Siesta Summer 2014 Bible Study: Anybody Game for “Children of the Day”?

Hey, Everybody!

It’s almost May and, around here, that means it’s time to announce our Siesta Summer Bible Study for those who are itching to take a journey together. In all these years of doing summer Bible study together here on the blog, we’ve never gone through one I’ve authored. The biggest reason is that I really love to go through other authors’ courses with our blog community. That’s a refreshing blast of Holy Spirit-breath to me and you can count on us doing that again next summer.  The other reason is that the launch date of one of mine never coincided well with the beginning of summer.  With Children of the Day (an in-depth study of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians) coming out in May, the timing works out perfectly. I ask you to trust my heart on this and know that we’re not doing the study this summer so that I can drive up sales. I can’t prove my motives to you but I give you my word. That’s all I know to do. Any of you who still find it uncomfortable can, by all means, choose another Bible study by a different author and feel completely welcome to formulate your group right here in the comment section to this post. Just start your comment with the words in all caps “ANOTHER OPTION” and get together on line and choose which Bible study you’d like to do. There are so many fabulous ones available. You have my complete and joyful blessing to use this community to put your group together. Any way we can serve you is a tremendous honor to us.

 

For those of you who would like to do Children of the Day with our community this summer, here are a few important facts:

 

* We’ll start Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Around here at Living Proof, we formed the habit of Tuesday Bible study over the years so that’s why we choose it as our gathering day but you are welcome to commit to any day of the week that works for you. Simply adapt the instructions to that particular day.

 

* Children of the Day is an 8-week study so we will wrap it up on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

 

* As we’ve done in past summers, we’re only asking you to commit to “gather” with us and/or with your group every other week since summers are so busy. We will still stay on schedule for each week’s homework but you’ll only need to check in once every 2 weeks.

 

* I will put up a short video greeting here on the blog by 8:00 AM every other week on our gathering days, starting with Tuesday, June 3rd. The greeting will include instructions for discussion in your small groups or with the blog community at large. Your “discussion” with the blog community will take place through your response-comment to that post.

 

* We strongly recommend forming small groups for the pure camaraderie and accountability of it but you are also very welcome to go solo. The best small groups of all meet face-to-face but, if that’s not possible, try to formulate one on line. You might even Skype. Do whatever would benefit you the most and offer you the fellowship we all need so desperately.

 

* You only need the Children of the Day workbook to participate in the summer study. You don’t need to download the video sessions. All discussion questions will be based on the written work alone, as we’ve done in past summers, so that no one is forced into the extra expense. Each week we will put up a link to that week’s COTD video session for those who also want to include those but I will leave that option entirely to you. There will be no pressure whatsoever. People often ask if the video sessions and homework portions are the same lessons. They are not. They are designed to complement one another for a comprehensive approach to 1st and 2nd Thessalonians but they are not redundant. They are on different segments and concepts found in the 2 letters.

 

Does that answer many of your questions?  OK, now for the schedule:

Between release date (first week of May) and June 3rd, acquire a workbook of Children of the Day but don’t start it yet! No homework needs to be done before our first gathering. The workbook looks like this:

 

 

You can find it at your local LifeWay Christian bookstore by the first week of May, or click here to order online at any time:  COTD workbook

 

GATHERING ONE: June 3, 2014 – Our summer Bible study launches! By 8:00 AM that morning, God willing, you will find a brief video greeting from me and instructions for that day’s participation/discussion. Again, you can do it any day that week. We’re just choosing Tuesday as our official gathering day. You will “register” for summer Bible study by leaving a comment on the June 3rd post with your name and city and whether or not you are participating in a group or going solo. I will give you the specific instructions at that time. At the bottom of the post will be a link for that weeks’ full-hour Session 1 video if you choose to add on that option.

 

Do Weeks 1 and 2 of homework for Gathering Two.

 

(June 10th – link will go up for COTD Session 2 video for anyone going for that option.)

 

GATHERING TWO: Tuesday June 17, 2014. Brief video greeting from me and instructions for that day’s gathering or discussion. (Link for COTD Session 3 video for anyone taking that option.)

 

Do Weeks 3 and 4 of homework for Gathering 3.

 

(June 24th – Link will go up for COTD Session 4 video for anyone taking that option.)

 

GATHERING THREE: July 1, 2014. Brief video greeting from me and instructions for that day’s gathering or discussion. (Link for COTD Session 5 video for anyone taking that option.)

 

Do Weeks 5 and 6 of homework for Gathering Four.

 

(July 8th – Link will go up for COTD Session 6 video for anyone taking that option.)

 

GATHERING FOUR: July 15, 2014. Brief video greeting from me and instructions for that day’s gathering or discussion. (Link for COTD Session 7 video for anyone taking that option.)

 

Do Weeks 7 and 8 of homework for Gathering Five.

 

(July 22 – Link will go up for COTD Session 8 video for anyone taking that option.)

 

GATHERING FIVE CONCLUSION: July 29, 2014. Brief video greeting from me and instructions for that day’s gathering and closing. (Link for COTD Session 9 video conclusion for anyone taking that option.)

