Archive for January, 2008

Part Two of the Bfree Inquisition

*Comments now closed*

(My Dearest Siestas, I have hopped back on this entry after 411 comments to tell you that it is everything I can do to stay in my chair today. I have never wanted to do a day-long thank You dance to Jesus so much in all my life. I wish I had 2000+ Siestas to do it with: Those who have broken free and those who, by the promises of God’s Word and the testimonies of hundreds of lives, KNOW THEY CAN!! I can practically feel the blood pumping through my veins. THESE COMMENTS ARE MUST-READS!)

OK, Siestas, I’m about to invite you to share in Part Two of our inquisition for Breaking Free. First, a recap: In the last post I asked you for insight regarding the areas of bondage that most threaten you. All the comments moved us and some were nearly excruciating to read, especially considering how we’ve come to care for one another. I think we have an all-new perspective on the kind of suffering and (often secret) captivity that exists out there…and among many people who really want to do this life-thing right. (And CAN, praise God, with the power of His Spirit. We’ll talk more about that in future posts.)

Some of us may have nearly despaired and wondered, “Is anybody really living in victory out there? Is anyone really free?” The answer to that question is YES. But no one got there easily OR accidentally. We can be threatened by an area of bondage for years without ever being defeated by it then one day, to the great glory of God, we realize it doesn’t tempt us anymore. Without question, nobody’s got it completely together and those who think they do are on the brink of dropping it. But, whatever you do, don’t get cynical and give up the fight. Plenty of believers are living in titanic daily victory over old areas of bondage and have sustained it in the power of Christ for years. In Breaking Free, living victoriously is not living sinlessly. It’s living successfully. It’s the fleshed-out reality of an effective, abundant Spirit-empowered life. Now, it’s time to hear some testimonies of victory. I only have one question for you this time and, again, all answers need to be ANONYMOUS. No others can be posted on this entry. Please make your answers somewhere in length between one sentence and a brief paragraph so that we can read every single one of them.

Question: From what area of past bondage has Christ set you free? Be specific so that our sisters can see that nothing is beyond His reach. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

I love you so.

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Lending Your Priceless Insight

Hey, You Darling Siestas! (*Precious Ones, comments now closed on this entry because the number got so great that I would have more than I could read. I am profoundly moved and prayerful over what has been shared and will write back to you soon about it. You have given me tremendous insight and I pray the gracious and powerful ministry of Christ Jesus all over you. I have been where many of you are. Our God reigns, Dear Sisters! Do not lose heart because you cannot lose Jesus. This is what He came for. Isaiah 61:1-4)

Before I tell you what this post is about, I want to tell you something that tendered my heart then brag on you and encourage you. I so enjoyed the Titus post and all your comments! AJ and I had talked about what a fun post it could be and it was! She and I, like many of you, also had a sharp pain go through our hearts that some of our single siestas either felt left out of it or, or worse yet, like losers because of it. When I posted their comments (AJ was on a roadtrip so I moderated many of them), I kept a very careful eye on the communication that unfolded. I watched you respond to one another and minister to one another. I saw the Body of Christ at work. I was so thankful.

You know, Siestas, we don’t always know how to say the right thing and sometimes our comments may even seem thoughtless or inconsiderate, but I am convinced that our hearts in this blog community truly are to love one another and encourage each other. We want and need the diversity and have so much to learn from one another. Now, I’m grabbing my megaphone and yelling this part really loudly: WE WANT YOU SINGLE SIESTAS IN THIS COMMUNITY! FIGHT FOR YOUR SPOT! KEEP YOUR COMMENTS COMING! KEEP REMINDING YOUR MARRIED SISTERS THAT YOU ARE THERE! WE ARE THE BETTER FOR YOUR INFLUENCE! WE NEED YOU!

Sometimes the blog posts will be blatantly family-oriented because it’s sponsored by a mother and daughter team. It’s just a way we share the personal side of our lives with you and that’s what makes the blog stream unique to everything else we do here at Living Proof Ministries. This blog is the friend, mom, and sister side of what we could offer, God willing. It’s partially meant to be a big fat celebration of Girl World. Nothing could be more appropriate in a world system so demeaning to women than to rejoice in the dignity Christ won for us. Sometimes we just want to make you laugh because we love to laugh. Other times we want to share with you what made us cry. Blatantly above all and through all, however, our highest and hottest passion is to encourage fellow sojourners of all kinds to live fully and freely the life Jesus Christ offers…and to offer a little practical help with implementing His explosive power. We love you so much and we’re so honored to be your servant. Your friend. Your sister. Your mom. Even your Mama Beth. Don’t mind a bit. As my grandmother used to say, I could mother a fence post. Love it.

