Monday, December 27, 2010

A Little Peace from Psalms

We had a white Christmas. Snow fell on Christmas day for the first time in my state since 1882! Everything was covered with a white blanket, perfect for Christmas day. Early the next morning, a few more flakes slowly descended from the sky, shining as diamonds to the ground.

I feel bad for those who had to drive on the icy roads, but for those of us who could stay in, it was a picturesque Christmas, peaceful and quiet.

As we enter a new year, I would like to share with you some of my favorite verses from Psalms. They have often quieted my heart and brought peace to my spirit. When we remember all of the different ways that God works in our lives, it quiets our anxieties and calms our fears. I hope that you look forward to all that God will do in the new year, and you have a happy 2011!
(All verses come from NKJV.)

Here are some of the ways that God blesses us:

"But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head." Psalm 3:3

"The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You." Psalm 9:9-10

"You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah" Psalm 32:7

"You have been my help." Psalm 27:9


Here are some of the ways we can bless Him:

"For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding." Psalm 47:7

"Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 29:2

"But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.'" Psalm 31:14


May His presence guide you in the new year, and His peace keep you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Memory

The sanctuary was dark. The Christmas tree in the center of the stage was lit with soft yellow lights. A choir of about 150 teenagers stood in the tree, which was about ten levels tall. The soloist at the top of the tree started to sing "Mary, Did You Know?". Junior high students dressed in robes like they would have had in Jesus' day, started to walk slowly from the outskirts of the sanctuary inward, all heading toward the stage. They all carried lit candles, and knelt around the tree. I was one of them.

Every year from junior high through high school, I had the chance to be in our church's Christmas pageant. It was more like a production. Three choirs of different ages participated, along with the orchestra and hundreds of volunteers. It was the Singing Christmas Tree, held for a week, with thousands of people coming to celebrate Christ and hear the story of Christmas. Some years we sang with puppets in the tree. Other years we wore red coats and were toy soldiers. Every year had a story line of someone who needed Christ, heard the gospel message, and prayed to receive Him. After that, the tree was lit for the first time as the choirs sang the Hallelujah Chorus. The audience always stood.

I won't ever forget those Christmas memories - the hustle and bustle of volunteers backstage, hearing my friends sing solos, and the joy of being a part of something that centered on Christ and His birth. One of the scenes that I treasure the most is kneeling in front of the tree, holding that candle, singing "Mary, Did You Know?" and wondering just how much she knew about the baby in her arms.

The great I Am who had walked where angels had trod in heaven, chose to come to earth and walk among men. He set aside His glory to become one of us, enduring our trials and refusing temptations. He healed, preached, taught, and loved. Because He came, we know more about the Father, more about what life can be like with God. Because He came, we have hope. We have light. We have love.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas Angel

She always made me macaroni 'n cheese. Her house was always decorated beautifully for Christmas. To know her was to know love. She was my great-grandmother. This week she would have been ninety-nine years old.

I called her Grandma Baba. Her actual name was Barbara, maybe a little too long for a toddler. We enjoyed spending time with her at her house across the state, or going to Disney World together, or just being around her. She had the heart of an angel.

She was a writer. After her husband died - we called him Big Brian - a magazine requested submissions for love letters. She wrote one, telling Big Brian about the day their children were born and how she remembered how he took care of them when they came along. When I read it recently, it made me want to cry. Not just because I miss her and I never knew Big Brian. But because of their story. She loved one man all her life. Even though Big Brian died somewhat young, she never remarried. The last line captured me the most - because of his love for her, she could continue on here. She had the memories, she had the sweet-hearted moments to cherish. Because he loved her, he left her safe.

My great-grandparents' legacy of love affected the rest of our family. My great-grandmother had a significant impact on my mom. She would take her and her brother and sister to church and pray with them. She was a part of a Godly legacy that I've inherited. One that I hope to pass on. I'm grateful for her poetry of words and life.

Is there someone in your life who has impacted you for good? A family member? Or a friend? Someone who has shown you God's love and given you wisdom along the way? Remember to pray for them this Christmas, or cherish the memory and legacy they left behind. May we be able to leave behind a Godly legacy for those who come after us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

From Darkness to Light

The earth sparkles. Have you ever seen a satellite photo of the earth taken at night? You can see pockets of light scattered across the surface. The urban areas, of course, are the brightest. Much of the rest of the earth is surprisingly dark.

I wonder what the world would look like if every church was a pocket of light and every believer was a flame of light. How bright would our world be?

I can imagine where the pockets of light would be. America wouldn't be the only country dotted with light. The countries I've visited or heard about - Brazil, Ukraine, South Korea - would have their own pockets of light, along with many others. Across the face of the earth are believers who love God, serve Him with fervency, and pray with urgency.