 

 

Here is the above schedule in diagram form thanks to my beloved assistant, K-Mac. You can enlarge it to see it better or copy and paste it to a document and print it out if you’re that kind of weird person…because I am, too:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound fun??!? Yep, it also sounds like a bit of work but not a single word of Scripture will drop to the ground. We can  have confidence in advance that the pursuit of Christ through His Word will completely alter the summer of 2014. I’m ecstatic to have the privilege of spending these 8 weeks with you in Bible study. You are a tremendous joy to me. Our God-given emphasis right now at Living Proof is on stirring up women who are less-discipled in Scripture to come to love Christ through His powerful, living, relevant Word. We would be thrilled for you to help us by inviting some women along who have never before done this kind of thing. Take the chance and ask them! So many women have a hunger for God. They just don’t know exactly how to identify it. Bring them along if God opens that door!

 

Can’t wait to get started! Dearest love to you all!

 

Beth

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The Women That Saturday

The place God carved out for women in the Bible’s account of Christ’s death and resurrection is astonishing. To be noticed in the scenes at all in the religious climate of their day was revolutionary. To be recorded by name, an immeasurable gift wrapped in the incarnation.

As women of Christ seeking to identify with those first female followers who were eyewitnesses of His life, parts of His ministry (Luke 8:1-3), His passion, His death, and resurrection, we try to place ourselves in the unfolding drama that has made room for our kind. Imagining what it was like to be Mary, the mother of Christ, on the lurching patch of ground near the Cross is soul-wrenching. To see your child, grown though he may be, thrashed into disfigurement, unclothed and exposed and hung by nails through the flesh of your flesh for hours on end, fighting for breath, is too much to wrap our imaginations around.The seconds must have dragged their feet like a suffering man dragging a cross.

 

To try to stare into the eyes of the women at the crucifixion of Christ and imagine the lung-heaving weight of their grief and the crashing of their hope is endurable only because we know the rest of the story. On the third day through the pool of a woman’s tears, the face of the risen Son of God was beheld, the sun piercing the black hole of an empty tomb.

 

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?

 

Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.

 

And Jesus spoke just one little word to the woman from Magdala.

 

Mary.

 

She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”

 

Stunningly beautiful.

 

Haven’t most of us imagined being her?

 

The account of the women over that weekend of earth-altering events doesn’t skip from the Cross to the tomb. Luke 23:56 records a single piece of information that scripts hours of silence. I’ll include the surrounding verses here so that you can see it in a loosely draped timeline:

______
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 23:50-24:11 ESV)

______

Go with me there again: the women saw how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

 

Then they had to sit and wait and bide their agonizing time until the Sabbath was over so that they could tend to the deceased body of their beloved.

 

No work. Just wait.

 

Sometimes waiting is the work.

 

Nothing makes us sweat like waiting.

 

Sometimes rest is imposed on us when what we want to do more than anything on earth is work.

 

I’ve got to do something.

 

To women, there is always something to do in a catastrophe.

 

Fix it.

 

If you can’t fix it, fret over it. Flail. Demand. Make yourself heard.

 

But do something.

 

To us the answer is never do nothing.

 

I’m not sure womanhood had ever been put to trial more thoroughly in the Gospels than in the still shot of Luke 23:56.

 

I don’t want to wait and see. Let me see to it myself. Nothing mauls a sober woman’s sensibilities like staying put in a crisis.

 

We want to wrap things, even if they’re dead.

 

At our bravest and most selfless, we want desperately to bring fragrance to the pall of death and give it, if not beauty, dignity. If we cannot, we feel useless.We do not realize that our presence right there before God in the trust of our worklessness can be fragrance. It’s not in the spices and ointments. It’s in us.

 

It is Saturday. Not only a day in a week of seven but maybe a season in your own pain and bewilderment. Maybe something terrible has happened; that which could make many you love lose hope. Maybe it looks like God did not come through. You keep taking up for Him but He doesn’t seem to be taking up for Himself.

 

But you believe…because you’ve seen so much. You know God can work things for good and you volunteer almost violently for Him to use you to do it but, still, resurrection waits. Nothing you’re doing is working. Your hands are tied. You feel useless. After all, what good is a woman who’s forced to rest?

 

Go with me to one more scene of women. Rewind the sacred clock to the week before Christ’s death and resurrection. The place is John 11.

 

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.

 

Moments later, that dead man came walking out of the tomb, grave clothes dangling.

 

Rest.

 

You cannot fix it.

 

All your panting will not resuscitate it.

 

Resurrection is divine. We can’t help God with it. He alone can do it.

 

And He will. He is life. He cannot leave death well enough alone.

 

Rest.

 

Tomorrow is Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman Enough

When you speak as much as I do, you end up saying some stupid things, particularly if you’re tongue-prone to shoot off from your notes like a bike into a briar patch. Nothing can run amok like a mouth. Sometimes you catch errant words as fast as you say them and you snatch them back before they land. No harm, no foul.