NOW, on to what I’m requesting from some of you. Your input was priceless to me in the Esther series and I’m betting you could really lend some insight now. As you know, I am now working on revising the series “Breaking Free” and will be attending to it for months to come. Here are my two questions and I’d like those who feel compelled to respond to answer them ANONYMOUSLY and by including the numbers “1)” and “2)” so they’ll be easier for me to read (you don’t need to include the questions):

Please note: ALL COMMENTS NEED TO BE ANONYMOUS THIS TIME IF THEY’RE IN RESPONSE TO THESE QUESTIONS. PLEASE DO NOT ATTACH YOUR BLOGGER NAME OR PERSONAL NAME. PLEASE ALSO KEEP IN MIND THAT YOUR WILLINGNESS TO COMMENT IS ALSO YOUR PERMISSION FOR ME TO QUOTE FROM IT IF IT MIGHT BE HELPFUL IN THE STUDY. KEEPING THEM ANONYMOUS IS CRUCIAL TO THAT FREEDOM. PLEASE KEEP YOUR ANSWERS SUCCINCT. NO LONGER THAN TWO EASY TO READ BRIEF PARAGRAPHS SO THAT I CAN READ THEM. THANK YOU!
1) What one thing threatens you most with bondage? Try to be specific. If your answer is intimate in nature, then use code language. I’ll get what you’re trying to say.

2) What is your biggest obstacle to living freely and fully in Christ? (Please don’t give the answer you think you’re supposed to give. Really share what you think holds you back.)

Thank you for your help, Siestas! Please don’t feel like you have to comment. Only comment if you really have something to share about bondage and your biggest obstacle to freedom. You’ll know if it’s not that big a deal to you or you really have to think about it that you’ll want to leave the room to another Siesta this time. I AM CRAZY ABOUT EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU!

PS. No time to proofread this time! Sorry for inevitable mistakes!

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Titus Advice

I’ve got some water boiling on the stove for lunch. We’re having reduced fat Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Yes, very nutritious! It’s been years since I’ve had Shells and Cheese and I couldn’t resist the temptation when I saw the box at the grocery store. Since a watched pot never boils, I thought I would come and blog for a minute.

(Pause to cook and eat.)

Mom and I had a very interesting conversation last week in which I was telling her that Curt and I had been at each other’s throats for a couple of days. She suggested that if I would go and “tend to my ministry” (wink, wink), maybe it would help things. At that point we both busted out laughing because, in our family, Mom is known as “The Titus Woman From Heck.” She gave herself that name, actually.

Titus 2:3-5 says, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

(Pause to wipe cheese off my child’s body and put him down for a nap.)

We got to talking about some…

(Pause to change his diaper.)

Ahem. We got to talking about some of the more unusual, humorous, or even downright good Titus advice we’d ever given. When I shared mine, my mom laughed really hard about it. It might have been a little funny, but I tell you what! It was needed!

So we thought it would be fun to share some Titus advice. Whether it’s your best, your worst, your funniest, or your most unusual, as long as it’s family friendly, let’s hear it. I’ll share mine in a comment. Let’s hear from some single sisters as well as married ones!

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Hurricane Tod

Hi ladies! I just got an email from a siesta asking if we are okay since it had been so long since the last post. I’m so sorry! Yes, we are okay! I took a weekend road trip to my parents’ house in Houston with one of my best friends and her little girl. Needless to say, my mom is recuperating from that and so are we! We had an incredible time together at the Great Toddler Invasion of 2008. I spent three hours yesterday sorting through the pictures and preparing to make a full report. There were over 200 pictures! Janelle took most of them because my camera battery kicked the bucket upon arrival.

In case anyone is new and hasn’t heard me talk about Janelle and Ella, you should know that Janelle and I went through our entire pregnancies together and then ended up having our babies two days apart. We were right down the hall from each other in the hospital. We, along with our sweet friend Sunni and her daughter Ava, have had the craziest, most wonderful two years with our babies. They are a huge blessing in my life.

