Archive for December, 2011

Glancing Back Before We Gaze Forward

Hey, most beloved blog community! As I finished my quiet time this morning, God moved you sweet things on my heart so strongly. I felt like the Lord was impressing on me to invite you along into a time of reflection before our faithful God today. If you’re like me, you take new beginnings pretty seriously. I’ve always needed them so badly. January 1st rarely rolls around that I am not sober before God about the next year and, because of His unfathomable grace, also hopeful. But as I closed up my journal for 2011 this morning, I thought about the profound significance of the final day of any given year. I turned back to the beginning of it and read the letter I wrote Him last January 1st and reflected on my state of mind and circumstances on that day. I sat with Jesus this morning for the next little while and deliberately looked back over 2011 and recalled the ups and downs of it and, oh Lord in Heaven, the CHANGES. Saying goodbye to my church of nearly 30 years and hello to a brand new church plant. Saying goodbye to my home of 27 years and embracing a new life out on a country road 6 miles from a town (and I don’t mean a city). And those are just the big things. Those are just the things I can tell in public. Grin.

I thought about how He had led me to accept something this year that, for years, I’d just found totally unacceptable. And how some strange measure of peace had come as a result. I hate to admit that this sanguine has, in her heart of hearts, always thought earthly peace was a little overrated. I was an idiot. I sometimes get tempted to negativity over that area of acceptance again (in human terms, it is worthy of negativity) but I sense the Lord saying something like this to my heart: “Do you really want to go back there?? Do you really want to have that particular thing then all that goes with it?” And the answer is no. It’s odd to me how God can use something that is so contrary to our desires to supply a different desire of our heart that maybe – just maybe – we wanted or needed even more. His ways are so far beyond ours. He is always right, however. And always faithful.

If any of you would like to participate, spend a little while today with Jesus being very intentional about your last year. The changes. The ups. The downs. The hopes. The disappointments. The inconceivable grace of God. Something He brought you through that you were sure you couldn’t survive. Or something that has yet to come to resolution and what He has done even in the midst of the wait. Philippians 1:6 says that God will complete the work He started in us when He first saved us. That means for our whole lives long, change will be part of the agenda. Are we still changing? Are we still growing? Is there any evidence of growth over our last year? These are important questions to ask ourselves before we get up tomorrow morning, put 2011 behind us (which is appropriate!) and embrace God’s goodness and grace toward 2012.

If you’re game, after spending those moments with God in reflection, write a comment to this post today using 3 words that have characterized 2011 for you. Tell us something that happened in your heart this year. I know that some of you have had a grueling 12 months and I don’t want you to have to fake it for our sakes but please consider and express ways God has also shown His faithfulness to you. He’s good even when a season has been anything but. Let’s be honest and authentic but let’s also try not to put a pall over the comments. There is so much to be depressed about out there. Let’s not let this community become just another place to feel discouraged. Our God has blessed us all in one way or another if we were willing to receive.

SO, this is an invitation to reflection. I’m going to let you go a little longer this time around in your comments because expression can be so incredibly therapeutic but still try to limit your writing to, let’s say, a maximum of three average-length paragraphs. Since you’re choosing three words that describe your year, maybe a paragraph a word is the best way to approach it. And don’t get too distracted in offering your 3 words in order of importance. Just throw them out there. If you get too fastidious and analytical, you probably won’t end up writing it.

I’ve already expressed most of the reasons for these choices, but in summation, I’ll go ahead and give my three words:

1. CHANGE. (I’m convinced to some degree that change is necessary to keep us from growing old and brittle inside. Flexibility and adaptability are subtle elements of youthfulness – not to the body that ages day by day  but – to the soul that’s being transformed from glory to glory. 2 Corinthians 3)

2. Acceptance. (Just in one basic area but it was a big one to me. I have a long way to go in acceptance as a general life rule!)

3. Surprise. (I just flat-out can’t figure Him out. And, most of the time, I’m glad.)

And what about you, my beloved Sister? What are three words that have characterized your year?

As we close 2011, please allow me to tell you again how deeply grateful I am for your faithful companionship. I love Jesus more as a direct result of this community. I am more in touch with people – astonishingly so! – because of this blog. And there is no doubt that I memorize Scripture more. You, ladies, are a GOOD FORCE in my pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ. You bear fruit in my personal walk with Him and that is the highest measure of an earthly relationship. Thank you.

I love you dearly.