We don't know when Jesus will come back. But while we still have time left here, let's shine our lights as brightly as possible, so that what God sees from heaven is no longer pockets of spiritual light, but the whole world covered with light. It's not a mission for just one nation or people group. It's the calling of all of God's children. We belong to a spiritual light brigade, shining the light of God's word and His Son.

How do we each turn "from darkness to light"? (Acts 26:18) By believing in Jesus, the Light of the world. How do we spread the light, or the truth, that we've been given? By acting on those opportunities God gives us, by being a lighthouse of love and truth wherever we've been planted.

"Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loosen the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free,
and that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and that you bring to your house the poor that
are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him,
and not hide yourself from your own flesh?

"Then your light shall break forth like the morning;
your healing shall spring forth speedily,
and your righteousness shall go before you.
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard."
Isaiah 58:6-8 (NKJV)

Keep shining this Christmas! Jesus is the Light that shines through us.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Because Jesus Came

Do you sing Christmas songs all year long? I love Christmas songs. At the church where I grew up, we practiced our Christmas songs early in September. Every year, the junior high and high school choirs would join the adult choir in putting on a Christmas play. Those songs are still in my head and my heart.

One of my favorite songs from the ones we learned was the Hallelujah Chorus. Every time we sang it in the Christmas pageant, the audience stood. Most every time I've heard it in church since then, the audience has stood. There's something majestic about it, appropriate for the King who came to earth as one of us.

"And He shall reign forever and ever." Just what will His reign look like? What does Jesus' reign in our lives look like now? Here are His names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) Wrapped up in His name is His character, majesty, and love. One of His names that best captures His essence - Immanuel.

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV). Because Jesus came, we can know God, we can know the truth, we can know what life is all about. God with us. God's purpose is to "gather together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10 NKJV). God wants each of us to know Him, love Him, and draw close to Him. To understand how to do "with." How to walk through life with Him and with others. To be one with Him and to be unified with other believers in Christ, through Christ.

Immanuel. Jesus made "with God" possible when He came to earth as a man and died for our sins. He is a living Savior, and the perfect Person to lead us into a relationship with God where "with" becomes a way of life. This Christmas season we celebrate our Immanuel and the joy of living "God with us."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feathers, Feathers

I leave feathers everywhere. This fall I'm wearing my first coat with down feathers. But even though the coat is new, it's leaving feathers everywhere I go. I'll be standing and talking with friends when I see tiny white feathers floating through the air. Swatting them to the ground doesn't really work. They just float higher. Catching them is kinda fun, but distracting, I think, for those who stand by. Yesterday I noticed I'm not the only one with feathers. Someone at church had a feather, too.

These feathers got me thinking. Tiny white feathers aren't the only things I can leave behind everywhere I go. We can leave behind a word of encouragement, a smile, or an act of kindness.

During this holiday season, there are many opportunities to leave behind some kindness everywhere we go - at gatherings with friends and family, at church, in the neighborhood, even the mall. In the busyness of the shopping season and going places, it can be easy to pass by chances to bless people. But that is what Thanksgiving and Christmas are about - celebrating the good things God has given us. Most of all, His Son.

So wherever we go this holiday season, I hope we find a few "feathers" and leave some behind as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Watercolor Sunset

I saw it last week, and I couldn't look away. God painted the most beautiful sunset, and I tried to take its picture. I captured only a blur since the car was moving. (I wasn't driving.) But the scenery I saw was a masterpiece.

The landscape reminded me of my grandmother's watercolor paintings. She painted a scene just like this one - black trees silhouetted against a palette of blue's and orange's. That evening's sunset added dark, dusty clouds to the picture.

The picture I managed to get looks like an artist took a charcoal pencil and quickly sketched some trees on top of the sunset. The image is a just a blur. When I try to imagine what my life will be like down the road, it's just a blur. I can guess what will happen, or worry about certain things. But when I worry, I lose peace. God sees clearly. When we pray about whatever it is that's troubling us and hold on to the promises in God's word, peace returns. Trusting God brings an inner calmness. His promises reassure us that He will take care of us as we look to Him and walk in His ways (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 4:5-6).

God is the best Artist. He paints sunsets and sunrises. He designed the beauty of creation all around us. He designs the best plan for our lives, too. To give us "a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). He straightens out the crooked lines in our lives, and fills the picture of our lives with good things. He turns us from what will tear us down, and leads us on a path that will build us up. His pictures turn out better than I could ever have imagined. He's the best Artist.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What's Your Motto?