The babies, recently renamed “The Tods” by my sister, played so hard the whole weekend. I noticed that Jackson was particularly well-behaved and I think it’s because he never had one moment of boredom. He was thrilled to have a friend at his Bibby’s house. By the way, he learned to say “my” and “mine” this weekend. I can’t imagine why!

It’s been a while since I shared any pictures of Jackson and I’m going to more than make up for that here. Here you go! Hurricane Tod!

Hit the road, Jack.

We had to make a stop on the way to Houston. Can you guess where?

Amen.

When Jackson had had enough of the car ride, he took off his shoes and socks and picked fuzz out from between his toes.

At The Houston Zoo

Janelle and her Tod.

Me and my Tod.

The Goat Whisperer.

Ella enjoyed brushing the goats’ hair.

That is one intriguing animal.

The Tods looking under the fence to get the best view.

Our favorite picture of The Tods.

Amanda, Jackson, and Bibby looking at something.

Mom and Tod looking at another Mom and Tod.

Big mom, big tod.

The Tods racing up the jungle gym stairs at the zoo.

Jackson was much happier going down the slide than brushing the goats.

Jackson jumping on the bridge, catching air under his feet. Mommy holding her breath.

In the car

Guess who wanted to ride in the back every time we got in the car?

Guess who’s faking it in this picture?

Guess who’s not faking it here?

Ella’s hat hair.

A cookie liquefied in Ella’s mouth.

At the house

One Tod’s favorite thing is to put water on his hair and the other Tod’s most hated thing is to have water on her hair. This was an interesting time.

We like to do draw-rings.

Mexican food. What else?

The Tods dancing.

The Tods in a moment of sharing.

Ella and Bibby doing their floor exercises.

Ella imitating Bibby’s stretching moves.

The Tods trying to spy The Dogs in the backyard.

Ella being adorable.

Me and both Tods. I was the luckiest person in the room.

At the mall

Janelle and Ella at the Memorial City Mall playland.

Jackson relaxin’.

Ella at the playland.

Ella climbing some cute stairs.

The Tods on a carousel.

Playdate

The Tods at their friend Keegan’s house.

The Tods in a tent.

The Tods thank Bibby and Pappaw for a great weekend!

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Here You Are!

*Updated to add Maryland. (So sorry, Maryland! I don’t know how that happened. I cut and pasted the names of all 50 states and only removed Delaware! We had Maryland a number of times! Wouldn’t have overlooked you for the world! – Beth) And it looks like we have a brand new Siesta from Delaware joining us! Welcome, Jill/Crew of 5 For Jesus! – Amanda. ALL FIFTY STATES! YAHOO-JAH! To God be some mighty BIG GLORY!

Well, Siestas, you did it. You left Amanda and me slack-jawed! We’d hoped for a diverse group…but never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined! In the terrific words of Luke 24:22 (ever so slightly out of context), “…our women amazed us”! I feel so many things but at the top of the list, I feel wonder. Wonder toward a God who perfectly timed an information age in the latter days of His Kingdom calendar where the testimony of His Son could be transferred and shared in seconds by people so diverse and distant, their paths wouldn’t cross in a lifetime. We are one tiny blip on the pinhead of the World Wide Web. Imagine what really might be happening out there in the Name of Christ! So many dark and deadly contacts happen on line but if we only knew what God Himself was bringing together, we’d fall to our faces with praise. I am simply astonished.

SO, with ecstatic joy, I present to you tastes of Siestaville! (Drum roll please…)

First, here’s where you live:
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont (I kept saying out loud, “Come on, Vermont! I know you can do it! Sign in!” You could have heard me shout all the way to your great State when I finally saw you!)
Virginia
Washington (The numbers of you totally blew my mind! Way to show up, Northwest! We’re so honored your aboard!)
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Can you believe your eyes??? We came within an inch of having Siestas in every single State of the US. Is there any chance Delaware answered the roll call but I missed your darling self? Let us know!

And, how about outside the US? I’ve got to begin with a HUGE SHOUT-OUT to our Siestas in Canada! I could not believe how many of you make up our blog town! And considering all our Southern figures of speech at LPM, way to persevere! We are the better for you, Canadian Siestas! You are treasured here. Keep your comments coming.