 

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Letting Go

Twenty-eight years ago, Keith and I were renting a home in the northwest part of Houston hoping to buy something we could raise our family in. Neither of us had sophisticated taste nor did we particularly trust those who did. I write those words with a grin. My grandmother never trusted people of means. She had endured the Great Depression and was just certain (inaccurately, of course) that anyone who lived this side of it with money most assuredly possessed ill-gotten gain. A permanent, living fixture in my home of origin throughout my childhood, you can imagine that my beloved grandmother, Minnie Ola Rountree, had a great influence on me and, bless God, in so many positive ways. She did, however, leave my thinking somewhat distorted regarding possessions. It has taken most of my adulthood to shake the bone-deep belief that having anything beyond the merest essentials roused the terrible displeasure of God. And, since we Westerners all have more than the merest essentials, I’ve spent much of my life confessing what I possessed as sinful (and, make no mistake, appropriately at times). Of course, there’s balance in all of that and few of us would argue that the prosperity gospel so prevalent among us in this era isn’t cause for earnest repentance.  But that’s a discussion for another time and another post and, come to think of it, one we have in fair depth in James: Mercy Triumphs.

In 1983, Keith and I were mostly a one-income family unless you call the pocket change I made teaching aerobics at my church a viable profession. My man was a residential plumber and a pretty new one at that. We had a four year-old and a one year-old that I utterly adored and so desired to stay home with that, prior to my hire at the church gym, I took on a paper route for a whole day. We very much liked the house we were renting but it wasn’t for sale. One day driving around a suburban neighborhood, we passed a French Provincial up for sale that nearly put us in a spell. It was beyond our means and well beyond our personalities. Still, we were mesmerized. Keith said, “Baby, I can get this house for you but only by the skin of my teeth. We won’t be able to buy a single new piece of furniture for it. Are you good with that?” I promised that I was and we put money down on it. We were beside ourselves. A few weeks later, just before we were to close on it, Keith walked in our rent house and sat me down at our kitchen table. “Honey, I withdrew our offer on the house.”

“What?? But we put money down on it!”

“Yep, we did. Money we couldn’t spare and won’t get back but we’d have had to spend nearly that same amount of money every single month on a house payment. It’s beyond us. It’s not our house.”

I cried for about 45 seconds and then was so relieved I could have done a freedom dance. I knew he was right and I was pained but so very thankful he pulled the plug. A number of months later as the bottom dropped out of the oil industry, leaving Houston in one of the biggest buyer’s markets of its history, we came upon a house going into foreclosure. It was still a lot for us to spend but we bought it.

And lived in it, fought in it, made up in it, prayed in it, swore in it, ate in it, sobbed in it, laughed in it and tucked children into bed in it for the next 27 years. We were deliriously happy in it. We were woefully miserable in it. You don’t live that long anywhere just one way. Long life happened there, meaning that those walls saw all manner of good, bad, and really ugly. But it snuggled us and hid us and harbored us for nearly thirty years. I hung my children’s baby pictures on those walls, then their school pictures with no front teeth. Then pictures with mouths full of braces, then pictures in their volleyball uniforms, then, be still my heart, their wedding portraits. Then I hung frames on those brittle walls with grandbabies’ pictures captured within.

For years I planted petunias in the flowerbeds in late Spring and, when I needed an emotional outlet, pulled up weeds with a fiery vengeance. Keith or I one dragged big ugly trashcans to the end of the driveway every Monday and Thursday then back to the garage when they were empty.

I parked a brown and beige station wagon on the broken concrete beside that house when we moved in and didn’t replace it until the wheels and doors threatened to come off.

And I loved it. It was home. As one who has nursed a lifelong aversion to change, I declared over and over again that I would never leave that house and that, when I died, Keith would have to dig a hole in the small back yard and bury me in it. At that very front curb, I waited for the school bus to pick up my girls in the morning and bring them home in the afternoon. At that very curb, my daughters’ boyfriends drove up to get them and a few hours later kissed them goodnight with me peeking through the mini-blinds. At that very curb, the postman dropped decades of utility bills – many overdue – and credit card bills that Keith Moore insisted we pay off in full every month no matter how little we had left. And now I’m so glad but then it seemed a tad restrictive for a mom who loved to take her girls to the mall.

That same house could tell terrible tales on me. Oh, what grace God has lavished on us. What mercy and forgiveness! But, amid the roller coaster that has always been Keith and me, and the tears and regrets, oh my word, the prayers that have been prayed in that house are too many to estimate. And certainly not just my own. Many of my girlfriends remember the years when we had monthly prayer breakfasts in that simple home. We’d all meet first in the den where I’d share a devotional then we’d break up in small groups and invade every room in the house and intercede for our loved ones and pray for our own needy hearts, all too often crushed by this or that hurt. I am convinced down to my marrow that God used prayer to spare my marriage and family. Keith believes it, too. I was a wreck in so many ways – still am in certain respects – but Jesus had convinced me early on in my adulthood that I’d have to have Him to survive with any sanity or life satisfaction. Any victim of early childhood abuse at the hand of a trusted family member will either have copious doses of Jesus or defeat. Plain and simple. No gray for folks like me.