Other times, if you’re like me, on more than a rare occasion you start the second day of a conference apologizing for something you said on the first day. I am happy to report that in 3 decades of speaking and teaching, I’ve found groups to be refreshingly forgiving and gracious and lighthearted when you own up to something misspoken, particularly if it happened to have been funny. You get a fair amount of leash with funny, I’ve found, as long as you don’t cross a line. Of course, sometimes you don’t know you’ve crossed a line until you do it. Thankfully, most people give you the benefit of the doubt and, frankly, feel sorry for you for frying your own self up like a chicken.

In the words of Solomon, when there are many words, sin is unavoidable. (Proverbs 10:19 HCSB) Translation: talk less, sin less.

A few years ago I said something to a group that haunts me. I’m writing this article because I want to take it back. I’d like to blame the group because they were vocal and hilarious and egged me on. But I won’t. It was my own big mouth. As usual, it wasn’t in my notes. I’d do better with my messages if I wouldn’t look up from the podium but that’s no fun. I love faces; round ones, square ones, white ones, brown ones. I love faces. Anyway, spontaneity can be a lovely thing and sometimes the Spirit of God speaks most clearly through a word that comes to the speaker completely unscripted. This wasn’t one of those times.

I was talking about how territorial women can be. The group was all riled up in the subject matter with me, amening and nodding so I just kept prodding. “Not all territorialism is inappropriate, mind you,” I said, the bike now wobbling to the left. “For instance, if a woman lays a flirtatious hand on my husband, I’m liable to take her arm off at the neck.”

That’s a near-enough truth or I might die trying.

And that’s when my mind suddenly leapt from the sacred page of Scripture to the 1966 lyrics of that legendary queen of country music, Loretta Lynn. So, I just went with it and said…

Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.

Since some of your parents were still in diapers when this feisty ballad blew up the AM radio dial, I’ll bless you with the rest of the song. Come on, now. Pat your foot. A country song doesn’t get better than this.

 

You’ve come to tell me something you say I ought to know
That he don’t love me anymore and I’ll have to let him go
You say you’re gonna take him oh but I don’t think you can
Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man
Women like you they’re a dime a dozen you can buy ‘em anywhere
For you to get to him I’d have to move over and I’m gonna stand right here
It’ll be over my dead body so get out while you can
Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man
 

Sometimes a man start lookin’ at things that he don’t need
He took a second look at you but he’s in love with me
Well I don’t know where they leave you oh but I know where I’ll stand
And you ain’t woman enough to take my man
Women like you they’re a dime…
No you ain’t woman enough to take my man

 

The first time I sang that chorus word-for-word, I wasn’t even woman enough to shave my legs. But, here I am full-grown and I can still spit those words out with sparks coming off my tongue.

Which is precisely what got me into this mess.

And that’s when I pedaled that bike in a blur of feet straight through the bushes:

And if she IS woman enough to take your man, you better woman-up! 

The crowd went wild. We hooted and hollered and howled. We came dang near to throwing our shoes. We nearly drowned in our own estrogen.

Say to somebody beside you, “You better woman-up!”

And they did. Nice and loud.

We were women copping an attitude. Shaking our index fingers and wagging our heads. Women back-talking other women who’d had the gall to swish their petticoats into our territory. Girlfriend better step back because she doesn’t know who she’s messing with. It was hilarious.

And stupid.

Listen. You’re woman enough even if some other girl did take your man.

You’re woman enough even if you’ve been ditched by a man for nobody but himself.

You’re woman enough even if you’ve been thrown out and rejected.

Overlooked.

Unloved.

Unnoticed.

You’re woman enough even if you’ve never had a man.

You’re woman enough even if you’ve never put on a stitch of make-up or darkened the door of a nail salon.

You’re woman enough even if you couldn’t care less about what purse you pick up.

If you’ve lost both breasts to cancer and don’t have a hair on your head, you’re still 100% woman enough.

None of those things make you a woman. Your Creator makes you a woman.

It’s not just men who can make us feel like we don’t measure up. It’s other women. We’ve got enough voices in this world telling us that we’re not enough. God forbid that we who are called to serve women echo the charge. Let’s watch our mouths out there. I’m talking to myself first.

Hopscotch through the Scriptures and you’ll watch God get a hold of one woman after another who didn’t seem to be woman-enough in her world.

As it turned out…

Hagar was woman enough. (Genesis 16)

 

Sarai was woman enough. (Genesis 17:15-19)

 

Rahab was woman enough. (Joshua 2)

 

Ruth was woman enough. (Ruth 1-4)

 

Naomi was woman enough. (Ruth 1-4)

 

Hannah was woman enough. (1 Samuel 1)

 

Elizabeth was woman enough. (Luke 1:5-25)

 

Anna was woman enough. (Luke 2:36-38)

 

The Samaritan woman was woman enough. (John 4)

For crying out loud, Jesus even saw to it that the sinful woman in Luke 7 was woman enough.  We’d assume Mary was woman enough from the start because she was handpicked by God but I’m asking you whether or not you think you’re woman enough. God handpicked you, too.