And outside the US and Canada, let’s hear it for Siestas who live in…
Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Several!)
(One wrote in to tell us that, yes, she really is a Dutch Siesta who has to work extra hard for unity amid that MUCH diversity! I loved it.)
Bosnia
Brazil
Central Asia
China
Germany
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Malaysia
Mexico
Mozambique
New Zealand
Philippines
South Africa
Taiwan
United Kingdom
(Some are missionaries or serve in the military while some are actual citizens of that nation.)

We are honored to have the spiritual feeling of being right next door to one another in real time through faith, through prayer, and the love of Scripture. Thanks go to so many who persevere many regional and cultural differences to stay connected!

Now, are you ready for where you go to church? Hold on to your chairs. This may have stunned me more than our locations. Joyfully, we had numbers of Siestas representing most of them:
Anglican
Assembly of God
Apostle’s Churches
African Methodist Episcopal
Baptist (Freewill, Southern, Independent, Missionary. You name it. I’m not saying a word. I’m just grinning. Anyway, it’s fair to make fun of your own self. I told AJ that my eyes fell on one called “Angier Baptist Church” and I thought it said, “Angrier Baptist Church.” I was taken aback. So glad my contact had just slipped a tad on my eyeball.)

Beit Yeshua Messianic
Many independent Bible churches
Calvary Chapel
Catholic
Many independent community churches – Charismatic and Non-charismatic alike
Church of God
Covenant Church
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of Christ
Emergent
Emergent-ish (Made me smile)
Episcopal
Evangelical Free
FCCM (Fellowship of Connected Churches and Ministries)
Foursquare
Friends Church (Quaker)
House Churches
LDS
Lutheran
Mennonite and Evangelical Mennonite (So many! What a joy!)
Messianic Jewish
Methodist
Nazarene
Presbyterian (PCA, EPC, etc.)
Missionary Alliance
Pentecostal Holiness
Reformed
Seventh-day Adventist
The Salvation Army
Vineyard
Willowcreek Association Churches
Wesleyan

(I tried so hard to fasten my eyes to each entry and include every single denomination. If I overlooked one, it was truly an accident.)

Now, for a few special accolades:

Three of my favorite church names:
2nd Runner up: Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor (Is that cool or what??)

1st Runner up: Raccoon Creek Baptist Church, Georgia (Me and Beanie could both go there! She loves dinner on the grounds after service!)

Grand Prize: Bar-None Cowboy Church (in Texas, of course) “Nluvwhim,” please contact the LPM office with your address and request your prize. Yes, I’m serious.

Here’s a titanic WAY TO GO on all those Scriptures and Scriptural concepts! WOW! According to one of our Siestas, Proverbs 3:5-6 was the one most often repeated.
My favorite unfamiliar one:

Psalm 45:1 from “The Message”: “My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out in a poem to the king, shaping the river into words.” Gorgeous!

Gutsiest entry: “Worshipboy Tom,” a proud husband of a siesta! You are a real man indeed! 2000+ Siestas take off our sombreros to you! And then we’re putting them right back on because we have hat-hair. And we hate hat-hair.

Most impressive entry: “Kingschild,” mother to over 60 foster children. In unison, 2000+ Siestas and I say of our Siesta-hood, “We’re not worthy!”

A few private messages from me to a couple of you: Angela, thank you for your courage. You are welcome here! Firecracker, I am honored to be your servant. Log on any time.

TO ALL OF YOU: AMANDA, MELISSA, THE LPM MINISTRY STAFF AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE HUMBLED TO SERVE YOU OR MORE AWED BY GOD’S GRACE TO US THROUGH YOU. THANK YOU A THOUSAND TIMES OVER FOR ANSWERING THIS ROLL CALL AND FOR BEING PART OF A COMMUNITY THAT HAS LITERALLY BECOME ONE OF MY FAVORITE AVENUES OF MINISTRY EVER. (Since I gave up my aerobics class, as a matter of fact. Grin.) ALL OF YOU ARE JOYFULLY WELCOME HERE!

May the Name of Jesus wave like a banner over this community and His lavish love be our calling card.