I held stacks of journals in my lap two weeks ago and flipped through some of them and found a number of entries so painful that I could not even read them. I tore out numerous pages and wept before the Lord and thanked Him for His faithfulness and repented again, but wouldn’t have needed to, for such waves of stupidity and faithlessness. I also reminded myself to buy a shredder. Grin. Tucked into many of those journals were pages that also made me smile. Sometimes even laugh out loud. And then I’d cry again for the pure joy of Him.

Jesus has carried me in His own two everlasting arms. Me. Keith Moore. Amanda Moore Jones. Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick. He has carried us and His rock-solid biceps often took the form of brick, mortar and wood there on Blazey Drive in Houston, Texas. We’d think we’d come against something we couldn’t overcome, then He’d scoop us up and carry us kicking and screaming to the next season. Not fast enough to suit us, mind you, but eventually. Keith and I would look up and another year had come and gone and we were still married. Only once can I remember us coming to an anniversary where we did not so much as speak. And it was such a short time ago that you’d find it shocking. But, once again, Jesus took a needle and thread and sewed us loop by painful loop back together again. We’re so glad He did.

Then three years ago, I asked Keith if I could tell him something just once and he’d never remind me of it again because I was sure I’d change my mind. He said yes but he lied and we both knew it.

“I might someday consider moving.”

Keith’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline and he grinned ear to ear. He’d wanted to get off that busy highway near us for years.

“I said I might. But probably not.”

There were a number of things that brought me to that willingness. Keith had retired from the plumbing business and the ministry had moved to the very north edge of Houston. Our house was no longer close to our places of work. Our center had shifted. The biggest thing that changed was something unexplainable and almost irrational that finally just unraveled. The less sappy of you will need to skip to the next paragraph. Or maybe just end your reading right here. Goodness knows it’s gone on long enough. For those of you enduring this epitaph, I had this thing deep inside of me that insisted we stay in the same house so that the boy we’d had for seven years could find his way home and we’d all live happily ever after and all that confusion would be explained. Please understand that I knew it was unrealistic at the time but I couldn’t shake the idealism that it had to all work out some way – my way – and that we’d have to get a second chance so we could do a better job.

I’m so happy to tell you that I am in touch with that young man. He is darling just like he was the first time I laid eyes on him. But the fog began to clear several years ago and I was finally able to accept that the picture I had in my head was pretend. It was from a storybook etched in the mind of a romantic. Not real life. He was an adult and God had different plans for him and for us. Plans that I have to believe are for the good. We see him on occasion and I’m so thankful for the open door but we seem not to be meant to reestablish those same exact bonds.

Keith took that one tiny confession – “I might someday consider moving” – and jumped on it with both size 13 wides. It would be several years before we’d get his parents settled in the country and make arrangements to join them.

On December 14th – just 12 days ago – a moving van pulled up to my house of 27 years. Amanda, Annabeth, Melissa and I watched them empty those busy, busy rooms one box at a time. By the time that abode was back to the hollow shell we’d seen all those years ago when we first walked through it, Amanda had gone home to pick up Jackson from school and only Melissa and I were left. It was the breakfast room that got us. We stared at the spot where our dining table used to be and both burst into tears. Then each of us (crying audibly, mind you) went around the house and closed the shutters one by one and then we turned out the lights. Melissa walked on out the front door and I lagged behind for just a moment and got on that floor one last time. Face down. For the 15 thousandth time.

And I thanked God.

He did not abandon us there. Not for one minute.

We are happy out here in the country. This morning two deer were in our back yard…and lived to boast about it. Keith has promised not to kill anything here but roaches and rodents and I intend to hold him to it even though we did find wild hog tracks not far from our front door. That husband of mine has labored with all his might for months on end to make this a home for his wife. He is not a man who finds it easy to express his love with words. He expresses his love through works. And I receive this new season of our lives together with joy and with tears drying. But the thing is, I didn’t want to rush right in and start jabbering to you about the new. Not until I paid proper tribute to the old. It wouldn’t have been fitting. It deserves the dignity of a decent good-bye. It cradled a half-crazy family for nearly thirty years like it was happy to have us. Thank you for offering me the space and patience to pen so long a so long. I needed it in the worst way.

By the way, I’ve already told Keith that this is the last time I’m ever moving and that he might as well dig his boots in this dirt. After all, I’m no math-wizard, but in 27 more years I’ll be, let’s see, 81 years old. That is, if the Lord has withheld me a glimpse of His face.