This is what makes a woman enough. And a man enough.

 

So God created man in His own image,

in the image of God He created him;

male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27 ESV)

We are worthy of mutual honor and esteem because God granted such graces to humankind when He fashioned us in the palm of His hands.

 

When I look up at the heavens, which Your fingers made,

and see the moon and the stars, which You set in place,

Of what importance is the human race, that You should notice them?

Of what importance is mankind, that You should pay attention to them,

and make them a little less than the heavenly beings?

You grant mankind honor and majesty.  (Psalm 8:3-5 The NET Bible)

 

Several months ago a very dear brother in Christ asked me if I might know a young woman he could set up on a date with a Christian young man he loved and esteemed. Nothing wrong with that but I have lived long enough to break out in hives at the prospect of matchmaking.

Me: Well, what kind of taste does he have? What’s he looking for?

Him: A Christian.

Me: Yep, I get that. Of course.

My friend told me a few other things like high hopes for good looks then slipped this one in as an endnote: And he’d like her to be a virgin.

Dead silence.

Don’t get me wrong. I teach abstinence outside of marriage. I beg girls to wait. I wouldn’t have a woman deal with all the issues of my past for anything. Barreling off the plan of God can bruise a person up. I have a tremendously high regard for both men and women who hang onto their virginity until marriage. Still, something hit me sideways even though I wouldn’t argue for a second about the young man’s right to choose. Each person must know what he or she is capable of handling in the past relationships of a prospective mate.

Is he a virgin? I inquired. Women my age can ask that kind of thing in a context like this and get away with it. I tapped my fingers and waited for an answer.

Him: Well, I think so but, if not, he’s a reconstituted one.

And I went off like a bottle rocket.

What he meant was this: if the young man wasn’t a virgin, he’d repented since then and been forgiven and restored by God.

Amen to that.

Me: But the girl couldn’t be reconstituted??

Him: “Yes. Of course. That’s not what I meant.”

And, to be fair, it wasn’t. He’s a great guy. But the persisting double standard that still lurks out there like smog in the smug nearly threw me into a coughing fit. Needless to say, it’s not just male-imposed. We women do it to ourselves. Somewhere way down deep in our souls, we honestly believe that a sinful woman is worse than a sinful man. We so wanted to live up to the woman we planned.

Jesus lived up to the plan. That’s what we need to know.

The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

My grandmother might have said it like this: what’s grace for the goose is grace for the gander.

Jesus has done more than reconstitute us regardless of our gender anyway. He’s forgiven us, completely purified us, and made us new creations. Men and women alike stood at the foot of the Cross that dark afternoon. Men and women alike stand at the foot of it today.

Incidentally, I still believe in womaning-up when we need to, as long as it’s the kind we find in the folds of Mark 1:29-33.

And immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told Him about her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to Him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door.

No matter what has you down, your back to the ground, reach out your hand and put it in the palm of Jesus.

Woman, up.

 

 

 

PS. Because you’ve gotta love her and you might need to grin.

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Living Proof Live – Minneapolis Recap

Happy Monday, friends! I don’t want to use too many words here today because Beth has mentioned to me that she’ll update us probably by the middle of the week about their powerful weekend in her own words, but until then, here is the first recap video of 2014. Thanks to David Lowe for his diligent and hard work this weekend and getting the recap to us so quick! We so appreciate it!

Living Proof Live | Minneapolis from LifeWay Women on Vimeo.

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Do You Have Five Minutes to Pray Today?

Hey Girls!

Yesterday morning our beloved Beth hopped on jet plane (cue Leaving On a Jet Plane) bound for Minneapolis, Minnesota for the first Living Proof Live of 2014. Praise God! When Living Proof Live wraps up at the end of each year, April feels like a century away, yet somehow it sneaks up on us very quickly and the team is back at it about twice a month for nearly six months. That’s a lot of traveling and ministering but to the LPL team it is their honor,  joy and absolute delight. I think I can safely say that Beth never takes one teaching opportunity for granted and especially each year the Lord continues to give her and the team Living Proof Live. She pours herself out at each event as if it would be her last. She walks in humility and gives every ounce of herself and every ounce of the Spirit the Lord would willingly pour out on her, and entrusts the rest to God to do what only He can do. As she says so often, if He doesn’t show up, they might has well not have come, either.

They’ll launch Living Proof Live this year in a church instead of an arena and Beth has expressed her delight over this multiple times! There is something to be said about walking into a place where a body of believers meets every week and receiving something from them while also asking the Lord to leave a deposit in that church before they leave. I have a feeling this is going to be a sweet weekend in so many ways, in fact, it’s already sold out! Thank you, Jesus!

Anyway, I didn’t want this day to pass us by without giving you the opportunity to pray for Beth and the team! If you feel so inclined, by all means, leave a comment praying for them. Ask that the Lord would pour out His Spirit, that He would bring the lost, the broken, the hurting, the wounded and that He would perform miracles. That ladies would come just as they are, no pretense, no insecurity. That they wouldn’t check their baggage at the door but that the would bring it in and let the Lord do a healing work in them! That someone who is 76 would come and hear the Gospel for the first time and be changed forever. It’s never too late! This is what we’re asking for!