With a whole new appreciation,
Beth

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Roll Call! (Watch for Fun Report by Friday AM)

*Comments now closed*

Hey, Siestas! I only have a second because I have Bible study tonight but I have the funnest idea!! I was inspired by many of your posts about your own church services in response to the blog on “How Firm a Foundation.” My inspiration began with our beloved Sister Lynn’s comment (yes, a real, live Catholic “Sister”) about this blog being a safe place for diversity for all kinds of women who really dig Jesus. (OK, the “dig Jesus” part was my paraphrase but, I assure you, Sister Lynn DOES and would Amen that. She and I have enjoyed contact outside the blog as well. She and some fellow sisters at their convent do several of the studies.) Then I was further inspired by “Ellen B” who shared about her church service at a First Presbyterian Church and “Little Steps of Faith” who talked about her Methodist Church. I also reflected back on our Siesta who shared with us in the entry before that she was Pentecostal. You cannot imagine what a blessing these comments are to us at LPM because UNITY AMID DIVERSITY is a huge priority to us. And it is an even bigger priority to Christ.

SO, let’s find out who’s out there in Siestaville right now and what part of the country or world you live in. I want it to be really easy for all of us to read so I’m asking you to make your answers succinct like the following example I’ll do from my own information. A couple of things to keep in mind: When I ask age, you are welcome to do an age “group” if you prefer. Grin. When I ask you for the present denomination of the church you are attending, remember, I’m not asking for your “definition.” I’m asking for your church’s “denomination.” (Church name might even be more fun if you’d like.) Many of us would be tempted to say, “Well I go to such and such a denomination but I’m really more of a such and such.” That would be TMI for our present purposes. We just want to do a roll call. Keep in mind, I’m just asking for the denomination you are presently attending without holding you responsible for any of its problems or complications or divisions or politics. Isn’t that a relief? We’re also not going to get caught in the trap of judging a Siesta according to what we perceive to be a particular denomination’s questionable doctrine. Sometimes we’re simply wrong in our perception and, even if we were on target, we want her here! We try hard to make the way of salvation – a relationship with Jesus Christ through the blood He shed on the cross – very obvious on this blog-stop and have a blast while we do it. For that reason, so we’re thrilled to have anyone at all exposed.

If you’re not attending a church right now, please fill in the rest of the information. We want you tuning into the blog no matter what…even if you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ yet or know a thing about the Bible. We want this to be a safe place for you to become acquainted, hopefully find Christ irresistible, then be led by Him to the right (though understandably imperfect) church for you. We all desperately need the support a fellowship of believers brings. Every single one of you are a welcome part of this blog community. Speaking of “single,” I’d also like to know if you’re single or married so we’ll know how to serve you better.

By the way, if you want to do this anonymously because you don’t want your blogger name to retain those associations, BY ALL MEANS, FEEL FREE! I bless you to do that.

Here’s what your very simple comments should look like, with your own information, of course.

Age: 50

Married

First Baptist Church Houston

Texas

Favorite Truth right now: Jude 1:24,25 (Give reference or very brief paraphrase or even the concise concept.)

OK, Siestas, fess up! Let’s find out who’s out there. I’m almost giddy about it! (Siestas, I checked in only an hour later and we had 252 posts! I am beside myself with the demographics! I can’t WAIT for you to read them, MEET YOUR SIESTAS, and introduce yourself to them through this survey! As I posted the comments, I went back and forth between laughing out loud and bawling my head off with joy. Wait till you see yourselves! It is my joyful, Christ-ordained privilege to welcome you officially to SIESTAVILLE, Population????)

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How Firm a Foundation

Dear, Dear Ones, I hope you’ve had such a blessed Lord’s Day. I have had the kind you hope for all week long. One that started way before I meant it to because I had a birddog home from the lease still on hunting time that thought she needed to check the backyard for wild game at 5:30 AM. I was so annoyed. I tried to go back to sleep but I so dearly love the morning before the sun – or anyone else in my house – rises. I just couldn’t resist it. I slipped out of a very cozy bed, turned on the coffee pot, made a fire, got my Bible and my Breaking Free workbook and headed to Keith’s leather chair, the place closest to the fireplace. I had time enough to do two whole lessons (no small feat, considering the author is very wordy and we must have looked up somewhere between twenty and thirty passages. For the love). Then I had my prayer time and told Jesus what was on my mind.