And I’ll let you know how I feel about moving then.

By way of benediction, and just in case somebody’s heart needs to hear it, this place doesn’t completely do it for me any more than the one I drove away from on December 14th. One of my new appliances is already broken and the dogs get ticks out here. It’s so wonderful out in these sticks but it’s a long shot from perfect. I have a longing for something I still haven’t found. My guess is that you do, too.

 

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.

 

Hebrews 11:13-16

 

 

 

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Christmas Party 2011

This past Tuesday before we all took off for Christmas, we had our annual LPM Christmas party. When I came on staff I kept hearing rumors that LPM knows how to celebrate, and I am here to tell you that every rumor was true. Let it be said, Living Proof Ministries knows how to throw a party, and I say that with much gratefulness in my heart. I told someone the other day that I felt very spoiled, but not in the bratty kind of way, more-so in a I am so thankful for this group of ladies I get to serve alongside kind of way.

We started out the morning hosting our volunteer breakfast at a tea room. Words cannot express how thankful we are for our volunteers and all that they do. I am slowly learning how much time and effort they put in at LPM to serve each and every one of you. To say we couldn’t do it without them would be a vast understatement. So, like anybody else would, we wanted them to know our appreciation. Our taste buds were also very thankful as we were served fruit, a muffin I judged before I even tasted it that ended up being one of the best muffins ever, and the glorious ham and cheese quiche. I’m not sure when I became a quiche lover, but I’m forever smitten now. I’m just going to believe it’s an acquired taste and thank the Lord he’s given me favor with the quiche.

Here is the staff and all of our beautiful volunteers after breakfast. It is amazing we have this picture and that it came out good, because do you know what a chore it is to get 30 people all smiling and not blinking at the same time? All in the name of a picture we will cherish forever. We love you, ladies!

After saying our goodbyes and giving out 30 separate hugs, the rest of us piled into a few cars and spent the middle part of our day at Beth’s house doing our gift exchange while sipping on some delightful hot cocoa. This year we were all instructed to buy a general gift that anybody would like. For me, it was really stressful because I take gift giving really seriously, and oh, the Christmas party pressure! The last thing I wanted to do was screw up my very first LPM Christmas party. And I say that in the most joking way. These ladies are the epitome of graciousness. Anyway, after a while we all drew names out of a cup and that was the person we were to give our gifts to. At that point I got really stressed because my gift was really specific, and what if the person I drew didn’t even have that item?

Fortunately, as He always is, the Lord was really into the details for our gift exchange. For instance, Jenn was wearing a certain set of earrings that particular day and when she received her gift, it was the matching necklace to her earrings. Can you believe that? Do you understand that someone purchased that necklace without knowing they’d draw Jenn’s name? Also, I was gifted a scarf and a costume ring (and by costume I mean big and adorable), which, if you know me at all, you know my scarf collection is quite ridiculous. I may or may not be slightly obsessed with all things scarves. And lest you think Curtis took home a nicely scented candle or something very girly, he took home a power washer from our gift exchange. Perfect if you as me! I purchased an iPhone cover, and when I realized who we drew was who we gave our gift to, I panicked until I realized the person I drew literally got an iPhone last week and needed a fun cover. Details, folks. It was amazing!

To me, it felt very much like Christmas morning with my co-workers.

Then, after we had all the fun we could have there, we piled in the cars once more and went to eat a late lunch at Trio, where we basically had the entire restaurant to ourselves, which I think was due to our later arrival. The food and company were both, as you can imagine, delightful and when we thought we couldn’t eat one more bite, we each ordered a dessert. Some of us tried to share, but then after getting confused and bringing out more than we needed, we each enjoyed our own. We were stuffed and happy!

At that point, we all deemed it nap time, snapped a few pictures, said our goodbyes, hugged for years, hopped in our cars and went our separate ways, after all, at that point it had been almost an entire work day. However, most of us wouldn’t see each other for at least a week and that is forever in LPM time. Once I got back to my car, I sat still for a minute to thank the Lord for all He had done and all that He is to us. Truly, we don’t deserve one iota of His goodness or blessings, but He so willingly and lavishly gives it to us. My heart was so thankful and spoiled by Him and by my sweet co-workers, and I know I’m not the only one that feels that way.

Vangie, Beth and Diane.

Sabrina, Susan and Sherry.

Jenn, Lindsee and Linda.

Melissa, Curtis and Amanda.

Johnnie, Lindsee and Jenn.

KMac, Kimberly and Nancy.

Lindsee, KMac, Kimberly, Nancy and Beth.