Join us? Prayer is the work!

We love you and consider your prayers a gift!

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Deep in The Heart of Texas

I don’t know if it was my drive from the big city to a small country town on Saturday that rekindled a lost love, but this weekend I fell in love with Texas all over again. And I feel like, because I love you all, I would share why I love my home state so very much. So, if you can put up with some fluff, allow me to brag on Texas for a minute, will you?

1. THE WILDFLOWERS.
Y’all. As mentioned above, I went to an antique show this weekend that is hosted every year in the little town of Round Top, Texas, and this time I happened to drive alongside, what appeared to be, bluebonnet fields forever. It took my breath away. So much so that I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road, not on the fields. I wanted to stop and take a picture so bad, but since my drive lent itself to tiny two-way roads, there wasn’t really a good place to pull over. But then, OHBUTTHEN, I came across the most glorious field of all with a little gas station across the road. Clearly I took that opportunity to snap a picture. I braved snakes, and animals, and insects galore, but marvel in this with me for a minute, won’t you?

BECAUSE YOU WOULD HAVE STOPPED, TOO. Texas wildflowers are unmatched. We live in a favored land.

2. Y’ALL.
Yup. Just the word. I love it so much. In fact, when I’m feeling really passionate I tend to use just the word, “Y’all.” And I use it as a complete sentence. It usually means I’m speechless. I even own a shirt that just says, “Y’all”. You’ll never visit Texas without using it at least once, and if you move here? Well, you’ll be ruined forever. And all the Texans said amen.

3. THE SUNSETS.
Texas sunsets for the win, always. Need I say more? We may not have the best landscape in the world, but surely the Lord gave us the sunsets to make up for our lack of mountain ranges and sandy white beaches.

This was really a sunrise on my way to church one morning. Stunning.

4. Speaking of sandy white beaches . . . GALVESTON.
I just witnessed an eye-roll from everyone, I know. But y’all. (Can you hear the passion in my y’all?) Just a couple of weeks ago during spring break, my family from Colorado came in town and we rented a house in Galveston for the week. I was the first to dismiss this idea, because Galveston… But I was proved wrong at every corner. Galveston was beautiful! I repeat, Galveston was beautiful! I don’t know if being there in March had anything to do with it, but it wasn’t humid, sticky and was without a hint of the nasty seaweed that gathers and clumps together in the summer. Don’t believe me? I’ll let the picture do the talking. (Side note: Only Texans can knock Galveston. True story. It’s because we have a love/hate relationship with it. But if anyone else tries to knock it? Rude.)

You can thank the sunsets in Galveston for wooing me every night. It would be safe to label me as a sunset chaser. Obsessed much?

5. My PEOPLE.
Long story short, Texas is where my people are. (Well, MOST of my people anyway.) And by people I mean my family, my friends and my church. Home is where your people are. It’s just a fact.

6. Because I mentioned church… BAYOU CITY FELLOWSHIP.
Listen, I realize my ALL CAPS may come across as me yelling, but I promise you I’m not. It’s just one more way to show my appreciation for my state. But seriously, I told a friend just last week that some of the most godly people I’ve met in my entire life go to my church. Servants at heart, strong leaders (and not just in the church, but in their homes, too, where it really matters), and HUMBLE. Some of the most creative and gifted people go to my church and it is so understated it’s humorous, and I mean that as a compliment. Of course I love my pastor dearly and have mad respect for him, but a church isn’t just the pastor, the worship, the teaching, it’s the people! And the people there, well they’re just good.

I’ll be honest, sometimes working a full-time job and then having to be up very early on a Sunday morning to be at church to serve rubs me the wrong way. I can say with confidence that it is my joy to serve and I wouldn’t trade that for a second, I love to do it, but yes, you would agree that it can also be tiring. One morning a couple of weeks ago I was feeling especially lethargic and had a less than stellar attitude while driving to church, but then I saw this. It’s not common for me to see the sun peak out like this when I get there, and it put a little pep in my step. I was so grateful. And that day? Well, church HAPPENED.

7. TEX-MEX.
If you’ve never experienced true tex-mex, my deepest sympathies to you. You won’t find a better fajita or enchilada than in south Texas. But don’t be fooled, not every Mexican restaurant is created equal. So next time you visit, ask a local and be treated like royalty.

8. Just HOUSTON.
I live just on the outskirts of the city, but I still live in Houston. It may not have the weather of San Francisco, or the scenery of Boulder, or the sights and sounds of NYC, but it’s Houston, and it’s unique, and diverse, and you can pretty much eat any meal from any culture at any time. And the people are nice to boot. It’s just Houston. And it’s just greatness. It’s one of the only places you can go…

From the hip city full of personality…

To watching a Texas-sized thunderstorm roll in during a cool spring evening…

To the country with the cows…

And then find hidden trails nestled in between big city roads and suburbia.