I was looking for a good motto about honor this week, and I found some other mottos from our military. Some are short, not exactly sweet. But definitely to the point. The Marines, of course, had the most colorful ones. Here are some I found:

From the Marines -
"The Few, The Proud" - US Marine Corps
"Ready to Fight" - 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, USMC
"More than Duty" - 8th Marine Regiment, USMC
"Whatever It Takes" - 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, USMC

A favorite from the Air Force -
"In God we trust: All others we monitor" 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, USAF

From the Navy -
"Non Sibi Sed Patriael" (Not for self, but country) - Old US Navy Motto
"Peace Through Strength" - USS Ronald Regean (CVN 76)
"In Harm's Way" - USS John Paul Jones (DDG - 53)

The one that I'd like to strive to be the most right now comes from the Coast Guard -
"Semper Paratus" (Always Ready) - US Coast Guard Motto

So what's your motto? Businesses post mission statements in their restaurants. (Even Zaxby's!) Churches post mission statements on their web sites, and youth groups rehearse theirs. If we had to pinpoint what we're shooting for in life, or what we want to be or do or have, what would you pick?

Here's what I would say in thankfulness to God, and strive to be for Christ -
Forgiven and grateful.
Bold and cautious.
Trusting and trustworthy.

What would you say? Do you have a personal mission statement that shapes what you do or inspires you to serve God?

*Military mottos come from http://www.military-quotes.com

Monday, November 1, 2010

Guitars & A Little Grace

When I was about nine years old, my grandmother told me she had a surprise Christmas present waiting for me. She wanted me to guess what it was, and said it was something having to do with my family legacy. I was amazed at how big the box was, and I tried to guess as much as I could. But I wasn't even close. It was a junior guitar.

When my dad was younger, he learned how to play the guitar. His parents bought him a lightning blue Fender, hollow body. He still has it, and now we play together. These days, my guitar is all grown-up, as big as I am. We jam to a CD that teaches the songs we sing at church.

The dream is coming true. I have wanted to learn to play the guitar for years. But as I play and my fingers are getting used to the pain, I find it hard to finish a song. Especially to find where does the coda tell you to go and what is that special "s" symbol and are we really supposed to play these chords seven times through? It takes some commitment and focus to play a whole song. And some patience. I'm just glad Dad and I are going through the learning process together.

You know, fingers can also get tired from typing up an article or manuscript. A hand can cramp up after hours of painting or hammering nails. But the things we do at our jobs, in service to God, or for enjoyment can have an eternal impact. When our hands get tired, and our hearts are worn out, that's when grace kicks in. My pastor said this week, "Grace is God's provision for your every need." Whatever the need is, we find it met in Christ. Grace for salvation, and grace for the everyday Christian life. God's grace never ends. It doesn't give out, because He doesn't.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Little Surprises

I found rust-colored leaves in the rose bush today. Every fall when the air starts to turn cold, the rose bushes blossom pink. It's always a surprise to me, since I expect roses to bloom in the spring. So while we put out pumpkins to celebrate fall, these bushes show off their flowers to celebrate the colder weather. And make me smile.

God sends us little surprises at just the right moment. Something to encourage us, cheer us up, or just because. You'd think He'd ever send us flowers? At the first house I knew, the lady who lived there before us had planted flowers, so they bloomed all year long. We were never without color in the front yard.

Simple things or grand things are all around us, reminding us of God's hand over our lives. He paints the sunsets and causes the flowers to blossom. The leaves turn, and the autumn sun hits the trees just the right way. We see God's handiwork in nature, reminding us that He's there.

What simple things make you smile? Leave a few behind here, and never stop looking.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Victory Lives

Above my desk hangs an eagle picture. I got it in the perfect timing with the perfect verse. "There is none like the God of Jerusalem, He descends from the heavens in majestic splendor to help you." Deuteronomy 33:26 (The Children's Living Bible)

This verse has carried me through many challenging times. It is a promise of God's help. In Psalm 18:13, the LORD thunders from heaven. In Psalm 125:2, God surrounds His people like the mountains that surround a city.

Victory and help are alive and thriving, because God is at work. It takes our cooperating and crying out to Him to live out the victory He supplies. The eagle I see every day reminds me of the victory we can have in Christ. And the verse is a promise I depend on.

Here's a quote for the week. Wintson Churchill said it during one of the most challenging times for his country. May it inspire us to keep fighting the good fight. And may it inspire us to keep praying for our country and the ones we care about.

"Never give in - never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to the convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
- Winston Churchill, from a speech given at Harrows School (10-29-41)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Malfunction?

There's an interstate connection called "Malfunction Junction." I've been there many times. It is THE place to avoid at rush hour. A whir of traffic usually comes to a standstill for hours each day there. I don't see it as much anymore. But "malfunction" has found me anyway.