Beth, Sabrina, Lindsee, KMac, Kimberly and Nancy.

Merry Christmas from all of us to ALL of you! We hope you know the love of Christ this Christmas and that He fills your home with much joy and peace. He is truly the reason for this season and the greatest gift of all. Blessings!

 

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Passion 2012 Prayer Partners

*UPDATE: Ladies, I logged on real quick this morning to see how many girls needed prayer partners still, and to my surprise, the number ZERO appeared! It has been less than 24 hours and every single girl has been adopted for prayer. (Thank you, Beth, for putting it that way!) You ladies never cease to amaze us and we are beyond grateful for you. For those of you that are still wanting to participate, read through some of the comments and pray for some girls that have been listed there. Some other girls that haven’t received a scholarship might even pop on and you could adopt them! We love you! Thanks be to our God!

Good morning, Siestas! Can you believe we’re only three days away from Christmas? It has been pretty busy around LPM as we shut down the ministry for Christmas, but we also want to make sure we have everything ready to go for the New Year.

However, before Christmas gets completely past us, I wanted to bring your attention back to Passion 2012. Do you remember when we were able to give out scholarships to 1000 young women to attend the conference? Well, it was our desire that, after giving out each of the scholarships, we could rally together 1000 Siestas (you!) to partner with each of these girls and pray for them. So, I am thrilled to announce that we have our website up and running to make that happen.

Here is what you need to do: Click on this link: http://lproof.org/passion2012/prayer.aspx.

When you get to that page, the instructions are very clear how you can receive the name of the girl you will be praying for.

Here’s why we need to bounce on this with both feet: Passion is January 2nd – 5th so it’s coming up very quick! If you could take five minutes to do that, we would appreciate you more than you know and some wonderful young woman’s experience at Passion may be altogether intensified. You might put her name in your phone every day as a reminder to pray for her before, during and after Passion.

We love you ladies so much and hope you know what a vital part you’re playing in each of these girls’ lives. Let’s make sure each of them are lavishly covered by name. We know the Lord will show up and can’t wait to see lives changed and transformed. I am sure when we get back we’ll have a tremendous report for you. I know you’ll want to hear all about it!

Thank you, thank you for partnering with us and praying. We love you all so much!

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2011 Siesta Scripture Memory Team: Verse 24!

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**Siesta Celebration is January 20-21, 2012**

WE MADE IT!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!!! To the glory of God, we made it, Siestas! If I could hug your neck, I’d purely squeeze you in two! Please picture me (in a long skirt) doing copious cheerleader jumps! I cannot wait to celebrate with as many of you as possible in January. I wish with all my heart that every single one of you were coming. This girl right here is ready to party. Even one of you missing is too many but I know that it’s hard to manage the time away and the travel expenses are also just too high for many. I’d pay every one of your ways if I could.

Okay, you darling things. I didn’t even have to think twice about the verse I wanted to memorize this last time around in 2011 because it’s about you. With your understanding, I’ll use “sister” instead of “brother.” Here goes:

Beth, Houston. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my [sister], because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Philemon 7 ESV

Oh, gracious. That is the truth.

Now, since this is a very special occasion, we’re going to break protocol. This time I’m not going to limit you to your usual 1st and 15th Scripture-only entries. As we wrap up our year, you are welcome to also write a brief paragraph about what this journey with Christ has meant to you and why.  No pressure. The invitation is simply there is you want to testify.

You are so incredibly dear to me, Siestas. I am at a loss for words. What a ride.

Lord Jesus, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You! We cannot do anything to Your good pleasure that You do not first initiate and then enable. To You be all credit, honor, and praise. Please cause us to retain “the implanted word, which is able to save [our] souls.” (James 1:21) Make us wiser and make our hearts larger. You are our delight. We want so much to be Yours, too. You are our everything.

 

 

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The Mystery of the Incarnation

I love this time of year because we ponder as a church (local & universal) the nature of Christ’s person and incarnation. I’ve recently been reading through various early Christian texts, and the other day I came across a selection from a piece written by Gregory of Nazianzus in the fourth century (ca. 329-390). It struck me as a particularly gorgeous thing to read this Christmas season as we contemplate, celebrate, and worship Jesus.

The following selection is Gregory’s Oration 29.20 The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God. The English translation is Rodney A. Whitacre’s own found in his book A Patristic Greek Reader (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2007), 244-246. Whitacre’s aim is to provide a wooden-ish but readable translation from the Greek text for students who are learning to read the respective Greek portions. Please note also that the scriptural citations I have placed in parentheses here on the blog are not my own but are footnoted in Whitacre’s volume.