Texas, thank you for being you. You have my heart forever and ever.

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Thinking About Thinking

Thinking About Thinking from LPV on Vimeo.

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My Deliverer

Some of you may or may not know that before I came on staff at LPM, I was on staff at the church I had grown up at and worked as the Girl’s Ministry Director in our student ministry department. Having worked mainly with middle school and high school girls, our family life pastor asked me if I would consider coming along on the Father Daughter Retreat to share a few of the teaching times, talk to the dads about girls, and spend some time getting to hang out with the girls themselves. I didn’t hesitate to say yes because it sounded like a fun and different opportunity. Because of my yes, I found myself camping out in the wilderness with a bunch of daddies and daughters on spring weekend. Though my ministry mainly focused on the young women in the student ministry, the majority of the girls that attended this retreat were in elementary school. To say I loved meeting some new five-year-old friends is an understatement. When I was student teaching, Kindergarten happened to be my favorite placement. As you well know, they truly say the most hilarious things! Most elementary girls haven’t learned the gift of a mouth filter.

One evening I was given the interesting opportunity to steal the dads and talk just to them about all things girls. What girls need, different developmental stages and especially what these girls need from their dads. After the initial intimidation (because hello, I’m not a dad nor do I have children), I have to say, it was a blast. All of them were on the edge of their seats, pens out taking notes and asking a lot of questions. I felt as though I was preaching to the choir since they were the ones who brought their girls to a daddy-daughter weekend, but I ended up loving it. To this day, I can honestly say this was one of my favorite teaching opportunities.

The last morning of the retreat they invited my dad to the retreat as well so that he could be a part of a Q&A between us and the dads and daughters. They were given the freedom to ask us anything they wanted. Can you say nerve wracking?

I’m not sure what question prompted this, but my dad ended up telling the story of the day I was born. A little side note in case I’ve never mentioned it before, but I was five weeks early and very tiny. The night I was born my mom, thinking she was in labor, went to the hospital only to be sent home. The doctors were convinced she wasn’t in labor and still had some time. My parents were not home long enough to fall asleep before my mom’s water broke and back to the hospital they went.

To make a long story short, once they got my mom settled in her room, the doctors and nurses left to attend to their other patients when all of the sudden my mom exclaimed that I was coming and I was coming now. In sheer panic mode not knowing what to do, my dad called for the doctor, but realized at that moment that I was indeed coming very quickly. He only knew one thing, someone was supposed to catch me and I was not supposed to fall on the floor.

In one single push I was out and after all was said and done, my dad caught and delivered me just as the professionals were arriving.

Of course, I recall none of this, but have heard the story countless times.

This may seem insignificant to you, but I think it is very special, especially in light of Easter Sunday quickly approaching.

My earthly father delivered me into this world, and my heavenly Father delivered me, from me, at the young age of five. I didn’t know then all that Christ would mean to me now, but I did know then that I wanted to spend eternity with Him.

If I desire anything, I desire to make much of Christ. To intentionally live in a way that brings most glory and honor to Him. Do I do this perfectly? Heck no. Does my desire wane from day to day? Absolutely. I didn’t really grasp that until my senior year of high school, but since then, I have known Jesus as my Deliverer from all of my ugly shortcomings and I am ever so grateful. He loves me too much to leave me the way I am, and I can promise you He feels the same way about you.

Though we should daily celebrate our living Savior, in a few short Sundays we will celebrate a risen Savior corporately. He is risen indeed and is very alive and active. I’m proof of His mighty deliverance and sanctification. Christ was delivered over to death so that we might be delivered from death.

People who don’t know Him as a Deliverer will sit beside us on that day and wonder why we marvel at something we cannot even see, but love and worship anyway, simply because we KNOW Him.

They need to see that He has delivered us from eternal separation with Himself.

They need to see that His deliverance has given us a different perspective on suffering.

They need to see that by delivering us, He alone sustains us.

They need to hear that the same God who brought Israel out of bondage after YEARS and YEARS of wandering is still powerful enough to deliver them out of bondage, too.

They need to hear that it is the enemy who oppresses and that it is Jesus who delivers.

They need to hear our testimony of deliverance from that stronghold that held us captive for 30 years now doesn’t have a hold on us.

They need to hear that this Deliverer loves us independent of what we do, but simply because of who we are.

They need to hear that the Deliverer is intimately acquainted with each and every one of us. Mind blowing, really.

I’m not saying we pretend like it is all fun and games and easy. Quite the opposite, actually, becoming more like Christ is the hardest thing ever. It requires a lot of dying to self, something that doesn’t come naturally to me, to you, to any of us. But knowing Christ as your Deliverer is knowing what true peace is. What true love is. What true grace is. What true mercy is. Knowing that He won’t remove all your trials, but He’ll walk with you through them.

This Deliverer? He’s the only One who offers a love that cannot be earned, but rather, is freely given to anyone that will accept it.