This week a few things have malfunctioned around me. A car. Then a dryer. Then a car again. But every time, when a surprise threatened the routine of life, things got fixed. Or at least, it's getting there. Every time something malfunctions, I'm grateful for the one who fixes it. Like the repairman who found a spare part that hardly exists anymore. And the neighbor who gave me a ride to church.

Malfunctions and surprises can catch us off guard. That's the best time to step back, breathe in, and pray some. Have any malfunctions found you recently? What'd you do? Do you have any advice for when those surprises come? I'm grateful that God can take the "mal" out of "malfunction," and set things right again. And sometimes, things turn out better than they once were.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Living "For Real"

Realness. I've found that people notice when we, as Christians, are "for real." When we're authentic.

The day that I accepted Christ, I asked my parents to share the gospel with me "for real." I had heard the truth again and again, and I wanted Jesus to come into my heart. I wanted a personal relationship with Him.

It wasn't until later that I understood just how real He was. My parents knew Him, and I did, too. But as I studied the Bible more, He became more real to me. I understood more about His love, the closeness of His presence, and the reality we can have in Christ. God conforms us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). An image so beautiful and perfect, it will take heaven to become fully like Him in His character and love.

But for now, as we grow in our relationship with God, we can become more like Him. More real, genuine in our faith and fervent in our love. And better able to help those around us know Him more. The adventure of life with God will continue throughout eternity. There is a light to shine, a love to give, and a gospel to share. We get to be God's ambassadors "for real."

Who has been "real" in your life? How have they impacted you? From what they have told you, what would you pass on to others? I'm grateful for what's been passed down to me. If you get the chance, leave some notes here. And let's keep living "for real!"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Moment

Here's a simple quote I found when I stamped a trading card at a Make 'n Take one day. If you ever get the chance to go to a scrapbook show or craft store, be sure to do the Make 'n Takes if they have any. They're just too much fun to pass up. Here's the quote, and have a great weekend! Or I should say, week beginning...

"Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

D-E-L-E-T-E

I bought a four dollar eraser at Pottery Barn. They have a nice selection of desks, journals, and of course, writing utensils. I couldn't let the eraser go. It had one word on it, "delete."

My eraser reminds me of a flight simulator. When a pilot learns how to fly and has to get in all of his hours for his training, he will fly a simulator. As far as I can remember, it can take hundreds of hours for a pilot to complete his training. And when the flight doesn't go as planned, there's the delete button. Actually, the "back up" button. He can start over, at just the place where the flight took a wrong turn.

In life, we run into detours and even make some wrong turns. But God helps us to get back on track. God, in His grace, takes us where we are and moves us forward. He is the wind we need for our wings to fly again. He is the sustaining power that helps us to get through each day.

Do your wings need some wind beneath them today? Remember this, "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A New Leaf

Fall is here. Almost. Cool breezes and turning leaves give it away. Scheduled festivals, concerts outside, and pumpkin bread cookies all tell us it's time to break out the corduroy jackets. Fall is here.

With that comes a new school year, new classes to take at church, and the launch of the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas. Time to see family and friends. Time for a new leaf.

The coldness of winter is gone, spring came and went, summer was bearable. Now, new opportunities are held out, and old responsibilities continue. Whatever God has called you to do right now for His kingdom, don't stop the work. Day in and day out, we have the chance to make a difference. Although we may not always see the results, God sees the work that each of us does for Him and His kingdom. He sees, knows, and cares. And it matters to the people He has sent us to reach. Or maybe, He has sent them to us...

What new leaves are you getting to turn right now? What old ones linger? How is God helping you in the up's and down's of the adventure? I hope you remember with every new leaf, is a new chance to bless someone. And it just seems to happen, that we are blessed in return.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Freedom Renewed

Freedom. This year at Easter, there was a renewal of freedom for me. Our church had an incredible service, with a "tomb" on the left side of the stage. The stone was rolled back, the inside was dark. And empty.

Songs like "Celebrate Jesus" and "Shout to the Lord" have always been favorites of mine. I've heard them sung in Portuguese and Russian, and no matter where you are in the world, people understand the concept, and price, of freedom.

Galatians 5:1 says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (NKJV) In Christ, we are free.

Free from fear, from worry, from doubt. Free from the stain of guilt. From the burden of sin. Freedom is a precious thing, something bought with blood and sacrifice. While the pull of sin always haunts us and its guilt may still plague us, we have the reality and blessing of being free in Christ.

We celebrate freedom not just at Easter, or on the fourth of July for a blessed country. We can celebrate it every day. And live it every day as well.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Little Sports Trivia

Drew Brees brought some relief and excitement to the city of New Orleans last year. For a city flooded with despair and in desperate need of renewal, Super Bowl XLIV was a time for this city and its team to be in the center spotlight.