The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God by Gregory of Nazianzus

“He was baptized (Matt. 3:13) as man, but he destroyed sins (Matt. 9:6) as God; he himself was not in need of purifying rites, but [he was baptized/he came] that he might sanctify the waters. He was tempted (Matt. 4:1) as man, but he conquered as God; not only this but he even encouraged [us] to be courageous, since he had conquered the world (John 16:33). He was hungry, but he fed thousands (John 6:10); not only this but he is indeed life-giving and heavenly bread (John 6:51). He was thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28), but he shouted, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37); not only this but he also promised that those who believe would gush forth [with water] (John 7:38). He was tired (John 4:6), but for those who are tired and heavy laden he is rest (Matt. 11:28). He was heavy with sleep (Matt. 8:24), but he is light upon the sea; not only this but he even rebukes winds; not only this but he even makes Peter light when he is sinking (Matt. 14:25, 29; Matt. 8:26). He pays tax, but [he does so] from a fish (Matt. 17:24-27); not only this but he is even king of those demanding [the tax]. He hears himself called a Samaritan and demon-possessed (John 8:48), but he saves the one who went down from Jerusalem and fell among robbers (Luke 10:30); not only this but he is even recognized by demons (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34) and drives out demons (Matt. 8:16), and he sinks a legion of spirits (Luke 8:33) and sees the ruler of demons falling like lightning (Luke 10:18). He is stoned, but he is not caught (John 8:59). He prays (Matt. 14:23; 26:36; Heb. 5:7), but he hears [prayers] (Acts 7:59). He weeps (John 11:35), but he causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus [is laid] (John 11:34), for he was man, but he raises Lazarus (John 11:43), for he was God. He is sold, and very cheaply, for [it was] for thirty silver coins (Matt. 26:15), but he buys back the world, and [it was] for a great price, for [it was] for his own blood (1 Pet 1:18-19). He was led as a sheep to slaughter (Isa 53:7), but he shepherds Israel, and now, indeed, the whole inhabited world (John 10:11). [He is] silent like a lamb (Isa 53:7; Matt. 26:63), but he is the Word (John 1:1), being proclaimed by a voice of one shouting in the desert (John 1:23). He has been weakened, wounded, but he heals every disease and every infirmity (Isa. 53:5). He is lifted up upon the tree (John 12:32), he is fixed [to it] (Acts 2:23), but he restores by the tree of life (John 6:51); not only this but he saves even a robber crucified with [him] (Luke 23:43); not only this but he darkens everything that is seen (Luke 23:44). He is given cheap wine to drink (Luke 23:36), he is fed bile (Matt. 27:34). Who? The one who changed the water into wine (John 2:1-11), the destroyer of the bitter taste (Heb. 2:9), the [one who is] sweetness and all desire (Song 5:16). He hands over his life, but he has authority to take it again (John 10:18); not only this but the curtain is torn apart (Matt. 27:51); for the things above are exhibited (Cf. Rev. 11:19; 15:5) not only this but rocks are split; not only this but dead are raised beforehand (Matt. 27:51-52). He dies, but he makes alive, and by death he destroys death. He is buried, but he rises. He goes down into Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19), but he brings up souls; not only this but he goes up into heaven; not only this but he will come to judge the living and the dead . . . ” (Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 29.20, translation by Rodney A. Whitacre)

Is that not incredible?

I mean, is Jesus not incredible?!

Life can get pretty noisy and busy two weeks before Christmas. People in store aisles fight over toys (or, at least they do in the movies) and people in the church pews fight over what Christmas is really supposed to look like. BUT, even in the midst of all the noise Jesus is so fiercely compelling, isn’t He? He draws us into His life and He moves us forward, beyond the bickering and even our well-meaning but sometimes misguided sentiment and nostalgia. A forest full of white lights as big as Texas can’t hold a candle to Jesus.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
Isaiah 9:2 ESV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1; 4-5 ESV.

O, Come Let Us Adore Him.

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Ring Those Bargains!

Hey, Sweet Things!

You know what I think would be such a blast? Let’s share ideas for gift giving! Reasonably priced. (Or the deal of the century???) Creative maybe. Or QUICK, definitely! Perhaps you could share your best “everybody/anybody” gift. In other words, have you stumbled on something this year (a CD, a book, a keepsake, etc.) that you’re giving lots of people on your list? Then, share the wealth! We could use some ideas around here. The thing I keep hearing from women is that they have a long list of loved ones and no earthly idea what to get them. I’m in that same boat with about a third of my list. Let’s get those creative juices flowing in Siestaville and help each other out over the next few weeks.