I can promise you this, just like my dad knew someone was supposed to catch me and not let me fall, Christ will catch you. He will not let you fall to the floor. Cry out to Him. He’s got you.

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:25

“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:10

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

 

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Let’s Have a City Roll-Call!

Ok, Sisters, your replies to the previous post have inspired me to pen this one. As I read through your comments to our walk through the woods, I was stricken with a fresh sense of awe over the lovely grace of God to tie our lives together in Christ from so many different locations. We are a clickstream from a spider web in thousands of ways but this screen can also become a coloring book of connect-the-dots for people who love Jesus. Last night when I did Bibby’s Secret Closet with Annabeth and Jackson, I gave Annabeth one of those CraZArt Spiral Art sets. You know what I’m talking about:

 

Since I talked in the previous post about where I live, lots of your comments referenced your own surroundings. By the time I’d noted the locations of the first six, I practically had a lump in my throat. The gift I gave Annabeth last night popped right back into my mind. Your comments swirled the page like geographical Spiral Art, and of the sacred kind, bright and multicolored. Just take a look at a smattering of them and behold a glimpse of you. Each of these sentences are copied and pasted from comments to the last post that took us on a walk through the country.

 

I live in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and we are just waiting for Spring.

 

I’m here in the Mid Atlantic on the shores of the Delmarva Peninsula where the winter won’t loosen its grip and we still have snow on the ground when we should be about ready to cut grass for the first time this season.


Next time, let’s do a walk in New Zealand!!


I have been out enjoying our Spring weather too because before we know it we will be trapped indoors with the air conditioning
here in Az. (Arizona)


We are still waiting for it here in Ohio—it snowed yesterday!


My family has the privilege of owning a cabin in the NC mountains and it’s a little slice of heaven on earth.
(North Carolina)


Wave surges are shockingly high – my fair Island
will be swallowed up in the storm surges. So thank you for the glimpse of Hope in Spring.. -6 C wind chill feels like -29 just in case we thought we might like to put our face outside tonight… 
(I loved this one because I don’t have a clue where it is but it’s a “fair island” and COLD. Thank you, Iris! You took me there through your words without my even knowing where I’d gone!)


I love long walks in the country, but being from Illinois, I don’t quite have the same scenery you have (and might I say in a whining voice…I also don’t have your TexMex), especially those slithering things (except the black snakes).


l appreciated, being a California girl, all the references to various snakes, and remember the “rattlers” we used to see all the time…now living in Costa Rica, snakes have taken on a whole new meaning: we have some deadly AND aggressive snakes here, not shy, like the rattlers, but snakes that will actually “hunt you down.”


Living on the Portage River for nine years in MI, I experienced lovely spiritual moments: our giant blue heron flying low down the river, a white mother swan swimming down stream with a baby swan on her back, a shy deer family eating apples from under our apple tree. precious moments I’ll treasure now that we are living in the desert in AZ.
(She goes on to identify Fountain Hills, AZ)


Thanks for the refreshment…still feels like winter in PA…longest winter ever!
(Pennsylvania)

Your back woods look alot like mine up here in Central Saskatchewan – except for the fact that we’re still layered in a few feet of snow.


Loved taking this walk with you! I love your wild woods! They remind me of the woods around here in TN
(Tennessee)


AHHH where were those boots last night? We had a black snake on our porch and here in my neck of the woods in Uganda…

 

Come on, somebody! Give the Lord some praise! Is that gorgeous, or what??

So here’s what I want you to do if you feel like participating. Leave a comment telling us where you live and, if you don’t mind, add a description heavy on adjectives so we can picture ourselves there with you. I am looking so forward to this!

I’m so blessed to serve you, Sisters. The beauty of sisterhood in Christ is a work of divine art.  I kept thinking that last week at the Colour Conference in Sydney because my friend, Bobbie Houston, has been so phenomenally used by God to gather a sisterhood of servants around the world to aid the poor, the oppressed, and the abused. We are a part of the same sisterhood because we are also in Christ and called to do some good in this weary world.

What an honor to seek Him with you. Unity is not about lining up on 100 points of doctrine. It’s about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, raised from the dead, and returning to take His Throne. If that’s what you believe, you’re blood to me. I think sometimes the stuff of unity is all the sweeter to Christ – not when we already see eye-to-eye on all our doctrine but – when we don’t. Sometimes just agreeing that Jesus Christ is Lord is bond enough. When we only agree to love people and walk with people just like us, that’s tantamount to making our goal to become more like ourselves. Ick. Somebody else can have that. I’m trying to figure out how to forget myself, not make a mirror out of every woman of God I see. I want people to sharpen me, to cheer me onward when I’m discouraged or harassed, to make me think, and to keep me growing. A mirror can only make me more like me.  Give this girl a seat by the window and let her capture the features of Christ gathered from the faces of many.

OK, rescue us all before I get sappier. Let’s hear about your locations!

 

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If We Could Walk These Woods Together

I am back from Australia and have a whole week off. See?