Now, there's a tract in which Brees shares his testimony, and we see the impact he has made on his team and the love he has for his family. LifeWay bookstores are selling these tracts for a little over a dollar, and offering to send them to local high schools. Brees' journey has been marked by struggles and triumphs. Leading the Saints to win the Super Bowl is by far one of his best accomplishments. I actually saw it on TV. (I watched the end!)

Football is all about struggle and triumph. Rugby definitely seems more grueling. But football has its metaphors. To work as a team, to overcome the opposition together, to keep plowing forward even when the way is blocked. The nice thing is that there's padding, unlike rugby.

Life can be grueling, too. But God plows the way before us. Our part is to follow hard and keep running strong. "And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8 (NKJV)

Don't let fear stop you in your tracks, or any other hurdles that Satan or the world may throw at us. I hope God's Word acts as your blockers this week, whatever you face. Keep plowing, keep running the race!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fellow Musicians

In the song of life, there are many musicians. As I learn to play the guitar again, I'm excited about the possibility of being in a band for the first time. It's a bit hard to remember all the chords and notes, but it reminds me about the "soundtrack" of life. So many people have contributed to the music in my life, and I am grateful for every one of them.

It seems that we crisscross paths at just the right time. An old friend, a new one. We work together to make life sing, to share the gospel, to encourage hearts. A friend is there when you need them. To send you an encouraging note, to save you a seat when you're late, to cheer you up when you're down. Some pop in and out of our lives, but One always remains constant and is always close (Proverbs 18:24).

Jesus is the conductor, harmonizing our voices, uniting our talents. We have the opportunity to have a strong voice for God when we pray, speak, and write. When we love and make a difference. When one heart needs some love, or when a thousand need just the right word. So God bless you this week as you serve Him wherever you are, and don't stop singing for the Lord!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One Person, One Story

I got an idea in the middle of the night. Can one person change the course of history?

We know Jesus did. He took on the mission that God have Him, a difficult mission, and He ran the race set before Him (Heb. 12:1-2). He fought with honor, defeated the foe, and rescued us from sin and death. He changed history forever.

What about us? What part do we play in God's storyline? As a part of God's kingdom army, we are trained to wage spiritual warfare. As members of His team, we run alongside each other, following His calling, running for His cause.

As a writer, I enjoy the chance to decide the plot of a story. Who will the characters be? What is the plot line? How will the story end? Real life is much more complicated. Our stories intertwine with other people's lives. The plot has twists and turns we didn't expect. A happy ending may allude us. But God knows all.

God writes the best stories. And we get to follow. He knows every plot turn, every twist. And He prepares us. He helps us all along life's journey. So wherever the journey finds you, I hope that you can make a difference wherever you are.

The Hero is coming, once again, to take us home. Before He does, let's make that difference that will shape history, touching one heart at a time, one soul after another for the kingdom.

Can one person make a difference? When one person joins another, joins another, and joins another, the spiritual team expands, the impact strengthens. History will not be the same. And we won't be either.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Beautiful Layers

I'm entering another scrapbooking contest. This one is through my favorite scrappin' store, and the ladies there told me and my mom about it personally. Stores from across the nation will send the best of their scrapbooked projects to a national show. The employees already entered a special contest just for them, and now it's the customers' turn. It will be the scrapbook event of the year. If it were only closer...

So this week I am working on the project. Once again, it has layers of paint, paper, buttons, and flowers. This one is pure girl, blue's and green's and pink's. And don't forget the stickles. As I work on this second contest project, I think about the layers it takes to make something sparkle. Many layers, many embellishments, much time.

So it is with writing. Many layers of understanding, many "embellishments," and much, much time! But the end result is a beautiful piece of art. As writers, we can easily get caught up in the technical aspects, like grammar, that missing comma, and what is that synonym? As believers in Christ, we get to learn from Him the truth of His Word and share that with others. And actually live the stories that are the medium of that truth, like those devotions that are so fun to write.

So whether you're a writer, scrapbooker, or artist, remember the layers of understanding. Be encouraged that it will be worth the time. I'm hoping something beautiful will come from it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Little Devotional Reading

I got to go canoeing this weekend. It was a fun time with my dad. The big or little adventures we take are good fodder for writing. This one was, too.

One of the things I enjoyed was the calmness of the water. As we worked together, I saw that we could go farther as a team. And just glide on the water, until the boat gave out. Fortunately, our muscles didn't give out, and we made it back to shore. Working with my dad was the favorite part of the trip.

Our adventure reminds me of some writer friends I know. I get to read their blogs or stories, and it's a little refresher in the middle of my own writing. So thanks for the reading, and a little devotional time each day.

If you've got an adventure moment, don't hesitate to write it down. It could be some good fodder for a devotion later. You never know...