I thought Keith was going to sleep the day away so I finally awakened him at 9:00 AM and asked him if he wanted to go to church with Melissa and I. (He goes when he wants. I gave up trying to make him. If I pressured him to go when he didn’t want to, he did lots of huffing and puffing and squirming and sighing during the service and I’d start feeling responsible for the whole thing and begin having psychosomatic symptoms – panting, lip-chewing, coughing, itching, nervous giggling – doubling the distraction for those sitting unfortunately close. Keith also has trouble keeping his thoughts to himself in church. A fact considerably complicated by his increasing volume. He’s shot so many guns in his ears he’s a tad hard of hearing so he doesn’t realize how loud he’s talking sometimes. But only at church, come to think of it. I need to meditate on that later. Therefore, if he wasn’t happy with something – like the length of the service and how long the line was going to be at lunch – our entire section could well know about it. Hence, I no longer pressure him. Haven’t for a good long time. Don’t have to much anymore, anyway, because he’s pretty taken with our pastor. Which means he comes to church now a couple of times a month – Keith, not Pastor – which makes me a very happy girl. When he doesn’t, sometimes I guilt-trip him but I always wait until after I get home from the service. That way he doesn’t decide to go but in a huff.

Keith wasn’t in a Sunbeam Sunday School class as a small child like I was where the Scripture we most often chanted was, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” Keith is not that glad. Says God isn’t just in a house. He’s also out in the wild. You can debate that one with him till the cows come home but all he’s going to hear is a gosh-awful mess of mooing. All said, if attending is his idea, we have a much more cheerful experience.) So, perhaps now you’ll understand how happy I was this morning when Keith said he wanted to join us.

Especially considering we were doing something different today, which he’d of been less likely to do. Melissa called me last night and asked if I wanted to go with her to a church she’s passed many times in her neck of the woods. She said, “I have a feeling it’s such a good church and I’ve been telling myself I was going to visit before I moved. My time’s running out. Wanna go?” And I did! So, after enjoying a leisurely morning of John Martinez coffee and Jimmy Dean Sausage with toast (50% less fat sausage and whole grain toast. I’m a health conscious woman), we headed out the door to fetch our baby daughter who will be married and move off a month from Wednesday. I was filled with inexpressible joy, feeling like the most blessed woman in the world. It was a gorgeous, cool and DRY Sunday morning in Houston, Texas, my husband was going to church, and, frankly, I was having a terrific hair day.

When we drove up, Melissa was standing in the parking lot, smiling from ear to ear, with a blouse and jumper on, tights, and black shoes. Her eyes sparkled in the morning sunshine like dewy blades of greenest grass. She looked about ten. Till you saw that Greek New Testament clutched in her right hand. The three of us headed in no time over to BridgePoint Bible Church and actually got to park up close in the “Visitors” section. Were we ever elated! The church was beautiful – modern architecture – and looked almost brand new. People were smiling, chattering, and either making their way into the sanctuary or out of the sanctuary, depending on whether they were in the first service or second. I was delighted to see everything from children (who departed at the end of worship for their own service) to senior adults in the service we were attending.

The worship service seemed to be a blend of contemporary and traditional. It began with a modern version of “Victory in Jesus” which made it a sure pleaser to both kinds of worshippers. The familiarity exuded a deep, almost palpable sense of happiness in my soul. I took a deep breath of the Spirit and sensed Him invite me to make myself at home there this morning. The congregation was so dear. Similar to mine in a lot of ways. Very warm and very worshipful but not overtly demonstrative. (Myself, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool hand-lifter and I certainly feel some freedom of expression at my church and felt that freedom this morning at theirs BUT I also believe in not being a distraction if that’s not necessarily the norm around you. I can dance my heart out before the Lord in my den or on the back porch all I want. I’ve learned along the way that we don’t have to save all of our worship for Sunday morning.)

Then I saw the sweetest moment between a senior adult couple sitting two rows in front of us. It almost put me over the edge. The woman – so gorgeous and so radiant in the Spirit – was familiar to me from Bible study years ago. I’m supposing her husband had battled health problems because he appeared very physically weak, though clearly joyful. Someone told Melissa that they’d been married for sixty years. He sat during praise and worship as she stood beside him, often lifting her delicate right hand before the Lord Jesus from an obvious overflow of love. At one point as the worship leader led us in the stone-melting song “Amazing Love,” the praise was so moving that the man, bent with age and confined to the chair by weakness, lifted both his hands. Just seconds later, his beautiful wife, standing closely to his right, slipped her left hand under his elbow to support what was very likely the sweetest, purest act of worship I may have ever seen. I could not keep from crying.