Let me give a little disclaimer as we get started. I’m not as up on all the Free Trade discussions and debates circling right now so I’ll need your mercy there and other Siestas might need it, too. Let’s trust each other’s hearts around here and assume that, if we suggest an item or a product that has a link to an unethical practice, we didn’t realize it. My thought this time around was just to give you an opportunity to share…

B.A.R.G.A.I.N.S!!!!!

Girl, I do LOVE me some bargains. If I had more time, I’d honestly wear the stores out for the ultimate sale but, as it is, I just have to happen on it when I can. When I score a great buy, I leave the store as giddy as a bandit.

I’ll get us started with a bargain and I could almost get too tickled to type because I got it for my own self. Sometimes when I’m Christmas shopping, I am at a total loss what to get that person I’m browsing for. I’ll happen on something and think to myself, “I wonder if _______________ would like that?” And I’ll ponder it and ponder it and turn it this way and turn it that way. Then, I’ll answer my own self with, “I have no idea whether she’d like it or not but I know who would! Me!” I know. It’s terrible. Superficial. Almost unforgivable. I only do it about every five or six gifts though.

My most recent bout was about ten days ago at Burlington Coat Factory (where I did actually find a few real, live gifts that I’m giving to someone beside me). I snagged a pair of these:

 

Price tag? (Drum roll please)

 

 

And I’ve already worn them, let’s see, about 6 times and I’m not exaggerating. Before they tear up, they’ll be out of style so I call that a DEAL, Girlfriend. I call that a deal!

Okay, Siestas, tell us what you’re finding out there. And for decent prices! Remember, we have every age group represented here so maybe it’s the ultimate children’s gift or something great for in-laws. Maybe it’s food like a snack of some kind you can put in a cute Christmas tin. If someone’s told you, “Hey, that’s a great idea!” then we want to know about it! Help some Siestas out!

You’re so much fun to do community with, you guys. I can’t wait to look at your ideas! This will be a really fun one I think.

I love you like a mad woman.

 

 

 

 

 

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Living Proof Live – Pensacola Recap Video

Hey Sisters! Here is the recap video from the last LPL of 2011. It is wonderful! Be sure to watch the entire thing as the last three minutes have some funny behind the scenes photos you don’t want to miss. Glory to God for all He has done in 2011 at each conference. Thank you, Rich, for an awesome recap. We love y’all!

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Fifteen

A few weeks ago I went to a Taylor Swift concert here in Houston. I was given tickets at the very last minute so my roommate and I ran out the door and had an unexpected fun night out.

Do I think she’s a doll? Yes, I do. Do I think she’s a bit dramatic? Yes, I do. (I would have never thought that had I not gone to the concert, but the way she talked to her audience was quite humorous and very dramatic. For instance, she kept telling us how incredible and beautiful we were. I just laughed.) Do I think she’s a good role model for the little girls that are falling all over her? Yes, I do. She has a good head on her shoulders and thus far, her walk has matched up with her talk. She’s not gone crazy. I’m praying she stays grounded. You laugh, but I’m serious. Someone needs to say sane! And I say that in the most gracious way. She has a national platform and to see it destroyed would sadden me.

Before the concert I think I owned five of her songs. I knew most of her songs but that was mainly because she gets a lot of airtime on the radio. What I didn’t know, though, were a lot of the lyrics.

Are any of you like me? You think you know the lyrics to a certain song then you look them up and realize you were completely off base? That’s my life. I’m constantly making a fool out of myself in the lyrics department.

After the concert I ended up buying a few more songs that I thought were fun and also decided to look up some of the lyrics. I knew I was singing the wrong words and wanted to fix that. Yes, I annoy my own self.

Taylor has a cute song called “Fifteen”, and it’s all about a girl experiencing her freshman year of high school. She talks about the highs and lows that girls would typically experience.

After lacing themes of friends, first dates, first kisses and breakups throughout each verse, she begins each chorus by singing, “Cause when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them…”

Taylor is right, is she not? If a fifteen-year-old girl heard the words I love you from a hunk of a boy, she’s going to believe him, no doubt. Those of us a few years ahead of that game know it will probably end in heartache (although those of us hopeless romantics would love to believe they end up as married high school sweethearts), but in the moment, that fifteen year old girl will be floating on cloud nine and will undoubtedly drown out every other voice that tries to whisper otherwise.

But what about the girl that never hears the words I love you from a boy? What if she never hears them period? From anyone?

What if I changed the lyrics of the chorus to “Cause when you’re fifteen and nobody tell you they love you, you’re gonna believe them…”

Our present day culture speaks a lot to the girls that have that heartache and breakup, but I think we forget the girls that never experience that. What about them? What about the girl that spends all four years of her high school career waiting for that special moment and doesn’t get it? Or better yet, all four years of her college career and doesn’t get it? Emotionally, this could be just as detrimental.