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Rut

"Choose your rut carefully; you'll be in it for the next ten miles."
- Road sign in upstate New York*

This quote hit home with me today, as I thought about my progress in running. And in how we make certain decisions.

I think I'm getting the hang of running now. It's hard, but helpful. And fun. I find that I can run up the stairs at church, and can still breathe when I reach the top. Sometimes I find myself jogging in place to let out that nervous energy. The bad thing is that I'm creating tiny ruts in my carpet.

Ruts can be a good thing. Some ruts are made when we get stuck in the same spot, a spot we don't want to be in. But some ruts are made when we choose a certain habit that's actually good for us. Like for me, finally exercising. Our choices determine our ruts, like our steering on the interstate determines where we'll be for the next ten or so miles.

So what ruts do you want to be in? Or get out of? I have a list of the out-of's. My list of be-in's is growing.



*Quote taken from The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition. Steve Deger & Leslie Ann Gibson, ed. Minneapolis, MN: 1993.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Katy's Running-isms

I'm doing some research for my first book...a little jogging, a little running. I didn't think I could run anymore today until I caught sight of my neighbor's dog. A boxer, she was outside their garage, apparently not on a leash. After I overcame my momentary paralysis, I got my wits about me and started back up the hill. Faster than planned.

Here are 6 things I've learned from jogging over the past two weeks. And I can use all the help I can get. So if you've got a running tip, please leave one behind. My goal is to run a mile. I've got a long way to go...

6 Running-isms:

1. You can easily sprint uphill when dogs are involved.
2. Umbrellas aren't useful for only rain.
3. Little birds do sing to you.
4. You can run for just one more minute.
5. A cool breeze never comes too soon.
6. God likes the morning time.

So if you've walked or jogged for exercise, leave a little tip or something you've learned. And God bless you in the race of life.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Lesson in Love

Well, I didn't win in the scrapbook contest. There were other pretty things there. But I won in love. My friend who also entered and my other "teammates" cheered us on, and I found more delight in not winning (and getting to keep my entry) than in winning. Funny how things work out...

Friends are a breath of fresh air. Especially when times are hard. This summer is a hot one, and when the humidity is so bad you can't breathe, it's nice to have a fresh wind. The cool kind. Don't really get that here in July. But it's possible. Just like good friends who love you no matter what.

Who's a friend who refreshes you? How are they like a cool wind in the heat of summer? Share your thoughts and let's brag a little on the friends who mean the most to us. I'm grateful for mine.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Layers of Life

Flowers and knick-knacks, glitter and paint. Just some of things I added to my latest scrapbook page. I love scrapbooking, and I love finding all the best goodies to go on a page. Sometimes a little too many goodies.

This latest project I'll enter into a regional scrapbook show, that I'll go to with my mom and friends. We're excited about the show. It's just once a year, always in July. (Christmas in July!)

As I finished the page, I noticed how many layers it had. First the background paper with "Victorian" flowers, then the stickles on top, then the photos outlined in paint, then the paper flowers with metal accents (yes, they had to have glitter, too). Don't forget the peacock feather and the stamped message about love.

So many layers. Just like life, just like Godly character. Our different experiences and memories add layers to our lives. In each layer, God builds strength and grace and love into who we are, and the layers reveal a beautiful project. God's own handiwork. A beautiful character in the making. I never knew scrapbooking could so fun.

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10 NKJV

Thursday, July 8, 2010

St. Louis Adventures, Part 3

Networking has gone from being a computer term for me to a being a people term. At writers' conferences, a retail show, and even my favorite scrapbook store, I've learned how to network. People have ideas, and you do, too. They have things to contribute, a ministry to do, or words to say. We do, too.

In the body of Christ, we each have a part to play, a spiritual gift to stir up, and something to contribute to the greater good. When we join forces, we work stronger together than apart.

That's what I learned at this year's International Christian Retail Show. Businessmen and businesswomen worked together for the greater good. Amidst the coffee chats, book signings, and movie trailers, there was a significant purpose. To provide quality Christian products to the consumer, to get those products into the hands of people, so they're strengthened in the faith and so they can lead others to the faith.

I found the shopper in me wanting to go nuts while I was there. The paintings, the books, the movies. So while I had to restrain that joy inside, I found joy in watching the networking, and the collaberative efforts to make a difference through whatever avenue God had led each company to pursue. Thank you, ICRS and CBA, for a great event, and I hope to see you next year!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

St. Louis Adventures, Part 2

We got to stay downtown in St. Louis. I've never been a true city girl, but I was for four days. Tall hotels lined the streets, along with cyber cafes, the Macy's building (yes!), and of course, Starbuck's. Starbuck's was a favorite of those who attended the retail show. My dad was one of them.

