news”. Because it is good news! God’s work in our lives and the testimony of His character in our lives is evidenced in the book. It would be silly to give birth to a baby and then do nothing more to help it to grow and flourish. That’s the way I feel about the book, but it’s been a process to get there; a difficult one. It’s hard to “promote” something that is considered “yours”, but that’s where my breakthrough finally surfaced. I was reminded by God that this book is not ours, but “HIS”. We want to promote it for His glory, to tell of His goodness and to fulfill the purposes He has in allowing us to share it. I feel that it will encourage people, give them hope in their relationships, demonstrate the importance and wonder of prayer, and, most of all, glorify the Great God that had His hand on it all! I can’t keep quite about that! I must CELEBRATE it and not apologize for doing so. So, all the misgivings I’ve had in the past about the Facebook networking to get the word out, to “promote” it, if you will, is no longer a concern for me. When God calls us to do something, I believe He calls us to do it well. He wants us to let our lights shine, not HIDE them under a bushel! I’ve gotten the revelation on that point, but not everyone has. Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t send out the memo! (Oh yes….He did write an entire book once, didn’t He?…LOL!) Here’s what I mean by people not getting it though: I wonder if others might feel the same way I first did about the whole “promotion” thing because of the way they are re-acting (or not, in some cases) to the release of the book. I’m wondering if some may think we are not being humble enough by continually talking about the book, by trying to get the word out so others can experience His love as we have. In my “humble” opinion, I feel we could have gotten more help from some in the promotion of the book; those that have the influence and the vehicle to make a big “splash” in the ocean of potential readers, and for whatever reason have chosen not to do so…YET. I’m not sure why that is, but only God can and will open the right doors and we still trust that He is our best “promotion”. Yet, I will still pray that He gets that memo out to others so they can assist in the facilitation! It reminds me of the scriptures where God talks about hearing prayers when they were first prayed. He dispatched his angels immediately in response, but they were “delayed” by the enemy. They did battle for “21 days” before they could come to the aid of the one who prayed. I believe in that reality and I believe God can carry out His plans, even when the enemy throws up road blocks or delays.

Well, we’re driving through Louisville now….this is a great way to pass the time….but I feel like I’ve just emptied out a storage bin of ideas in all shapes and sizes that have been stored away in my mind and heart for some time. The good thing about finally posting is that I have lots to say….The bad thing about finally posting is that I have lots to say! The obvious conclusion of it all is that I could have a touch of ADHD, but let’s just call it creativity….the artist in me doesn’t really care to worry about proper grammar and sentence structure tonight, so if you’ve made it this far in the post…my apologies....I know its totally RANDOM, but it has been fun. Until next time….Carolynn