As time goes on, if you’re not grounded in Christ’s love, your belief system will become that of, “I’m not lovable.”

Since I happen to know that hearing I love you in high school from a boy isn’t the end all be all, and I certainly don’t advocate it, I’m not naive to the fact that, whether we choose to believe it or not, those words are being tossed around on a daily basis by students everywhere. In fact, they’re being tossed around carelessly by a lot of people. Those words hold a lot of weight and attachment with them.

I happen to be in the latter category. I was not the girl that experienced breakup after breakup. I lived vicariously through a lot of my friends that did experience that, which taught me a lot, but that wasn’t me.

To be very honest, it is so easy for me to write my own words to that song, and even at 26, believe that I am unlovable. If I am 26 and have yet to be chosen and hear those sweet words, am I unlovable? I know that is far from the truth, but Satan himself likes to feed that lie most consistently to me.

What I know now is that no human man can ever out-love Jesus. No human man can tell me I love you more than Jesus whispers and satisfies me with His love. But I have to believe that and claim that. That is the tricky part, transferring that knowledge from my head to my heart. No man will ever know me greater than Jesus does and yet love me just the same.

But, I am old enough to know that doesn’t always take away the sting of desiring that human love. In fact, I might argue that the older you get, if the Lord has placed that desire in your heart, the more it stings. Is it wrong to desire that? Is it wrong to desire marriage? Not at all, unless it becomes a stronghold or idol in your life, lest we forget, the Lord ordained marriage and said it was a good thing. However, as we mature and become more like Christ, my prayer is that we would let the Lord tend to that sting and replace it with joy. That is the beauty of getting older; you know how to tend to that sting when it rises up in you.

Believing and leaning into truth means believing that you are loved by the One who knows you the best and loves you the most. It means that there is redemption, healing and hope for the girl who has given everything away and is left with a broken heart. That the Lord still desires His best for you. And for the girl who has yet to experience the butterflies, it means there is hope for you, too, and for whatever reason, the Lord has protected you thus far. He is most definitely not holding out on you. Be thankful for that.

Believing the truth means that you are wise enough not to jump at the first chance you have to marry the first guy that asks you on a date out of your fear of being alone. There may be a few good (and bad), dates here and there, but that doesn’t mean you have to marry any of them. Not every single guy you lay your eyes on will be your future husband. Give yourself the freedom to get to know them as a friend without the pressure of trying to win them over so you can be their wife one day. We all do it out of insecurity and fear, do we not? The minute I see a single guy as a potential future husband, is the minute I clam up and don’t act like myself. By setting that aside and shifting our thinking, it’s amazing how the chains fall off and the pressure decreases.

At then end of the day, although culture and media will tell you otherwise, your identity is still found in Christ alone, not in whom you’ve dated or whom you haven’t. You’ll do greater things than date the quarterback of the football team. Praise the Lord.

And for the record, you are dearly loved. And so am I.

“The LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3

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2011 Siesta Scripture Memory Team: Verse 23!

weeks
-13
-7
days
0
-5
hours
0
-7
minutes
-2
-9
seconds
-3
0

**Siesta Celebration is January 20-21, 2012**

Hey, you Scripture-memory fiends! Our next to last verse! I’m so happy! But I’m also wishing it would all slow down a little bit and not be over so fast. You, too?? What a year, Siestas. What a year. I told you several SSMT posts ago that my memory work with you has never meant more to me or held a more prominent place in my personal life and I still mean that. I am so thankful for this process that I am almost without words.

I am on my way to Pensacola, Florida for our final Living Proof Live (I go in on Thursdays these days) so, once again, I better get with it! I chose this particular verse (and version) specifically in view of the holiday spending-madness that many of us have ahead. You won’t find a single Scrooge at this ministry. Like many of you, we all love to shower our friends and family members in Christmas gifts to the degree that we’re able and we pray to have pure hearts as we give. We give these small tokens of grace to one another this time of year because of the priceless Gift God has given to us in Christ Jesus. I think it can be a beautiful thing and I also respect those who, by conviction, choose not to participate in the retail hype. I get that completely. Those of us who will be in the malls and shopping online, however, might really be blessed by a mutual reminder to try to stay within our means over these next few weeks and not pile up debts. It takes the joy right out of the giving if we’re paying for it for the entire next year…and with interest. SO, how about this Scripture this time around?

Beth, Houston. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 NIV

Smiling. Man. God seems to have a word for everything, doesn’t He?

I love you guys so much! I can’t wait to see some of you in Pensacola! The rest of you pray for us, okay?

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