Outside our 17th floor window, I witnessed repelling across the street. I watched as two window washers secured ropes on the rooftop, and prepared for their descent. I imagined it would be exciting to repel down 15 stories, but then I looked down at the street below. Maybe not.

The window washers worked together, staying on the same floor, washing windows in unison. They weren't in a hurry and they weren't slow either. Just the right pace. Just the right swinging from window to window. It was almost like a dance.

Unity. We've just celebrated the anniversary of a beautiful country, filled with mountains and rivers, skyscrapers and farms. Each part of our country is beautiful. I discovered that in the Midwest last week. Every part of our country has something to offer, like every church scattered across America.

As we move into the next year of our country's existence, may we strive for unity in Christ, oneness in faith and love, and always follow God's plan for our lives. We each have a part to play, a role in the dance of life. So keep dancin', and God bless your part of America.

Friday, July 2, 2010

St. Louis Adventures, Part 1

I lost my toothpaste at security. That was at the end of the trip. I knew I might slip up and lose something at the airport checkpoints. I just didn't know it was going to be toothpaste.

The whole trip to St. Louis was an adventure. From start to finish, I enjoyed it with my family. We laughed the whole time, met new people, and found some more direction for our ministry. Where do I begin?

I had my picture taken with Veggie Tales Bob and Larry, a real-life princess, and a dragon slayer. I met Sanctus Real, the Museum, and Jeremy Camp. We mingled with publishers, film makers, and authors. It was the International Christian Retail Show. A new experience, and one I hope we get to repeat.

Held every year, the show brings together the best of Christian retail, and seeks to uphold a high standard for Christian products. My favorite part of the trip was watching people network.

The last day, we left a little early and headed to the St. Louis arch. Although we didn't go up in it, we took a lot of pictures. The sun was just right, so in the reflection of the arch, I saw a pillar of fire. It reminded me of God.

He is always with us. Standing tall. Protecting us. Whatever adventures we plan, or that find us, He knows about them and He keeps us close to His heart. I wonder what all this summer will hold...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Keeping Your Grip

When I was little, my school had a gymnastic swing set. I loved that thing. I tried to be a gymnast later on, but I was too tall and could never really do a cartwheel. Part of the jungle jim at school had a bar to swing upside down from. My friend always fell backwards fast. Maybe for the rush of it. It took me a while to work up the courage.

I had seen the Olympic girls on TV flip and fly through the air. A simple backwards swing wasn't that bad. But even this little metal bar, 3 feet off the ground, seemed too high. Wonder if I fell? Wonder if I lost my grip? Fear got the best me. My little six year old self didn't want to go splat.

Now we're older, and the bar is a little higher. The ground looks far away, and we've still got questions to answer. When do you swing backwards, with all your might, and pray you don't fall? When do you do something you think God is calling you to do, even if you don't know how it will turn out? How do you know when the ideas are from God, or from self? When do you wait for direction, or move forward?

What I'm learning is this: Never let go of God. And second, follow His lead. What has He told me so far? What does His Word say about this? Where is He taking me now? And then I pray. For the courage to overcome fear, for the faith to take the next step, for the closeness to Him not to miss a beat. God is always holding on to us, with His grip on us a thousand times stronger than our grip on Him. He just wants us to hold on for the ride.

Whatever questions you're asking yourself recently, I hope you remember who's holding on to you. His grip won't ever let you go.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Little Music

I got to thinking yesterday about hymnals. I grew up in a church where hymnals were on the back of every row. Now, we tend to learn new songs by ear, and sing them by heart. Might not be a bad thing. But what about getting on the same page?

I've tried to sing with friends and family, and sometimes it's just funny. I can't seem to find the right pitch. American Idol judges love the word "pitchy." Is that a real word? Well, when you have a leader, you know what "pitch" to follow.

God is our leader. Can you imagine what it would be like to hear God sing? And God's Word is our hymnal, filled with all kinds of styles of music, all kinds of lyrics. One sound, one voice, one song. When we harmonize with God, we can harmonize with each other.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Eagle's Story

A world of mystery is wrapped in an eagle. Behind piercing eyes and regal feathers is a story to learn from.
What makes an eagle majestic? What captures our attention? As a symbol of our nation and of victory for our lives, eagles are on my mind recently. God used eagles' wings in Isaiah to picture strength. So in honor of July 4th coming around the bend, take a look at the link. A piercing face, a telling story.