That means I’ll take lots of walks in these country woods that I pined for while I was away. If we could walk these woods together, you and I, this is what we’d do:

We might first take one of these…

 

…since bright yellow flecks of smiling sun are blanketing every surface in sight. Negative people might call it pollen but let’s try to be positive. It makes it easier if you will simply agree to see sneezing as cathartic. Use it to get some stuff out of your system. Go ahead and yell out from the gutter of your soul while you sneeze and make yourself heard. Scare somebody. It will do you some good.

We’d then put on our snake boots. What basic black pumps are in the city, snake boots are in the country.  A must, and you wear them with everything including shorts. Before we put them on, let’s have a quick tutorial on which snakes out here are poisonous:

This is a Coral Snake. A bad mama but she’s a pretty thing, isn’t she? Sometimes we find one curled up on our front porch, a fact that I find somewhat unsettling.

This is a Water Moccasin. That’s a bad dude right there and an ugly one at that. We’ll be most careful to watch for him when we’re near the creek.

While our black snakes are not poisonous, they tend to score high on the creepy meter. You sort of have to talk yourself out of a panic attack when you see one because they tend to be impressively large. They’re often right on the dirt road or up the side of an oak tree.

As a bonus for still agreeing to go on our walk, I’ll let you choose which pair of boots you want to wear and I’ll put on the other ones. The camos are most comfortable but let’s just say that no pair of fangs on earth is getting through that steel mesh on the other pair. Those are my rattlesnake boots for the cactus land in West Texas. You can breathe a sigh of relief that we do not have rattlers here in the country. So, which pair do you want?

 

The dogs have already spied us putting on our boots so they are yelping to high heaven at the iron gate in the back yard, begging to be set free. They will race down the path toward the creek like their tails are on fire but Queen Esther, my Border Collie, will come in a distant second to Geli (short for Angelina), Keith’s bird dog. She soars like a greyhound. They love the unabashed joy of the wild as long as they get to come home to the air conditioner, eat a fine supper peppered with people-food, and sleep on giant pillows. A few weeks ago I had them on a walk and nearly fainted dead-into-the-dirt when Geli ran through the brush back onto the path with a coyote right behind her. I’m not making this up. It’s almost like we live in the African bush surrounded by hyenas.

I yelled and waved my arms like a crazy woman. It might have been a good time for cursing which Keith has tried diligently to teach me to do but, as it was, the coyote sauntered off, probably out of embarrassment for me. I have yet to capture a good picture of Queen Esther and Geli romping the path so you’ll have to confine the image to your imagination. Sometimes, however, we have to wait to go outside until a rabbit finishes its breakfast. Why? Because Geli is also hungry for breakfast.

 

We’ll walk on down the path and talk about all sorts of things. These woods are good for that. Trees don’t tattle. If you tend to be bigger on manners than honesty, you’ll probably try to tell me it’s beautiful out here but that might be a stretch except to us. We chose not to manicure these acres so it’s mostly wild and bushy and viney right at eye level but if you’d lift your chin, you’d see oak and pine and sycamore limbs stretching out like everlasting arms over your head. This time of year, you’d also catch a tease of wild dogwoods peeking out like they don’t want anybody but you to know they’re there.

 

You’d have to come soon to catch this little glimpse of Texas Spring because they’ll disappear with the late April heat. We have a little meadow on our walk that sprouts a tiny patch of wild bluebonnets this time of year. Nobody but God planted these. Keith and I discover a few more every year and it delights us to no end.

If you’ll stay alert and wide-eyed, you might get to see a pileated woodpecker swoop overhead like I did yesterday, then you’ll hear all manner of hammering.

Think Woody.

 

We’d probably pass by Jackson and Annabeth’s swing set on our walk.

They love it so much and, when they’re on it, I’m usually somewhere on it with them. If you haven’t been on a swing set in a long time and swung as high as you could, you don’t know what you’re missing. It makes me laugh really hard which makes Annabeth laugh really hard.

While we’re on our walk, we might stroll past our neighbor’s fence and say hi to the donkey he got to keep company with his steer.  Ever since this mischievous little guy wandered up in my yard a month or so ago, I’ve been in love with him. I’ve asked Keith to buy me one but he’s been as stubborn as a mule about it. He says the next thing we knew, that donkey would be up on the couch watching TV with us. This was taken the first time I met him.

 

Come on, now! Just try to tell me he’s not fabulous! We’d then pass around by Big Pops’ and Memmaw’s house and visit their chickens. Big Pops and Memmaw will be sorry that Annabeth and Jackson aren’t with us but the chickens won’t.

 

We’d circle back around to my house by way of this bridge. It is just over a gully but, when it rains a lot as it often does in Houston, it turns into a respectable creek. Jackson and his friends love to look for frogs and tadpoles under here. This bridge is my favorite man-made thing on our property. My man built it for me long before the house went up. I sit on it often just to think about things.

 

We’d then make our way back to my front porch, pull our boots off, and sit on this bench, just the two of us, and talk.

We’d say that the Lord is good and that His love endures forever.

And we’d be right.

I sure love you.

 

 

 

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