By this time, the entire congregation was ready for the Word and that is precisely what we got. The senior pastor, Tom Douthit, opened up 1 Corinthians 5 with us and taught us with love, compassion, and well-prepared-for precision, “How To Handle a Scandal.” Utterly fantastic. During the sermon is when Melissa and I almost forgot we were visitors. She and I kinda “do church” like our African American brothers and sisters do at my beloved Franklin Avenue Baptist in New Orleans. When someone’s preachin’ it up, we like to “talk back.” The good kind. Like “OK, now. That’s good. Yep. That’s good. That’s it now. Uh-HUH. Oh, yeah.” I’d go so far as to throw my shoe if I’d be sure someone would give it back. After all, I love my shoes. I nearly had myself worked into a Word-frenzy by the closing prayer. Keith was very quiet for a change. I couldn’t tell how he was taking all of it. Didn’t even hold my hand like he usually does. (And, oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you earlier that he usually not only talks loud during the church service. He also feels compelled to PDA. Light obviously. It somehow brings out the affectionate side of him and he likes to hug me a lot. Go figure.) At the very end of the service, he simply leaned over to me, took my pen out of my hand, and wrote on my program, A+. Yes, indeed.

It was a wonderful morning followed by a wonderful lunch, a nap, time with a novel on the porch, then a sweet – if lop-sided – conversation with you. My beloved Siestas. On the Lord’s Day. I want to close with words to a hymn we also sang this morning in the service. A song I had not sung in corporate worship in a while and the lyrics were so tender and dear to my heart that I fought back the tears the whole time. My memory swung back like a pendulum to my childhood as I could picture my family of eight sprawled down the pew. My grandmother was down to my left, just like usual, and in my memory, I could hear her singing, voice quavering with a mixture of emotion and age. We’d sung “How Firm a Foundation” often in that red-brick church nestled in the Ouachita Hills of Arkansas. As I sung them this side of an adult lifetime of God’s faithfulness, I was nearly overcome with emotion. That buck-tooth little girl with the battered and bruised heart – already long-since abused and deeply confused – had no idea how the words of that hymn would spring to life for her. I share them with you now, not because of what they mean to me but what they may mean to you. Today. Right now. Amid whatever you’re going through. Read every line. Ponder the truth of it. The hope of it. The promise of it. If you know the tune, sing it. Say it, if you don’t. Cry it, if you must.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

The last stanza nearly put me over the edge:
“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

(John Keith, 1787; Public Domain)

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The Wild World of Bible Study

Hey, Siestas! Y’all are just the most fun ever. I so enjoyed all your reactions to the “goods.” I was also very tendered by our siesta who reminded us to pray for our single sisters who are fighting a few gray hairs (you can color those stinkin’ thangs!) and frequent bouts of loneliness. I know a number of single women who wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, are serving God like crazy in all sorts of unhindered ways, and they’d about beat us to death with their handbags if we prayed them up a husband. But, we want to be faithful friends and prayer warriors for ANY of our siestas who are lonely. Including those who are married. Nothing makes you feel more alone than a bad marriage. I know because I’ve had one. And I don’t have one now. Keith and I like to say that we’ve each been married to ten different people and they all look suspiciously similar.

On a very encouraging note, I was glad to also hear from the sister who has been burned by tons of girlfriends but is getting her feet wet again in Siestaville. I pray she’ll find this a safe and fun enough place to venture back out into some great Godly friendships that last a lifetime. This is no replacement for that but it’s a great encouragement to stay wildly connected to people and to be reminded why you want to. BigMama, I’m so sorry you’ve been under the weather! I feel like we live so close together I should bring you a pound cake.

OK, now this is the main thing that prompted me to hop online: I’m so pumped that such a number of you are starting “Stepping Up”! I loved that journey! Only one in the Psalms I’ve ever done. It’s based on an analogy drawn from the pilgrimage the Israelites took to Jerusalem three times a year. I was so intrigued by the whole concept. I’d honestly never paid attention to the caption “A Song of Ascent” above certain psalms nor had I ever heard a lesson on it. The study is really different from the others – and on purpose. God’s Word is so alive and fresh that there’s no excuse for cookie cutter studies. I hope so much God uses it to take you to the next level with Him. I’m so honored that you’d allow me to step on those stairs with you.