Bald Eagles, Bald Eagle Pictures, Bald Eagle Facts - National Geographic

Here's a story about an eagle saved from the wild. His name is Was'aka, which in Dakota means "strength." He's a fighter. And he even has his own blog. Take a look at the webcams on the site. I think #3 is Was'aka's "room."

http://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/wasaka-biography

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Walk in the Neighborhood

I think my neighborhood is enchanted. Whenever I walk in it, I find new things to appreciate, new discoveries to enjoy. Yesterday it was the blue and purple hydrangeas scattered across the subdivision. It was the purple finch who stopped to sing to me, and the children's laughter as they played. Simple summer pleasures.

I hope you enjoy the simple pleasures of summer, amidst the vacations and picnics, and of course, every day necessities. But even when we've got chores to do, deadlines to meet, and a busy schedule to keep, every moment can sparkle. God is with us, opening our eyes to His world. To appreciate the beauty that's there, to see the unseen.

What simple pleasures make your summer sparkle? What things delight your heart the most?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Unscripted

Have you seen the Nicolas Cage movie Next? He plays an eccentric "magician" who can see the future. But just his own future, and just the next two minutes of it. Until he meets this girl, Jessica Biel. In one scene, they're riding down the highway, talking about destiny. She says she doesn't believe in it. Basically, everything's not mapped out. Not a coincidence. And she doesn't want to know what's ahead. He's thinking wouldn't that be nice.

Wonder if we knew what would happen before it did? Would that be scary? Or a relief? For a while, I thought it would be a relief. Now I'm not so sure. From our point of view, life is mostly unscripted. We don't exactly know what's ahead. But God does. The unexpected in the hands of God can be quite exciting. Whenever "scary" starts to take over our hearts, He quiets us with His Word and with His love. He reassures us He'll be with us every step of the way.

Do you think God gives us small glimpses of what's to come? Would this be a relief? Or is the suspense worth the not knowing?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Moving Forward

After the Ridgecrest conference, my parents and I had a little adventure. Besides going to the Biltmore (which was an adventure in itself), we went to Grandfather Mountain. I saw my first bald eagle there. We drove to the top of the mountain, and parked. Before we got out of the car, Mom read the little brochure that we got at the gate. "Don't open your doors if there is a strong wind." As if on cue, a headwind rushed passed the car. "Don't walk on top of the mountain if there is rain or lightning." The clouds were gray and slightly threatening.

So we got out of the car, right side passengers first. Then the driver's side, not to open all the doors at once. We walked up the stairs to the top of the mountain. The view was amazing. I've seen the Alps, I've seen the Rockies, now I've seen Blue Ridge. We walked a little ways to the swinging bridge, 80 feet long, suspended 1 mile above sea level. I looked at it and thought, "You want me to do what?" And, "Why does it have to be a swinging bridge?"

Mom walked across with no problem. My fear got the best of me. The scratching of metal and the swinging of wire ropes made me want to go back. But we moved forward. My dad being behind me helped. The middle of the bridge had a green plank. I call them "planks," but they're made out of metal and all silver but one. This one's painted green with the words, "1 mile." At that moment, I knew we were as close to God as humanly possible with our feet on planet earth. We were walking in the clouds.

God has great things for each of us. We may not always see what's ahead, but He does. He knows how to prepare us for the journey that's ahead. Even when the metal clangs and the ropes are swinging, He reassures us that He is with us, holding our hand. He helps us to move forward in spite of our fears.

Are there any swinging bridges you need to cross? What encouragements has God given you to keep moving forward? What has helped you to overcome fear? Please share your thoughts. You never know when we're going to meet another swinging bridge.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Time

What a week! Mountains and classes. New friends and new ideas. Expanded dreams and fresh time with God. That's what this year's Blue Ridge Christian writer's conference was for me. A time to discover what God has in store, and there are fewer places as beautiful as the Blue Ridge mountains to discover it. Know what I mean?

Every day had its classes and keynote speakers, workshops and hang out times. And its beauty. Sitting under a tree in the front "courtyard," I got an idea for a devotion. I found the perfect bench, and got out my pad to take notes. Nature was speaking.

Nature is beautiful, a lot like life. But it's also dirty. (I had to get the pollen and twigs off that bench before I sat down. I've never been one to hike. Yet.) But nature is also cleansing. As I sat on that bench, the tree rained on me. Not the sky, only the tree. Earlier that morning, the leaves must have collected the rain and saved it. Just for that moment.

We can get dirty in life. Things happen, heartache comes, disappointments threaten our joy. But it doesn't have to scar us. God sends us the rain to clean us off. Sometimes the water comes as a gentle rain, sometimes it comes as a storm. But it can still cleanse us, if we're willing to get wet, learn what we can, and wait for God to send the sunshine again.

If you were at the conference this year, I hope you saw some sunshine, and endured any rain. I had many up's and down's myself. How about you? Tell me your story, tell me your dream. What did God do this week? I want to hear about your adventure.