While on the subject of Bible studies, dear Siesta who got the regular book version of Breaking Free rather than the workbook, if you really have some major stuff to deal with (and who doesn’t?), please consider getting the workbook instead and perhaps giving the book to someone who isn’t as likely to do an in-depth study. Those are my favorite candidates for what’s called the “trade book” version of Breaking Free. For everyone else, the workbook is the way to take the journey. I’m a huge believer in the actual process of Bible study (i.e. turning to this Scripture and that, spending the time in tandem with God alone, writing down your responses, etc.) and never more so than in that particular journey. In Breaking Free, the process of poring over the Scriptures is itself a crucial part of the healing. Psalm 107:20 says “He sent forth His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.” Boy, have I lived that reality.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. No one loves regular books more than me. I have at least two going at any given time. I’ve been greatly challenged and changed by book after book and even added to the shelves by writing more of them than anybody wanted to read. When it comes to deepest, lifelong healing, freedom from bondage, and equipping for anointed ministry, however, I am convinced that the in-depth, life-style study of God’s Word is where it happens. I love plunging into it on my own but I also love a guidebook or map of sorts to steer my journey and that’s what discipleship materials are all about. (I have done stacks of other people’s studies. You might be a little amused that I’m doing the Breaking Free homework right now. It’s the first time I’ve ever actually gone back and done the homework as a participant. It’s been almost ten years since I wrote it so it’s hitting me like crazy.) I love any sound study of God’s Word. Digging into the depths of Scripture and having your mind deliberately and consistently renewed by God is what freedom is all about. Otherwise, we’ve got too many people to get mad at and never forgive as long as we live – and too many people to offend and never lay eyes on again. You and me – We need to be in SCRIPTURE!

Well, that’s what I got on here to say. I guess you can tell Keith isn’t home or I wouldn’t have had the time to rattle on. I was just so excited about “Stepping Up” that I got on a Bible study roll. I’ll go take an Advil now. I’ve worn myself out.

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Breaking Free

My mom will be back soon for more wedding talk, but in the meantime I am bursting to tell you all that today is the first day of Bible study for 2008! Beth is incredibly excited and encouraged to meet our group. We will be studying Breaking Free. The core message of this study is simply freedom for the captives. I think it’s fair to say that many, perhaps even most of us siestas have been involved in this study before. I know that everyone who has been changed by Christ’s message of freedom will share in our joy as we set out to proclaim that wonderful message for the next 10 weeks.

We are excited to get to tell you that Breaking Free is being revised, much like the Tabernacle study (A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place) was. Some of the messages will stay exactly the same and others will change completely. The updated sessions, which will mirror those taught this semester, will be taped in the fall. We could not think of a better location for the filming than Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, where the study was originally filmed ten years ago! (Having to add in a little note here with information we didn’t originally have so that we can help prevent calls to their church. The taping is a special occasion between Beth and their church and not open to the public. Thanks so much for your understanding!)

Siestas, may we incite your intercession yet again? (I was going to say “one more time,” but I know as long as there is a Living Proof Ministries, we will be asking for your prayers!) The enemy loves to see God’s people in bondage, and because of that we know he will come against us and against those who will participate in this study. Even so, while we want to be alert and aware, we march into this semester of Bible study with a spirit of victory and not of fear! Amen? Nothing could be dearer to God’s heart than ministering freedom and victory to captives, so we will do it with confidence, fearing no evil.

We claim 2 Timothy 1:7, which says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” (The Amplified Bible) And we wholeheartedly believe 1 John 4:4, which tells us, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (NIV)

Our primary prayer request this semester is for the captives not to grow discouraged. Please pray that they will indeed be set free! Pray that each one will finish and make freedom in Christ a reality in her life. I am getting excited just typing these words! I am filled with faith that God is going to do a huge work in each life.

Other things to pray for include anointing for Beth to teach, anointing for our praise team to lead worship, wisdom and endurance for our Bible study coordinator (Jennifer) and other staff members, peace and calm over the parking lot and in the sanctuary as the women arrive, that many will come early, that the parking lot will accommodate every car, and for there not to be even one distraction while Beth is teaching tonight. The list could go on and on! Thank you in advance for your prayers. May God’s glorious name be praised!

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A Good Sign for 2008

Just in from Payless. I have no idea where I will walk with God in 2008, but my feet are liable to look good.

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